While I was living my life as a Born Again Christian, I decided to finish my education at Biola University. As part of the curriculum, one of the classes included a study on the Book of Acts. This introduced me to Saul of Tarsus. Saul was on a mission to destroy Christians. He covered all his legal bases by making sure that he had the proper documentation to bring Jesus’ followers back to Jerusalem to stand trial before the Sandhedrin, the governing assembly of rabbis appointed with legal authority in ancient Israel.
But God had a greater plan for Saul’s life. Since his father was a Roman citizen, Saul claimed dual citizenship (Acts 16:37). He studied under the most highly revered teacher of his time, Gamaliel. Saul was a Pharisee and tentmaker by trade. He was fluent in both Hebrew and Greek. Saul was hell bent on bringing every new Christian to trial, hoping they would be sentenced to death. God used all of these attributes but redirected his energy to bring about his conversion. Saul was gifted with zeal and this, too, was used in every area of his life.
God used Saul’s career to support his missionary work. A tentmaker was always in demand because Roman soldiers had to serve in the Roman army for 24 years, and their service included most of Asia Minor and the Holy Land.
The Road to Damascus
On his way to Damascus, Saul was blinded by a bright light, so bright it knocked him off his high horse.
Acts 9:4-6 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do.”
From this point on, the conversion transformed Saul’s life. He later adopted his Roman name Paul because as he traveled deeper into Gentile territory he became one of them.
When Jesus questioned Saul, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?”He had no idea who Jesus was because he was spiritually blind; but he understood that the voice was divine. This was a mystical encounter! Jesus’ message to Saul was whatever you do to the believers, you are doing it unto Him. For three days Saul fasted and prayed. When the scales fell off his eyes he became more than just a believer; but would go down in history as one of the most influential writers of our times.
The Lord has given us all gifts; these gifts are for His purpose. He has called us by name and instructs us to preach the Gospel. When I think of St. Paul and how the Lord prepared the way for him, it gives me deeper insight into how each of Paul’s gifts were used in order for him to preach the Gospel. We all have gifts; not one person was left out of this category. I always felt the calling to preach the Word of God; I also wanted to share my spiritual life experiences through writing. God knows I can’t cook, but my husband is gifted in this area. Mike is also a gifted servant; he does what is right before God and goes above and beyond for others. Our son Mikos is a gifted orator and great story teller; he can calmly win people over by expressing his ideas through humor and speech. Our daughter Sonja is gifted in mentoring others; she makes a difference in the lives of each of her employees by teaching them the value of having a great work ethic and ethical business practices. We all have many gifts, but it is our responsibility to search them out.
St. Paul gave us a treasury of gifts through his writings.
Discovering Your Gifts
How do we discover our gifts? To some people it comes naturally; to others, like St. Paul, it’s through life lessons. For me it was the latter: all my misgivings, my disobedience, my stubbornness, my self-righteousness finally brought me to my knees. I am nothing without Christ! In St. Paul’s case, his blindness was a punishment for his disobedience. When Annaias laid hands on St. Paul, the scales fell off and he was immediately baptized. St. Paul didn’t stop and say, “This was a traumatic experience, I need to rest and figure this out.” By this critical transformation, all of Paul’s gifts were perfectly aligned with his service to God. Through his baptism St. Paul’s sins were washed away, putting to death his old life.
Acts 9:15-16 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, 16 and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.”
Through praying the scales finally fell off my eyes as well. The deeper I searched for holiness, the less I desired worldly things. We are a family who lives within our means. Through Mike’s example our children have learned the dignity of having a work ethic. God gave us the means to educate them and now it’s our responsibility to keep them in prayer and for them to follow our lead in putting God first in their lives.
Through the grace of God, Mike managed to keep us all in college simultaneously. I attended Biola for two years, Mikos attended Westmont, and Sonja was at Pepperdine with the help of an academic scholarship. Although it seemed financially impossible, God made a way for all of us to finish our education. All the loans were paid off, and Sonja and Mikos paid their share as well. This gave us a sense of accomplishment; we never looked to the government for aid because God was our guide. When you put your full trust in God, nothing is impossible (Matt 17:20; Mark 9:23).
St. Paul’s Gift to Us
Of thirteen epistles that St. Paul wrote, some of his most prolific writing was written while he was in prison. Ephesians, Philemon, Colossians and Philippians were written during his first Roman imprisonment. 2 Timothy was written during his second Roman imprisonment. Even behind bars, nothing could quench the fire of the Holy Spirit in St. Paul. He rightfully gave God the glory for all of his gifts ( 1 Tim 1:12, 1:16).
Ephesians 3:7 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
7 Of this I became a minister by the gift of God’s grace that was granted me in accord with the exercise of his power.
May we be forever mindful and grateful for the gifts You have bestowed on us. Teach us to humbly walk the talk. Allow us to seek the same light You shed on St. Paul. Remove all iniquities and purify our minds so that we can recognize You in all things. I pray for those who are still on the road to Damascus; direct them to the street called Straight and remove the scales from their eyes. Amen.
Do you recall the story of the road to Emmaus? This is where Jesus met his disciples but they did not recognize the Resurrected Christ. Only after breaking of the Bread that their eyes were opened. We can all fall into this category of not recognizing our Lord because we are disillusioned with what’s going on around us. Following Christ takes a faithful act of charity in which you deny yourself and recognize the needs of others. I certainly do not understand why God has allowed so much division in our country, but I’m trusting Christ that He will see us through this bumpy road.
New American Bible (Revised Edition)
13 Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 14 and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. 15 And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them,
The Roads We Choose
There is only one road that leads to heaven, yet many are lost because of their hardened hearts. I choose to trust God in every area of my life. I learned long ago what wavering does to our spirits. The paths are already set out for us, yet many choose the long road. Whenever I travel, toward the end of a trip, I long for familiar surroundings, my home. In the big scheme of life we are on the road to home. The longer the trip, the better we need to prepare. When Jesus walked with his disciples He did not say, “Hey guys, remember Me? I told you I was going to return.” Jesus was gracious because He understood their distress in losing their rabbi. The disciples were in need of a great awakening, to enable them to things in the spirit, to understand the supernatural. Our Lord knew that they needed a better road map; through the Holy Spirit they received their spiritual app to stay on the right path. They had a calling to preach the Gospel and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, they were equipped for this life-changing journey.
In the best and most gracious words, I believe to say that these expressions “Woke, Black Lives Matter, White Privilege” are dividing our country. In time I believe the misused and deception in many of the underlined assumptions will be revealed.
I believe “woke culture” is designed to silence conservative people like me. It’s as if this woke culture wants nothing more than for the world to believe as they do, or to shut us up. No one should be silenced, nor will I operate in fear when taking a stance for what I believe. We live in a democracy, and we should all be free to express our own beliefs and opinions. You cannot force normal, God fearing people to think or believe tenets that they not accept as true. The “woke culture” beliefs are far from God’s teachings and they come across as invasive and compulsive. I am not, nor will I ever be a racist; therefore forcing this ideology on me only makes me go deeper into prayer. I’m neither angry nor disenfranchised; instead I will continue to vote for candidates who stand for principles and values I hold as truth.
We see what anger does to force issues. Ask Stacey Abrams how she really feels about what she’s done to her beloved Atlanta? Her “woke” theory backfired on her, and the sheep, (corporate America) followed her down the road to perdition. Major League Baseball was scheduled to play the All Star games in Atlanta but, because of the recent reform passage of a voting law in Georgia, Abrams was up in arms about the results. The games were moved to Denver. Atlanta has a population that’s 57% African American, compared to Denver’s 13%. Are you “woke” yet Stacey? You took the money right out of the hands of your fellow African Americans! The loss of revenue will exceed 100 million dollars. I pray that the good citizens of Georgia are truly “woke” to your shambles, Ms. Abrams.
Black Live Matter Founders
I have one question for the founders of Black Lives Matter: What have you done with the 90 million dollars donated to your organization? Are you using it to end police brutality? According to American News, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a co-founder of BLM, recently purchased a 1.4 million dollar complex in Topanga Canyon, located in Los Angeles County. Were these donations diverted for her personal use? BLM is also invested in keeping their negative narrative of injustice in our faces, using the money to infiltrate their ideologies in our schools’ curriculums . Yes, Black lives matter but I do not believe in the social-political narrative and methods this organization is advocating.
This terminology is mistakenly given the label of “white” when in reality any race can fit into this category. To get lost in a privileged life is to not understand the social needs of others. I have met many different races of people living what would be considered a privileged life. But to just make it a “white” matter is not totally accurate. Along with the phrase “white privilege” comes the stigma that all whites are racist, when the majority are not. White people do need to understand the history of the many obstacles African Americans have endured.
All these absurd changes in corporate America are designed to curry favor with the masses and to avoid any backlash in public sentiment. Fortune 500 businesses are protecting their corporate image from any association with racism and bigotry by summarily firing employees who engage in misconduct they view as racist. United Airlines is changing its hiring to promote racial equality and opportunity in its training employment programs. I have never paid attention to who flies the plane I’m in, man or woman; the only thing that matters is that they are qualified to get us to our destination safely, never their gender or the color of their skin. If United Airlines truly wants equality and equal opportunity, why now? I pray that United Airlines is making these changes because they truly care, not just to jump on the band wagon.
The Road to America
When President Trump was in office, they were referred to as “cages.” Oh how the world has changed! Now they are simply “detention centers.” What a mess Biden has created! Do you want to talk about children being separated from parents? First of all, when God has gifted you with a child, it is your godly duty to raise that child. I don’t care how war torn your country is, you stay with your child to protect them from harm! The fact that we are allowing this to happen right before our eyes and nothing is being done to correct this huge elephant in the White House is a national embarrassment to the rest of the world. Who is going to pay for all this? No worries, Biden will have the cost covered by raising our taxes.
Did you know that the San Diego Unified School District is seeking teachers to teach in-person 1,450 illegal immigrants, girls who recently crossed the border? Yet this same district has not opened in-person teaching to American children. The hypocrisy is appalling. My grandchildren Maddie, a sophomore in high school, and Will, an eight grader, have not attended in-person classes for over a year; yet we are allowing undocumented illegal children to get this privilege?
My Prayer: Dear Lord, I have expressed my deep concerns with President Biden. Lord, he says he is Catholic, but it is in name only. Dear God, convict him for all the wrong that he is doing and bring him to his knees. I pray for a major conversion in his life and ask that You take over his reprobate mind so that he can think clearly. Help us, Lord, to unite in prayer for our once God-fearing country. Amen.
I made my confession on Good Friday in order to have a clean spirit for the Easter Sunrise Service. It didn’t take long before the dreaded venial sins made their way back into my spirit. As much as I attempted to keep them at bay, I caved in. But something was different this time; I remembered the words the priest shared with me during confession. “Don’t beat yourself up about this because it will hinder your prayer life.” I quickly brushed off the negative thoughts to freed my mind of any guilt. This is what the Devil has mastered: He wants you to beat yourself up and fill you with guilt so that He can make sure that you fall into the abyss. In most situations I am seasoned in my walk with God because I recognize that these traps that the Enemy has set before me can easily be sidestepped. But when I’m under the weather or out of the spirit because of anger, I’m susceptible to the ploys of the Enemy.
I pay for not being organized. Both my husband and daughter are overly organized, but I never bother with checking calendars or writing down important dates. So when Sonja invited us on a camping trip in January, I said yes. As the dates grew closer I came to the realization that this trip was during Holy Week! First of all, I am not a fan of camping, and now I was giving up attending daily Mass to go camping? I was not a “happy camper,” but I knew that God would turn this trip into something spiritual.
This camping trip was surprisingly pleasant. The weather was ordered by God and could not have been more perfect. We stayed in cabins that resembled something from the television series Little House on the Prairie. They were quite charming. No T.V. and spotty internet service was something we got accustomed to on the first night. I brought my prayer books, kept up with the reading of the Mass, and prayed the Rosary before the night turned pitch black. The sounds of baritone frogs filled the night air, but morning brought red-headed woodpeckers that sounded like someone was knocking at the door. I thought about all these little critters that are part of the big picture in God’s creation. Back home I rarely pay attention to the sparrows, and the sounds that I’m accustomed to are fire engines blaring and the neighbors’ dogs’ occasional barking.
I suffer from environmental allergies; and all this crisp, fresh air was kicking up and making me suffer from itchy eyes, and my nose was tormented by all the unfamiliar weeds in full bloom. I had one allergy pill, but it was out of code. Needless to say, I did not get any sleep. Instead I prayed for my daughter-in-law Jenny’s brother, who is hospitalized with COVID-19. I offered up my suffering for his healing.
We got up early to hike to visit the llamas. Llamas live to be about 20 years old, but the El Capitan llamas are over 30 years old. They graze on grass while looking into the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. Goats, sheep and one short donkey make their home here as well. Surprisingly, I made my way up with ease but was worried about the hike down. I started to look for a sturdy stick to use as an aid going back down the hill. My son-in-law Russ had the same idea and had already whittled one for me.
If you want to see the sunset a hike is required. I made a loud declaration that I was going to see the sun go down. Russ quickly said that he noticed a hiking path up the mountain that was perfect for the viewing. It took about five minutes to reach the start of this so-called path. Russ, Jacob and I followed the narrow path. They were way ahead of me as I carefully made my way up the path. It was filled with holes that I imagined were snake dwellings. Worst of all, I forgot to bring the walking stick. Looking down the entire way up, we finally made it to the top. This seemed to me to be as victorious as reaching the summit of Mt. Everest! My first thought was the feeling of oneness with God. Then I looked toward the sea and just a few hundred yards down the hill were campers! Russ insisted on staying until the sun fully set. Though I wanted to oblige, the snake holes were still a fresh thought. I accomplished this downhill hike by praying the Hail Mary all the way down.
We see our daughter Sonja and her family at least four times a week. Traveling shed new light on how this little family really operates. Sonja is patient and loving, but, most importantly, she and Russ discipline with a stern yet soft hand. The only thing Lucas and Jacob get away with is eating too many sweets and overly using their devices.
Every morning, just like the woodpeckers, Jacob would come into our cabin to see if we needed anything. Russ, Mike and Jacob would walk down to the country store to purchase breakfast and coffee. This camping trip was what can be referred to as semi-camping because we did drive back into civilization (Santa Barbara) for a few dinners.
He Is Risen
Serving communion during the Easter Sunrise Service was an honor. I got teary eyed at the Mass when a family of about seven came up for a blessing. They were followed by Lucas, Jacob, Sonja and Russ. Great joy filled my heart to participate in this glorious morning. We can now sing Alleluia! He is Risen!
John 11:25 New American Bible (Revised Edition)
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
Dear Lord, through Your Glorious Resurrection I thank You for the price You paid for our sins. I continue to pray for those who are suffering from COVID-19 and other life-threatening diseases. Lord, reveal Yourself to them and heal them. Lord, I pray for those who have lost loved ones. Bring them comfort and hold them through this pain. Amen.