What are the chances of life on earth to have just ‘happened’? What are the chances of the universe to be in perfect balance to allow life to exist? This video takes a scientific look at creation.
Or at least I can say I’m a script writer of award winning films 🙂
Last week the John Paul II Film Festival in Miami, FL awarded the video, “Zombies Vs. Jesus” an award for the best short film. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I was the main script writer for the video, even though it turned out to be different (and better!) than I had imagined it.
This is the second time a short film I was a part of has won an award! Last year, the short film Palm Sunday won a Telly Award for best religious short film.
Two things in common with both films: Eric Groth of Outside Da Box produced it, and Rob Kaczmark of Spirit Juice Studios directed them. As a script writer, it’s exciting to work with people who have a great combination of faith and creativity to pull of the hard work of bringing stories to the screen.
But the best thing about winning awards is it gives people (like me) an excuse to promote the films again. In case you haven’t seen them, take a look!
I could take the “cool” route and pretend I was unfazed by the popularity of the last blog I posted, as if thank kind of thing happens to me all the time. But as everyone who knows me knows, I am not cool. The over 50K people who read the blog means that in the past few days more people have checked out my blog than have over the past year, and I’ve been very grateful and blessed by the encouraging comments that were emailed to me or posted on this site, Facebook, and twitter. I’m honored to have written something that has blessed so many people and given you encouragement in trying times.
A few of you have asked me permission to duplicate what I wrote, and by all means please do. Just acknowledge me as the author and throw the “bob-rice.com” site somewhere on the page so people can know where it came from and how to read more stuff from me.
Well, about 48% of the country is unhappy right now. Consider me one of them.
Like many, I’ve been invested in this election. Read numerous stories and blogs on the Internet. Followed the debates. Talked about it a lot. Prayed. Voted. And yet the same guy who was elected President four years ago is the same guy who got voted in today. Once again he’s talking about “hope” in front of a cheering Chicago audience. After the speech they played Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own.”
I would have rather had an election result that ended with Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
I’m not the only one who prayed and fasted for this day. At Church every Sunday (and daily) we’ve been praying or our country and for the election. Though the prayers never specifically said, “We pray Mitt Romney wins,” that seemed like an easy connection to make. We prayed for a president that respects the dignity of the unborn. We prayed for a president that respects religious freedom.
And yet we now have a president who seems to not care about either of those two important issues. He is more concerned with the rights of same sex couples to be married than the rights of unborn children to live. He is more concerned with the “rights” to free contraceptives than the rights of religious freedom.
So… were our prayers unanswered? Our novenas wasted? On the surface, it seems to be that way.
But God isn’t done yet. He just rarely answers prayers the way we think He will.
God isn’t into democracy. Jesus said, “Follow me,” not, “vote for me.” Though we might feel that our prayers for the election weren’t heard, God is bigger than an election. He’s about saving souls and changing hearts.
Abortions in this country are down. Why? Because abortion centers are closing due to movements such as “40 Days for Life.” This is the most pro-life generation the country has ever seen. Hearts are changing. That’s the work of God, not man. Man can create a law to make something “legal” or “illegal.” But only God makes things “right” or “wrong.” The law is external, the Spirit is internal. God is more concerned about the heart.
Same-sex marriage? Yes, it’s disappointing that same sex marriage won a popular vote in Maine and Maryland. Proponents say this is the beginning of a national trend (as if the 30 previous states who voted against same sex marriage don’t matter.) That may be true. But I think we need to do better in talking about what marriage really is. We’ve been hoping for a vote to “protect marriage,” but perhaps we’ve been too focused in “out-voting” the issue than explaining it. Now we have to be more articulate. I can’t see that as a bad thing.
Religious freedom? That battle is far from over. More lawsuits have been leveled toward the Federal Government on this matter than any other in American history, and most of lower court results have been respecting religious rights. Obama’s reelection doesn’t make the HHS mandate a slam dunk, though that would have been nice—just as it would have been a non-issue if Obamacare was flipped by the Supreme Court. But it seems we’re just not going to get any short cuts on this: the issue of religious freedom will need to be directly addressed by the Supreme Court. And that could be a great thing.
One “positive” thing you can say about Obama is that he’s done more to unite the Catholic Church in America than anyone in the past 50 years. He got every Catholic bishop to stand against him. He also did a lot to unite the Christian Church—remember Mike Huckabee saying, “Today, I’m Catholic!” Heck, he even got evangelical Christians to back a Mormon for president.
If we had woken up this morning with the headline, “Romney is the President,” we might have gone back to sleep feeling secure in one nation under God. We could be thankful that this HHS nonsense is over and we can go back to our lives. We could be hopeful that abortions would be reduced thanks to government intervention. That’s how I hoped to start the day.
But God does not want us asleep. He wants us awake. He wants us to do the same thing we’ve been doing: pray, work, and fast for our country.
If we thought we could wake up and feel safe about these issues because Romney got elected then we’d be as foolish as those on the other side of these issues who think Obama is the “savior.” We can’t depend on the government for our spiritual “welfare.” We’ve got to go out and proclaim God’s truth with our lips and share His love from our hearts.
I’m bummed that Obama won. I know a lot of people who worked really hard during this election and I can’t imagine how devastated they feel: any time you spend work on a “failed” effort it’s always heart-breaking.
But I still have hope, and not the “hope” that Obama talked about to a cheering crowd this morning. His “hope” was optimism based on the human spirit; our hope is rooted in Jesus Christ and in His saving power. The hope Obama offered four years ago hasn’t materialized, but our hope in Christ is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb 6:19.)
The re-election of Barack Obama means that Christians in the United States have to stay united and actively proclaim the truth of the Gospel if we are to protect the values we believe were given to us from God. It means we have to pray more, work harder, and be more active in sharing our faith. If we do that, it would be a more important “result” than any political office we could ever vote for.
I’ll end with what we prayed in Mass this morning: “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
After an earthquake leveled his son’s school building, a father digs through the rubble for 38 straight hours, clinging to the hope that his boy is still alive. “See what love the Father has lavished upon us!”
I remember looking down and seeing blood on my hands. My head was still spinning from the line of cocaine that I snorted in the bathroom. The prostitute I just had sex with was face down on the bed, murdered. Did I do it? I couldn’t remember. I heard sirens outside and footsteps running up the stairs to my apartment. That was the moment that I realized I needed a Savior. I needed Jesus.
Okay, none of that is true.
Truth be told, I have a very boring conversion story: I always loved Jesus. And then I loved Him more.
I was the good kid. Never drank. Never did drugs. Knew to save sex for marriage. In fact, I lived in fear of letting others down: my parents, my teachers, or even God. I was a straight A student and prayed every night.
So it might not be a surprise when I tell you that one of the most exciting moments in my conversion is when I did something that many consider boring:
I read the Catechism.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but the English translation was released in the spring of 1994. I was living in Orlando, Florida bouncing between two jobs. Some evenings I would play in bars with my band, “The Crowd.” Other evenings I worked at an improvisational comedy club. No matter what I did I was usually out until one or two in the morning, followed by a late night/early morning snack at the only restaurant in the area opened 24 hours—IHOP (which is where I often encountered a young Shaq and his entourage, but that’s another story.)
Getting home at 3 AM I’d turn on the TV and watch CNN, the only thing that was on. And one evening/morning they reported that the Catechism of the Catholic Church was coming out on Tuesday, the first time the Catholic Church had a universal catechism in 500 years. I didn’t know what a “catechism” was, but apparently it contained all the official teachings of the Catholic Church. I knew I wanted it. No, I knew I needed it.
You see, though much of my family was Catholic and I attended Catholic schools, I never really felt like I knew for certain what Catholicism was all about. The only time I heard about the Eucharist was in a Humanities class when the teacher asked, “Do you realize that the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is the actual body and blood of Christ, not just a symbol? How many of you believe that?” And none of us raised our hands because we had never heard that before.
I had been blessed to have many friends who were Protestant, all of whom professed at times to know what Catholics believed. “You Catholics worship Mary,” one would say. “You think you’re saved by what you do, not by God’s grace,” would say another. This didn’t sound right to me, but I didn’t know how to defend it.
So to finally get the low down on what the Church actually taught was really exciting. I made sure on Monday night to set my alarm to get up early and head to my local Christian bookstore to get the Catechism.
But here was the thing—my local Christian bookstore didn’t carry it. “You should try a Catholic bookstore,” the woman at the counter said.
There are Catholic bookstores? This shows you how out of the loop I was.
So I drove around in haste to find my local Catholic bookstore. I was worried, assuming that every Catholic in Florida watched CNN and would buy up all the Catechisms before I could get one.
I eventually found “The Abbey Catholic Bookstore” in a strip mall squeezed between a pharmacy and a party supply shop. It was so small it felt more like a closet than a store. I remember lots of dark wood, crammed shelves, and no windows. But there on the counter was a stack of the book I coveted… The Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was clearly the first person to get one that day.
Immediately I bought it and took it home. I couldn’t wait to read it. I sat on my couch and looked through the index. There were some immediate questions I wanted to know the answer to: Was the Eucharist really the body and blood of Christ? (Answer: yes!) Do we really worship Mary? (Answer: not in the same way we adore Christ.) And what does the Church actually teach about sex? (Answer: Uh… you should just read it yourself!)
The answers made a lot of sense to me. It was like this book could articulate the things I always believed but never could explain. But once I had my questions answered, it started asking me things: Why did the Word become flesh? What is the purpose of life? Why do our prayers go unanswered sometimes?
As I read the answers, I grew deeper in my faith and fell more in love with the Catholic Church. If you asked me what I believed before the Catechism came out, I would have said I was a Christian who happened to go to a Catholic parish. But after reading the Catechism, I was Catholic.
I’ll never forget going to a Holy Thursday Mass a few weeks after I began reading the Catechism. They processed the Eucharist around the Church and reposed it in the Eucharistic Chapel. I followed it, fell to my knees, and wept. All I could say was, “You are God, You are God, You are God…”
And it was all because of the Catechism.
I know some people only use the Catechism to get answers to things they’re confused about. That’s not a bad place to start. But don’t just use the Catechism to get your questions answered—let it teach you about the faith.
At the end of every section is a summary of what it just taught titled, “IN BRIEF.” Start there. Make it a habit of your daily prayer to read just one IN BRIEF, and watch how your understanding of the faith deepens.
Speaking of prayer, many people suggest that you should start reading the Catechism at the last part, the one titled, “Christian Prayer.” I used to just make up prayer as I went along. But the Catechism gave me the wisdom of two thousand years of saints on how to grow more intimate with God, and my life has never been the same since.
The whole purpose of the Catechism isn’t to fill your head with religious trivia about what Catholics believe. It’s to help you experience “the love that never ends.” (CCC 25) John Paul II said that the aim of catechesis is “to put people, not only in touch with, but in intimacy with Jesus Christ.” And Cardinal Schönborn, who was one of the primary editors of the Catechism, said that Catechism was “a blueprint for the heart of Christ.”
Thanks to some wonderful Protestants who reached out to me in High School, I already had a deep love of Scripture. But reading the Catechism side by side with the Bible (70% of the Catechism’s footnotes are Scripture) transformed me and has made me the man I am today.
I know that my life was never the same after reading the Catechism. And I’m confident, if you start to read it, your life will never be the same as well. It’s a great thing to do during this Year of Faith.
Here’s a vid I wrote based on Francis Thompson’s poem, the Hound of Heaven. What do you think?
I fled him, down the nights and down the days. I fled him, down the arches of the years. I fled him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind and in the midst of tears. I hid from him… Based on “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson.