#7 Halloween

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Dear Doctimus Prime,

I got an email this morning and a friend wanted to know if he can celebrate Halloween. I had to ask what the celebration was all about:
“It’s done at night and people make terrifying images and wear Dracular costumes. Kids go from house to house ‘trick or treating’ and the celebration is tonight, the last day of October.”
Halloween is actually a shortened form of “All Hallows Eve” (a hallowed person is a Saint or holy person), “the evening before” All Saints’ Day. Well, the origin, I found out is Celtic (from Ireland), and it dates back to a period about the time of Christ. It was done because people were scared of the change from summer to winter, since in those parts there was the belief that spirits of dead people hovered during the period. So to scare them away, people would dress their children in scary attires and make sounds to frighten any of these spirits.

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For us Christians, we do not hold this belief, namely the power of spirits of dead people to take possession of us us at any time or at any season. If ever there is the threat of evil, we counter it with our prayers and trust in the protective omnipresence of our God, and by our trust in the power of God’s angels to watch over us. What’s more, we have the saints who enjoy God’s presence to help us with their prayers. It is the eve of their feast fortunately. So it is a time to ask for their protection and fraternal intercession. Since they are alive with God, we can be sure they hear our prayers and present our plea before God. Let the eve of their feast day remind us that we are not alone, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we walk to God’s kingdom and as we daily battle temptations to sin (cf. Heb 12:1-2). We could imitate the practice in some places where children go from door to door requesting for small cakes in exchange for promises to pray for the ones who give them something. So, I would say, Happy All Saint’s Eve and Happy All Saints Day in advance.
Yours,
BLOGATRON

#6 When is it Cheating?

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Dear Doctimus Prime,
I am sad. It is not my usual mood so I am trying to deal with the cause for this ‘down-the-valley-low’ feeling. I had to write you this piece before publishing my next blog article and let you know what’s been going on lately. I asked a few friends one question and the responses I got gave me an idea of what society holds as part of its values today.
I randomly asked the question:

“Is it cheating when two people who are in a ‘relationship’ and are having sex choose (either one or both) to have sex with other persons and why?”

Come and see ‘orishi-rishi’ answers.
One person simply typed “lol”.
Another blurted “I don’t know o!”
But some others took the question headlong, believing it was an easy and straight forward question.
One person said, “It won’t be considered cheating if its a mutual choice, (that is if both parties consent to it). It’s called an ‘open relationship’.” He said that some celebrities even have open marriages!
Someone else asked:
“Are you aware of the trend in society that consider open sexual relationships as legitimate?” I answered in the affirmative but asked:
“Are you saying that if it is not a mutual choice it will be cheating (infidelity) and it won’t be such if they both consent?”
“Yes. If the lady decides to sleep with someone else without her current boyfriend’s/husband’s knowledge or consent or vice versa, then its cheating.” (You should note how this person gives equal value to sexual relationship between married and unmarried couples).
Another person shared a slightly similar opinion: “It is bad enough that you fall into sexual sin with one whom you are in a relationship with (but not married to), but then adding someone else or some other persons to the equation?” It sounded more like a rhetorical question.
I took a while before i could convince this persons that there is a difference between non-married intimate relationship and intimacy in marriage. I insisted that the unmarried couple are not obliged by any BONDS, whether civil or religious.
Besides, the second person acknowledged that non-married intimacy is wrong altogether (IT’S A SIN); but that it is a lesser evil.
Someone countered by saying that if they cannot be faithful without laws, there is no assurance that they would be faithful when there are laws. “Remember,” he added “people are naturally drawn to breaking laws.”
“Exactly my point” I said. If they are drawn to breaking laws who says they can’t break the laws which they have made for themselves. This doesn’t make the whole thing right either.

The way out of it is to realise that the whole arrangement is faulty. A sexually active relationship without any FORMAL COMMITMENT is as good as NO COMMITMENT AT ALL. We should not forget too soon that IT IS FORNICATION. The last time I checked it is a moral problem (an offense against God’s will for sexual intimacy, which is the consumation of love between married people of opposite sex and for the birth and education of children). We have settled for the Hollywood idea that so long as two people consent to fornicate just with each other, and no one else, its okay.

Someone clarified by saying that when two people commit themselves to a “relationship”, they are not saying that they are DEFINITELY going to get married. They are only expressing RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER (and are pledging to be “faithful” to each other). They hope that if their plans align as time goes by, they would be sure if their union is heading for marriage.
To this I say, “Aren’t they putting UNNECESSARY PRESSURE on each other, or even tying each other down by so doing?” To which someone replied, “It doesn’t have to tie a person down. They could still have other friends of both genders and develop friendships. The difference is that their relationship stands on a different pedestal from others.
As beautiful as this sound, it is only practicable between mature persons, who have created room enough for A LOT OF COMMUNICATION and are not bugged down by the whole SEX thingy. So long as we think it’s cool to have sex in an UNOFFICIALLY COMMITMED RELATIONSHIP (*SMH* seriously at the absurdity of the last statement), the problem persists. Besides if you are not sure if you wish to spend the rest of your life with someone, sex will not help you make up your mind.

To deal with this adequately, I think we have to revisit our idea of what is good and bad, right and wrong, good and evil, and how we must depend on God’s grace to do the right thing.

If you take your religious faith seriously, SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE IS SIN, NO MATTER HOW WE CHOOSE TO LOOK AT IT.
Yours,
BLOGATRON

#5 Witness, Witness, Witness!!!

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Dear Doctimus Prime,

Blogatron reporting for duty sir! (chuckles). I am sorry Prime. I know you don’t like me sounding all formal and stuff. It is another weekend and the week has been veeeeerrrry interesting. I have done a few more writings, I have made a few more friends and discussed with a few more people. In all I am a lot wiser and a lot more informed about some things. I am sure I will come around to write about some of them. First of all, I had to reply a comment on one a social media platform where someone was belly-aching about Catholic Priests who are guilty of favouritism of the rich over the poor. He is very correct in that regard, but I had to tell him a little more truth than he is willing to admit. I said:
“I would have to presume that you have chosen to take a stand of righteousness by seeing others (in this case PRIESTS) as the guilty ones. One question that bothers me more than yours is ‘why do we sin, all of us, in the first place?’ The answer is in Rom 3:23. We are all sinners, priests or lay persons alike, we all are sinners. I don’t know the motivation for anybody’s sins. What I know is that sin is evil and it is the devil’s plan to keep us bound and enslaved even in the things we claim to do for God. And there is nobody better to denounce sin that each and everyone in his/her own life. Often we forget too easily that we sin and are in need of God’s mercy, that we point accusing fingers to others. If you have experienced the mercy of God, you will definitely be more sympathetic to the plight of others. You will be forced like St Augustine to cry upon seeing a sinner: ‘There goes Augustine if not for the grace of God.’ If you feel badly about anybody’s moral state, do what 1Jn 5:15-17 prescribes. The fact is that the higher role in the Church is all the more perilous. Priests don’t have it easy, that is the more reason you should pray for them. They have more to contend with. If you feel strongly about the behaviour of any of them, meet the person personally and speak to him with courtesy and respect. I am sure they will appreciate it.”

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But that is not the reason I wanted to speak to you Prime. Yesterday’s Gospel reading from Lk 12:8-12 and today’s second reading from 2Tim 3:14-4:2 had a deep impact on me. They both point to the fact that as a Christian is called to be a Witness.
At baptism, my Catholic faith teaches me, that I am made a child of God and an heir to God’s kingdom. I am anointed KING, PRIEST AND PROPHET. As a prophet, I am called upon to witness before all people, everywhere and at all time to the goodness of God in Jesus Christ. Witnessing here means that I show forth the virtues which Jesus practiced and taught in his lifetime by the way I live my life. My life MUST reflect that of Christ as I allow Him to transform me more and more into His image (cf. 2Cor 3:18). Romans 8:29 says that God has destined me before I was born to by co-heir with Christ to His kingdom.

As a co-heir my duty is to make Christ known and loved. TO BE A CHRISTIAN IS TO BE A WITNESS TO CHRIST. It means that although I am challenged by peer pressure to conform to the standard of this world in the way I dress, speak, act, tweet and ping, I should not give in. Roman 12:2 enjoins me to be a WORLD CHANGER, A TRANSFORMER (BLOGATRON FOR REAL!) AND NOT BE A WORLD-DUMMY. If I succumb to the world, I deny Christ. To witness to Christ is to die to the world and its cunning. That is why the Greek translation for WITNESS is MARTYRDOM.

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My mantra shall be: “I am in the world but I am not of the world. He who is in me is greater than He who is in the world” (cf Jn 15:18,19; 1Jn 4:4). It does not matter if I have been a sinner all my life. It won’t weigh me down. It doesn’t matter if I have been silent and have failed to speak up about what I believe as a Christian. It is never too late to start. I won’t let my past hold me down. Rather, I would ask for God’s pardon and forgiveness in confession and be free of the devil’s slavery tactics.

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I only want to radiate the Word of God, the Word of truth. I want to share what I believe with everyone I meet. I want to be on Duty for Christ. This means I might have to change my lifestyle. It will no longer be business as usual. But I am not afraid of change. I only want Christ to be known and loved.
Yours,
BLOGATRON
@jaaymary

#4 Masturbeducation

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Dear Doctimus Prime,
One thing I have learnt in my little over one month in a parish Church is that you have to be ready at all time, for just about anything. I have to rise to every occasion and situation, knowing that the person in front of me might have nowhere else to go and no one else to turn to. In the parish office where I am on call every other week, I am called upon to be several things to several different people: a counsellor, a spiritual director, a social worker, a healer, a psychologist, a listener, a friend, a brother, a father. In fewer words, I am all things to all men just like Saint Paul (cf 1Cor 9:19-23).

One occasion was a moment of deep reflection for me. I was sure of what to say but I wasn’t sure how to say it. It was a morning like every other before it. I just got into the office. I said my prayers and turned on the AC. I unpacked my laptop and some books and settled down to some reading, half expecting someone to knock on the door. “Business” was going good until he showed up. He looked to be fourteen and still in secondary school. He looked a little pale, so I am guessing there was something terribly wrong.
“Good morning Father” he said. I smiled and said “Good morning” as I motioned him to sit down.
He felt a little uneasy and distracted. I was looking straight at him but he was looking at everything else in the room besides me.
“Is there something I can help you with,” I said after waiting a while for him to present his case.
“Father, can you hear my confession?”
“I am not a priest. I am a deacon. I don’t hear confessions” was my reply.
“Okay…sorry” he was a little distracted.
Is something the matter?” I pressed.
“Can I tell you something?” was his reply.
“Sure”
He waits a little while, trying to make up his mind. I usually give people the opportunity to decide if they want to share with me or not. Insisting that they speak only puts them on the defensive and makes them suspicious.
“Father, I have this problem. I am always ashamed of speaking about it. I know it is wrong and I have been trying to overcome it. I have gone to confession before and tried to stop it but it is difficult and it is weighing me down… I masturbate Father.”
By this time, he is looking down at something at the foot of my desk. I could tell from his looks that he expects more from himself and is disappointed that he had let his habit come to this.

Masturbation is understood to be the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. The genital organs, as sexual faculties, are NATURALLY for use within marriage for the purpose of mutual self-giving of couples and also for procreation. Any other use for sexual display is, therefore, a derailment from the ORIGINAL INTENTION for which they are made. Masturbation is, to this end, an UNNATURAL use of the genitals for sexual pleasure. The scriptures do not mention masturbation but it gives other instances of unnatural sexual behaviour. The popular examples are those of Onan who spilled his semen whenever he had relations with Tamar, his late brother’s wife (cf. Gen 38: 9,10), and of Saint Paul to the Corinthians in which he tells them to desist from sexual immorality (1Cor 6:18-20). So I knew what to say; I just didn’t know how to say it.

“What’s your name?”
“Ben”
“How old are you Ben?”
“Fourteen.”
“Do you have any other siblings?”
“Yes, my little sister.”
“Do you know what pornography is?”
“Yes.”
“Have you ever viewed pornography before?”
He hesitates at first but then answers in the affirmative. I took a long imperceptible breath and then said. Where there is masturbation, pornography isn’t far off.

“You seem like a good boy. I have no reason to believe otherwise. I am happy that you been able to accept the fact that you need help. That is a brave thing to do. You must also understand that you will always have sexual urges as a grown person. It is sign that you have become a man. But you must learn SELF MASTERY over your feelings. To keep yourself sane and away from masturbation, you must cut yourself away from everything and everyone who is a negative influence on you. Avoid the use of pornography. It is like bringing fire close to petrol. Don’t be in a place all by yourself if you don’t have to. And take your spiritual life seriously. Pray the Rosary. Ask the Virgin Mary to intercede for you. Jesus does not refuse her anything (cf Jn 2:5,6). Go to confession and communion regularly. By receiving Jesus physically into you, you will receive strength to overcome your weaknesses. God loves you my boy. He will always help you with the strength you need.
Do you mind if I say a little prayer with you?

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He nods and bends his head. We say a prayer and I blessed him. His face had brightened up after the prayer. He was almost smiling when he said “Thank you Father”. It is no use asking him to call me Reverend. They always relapse.
“Don’t hesitate to come see me if there is something else you need my help with, okay?”
And so ends another day of experience and learning for me. I am sure God wishes to reach people. And he does it through the little advise and prayers we say with others. I always want to extend a helping hand if it will be of any good.

Yours,
BLOGATRON
@jaaymary
*PS: Special birthday shout out to my Associate, Ms Betty Ogbue. God bless you.

#3 Love Says it All

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Dear Doctimus Prime,
I am not the kind to give in to anger easily but I am angry. I am not angry because of something that done to me. I am mad at so-called “Christians”. Some of them claim to know the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ. But their lives are a stack contradiction to all they say. I recently asked a friend where he lives here in Lagos and he gave me his address. I went on to ask if there are other Church members on his street. He mentioned that there was at least one person he knows. They both belong to the same society but he is not sure where exactly he lives. I pointed out that it was not right. He should at least try to identify with this brother of his. He mentioned that he never knew he should to know where he lives. Maybe my anger is misdirected. But I know that the early Christians were known for how much they loved each other. Today, we don’t even want to know what happens outside our gates. If I am fine, the world is alright.
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It is sad because these same Christians who consider it optional to show concern or reach out to their fellows, will yell and belly ache over the insensitivity of others. I have seen Catholics leave their societies or the Church as a whole because the group he/she belongs to has failed to show them any sense of concern. It is almost a common phenomenon to find persons who are more interested in what they can receive from a person or a group. Dem wan take but dem no fit give.
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Prime, the truth is that we don’t love each other. We don’t even know that we should. Jesus himself identified Love as the distinguishing feature of the Christian in John 13:34,35:


“Love one another as I have loved you. By this everyone will know that you are my disciple…”

Just so that it sinks, St Paul calls the Church the “Household of God”. And a household has members who are mostly related by blood. We should be a FAMILY. It implies that just as we look out for our family members, we should look out for our fellow Christians. What usually happens is that we pass each other on the street without even looking.One of the reasons we offer each other a sign of peace at Mass is so that I see the person next to me as my brother or sister.
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We are not competing against each other. It is not enough to be seen as HOLY. BE HOLY. Holiness is not a rule to be followed. It is a life to be lived. If you sow seeds of holiness, you will reap fruits in the spirit, fruits of the Spirit. St Paul gives some of them as Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-control. Self-control is something I really need to reflect on and see if I am defaulting. There is often the tendency for me to believe that temptations are stronger than I can handle. But 1Cor 10:13 assures me that God will not let me be tempted beyond my strength. And if I am tempted, I shall receive the requisite grace sufficient to overcome. A lot of what I need to do in order to be who I was created to be is in my own hands. I have to be the BEST.
PS:
I DIDN’T FORGET WHAT I WANTED TO SAY TO YOU ABOUT MASTURBATION. I AM ONLY TRYING TO PUT MY THOUGHTS TOGETHER.I WILL LET YOU IN ON IT AS SOON AS I AM SETTLED.
Yours,
BLOGATRON.

#2 History, Sex and Stuff

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Dear Doctimus Prime,
I stumbled into a man I met two weeks ago here in the parish. He came to see the parish priest. Mr John. The voice was unmistakeable. His stature as imposing at the very first time we met. He had his back to me as I walked into the living room. He was speaking to Father Mark. I walked up to both of them and greeted. He was excited and gave me a hug. Father Mark teased him to stop calling me his “Brother” since we are not from the same state. He laughed and asked me if I know what ECS meant. “ECS”? No. “East Central State,” Father Mark blurted. “Yes”, John added, we are all one. Mark now recounted how his younger sister didn’t know what ECN stood for. I didn’t either. ECN is Electric Corporation of Nigeria. It was replaced by NEPA which has been replaced by PHCN. “Back when we used to have power,” Father Mark continued with an expression of loss written all over him. “A bulb could last up to a year.” “Two years,” John added almost immediately. He wasn’t so young if he remembers that much. You know how people like to romanticize about the past. I am obviously born into a new generation. I am sure I will have my own story to tell. But it is always helpful to know what has gone before and what is currently the situation of things. Only with these pieces of information can you better articulate your course of future actions. History, I think, will vindicate us if we learn from the past and refrain from ignorance.
I wasn’t just going to tell you about history Prime. I wanted to tell you that I have a new schedule that is making it increasingly difficult for me to write. I have to wake up early and be at mass. I return at a quarter past eight and barely have time to take breakfast and get myself ready for office. With the number of people who stop by each day, I don’t see myself constructing a single statement without hearing a knock on the door. But I will always try to scribble something for you as soon as time affords me the luxury.
We have a young priest visiting and I am enjoying his company. He said something very interesting about human relationship this morning that struck me. He said that most relationships, especially between guys and girls, are supposed to take the shape of a pyramid. At the base should be communication and mutual understanding, leading up to friendship. At the top, as a sort of culmination point, is SEX. The latter should serve as a “CAP-STONE” for a thriving relationship. In present day this pyramid has been inverted. This leaves sex at the base and couples try to work upwards. When they start having sex, they don’t know each other. And when they get to find out the other’s shortcomings, the base is already shaking since it is standing on a tip.
Something else which bothers me is the whole sex craze. It has always been a concern. But I don’t think that young people are doing themselves any good by opting for sex before marriage. This is compounded by the strange demands guys and girls make of each other. A guy once told me that he won’t like to marry a virgin. That it would be a whole lot of stress trying to deflower her. Another lady friend painted a rather funny picture. She would like her man to be a “pro” in bed before they meet. To my young man, I want to believe he was exaggerating the “stress” he complained about. The hymen, I later read, is a thin tissue covering the vaginal opening, leaving a space for menstrual flow when this takes place. It is not torn out but stretched when a lady has vaginal intercourse. So the insertion of the penis does not more than stretch this tissue creating more space in the vagina eventually. Only a dunce would consider this a “stress” especially if he really doesn’t know anything about a woman’s body than just having sex with her (“dunce”, dem tink say dem be don but dem neva done!). It should ordinarily be the joy of every man to know that he is his wife’s first and only love. This should also be the case with the woman. Does anyone need to go far to find out the reason we still have a lot of fail and short-lived marriages in a time when people boast about having great sex?
A boy asked me about his problem with masturbation. I told him a few things I will like to share with you. But that will be next time. I really have to go now. I am already late for my next appointment.
Yours
BLOGATRON.

#1 Dear Diary

Dear Diary,
This is the first of several entries I shall be making. Since it has been a while I kept a proper dairy, I wish to tell you why I decide to start again. Over five years ago, my big brother told me he was happy I could keep a dairy, even when I told him that all I ever wrote were my thoughts about the passages I read from Scripture. He had previous tried to keep a dairy but didn’t have the discipline to continue. I have written something every day for the past five years. An article I once read about creative writing advised that I write something, no matter how small and insignificant each day. Today I have several writing media, most of them on social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and a blog. Now I also have you. Others are note pads that are clogging my shelf and preventing me from stacking more books on them.
As part of my de-clogging mechanism, I wish to keep a diary. I wish to write here all that come to me in my quiet time: my thoughts on scripture passages that I read, my memorable conversations with friends and people that I meet each day. Since I am in a new environment, I wish to tell you the new things I learn each day and the knowledge I gain from my surrounding. Forgive me if ever I fail to write. Pardon me when I have very little to say. You must also pardon me when I become uncontrollably garrulous. I am sure you will get used to my babblings.
Something struck me when I decided to write this entry. I thought that we should take names. The movie “TRANSFORMERS” is one of my favourite movies of all time. So I wish to inject some of its elements into our conversation. I shall begin by taking a name after one of its outstanding Characters. I wish to be known to you as BLOGATRON. You will not be my rival but you will be known to me as DOCTIMUS PRIME. I, a BLOGGer shall report to you as often as time permits, to DOCument my memorable experiences and share with you all that I have learnt. Do permit me to record my reflection based on my Reading of the Gospel passage from Luke 11:15-26.

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I was particularly fascinated by verse 20,
“But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.”
The Jews had accused Jesus of casting out a demon from a sufferer by the power of Beelzebul. I am not sure whether they were concerned or simply envious of Jesus’ audacity in the face of evil. Jesus simply makes it clear that evil and good can never be on the same side. He was clearly God and He made no pretence about it. He is able to do anything for the good of those who believe and trust in Him.
I know, dear Doctimus Prime, from experience, that once a person encounters God, their life is never the same. Fear and Doubt are the only things that can become obstacles to a fruitful encounter with Him. Fear can make me exaggerate the power and influence of the devil on my life. It is almost impossible to see anything God is doing for me. Little wonder the opponents of Jesus in the reading attributed his miracle to the power of Beelzebul. I know that he devil exists and that he is powerful.
1Pt 5:8 says that the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Ephesians 6:12-18 also warms that we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers… So I should always put on my armour of God: the belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of Christian witness to the Good News of Peace, the shield of faith, salvation as a helmet, the spiritual sword which is the Word of God, and prayer as well. With this armour of God I am battle-ready all the time.

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A potent sign that Jesus is greater than my fear is that he casts out a demon by “the finger of God”. If only a finger can dispel the devil, what would His hand do? There is clearly no ground on which the devil can contend with Jesus (cf Jn16:33).
Doubt can blind me to what God is already doing in your life. I may want to believe that what is important is a pressing need of mine but God knows what I need and takes better care of me. He is only hindered by my impatience. He wants to transform me first and make me better prepared to receive His gifts. Sometimes when it is taking too long for God to answer me, I begin to question his ability to grant my request. Before long, I begin to entertain thoughts to seek help elsewhere.
But when I tell myself that I am going to seek Jesus in another Church, what am I really saying? Are there two “Jesuses”, one belonging to my Church and another in another Church? Or am I saying that Jesus has absconded from my Church which is His Church (cf Mt 16:18)?
So I realise that I should learn to believe in God. I must remain with him if I truly wish to make spiritual progress. I should ask God to root out fear and doubt from my heart and implant a spirit of trust and faith (cf Ez 36:26). I will do just that right away.
Prayer: Lord, you are stronger than my fears and doubts. Root out whatever keeps me from holding on to you with trust, amen.
Yours,
BLOGATRON