05 September 2007

Of Path-Carving & Leap-Taking

Not long ago, I shared that my relationship with Mike is teaching me to carve out a path for myself. Like the Virgin Mary described in the poem I shared, I "looked at the sky / for compass. None." And so I find myself needing to "[create] a road to travel by". Before I explain what this means, I want to share a brief piece of one of the eHarmony reports on my personality discussing the aspect of “openness”. Please keep this is mind as I share more specifically regarding the journey I'm on:

Like someone who can sleep comfortably on either side of the bed, you are equally at home with ideas and beliefs that you have held for a long time and with new ways of thinking and believing that grow out of your intellectual curiosity.

Your sense of who you are and what your place is in the world around you rests on values and principles that are the solid ground you walk upon. You've tested them, they work for you, and much of the time you are content to trust them, that is, until some provocative new idea slips in from a conversation, book or some flight of your active imagination. "Hmmmm. What's this. Never thought of it before." And off you go, exploring.

Since you love to learn, you've always been teachable; you absorb new information, which means you are well-educated in things that matter to you. Sometimes your intellectual exploring will lead you back to where you started; the "next new thing" proves too shallow or impractical to you. But once in a while a new idea or belief will dislodge you from the ground you've stood upon; it is so compelling and persuasive that you step away from the tried-and-true and embrace this notion that is brand new to you.

Because you hold both solid beliefs and are open to new ideas, you are accepting of other people and other ways of thinking and believing. You are flexible enough to listen to something new and different, or something outside of your comfort zone; if it works for you, you'll take it in, and if not, you'll let it go. In this sense, you know who you are: you are neither closed-minded nor wildly open minded, but walk somewhere near the middle of the intellectual road.

Mike is a traditionalist Catholic. It was immediately clear from his profile that his Catholic faith is something that is deeply important to him. What he also made clear to me shortly after our meeting was this: he wants to marry a Catholic woman. This is nothing that he would impose upon me (those of you who know me know that attempting to force something would ultimately prove fruitless anyway), but he was quite clear early on that this is something in which he was not going to waver.

As detailed in the description above, I am someone who knows what she believes, but if something is compelling or persuasive enough, I will embrace a notion that is brand new to me or even other than a belief I have held. It doesn't take a genius to see that Mike is the real deal, so I committed myself to take on the exploration of the Catholic faith and discover for myself what so compels some toward this mode of belief and practice of faith.

I came to this relationship knowing nearly nothing about Catholicism specifically; the only time I understood there was a distinction between traditionalist and other Catholics was seeing something about Mel Gibson in a television interview a few years ago. Any other knowledge I had was strung together from some distant childhood friends who went to Catholic school, a few scant movie scenes, and news stories. These hardly constituted any sort of knowledge base, and I was fully cognizant of the fact.

I have learned a lot from Mike over the last several weeks (really, I should be tape-recording our conversations and/or taking notes and posting them here). This information is new and fresh for me, so I'm not going to get too in-depth (besides which, there are veritable volumes on the subject). What I know is that some major changes were made at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) that dramatically altered the liturgy (becoming more man-centered than God-centered), Mass, and certain sacraments. The changes seem to seek to lessen an emphasis on sin and hell as well as man's innate need for God's grace, and also focus more on the dignity of man (as opposed to the sovereignty and supremacy of God). These are just a few things that I've learned about the distinction. Traditionalist chapels are few and far between, most of the Catholic churches you see having accepted the changes passed down in the early 1960s.

Anticipating some need to defend my decision, it is tempting to try and recount every conversation we've had, all I've read, and what I've observed over the last several weeks. What I can tell you is this: we are already on the same page with so many important things in regards to our faith. Many of the core convictions that govern our daily lives are similar if not the same: recognizing our need for grace (as well as the need to act or work out the grace given us with "fear and trembling"), the importance of prayer, the purpose of suffering and self-denial, our need for the Body of Christ, the centrality of the family, and so on.

In other words, things are fitting together; it is making sense. This is quite surprising to both of us; frankly, I did not expect it. We are both fully aware that things are going to come up that will make me want to turn and run or whack him (or myself) squarely over the head with something solid. For example, we just discussed the Catholic church being the one true Church as founded by Christ. Period. No ifs, ands, buts, or caveats. When you really get into it, it can be a hard pill to swallow. I’m anticipating some difficulty with the whole concept of confessing to a priest or of praying to Mary and the saints (though a recent post from Bourgeois Wife is already assisting me in laying a hold of the concept). Coming from a completely Protestant background, liturgy and church tradition are things that are foreign to me, as is the concept of praying for the dead. And the whole no birth control thing? I grasp the reasoning behind it, but it still freaks me out.

Despite these and other difficulties in my line of vision, I know innately that this will be worth every effort. I’m not so rigid in my own convictions that I don’t grasp the possibility that these beliefs may be incorrect, incomplete, or lacking in how I practice them. I pray for the grace to accept God's own truth as He reveals it to me, even if it means I must drastically alter the practice of my faith as I now know it. The sacrifice is not mine alone, however: I'm not the only one risking something here -- this is a significant investment and risk for Mike also.

Not only are we engaging in this process prayerfully, but Mike has also consulted the priest specifically about the path we're on together. We both want to ensure that we’re entering this as clear-headed and as objectively as possible. The knowledge he has imparted to me is invaluable, both for the information conveyed and to know that he is someone who has embraced his faith and is fully engaged in it. Together we are reading a book explaining the core beliefs of the Catholic faith, This is the Faith by Canon Francis Ripley. We’re discussing it concept by concept, chapter by chapter. Through Mike, I've met other Catholic believers and have discussed this process with them; I feel nothing but surrounded and supported. Each person I’ve met unapologetically believes this is correct belief and practice of faith, but have exhorted me to engage in this process prayerfully and with outside wisdom, and ultimately to be obedient to that which God reveals to me. Once through the book, the next step (Lord permitting) will likely be to discuss all this with a priest.

The more I learn and the more we discuss, the more convinced I become that I'm on the right path and that we are doing this the best way we are possibly able. Whether or not this is something I choose to embrace, I adamantly believe that this exploration will only serve to deepen my faith. Only tonight we discussed how we are both being sharpened in this undertaking.

While on this journey, I'm asking critical questions not only of the Catholic faith but by implication, of the faith I've known since childhood and that I've grown into in my adult years. I suppose some may find this scary or even threatening. And I get that. Even a month ago, I'm not sure I could have envisioned myself on this path. But the further along we go, the more it is making sense to me and resonating deeply with what I believe to be true, with what I read in Scripture. Don't get me wrong; I have encountered things that frustrate and anger me. But if Christ says it is true, if He says this is the way, then it is my duty to humble myself and pray for the grace to understand and accept the truth as He has revealed it. And then I am responsible to be obedient to it.

I attended my second Latin Mass this past weekend and my spirit was stirred during the Rosary, the speaking of the Mass, and in witnessing the blessing and partaking of the Eucharist. I do not quite understand it, at least not in a cerebral way. But God stirred my soul and spirit in new ways simply by allowing me to be witness to these mysteries.

All this being said, the responses of some friends and family are best described as cautious or tentative, even skeptical. I know they love me and want the best for me. I know their questions and hesitations come from the best and most loving places inside of them. I love them for it and don't doubt their hearts toward me for even a second.

I get that this is a big deal. I don’t want to minimize the import of that. On the other hand, I like to add a bit of perspective and be reminded that it’s not as if I’ve sworn allegiance to Buddha or agreed to become someone’s sixth wife. I’m receiving exposure to a different (and as I am convinced thus far, better -- as in fuller) way of practicing the Christian faith. I would love it if everyone I knew supported this and were as excited about it as I am. It’s simply not the case. But this is my path and I will -- without apology -- create a road to travel by and abide by the truth revealed to me.

If I find myself convinced that there is a truer and better way to exercise my faith, is it not my responsibility to live in accordance with what God has revealed to me? How wise is it to adhere to an old and familiar way when a better way has been revealed? I'm not certain of being ready to jump in with both feet just yet, but this is the primary question driving me as I undertake this exploration. And I am convinced to the depths of my soul that God is guiding this process. I have been blessed beyond words and I am utterly in His care.

I don't expect it all to be smooth sailing and am fairly certain some of the things I learn will be more difficult than others to accept and work through. There may be days when I want to turn and run screaming in the opposite direction. Ultimately, this journey must be directed by God Himself. Whatever its end may be, I trust innately that I owe it to myself, my faith, this relationship, and God who has given me all of the above to invest my time and energy into this exploration. Even now, I can definitively state I have lost nothing through this process. In fact, I have gained much.

Easy? Not quite. But worth it? Absolutely. I don't doubt it for a minute.

**More Than Cute Little a Footnote**

Amidst all this serious faith talk, I also want to make it clear that we are having a lot of fun!! While we both know we need to address these big issues, we're thoroughly enjoying one another's company and laughing a lot. I have to say though, our deep spiritual discussions are anything but boring (and how refreshing is it to be able to really talk to someone about these things?!). On the contrary, I find myself sharpened and more alive to God as a result of learning to trust Him to guide me as I step out into entirely new territory. This relationship has brought so much blessing into my life, I can't thank God enough or begin fathom the depths of it.

The more I spend time with Mike & get to know him, the more I like him. I can't believe all that has happened within the space of four weeks. Time flies ... as they say. And God is good.

*Plus, he's pretty dang cute (and I find that this is most definitely worth mentioning)!! :o)


  1. I'll definitely be praying for you - I need to read over your blog a few more times, because I am hesitant on a few things - but I know that you have a good head on your shoulders, and do things in a way that seeks after God and his will/truth in life.
    It is in a place like this where the two parts of me come into conflict - the part that says "truth is truth - not what is right for one person is okay, even if it is totally opposite than for another person" comes into conflict with the part of me that says "so much of spirituality is above and beyond us, aso much we don't understand - its not a matter of right or wrong - its in different dimension." Both of those concepts come to mind, and a lot of that is "my stuff", and my personality. But I encourage you that as you are taking effort and time to learn about his faith, that he takes time to learn about yours, and why protestants believe what they do and how it is different from catholicism. Also, him talking with a pastor, just as you are willing to talk with a priest. I don't know of any specific books, but i'm sure you could find something - I think of the teachings of Martin Luther, and such. I am reminded of Martin Luther, and our need for God's grace, and that Christ did on the cross for us what the priests were doing before - he allows us to enter into the holy of holies and have that personal relationship with Christ. I truly value confession as it relates to accountability and such, but I tense up when someone brings up the idea of needing to confess to a priest in order to receive true forgiveness. I feel that by saying that, it is saying that Christ's death is/was not enough - which it is more than enough.
    I may be coming from the same place as you were, before you started this journey - going off of my assumptions and bare knowledge of the Catholic faith, but I do believe that there are some big differences. We are called, as Christians, to accept others in disputable matters (Romans 14), and I think that many of the differences between Protestants and Catholics are just that. Its about identifying what aren't disputable matters - what truths are clearly spelled out and the core of the faith. I challenge you to look at both of these - which it sounds like you are doing.
    Just some random thoughts - hopefully this doesn't come across as "attacking" - I just think that you are an amazing woman, who has encouraged and challenged me in my faith through the years, and I want to do the same for you.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Ilse! I definitely don't take the questions and concerns as attacks. Not at all! I said so in my blog so I don't want to get too repetitious in my comments (since my post was already so freakin' long!!), but I understand people care for me, want the best for me, and want to ensure I'm as clear-headed as possible about this. I appreciate the expressions of care & concern.

    What I want to make clear to my friends & family is this: I'm examining both faith practices critically. I'm asking tough questions of where I'm coming from and this different faith practice that I am considering. Mike & I are both submitting this process to God and seeking the outside counsel of others. We've got reliable and recommended reading material to use as a guide for exploration and discussion. We also have the advantage of being people who are not afraid to ask ourselves AND each other tough questions, to challenge one another, or to challenge ourselves & accepted beliefs.

    In the process of getting to know him, I found that many of my impressions of Catholics & Catholicism in general were blown out of the water. It's not the first time I've been wrong, & I'm fairly certain it won't be the last! Meeting someone who holds this as his faith definitely sparked my interest.

    Ultimately, I firmly believe that if what I hold to now is true, it will stand up to the scrutiny. The truth is not going to be threatened by questions or by close examination. If what I already believe is true, then I will end up where I started. But on the converse, if what I believe is not entirely true, then I **MUST** trust God to lead me into that truth when I am humble, ready, and wiling to accept what He reveals.

    I love that others are willing to challenge me on this & I understand where they are coming from. Asking these questions isn't easy and it generally causes a lot of discomfort, not only for me, but for those friends & family to whom I am close. I understand that fully.

    What I ask of those who love & care for me is this: before freaking out or telling me what's wrong about what I'm doing or what's wrong with Catholicism, PLEASE pray for us (which is at the front of your comment already, and for which I offer you my sincerest thanks). Ask God to guide & direct this journey, this process we've undertaken. Please trust that He will do so! And ultimately, please trust God with me, with us, with this process, and with this relationship. We are in His care and are both witnessing manifold blessings that are coming as a direct result of submitting this journey to God. We are sharpening one another in ways neither of us have experienced, and nothing but good can come of that.

    Thanks again for your comment. I hope I didn't repeat too much here. Thanks again for your prayers; we covet them & cannot do without them.

    "As iron sharpens iron,
    so one man sharpens another."
    -- Proverbs 27:17

  3. Thanks for your response, and you didn't repeat to much at all. I loved what you said, and fully agree that if what we believe is true, ultimately, it will stand. God does a lot to blow us out of the water, and take our minds beyond the box that we have put him in. Glad to know that this is a learning journey for Mike as well. And glad to know that you are having fun in this relationship as well - and not getting bogged down in the seriousness of things! No fun new eharmony dates for me, although I'm getting new matches now, and have some interesting prospects. Unlike you though, i have open communication with way to many people - I actually need to close some of them today - too many to keep track of :)

  4. Thanks again. :o)

    Ilse's got it going on ... ;o)

  5. Kirsten,
    Thanks for sharing openingly about your faith journey. And I am glad you found my post on plenitude helpful! It is nice to know that what one shares in blog world resonates with others.

    I had a similar faith journey when I converted from Protestantism to Orthodoxy. There are significant differences between Orthodoxy and Catholocism, but I definitely appreciate the liturgy and hierarchy and rich tradition of the Roman church as well as that of my own tradition. St. Michael's, as a Western Rite parish, is it's own little harmony of western (Roman and Protestant) expressions and (Eastern) Orthodox theology. I'm thinking that our liturgy is very similar to that of a Tridentine Catholic mass, only in English. Do you remember the St. Michael's service sufficiently to compare? Yea for Tridentine old-schoolers! ;o)

    A saying of convert Orthodox priest, Fr. Peter Gilguist, continues to resonate with me: "Protestants are 100% committed to 50% of the truth; Orthodox are 50% committed to 100% of the truth." Growing up Protestant, there was so much of Church history, tradition, and theology that I had never even heard of (or that was bashed in a dismissive, unthoughtful manner). When I discovered the historical, liturgical, and theological continuity of Orthodoxy over 2000 years, I knew I had found the fullness of the faith. The major stumbling stone for many outside the liturgical scene is the lukewarmness or cultural religion of many "craddle Orthodox" (as opposed to adult converts) who do not know and love Jesus or appreciate and embrace the rich tradition of their faith.

    It seems that Catholicism has a similar depth and fullness (although I, as a good Orthodox believer, would object to certain breaks with Orthodox dogma over the last few thousand or so years) along with similar hang-ups with cultural Catholics who scare their Protestant brethren and alienate unbelievers. But as you say, the truth is still the truth and it will win out.

    Hey, maybe you and Mike can compromise and both convert . . . to Orthodoxy. ;o)

  6. Thanks for your comment Jen!! I'm so glad you stopped by and left your comment here. I was really hoping you would. :o)

    Mike & I have discussed (at least on a superficial level) some of the differences between Catholicism & Orthodoxy (and I recall from some of your previous posts which discuss your faith), and I will tell you ... I don't think you'll get this boy to convert!! :o) I love being on this journey with him and approaching faith with a fresh set of eyes.

    As I do this, I'm continually evaluating my less than favorable responses to what I learn? Do I resist because it is against the laws of God or violates God's character? Or do I resist because I just don't like it? And I am continually praying that the Lord would bend my will to His own. I believe He is answering that prayer faithfully.

    My own hangups were similar to what you described: it being more cultural than an actual faith practice, or people who frighten or alienate others with their doctrine & dogma. All I've met in the Catholic Church thus far embody the virtues of charity and mercy. I have felt encouraged; I haven't once felt that anyone looked down on me for not being a part of the Catholic Church. Like I said in the post, my pre-conceived notions have been blown out of the water.

    I do sense a new fullness of faith here; I know it is only by the grace of God that my mind & will are being transformed and being prepared to embrace something entirely new. Our conversations are surprising to both of us; just tonight he was saying I sound like I'm a Catholic already.

    I'm not entirely certain how all this is happening but I believe God has everything to do with it. And yes, may God's Truth prevail. The Church in every sense is His, and we all rely upon His mercy.

    I look forward to continuing this dialogue! :o)

  7. Hi Ilse - Not sure if you've been checking back here or not, but I wanted to speak to one or two of the things you brought up.

    As you may know, Martin Luther was condemnded by the Catholic church as a heretic for a lot of reasons, but one of them being saved by grace alone. Catholicism definitely will state that grace is a necessary component of our salvation, but also stresses the importance and necessity of the believer to participate with God and the grace put in them by working out their salvation with "fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12-13). The "working out" portion cannot happen out without God's first "working in" the believer through acts of grace; it is necessary for the believer to act out in obedience the grace put in him/her. What we do with that grace matters.

    As far as confessing to a priest, that is something I initially took issue with also. But then I looked at John 20. Christ has just risen from the dead. He has apeared to Mary Magdalene and then goes to the disciples, who are cowering in fear from the Jews. In vv 19-23 of this chapter, Christ breathes the Holy Spirit on them and says, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven". Jesus has just risen from the dead, conquered death & hell. And here he is conferring on his disciples, these trembling cowering human beings, the power to forgive sins. Christ's death is sufficient, but somehow, for whatever reason, Christ has appointed earthly ministers with the power of forgiveness.

    On a larger scale, this concept is also seen in Matthew 16 where Christ gives Peter the keys of the kingdom (& the Catholic belief here is by virtue of giving it to Peter, he also gives it to Peter's successors). "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." For some reason, Christ has conferred on certain humans appointed by Himself the power to bind, the power to forgive ... and Christ honors that power, as He Himself gives it.

    These are just some of the things I'm seeing in a new way as a result of this study. I get excited about this because there are few things that make me feel more alive than learning new things like this & having my eyes opened to new possibilities. I'm seeing that the things I previously took issue with have real foundations in Scripture and tradition (something else very important to the Catholic church).

    Of course, I'm still praying through all of this & asking that wherever the Lord leads, I would be bendable to His will & to His truth.

    Sorry to cut this off, but I need to finish getting ready for work!

  8. Hi, Kirsten. I don't have a lot to share in response to all that you've shared here, but I at least wanted you to know that I was moved immediately into prayer for you after I read this post a few days ago. Your name was on my lips before the Lord for quite a long while that night, and has been often since.

    I must say, I was really surprised to read about this turn of events in your story with Mike. I didn't see it coming! But I really value the way you prefaced this part of the story, sharing the excerpt from your personality profile. I've never taken that kind of profile before, but I can appreciate and understand the aspects it reflected about you, since I share some of them to a certain extent, too -- being able to think in new directions and take in new thoughts without feeling threatened by them, and in fact being bolstered up by them, no matter which way I end up landing in response to the new ideas in the end. The process of the search itself, no matter where it lands, is so important to the whole entire journey arc of our lives.

    I've known a few people in my life who converted to Catholicism in their adult life, or who at least embraced it in a real way after having been raised in it with only nominal understanding. I've also had friends investigate it deeply for a long while, only to eventually return to the Protestant tradition. Having watched that happen with multiple people, I agree with you that there are many resources and wonderful people within the Catholic church who truly know God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, and who are sincere in their understanding.

    I was actually raised in the tradition myself until about 9 years of age. But I never appreciated the Catholic tradition and what it stood for until we read all the readings from the church fathers, and then the readings from Martin Luther, when we were in Torrey our sophomore year. I came to appreciate the tradition of our faith that much more after that segment of our education . . . and even reached a point where I wanted to go back and visit the Catholic church I grew up in, just to participate even deeper in the root of the faith I now understood I held. I never did go back there, but I suppose my recent interest in the Anglican and Episcopal tradition in recent years (though nowhere near an actual "conversion" into that denomination) is also rooted in this newfound appreciation and understanding.

    Ilse voiced so many of the same thoughts and questions I had after reading your post for the first time -- even down to the feeling that I would need to go back and re-read it multiple more times! So I guess the bulk of my response to your thoughts in the post are along the lines of, "Yeah -- what she said." Oh, so eloquent. :)

    Your last comment about Martin Luther gave me pause. It has been a while since I read his letters myself, but I don't recall his position being one that would render anything we do or become post-conversion as meaningless or beside the point. In other words, I don't know that he would say his position is one that negates any of the "working out salvation with fear and trembling" after saved. It was my understanding that his issue with the Catholic church at the time had primarily to do with the means of grace -- that the hierarchy of the church was making the common folk have to do things and pay sums in order to receive grace. Eventually reading the Scriptures himself, he decried this as completely contrary to the nature of the atonement of Christ.

    That said, I do remember reading that what people did with Luther's message in the aftermath of the Protestant Reformation resulted in positions that Luther himself did not agree with. Perhaps this is where the "grace only, no works" ideology began to present itself.

    I'm sure I will have more thoughts and questions and comments as time goes on, but in the meantime, know this . . . Know that you have a friend all the way across the continent lifting you and this entire process up to God for His covering and direction. Know that all of this, no matter what the result, is part of His design for your journey. Know that He holds you safely in His hand, every step of the way, for you are His.

  9. Thank you for your wonderfully kind, thoughtful, and insightful comment Christianne! And thank you also for your prayers; it is no exaggeration to say I covet them.

    Obviously, there will be many forthcoming posts on this whole process and whole exploration of faith, one of which I plan on posting all the questions I've encountered & basic realizations I've come to, & truths God has revealed as a result of this undertaking.

    As far as Martin Luther & the teaching on faith & works goes, there's an article in Wikipedia (the link is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_luther) I figure that will probably seen as a more neutral source than the book I'm going through, and thus more easily digested to questioning readers here). Here are some highlights:

    "Luther's theology challenged the authority of the papacy by emphasizing the Bible as the sole source of religious authority and all baptized Christians as a general priesthood.[3] According to Luther, salvation was attainable only by faith in Jesus as the messiah, a faith unmediated by the church.[4] These ideas helped to inspire the Protestant Reformation and changed the course of Western civilization.[4]

    From 1510 to 1520, Luther lectured on the Psalms, the books of Hebrews, Romans and Galatians. As he studied these portions of the Bible, he came to view the use of terms such as penance and righteousness by the Roman Catholic Church in new ways. He became convinced that the church had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity, the most important of which, for Luther, was the doctrine of justification — God's act of declaring a sinner righteous — by faith alone. He began to teach that salvation or redemption is a gift of God's grace, attainable only through faith in Jesus as the messiah.[30]

    This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification," he wrote, "is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness.[31]

    Luther came to understand justification as entirely the work of God. Against the teaching of his day that the righteous acts of believers are performed in cooperation with God, Luther wrote that Christians receive that righteousness entirely from outside themselves; that righteousness not only comes from Christ, it actually is the righteousness of Christ, imputed to us (rather than infused into us) through faith.[32] "That is why faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law," he wrote. "Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ."[33] Faith, for Luther, is a gift from God."

    There is so much more I could say here, but it appears that he rejected the idea that righteous acts of believers are performed in cooperation with the grace given by God.

    I could go on & on about my new understanding of how grace is conferred to a believer through Sacraments, through the church, etc. but I must run (sadly).

    I promise, I promise ... more posts are coming & I welcome the discussion!

  10. Thanks for sharing this information on Luther from Wikipedia, Kirsten. It helped to have a quick summary of some of the salient points.

    I confess I tend to stand with Luther on this one, though. Often I have thought of Romans and Hebrews in considering this matter in the past few days -- books which emphasize the mediation of Christ on our behalf and the role of grace through faith alone.

    Reading the summary you've provided above additionally brought to mind the writings of John Piper, someone following in the footsteps of Jonathan Edwards and whose teachings also confirm that faith comes through the grace of God's hand alone, not ours. I would recommend reading his book "The Pleasures of God: God's Delight in Being God" above all of his other books. (His more famous one, "Desiring God," focuses on the idea of Christian hedonism -- a phrase many people do a double-take on! -- and less on the centrality of God's sovereignty and activity toward us in grace and faith, which is the real concern of this portion of the conversation. "The Pleasures of God," on the other hand, deals specifically -- and often! -- with this central question.

    When I first read this book by John Piper (which was actually a gift from our friend Rebecca!), I had a hard time with it. So many of his ideas ran contrary to my traditional nondenominational Christian upbringing. Don't get me wrong -- he is thoroughly Christian, but he toes the predestination line, that all that happens is done by the hand of the Father. This was a hard pill to swallow for a free-will girl! But his use of the Scriptures so thoroughly throughout really made me stop and think . . . and think . . . and think . . . and now I can't read the Scriptures without seeing the ideas Piper presents so thoroughly dampening the pages.

    I still haven't thoroughly "converted" to this idea myself, but it is slowly permeating my understanding as I walk along. I anticipate it will be a long road ahead for me in this regard, still.

    I don't mean to go off on a tangent about John Piper for no reason here. I bring it up because what was quoted by Wikipedia focused primarily on Luther's stance that faith comes through grace that is imputed, rather than infused through cooperation. Again, these are doctrines that have a long history in the church, and so many of the prominent fathers of our faith have discussed them at length for centuries. I don't claim to have a full grasp of it, nor to fully comprehend the varying degrees and arguments. But Piper helps shed some light on one aspect of this, and I think his words are helpful and instructive in building understanding.

    I wish I could say more here, too, but have to run to class. Looking forward to more conversation!

  11. Oh, and Christianne - I have to say that I said "yeah, what she says" to much of what you said - especially regarding Romans - that book is truly amazing, and I gleaned so much from it in my study last year - it truly changed my life.

  12. So hopefully 3rd times a charm - my computer is having issues - I'm still getting used to the new operating system of Windows Vista.

    Ah dang - I just realized that i deleted my whole previous post (I did that part on purpose), but i thought i copied it, so i could edit it and fix some of the typos, but no - i accidently deleted it. Crap!

    And now I have to go back to work -so I guess my comments are lost in cyberspace. And they were good too - poo!

  13. Oooh ... I have SO MUCH to say, but it is going to have to wait for when I am not on a break from work. So I'm just going to be a tease & say: CHECK BACK LATER! :o) I really want to make sure I address this & respond as thoroughly as possible.

    One thing that has not really changed as a result of the study I'm engaged is the view on the relationship between grace/faith/works. Without really realizing it, I was already in agreement with the Catholic stance on the matter (which I'll articulate in more detail when not on my lunch break). You make a good point Christianne (& I was just thinking as I was checking back here) that many men & women of the church have been debating the ins & outs of this since Christ ascended into heaven. I certainly don't expect to settle it here. But I value the discussion & think even if no one here is "converted" to another's point of view, that there is immense value in thinking about and discussing these things. I always want this to be a safe place to disagree, with the caveat that we always keep in mind our kinship in Christ and keep the two greatest commandments in mind: 1) loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, & strength, and 2) loving our neighbor as ourselves.

    DRAT!! The break is over AGAIN!! :o)

  14. kirsten.... i just got around to fully reading this after a very busy week/weekend. i immediately prayed for you and mike and your journey and trust that God will reveal HIS truths to both of your hearts.

    my husband grew up catholic, although not traditionalist, as mike is. we had a lot of the same conversations and decided, basically, that we would search for a church together that we both felt the presence of the spirit in and we both felt comfortable in. i come from a very conservative southern baptist background, but basically had come to the point where i didn't like to define myself by any denomination.... just as a believer.

    we visited DOZENS of churches together until we both came to love a little independent, start-up church that was meeting in a local elementary school. but yes...it was protestant.

    i understand that there is a HUGE difference btwn mike and my husband b/c of the 'traditionalist' bent. my husband's family actually has had more problems with him marrying a non-catholic than he has. and he was very open-minded in exploring different faith traditions and churches and i have seen him grow incredibly through it. so i guess it can go either way.

    on holidays, we tend to go to Mass with his family and i, too, love the ancientness and beauty of the ceremonies and traditions there. but i can't say i have ever really felt the spirit's presence deeply in any of the services i have attended.

    but i also believe that God can speak and move in any faith tradition and i don't believe that any one Faith tradition can lay claim to holding the one and only 'truth', as they are governed by man.... and i am always wary of any tradition that does. there are things in every denomination...whether catholic or protestant that i disagree with under my interpretation of Jesus' teachings... and we each just have to continue on our journey and worship in a way that our hearts connect to God... and THAT is different for everyone.

    you will be in my thoughts and i look forward to future posts about this journey.....

  15. Am reading with great interest. After all, Merton I can (and do!) get into. Praying to Mary and the saints, however, I cannot. The only way I've been able to express this is to say that if I want to kiss my husband I don't kiss my daughter to do it. I go directly to the face I seek. Here's the thing that interests me... what makes him immovable and you movable, and is this a precedent for the future on other matters? And does this itself matter or not?

  16. Kirsten,

    I know this has already been said by several others, but I, too, am actively praying for you. These are weighty issues and absolutely cannot be handled without much fear and trembling in prayer. You are a long-time friend and even though we have not seen each other in several years, I deeply care about you. I want to respond more thoroughly but I need some time to reflect on the issues raised by you and by the others who have commented here. Ahhh, if only I had a lunch break! Then I could reflect quietly. But, there are no lunch breaks for mothers =) So, I'll have to wait until Caleb is preoccupied with something else so that I can reread this post and do some reflecting.

    I will be back on here soon.

  17. L.L. - in my original post (which got deleted because of my own technical difficulties) I asked the same question - why his he immovable and you are movable? Also wanting to know if he is getting any info on being Protestant, and why they sometimes disagree with what Catholics believe.

  18. Hello all. WOW. Going from 7 to 17 comments in the space of one day. CRAZY. You are all asking many questions and expressing your care and concern. For that I thank you.

    Please know this: there are many ways in which I am persuaded, and still a few questions that have yet to be answered. Where persuasion has occurred, it is because Scripture, reason, and sound exegesis has persuaded me so. Where questions remain, part of the reason is that is because God has so obviously graced my life and the lives of those around me that I cannot discount this, I cannot ignore it.

    OK. That's it. Time for a separate post.