Tag Archives: Conversion

God’s Will

Stamp Post Office

I wish God worked at the post office.  Then He would have a rotating two-tier wheel of clamps by His side.  It would hold red ink rubber stamps.  And if God worked at the post office, one of those stamps would most certainly say, God’s Will.  We could just drop our letters at Stamp Approvedthe post office and ask, “God, is this Your Will?”

Everybody talks about seeking God’s Will.   I look for God’s Will just about as hard as anyone I know.  In the first seconds of wakefulness each morning, my face smothered in the pillow, I say good morning to God.  “Please, God, let me do something for You today.  Let me know what You want.  Give me the courage to do what You ask.”

In the morning darkness, on the couch under a quiet brass lamp, I open His Word and read for daily guidance and comfort.  During the day in the car, I turn to AM radio, listening to others Prayer Corner Lampwho seek His Word.  They speak with such confidence.  They’ve found it, His Will.

“Look,” they say, “ask yourself what your mission is.  What do you hunger to do?  What are your talents?  God wouldn’t give you a mission and talents if they weren’t part of His Will.”

It’s so tempting to latch onto their advice without challenge.  I love to write.  If I could sit at the typewriter skipping breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I would scarcely feel hunger.  Wouldn’t it be great if God loved what I love!  But I know better…I think.  My thoughts call up my personal divining rod: Hitler.  He loved cruelty, killing, and war.  Does our own passion and commitment to a cause prove God’s Will?  Hitler might have thought so.

A Christian writer’s conference is a wonderful place to seek security in the love of writing.  At Typewriter Classicmy first writers conference ever, I carried one book and two articles in my bag hoping to find God’s Will in some editor’s approval. Encouragement was there.  “Keep at it,” a few told me.  So I listened eagerly for advice from the experts:  buy tapes, buy books, write proposals and query letters, write more, join editing groups, expect rejection, keep at it, hundreds of rejections mean nothing, organize, keep going, keep records, keep writing.  But above all, they intone, seek God’s Will.  Remember, God doesn’t create talent for nothing.  You can do it, get published, be a star, be a writer.  If you love it, God will, too.Stamp Approved 3

I crave their reassurance, but when does my will get relabeled God’s Will as justification for what I want?  If it’s God’s Will, why does he make me spend weeks writing and rewriting book proposals?  Couldn’t writers just send out a book proposal to God at the post office and have Him stamp it with red ink:      God’s Will or…

Forget It!

I must be God’s most rebellious servant.  God, if it’s your will, make it happen.  You’ve left too many hurting people on earth for me to dilly dally around writing query letters and book proposals.  One mile down the street, Pat lies alone in her nursing home bed, her bones poking through tightly stretched skin all covered over with painful lesions.  She is waiting for me to return this week, waiting for any bits of conversation with me as interludes in her long day, in a long week, filled with bed pans, IV’s, pain pills, and cold food.  I don’t need publishing.  I don’t need fame or money.  At least send me a sign.  Desert LightningSomething big that I won’t miss.

Lucy Swindoll understands.  She told God she wanted to do something significant with her life.  But she also begged,  “God, let me know when that moment of significance happens.  I know you, God, you value small things.  I might miss it.  Don’t let me miss it.  I might do something so small I will never realize it was significant.”

Maybe Lucy Swindoll’s radio program was my sign.  She caught me in the car on my way home from Officemax yesterday with her story of a birthday party in a hearse.   Immediately my mind turned to the unbelievable antics of her “gang of grownups” who managed to lose a long black car in the middle of the night. My giggles and laughs followed her details from one escapade to the next, until finally, she and her four friends sat, riding in the front seat of a Hearsepolice car to pick up the “lost” hearse from the police impound.  I approached the turnoff to home and tapped my foot on the accelerator, “Speed up Lucy!  I need to know how the story ends.”  But they arrived at the police station at the very same moment I had to turn the car over to my daughter for her work transportation.  Cut short, I turned off the radio, not to know whether Lucy was arrested or not.  Ah, well. “God’s got more important things on the schedule for me,” I consoled myself.

Later that night, as I relaxed on the patio, my son Justin called for a ride home.   I pulled my feet off the coffee table and tried to gather energy to meet my motherly obligation without grumbling.  Driving to meet him, I had a moment’s inspiration.  On the way back, we could buy ice cream for root beer floats.  We had never done this.  It was just the excitement we both Ice Cream Coneneeded!

Maybe God wanted ice cream.  Maybe it was He who pointed at Smitty’s grocery store, a place I never shop.  Did He nudge me, while Justin was in the store, “Turn on the radio.”  I did.  I turned to my normal Christian station 960 AM, and as usual in the evening, it was lost in static.  I thought of picking my regular country western alternative.  “No,” God nudged again.  “I’m here.  Keep looking.”

Inexplicably, for the first time in my life, I turned to the FM dial.  On the first push of the “seek” button, there was Lucy again, arriving at the police station, ready to pay $43 to pick up her Hearsehearse.  Wow!  Thanks, God.

I followed her story to the end, laughing all the way.  Her point?  She wanted God to use her and she wanted a sign.  For Lucy, it came one night at a dinner party when an American Christian Writer editor walked up to her and asked her to write.  Incredulously, she pointed out to him that she wasn’t a writer.  What would he suggest, she queried.  He asked, “What do you think you could write?”

“Well, I won’t use scripture,” she declared.

“Fine,” he agreed.

“Perfect,” she deadpanned, “a Christian writer who doesn’t use scripture.”  Now, that’s my kind of writer, I thought.  I quit listening to the radio and turned my thoughts to my own doubts.

Stamp“Is that you God?” I asked.

God is one persistent person.  Elie Weisel is a writer rejected over 20 times because the world doesn’t want to get depressed about his life.  Poor world.  But finally, one person hears God’s call and publishes Elie’s words.  His words and books based on his survival of Hitler’s concentration camps have pulled me out of my deepest depressions.  I have survived my own life because Elie wrote his story and persisted to find a publisher.

A new writer friend Marsha tells me, “Maybe somebody else will know what you mean when you write.  Maybe your words will help someone, someday.”  I think of my father-in-law, the eternal atheist.  Unexpectedly, he reads the book I wrote for my children, and he is converted for a week.  It’s the longest week of his life.  Is this a sign?

Tonight at 2:30 a.m., I wake, unable to sleep, restless, but settled.  I need to hear God.  I wander to the office and turn on the computer.  God, is that you?  I want to lie down, but I’m not tired.  The strain of listening for God shatters my peace of mind.  I seek the determination Praying Manto walk away from writing, to let it go, but a pecking insistence remains.  In the darkness, I must sit and type for one more chapter.  “God is that you?”

“Please, God, I need a sign.  There is simply too much of me in my writing for good judgment’s sake.  I have promised a year. I’ll give writing a chance, just in case that’s what you want.   A year.  I know it’s not my place to tell you what to do.  But I need a sign.  I can’t bear to leave Pat alone in bed during the day at the rest home unless I know there’s a better reason to write than Praying Hands Goldkeeping my own sanity.

“Please, God, if it is really You, use your red ink stamp.  Better yet, hit me with a brick.  I’m not a very good Christian. I need a big sign.  I don’t think I will be able to detect Your whisper.”


Return to:  CONVERSION – Looking for Signs of Land


Copyright 2013.   All Rights Reserved.

Posted also on www.JaneJimenez.com


Whiplash is a non-medical term describing a range of injuries to the neck caused by or related to a sudden distortion of the neck commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, usually when the vehicle has been hit in the rear.  The injury can be sustained in many other ways, including headbanging, bungee jumping and falls.  It is one of the main injuries covered by insurance.

 Crucifix 5



It hurts…
…what just happened?


I never intended to become Catholic.  But…then…I never intended to believe…in God…or in anything or anyone other than myself.

Having lived for a considerable time on each side of the faith fence, one thing I can testify to for all the agnostics and atheists out there is that they have an easier ride than people of deep faith.  This is not what non-believers propose.

In the typical characterization put forward by agnostics about believers, Christians are CB Linus Blanketgrasping onto God like Linus holding onto his blanket.  “No matter what happens in the world, if you Christians have your little God  blanket, it will all turn out OK.”

It is easy for agnostics to hold onto this misconception, because they are generally not willing to engage in serious, meaningful dialogue with Christians.

From this side of the fence, I understand the hesitation of agnostics to welcome “GodTalk.”  I get it.  The talk between believers and non-believers quickly turns passionate, and if someone doesn’t get tarred and feathered, they are sure to get thumped by a Bible before things are over.

This is where the concept of sin becomes useful, even to agnostics.  We are all subject to the failings of human nature.  Call it what you will…sin…or bad judgment…we all have it.  Christians are not hypocrites.  They are, quite simply put, fallen human beings.  Paul, chief among sinners, bemoaned his condition:

 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.   [Rom 7:18-20]

RCIA FormIn these twenty chapters of Coming Home, I have struggled to tell the story of my personal car crash.   A little VW Christian on a journey into the Catholic Church, after detours and traffic jams and speeding tickets, finally crashed full speed into a brick wall.  The road turned, and the little VW never saw it coming.Brick Wall

This project is not about getting even.  And it has not been for the purpose of making me gloat in retribution.

I began the trip early in 2013, hoping to prepare myself to become Catholic.  I was ahead of schedule at that point.  In 2012, honoring my marital vows and love for my husband, I had “put Catholic on hold” for a future date…many years hence…when my husband could fully trust that I treasured his faith in Christ no less than mine.  Just when I had settled on waiting, he flashed the green light.  “Yes,” he told me.  “It’s time for you to begin your journey into the Catholic Church.”

Praying Sun RaysBut faith is not a straight road dictated by Christ, charted by maps and marked at night with bright landing lights. It is an adventure where our faith is tested…tempted…challenged…thwarted…and redirected.

I hurt.  Today, I am far afield from the map I had charted.   I am not where I expected to be when I first opened the door and walked into RCIA v.1.

I could have used less law and more love in RCIA v.3.

It would have been nice to have heard the truth more promptly and more succinctly in RCIA v.2 and RCIA v.4.

Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one. [Mat 5:37]

But even after all that…after RCIA 1 and 2 and 3 and 4…I could have handled all of that…until finally running into the brick wall in RCIA v.5.

Brick WallWhat comes next?  I don’t know.  I am waiting to heal.

Yes, healing takes time.  And healing involves more than broken bones.  In October, I could have knocked on more doors and tried to beg my way into an RCIA program that had empty chairs.  Even now in November, I figure that is still a possibility.Church Door

But I am tired of banging on the door of Christ’s church begging for entry.  My body is aching. My heart is in traction.  My soul is wounded.  And Christ…I try to fit my experiences of the past year into his parable of the wedding feast.

Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.  [Mat 22:1-10]

Church Door Man 2I stand on the street, waiting for an invitation to the wedding.  If they are inviting both the good and the bad, that should include me.  If they can’t find me, if they don’t see me in the throngs of those wanting to enter, I will jump in the air and wave my hands…even with all the aches, pains and bruises.

Still…I wait…outside a closed door.

I ache. I am bruised. My neck hurts so badly that it can’t turn right or Church Door Handleleft.  Is there a speeding train headed toward me on the road ahead where it crosses the tracks?  I pray it isn’t so.  In this condition, I will not be able to turn and see it before it runs me down.


NEXT:  more to come…


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

Loose Ends

Crucifix 5

Once again, for the 5th time, I turned toward the Catholic Church.  I knew the RCIA “drill” better than most Catholics and not a few priests…having attempted to go through it four times already.

Newly baptized, I had to think through the entire RCIA process again.  My journey into the Catholic Church had become so convoluted through its rules that had upended my desire to be baptized.RCIA Logo

For a long six months, since my husband and I had agreed that I would enter the Catholic Church, RCIA had been defined by its restrictions that prevented my baptism.  I had knocked on every door*…Fr. Ron, Deacon Dave, Fr. Kevin…pleading my case to get baptized and then to complete the RCIA program.  What the Catholics were not willing to do, the Protestants were.  And they did.

Baptism had required six months of my attention.  That left me six months more for the RCIA class.  While I still hated the delay, it was easier than trying to find a way to enter the church before next year at Easter.

There were just a few loose ends to attend to.

TelephoneAfter the trip to Los Angeles for my baptism, Fr. Kevin had surprised me with a telephone call.  Unbeknownst to me, he had decided to reach out to a church expert on canon law to see how to manage the baptism question raised by my marriage.  Tactfully, he asked what the canon lawyer needed to know.  Were my husband and I still having sex?  I forgave Father.  He was caught in the same legalism that entangled me.  And I answered his question.

Once again Fr. Kevin asked if my husband would consent to being married in the Catholic Church…a small private ceremony.  I agreed to ask.  When I knew the answer, I promised to call Father back.  Before hanging up, I had be honest with him.  I let him know what had transpired since our first meeting.  I had been baptized.Baptism 2

Fr. Kevin’s voice registered quiet surprise.  He asked the facts of the baptism, confirming that it was recognized as legitimate by the Catholic Church.  Punctuating the reality, he said, “So you are a baptized Protestant.”  I assented and said, again, that I would get back to him.

Even after being happily married for forty years, asking the “M” question is not something you just blurt out to your husband in the middle of shopping for groceries or during the commercial break of the Monday Night Football game.

I waited patiently for an opportune time, I asked, and I got the answer I had expected.  He Wedding Ringsdidn’t have to explain.  We were already married.  He had never practiced the Catholic faith.  He didn’t consider himself Catholic, infant baptism to the contrary.  And he didn’t feel compelled to perform a Catholic ceremony.

I called Fr. Kevin’s office and left a message with his secretary.  Months ago, he had suggested I might be able to begin RCIA and enter the church in December, before next Easter.  Was that still possible?  Days passed.  I left a voice message on his phone, just in case the earlier message had been lost.  Days were turning into weeks.

Clearly, my baptism had nullified his offer.  And without a Catholic marriage, I still didn’t know where that left me.  But I needed closure.  If Father couldn’t bow out gracefully and honestly, I would take care of it.

——– Message ——–
Writer Ink Well ScrollFrom: JANE JIMENEZ
Date: Friday, October 10, 2014

Good evening, Father Kevin,

As you suggested I did get a chance to discuss my husband’s willingness to renew our marriage vows in the Catholic church.  He is not favorable to this idea, and I am not going to press it any further.  It will only exacerbate his prejudices.

I left you a phone message two weeks ago.  I called and am writing here only to convey the above.  If you have lost interest in or do not have the ability to deal with my situation from this point forward, I completely understand.  Your inquiry with Church canon authorities was generous, and I appreciate that effort.  Unless I hear otherwise, I will operate under the assumption that the matter is closed.

Sincerely, Jane Jimenez

Scroll Divide Horizontal 2


That was the last loose end.  Now that baptism was off the table, I didn’t have to concern myself with finding a priest willing to “break the RCIA rules.”  I would enroll and take the classes for the next six months.  Finally…then…I would become Catholic.Praying People Church

Wanting to study with the people I would worship with, I carefully considered the RCIA program to attend. Two parishes were equal distance from my house.

At one parish, I thought back to a mass held in a school gymnasium, for their new School Gymparish in formation.  The priests and lay members did an amazing job of turning the gym into a church in every respect.  At the conclusion of mass, the deacon came to the podium with announcements.  Smiling enthusiastically, he called out to the congregation, “Well, we all know what the most important thing happening today is, don’t we?”  I was stumped.  I thought we had just experienced the most important thing of the day.  He Soccer Ballcorrected me as he raised his arms in excitement and proclaimed to everyone, “Soccer!”

I knew his heart was in the right place.  But his body seemed to be in the Eucharist Waferwrong place…a few feet from the altar where Christ had been celebrated less than ten minutes ago.  It seemed an unfortunate way of ending mass…like wrapping up a wedding reception by toasting the winners of the Super Bowl.

At the other parish, their recent mass had been the most reverent of any I had ever seen.  I knew where I wanted to be.

I’m nearing home, I told myself.  Finally.  What could go wrong?  I couldn’t think of a thing.

*All names have been changed.


 NEXT:  Fr. Walter, RCIA v.5

RETURN to the COMING HOME Contents.

 Copyright 2014. All rights reserved.


The Halo Effect

Halo Effect Person


Even months later, I am still living inside the halo effect of my baptism.

Raising out of the baptismal water that night in Los Angeles, I could literally feel the close presence of Christ securely enfolding me, invisible but palpable.  Vic and I took our time walking back to the van.  I couldn’t talk, except to say, “I’m so happy.”  Halo Effect Heaven

for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”  [Heb 13:5]

The joy I felt was unexpected.  I had struggled for so many months to impress Catholic priests of the deep hunger I had for baptism.  That was all I could think of…the hunger…and the anxiety of not knowing how much longer this hunger would continue.

Baptism PoolEven as I had finally found a path to the baptismal font, my emotions on the drive to California had been a mixture of relief in finally “getting on with it” and anxiety about the possibility of being let down once again.  Maybe it wasn’t really that easy…that I would have to be a California resident…that I would have to have a sponsor…that I would have to prove I had attended their church for two months.  Maybe “after every service” did not include “this service” on Saturday night.  Maybe the pastor had gotten sick and had put a sign near the pool…Closed.  In my meetings with the priests, I was so used to baptism being problematic that I couldn’t believe it would be that easy.

Jason and Fr. Kevin had each tried to carry me with anticipation through eight months up to the Easter Vigil Baptism Pool GalileeMass, mentioning the wonderful ceremony of baptism.  But ever since that night in Los Angeles, I can’t imagine anything more wonderful than my own baptism, confirming my new life with Christ.

Even as I write, at this very moment and every day of the year, people from around the world are being baptized in Galilee at the Yardenit Baptismal Site on the Jordan River.  Their joy in fulfillment of the promise of Christ is proclaimed by the gospel verse Mark 1:9-11, engraved on the nearby Wall of New Life in more than 80 languages and dialects.  Baptism on the Jordan River would also be an amazing experience.  But it doesn’t top my baptism.

Baptism Pool NaturalAt Yardenit on the Jordan…and on every continent of the earth…baptisms have taken place for 2000 years every day of the year…on Easter…and on the other 364 days of the calendar.  I don’t doubt for a minute that the baptism at  Easter Vigil Mass is beautiful and joy-filled.  I truly understand the person who anticipates this joy for eight months because the anticipation satisfies their longing.  Halo Effect Cloud

But the joy of baptism is not constrained nor is it defined by place or  liturgical customs.  The joy of baptism comes as the overflow of love proclaimed between Christ and Christian.  It is the darkness overtaken by Light.  It is the radiance that is left behind in a halo of Love that follows us on earth until we arrive home with Christ.

Halo Effect GoldWhile Deacon Dave was terribly concerned about my being baptized a second time, I still wonder at his apparent lack of concern at my being baptized at all.  The catechism assures me that having the intent to get baptized would save me at death, if I should die before I wake.  That being true, if I died today, the last 65 days of my life lived on earth as a baptized Christian have been heaven on earth.  I would not change a thing!

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.  [Rom 8:38-39]


NEXT:  Loose Ends


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

My Baptism

The box of food and the ice chest were the last items packed into the van.  Vic lowered the tailgate door, came around to the front seat, and started the engine.  We were off to Traffic Trip LACalifornia…and my baptism.

In the two weeks leading up to our trip, in God’s mysterious ways, my own passion for getting baptized had merged with Vic’s separate plans for driving to Los Angeles.  He had had his trip on the map for months, and I had been a happy camper looking forward to a little quiet time alone at home.

In the intervening weeks…realizing that my baptism was not on the Catholic calendar for 2014, I accepted the reality that I would have to “look outside the box.”  As “luck” would have it, EWTN that month had featured a news story about a major protestant pastor and his Los Angeleschurch that was in dialogue with representatives from the Vatican.  The Vatican reps were talking with the pastor about evangelizing the world at large.  He was succeeding.  Apparently, the Vatican reps were interested in how and why.  I went to the Internet.

On the the pastor’s website, I clicked from one page to the next, checking out their Christian doctrine, their mission work around the world, and their various church locations and service times in the Los Angeles area.  One sentence jumped out at me…out of all the details on the web page…baptisms after every service.

Baptismal FontBaptism?  Baptisms!  After every service!!

Ditching all desire to be alone at home while Vic was traveling the expanse of California, I pinned him down at dinner that night.  “Would you be willing to adjust your travel plans so that I could go with you and get baptized in Los Angeles.”  He didn’t hesitate.  “Sure.”

Weeks later, leaving Phoenix for Los Angeles , my anticipation was cautious, knowing that sometimes things are not what they seem.  The website said they had everything needed for baptism.  Everything?  Just in case, I packed some “water clothes” in a tote bag.  In eight hours, Vic and I would be in Los Angeles.  And I would be baptized.  Could I really get excited?  Was it really true?

Driving to Los Angeles, checking in at our hotel, and finding the church in time for their Saturday evening service, all went off without a hitch.  The campus of the church, the size of a small city, offered every amenity and served every possible need of their congregation and visitors.  Baptism 1

The worship service was a good protestant blend of music and message.  As the service came to a close, they made mention of baptisms performed to the right and to the left of the main stage, outside the doors.  If you were not prepared for the announcement, it would have been easy to miss.  I didn’t miss it.

True to their promise on the Internet…they did have everything needed for baptism.  In a private changing room, I put on my own pants and their baptismal t-shirt.  Stepping out, I met the pastor and his assistants who helped with the details of recording the moment.  Across the pool’s water, I smiled and waved at Vic seated next to the photographer.  It finally sank in.

Baptism 2Yes, I was going to be baptized…here…and now.  No conspiratorial whispers to take it all back if I had forgotten a forgettable baptism fifty years ago.  I would be baptized with joy and celebration…complete with pictures that I could hold onto, reliving this wonderful day…until the day I died.Baptism 4

No longer did it matter to me.  Protestant or Catholic, I was baptized Christian.  I belonged to Christ…and His were the wings under which I would shelter myself in the coming storms.

Let me abide in your tent forever,
    find refuge under the shelter of your wings.
 For you, O God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.  [Psalm 61:4-5]



NEXT:  The Halo Effect


Copyright, 2014.  All Rights Reserved.