What Does Devotion Mean to You?

In my own life, it took falling down, and disappointing almost everyone I knew for me to realize, my desire to seek selfish goals was achieving the figurative equivalent of pouring out God’s precious blessings.

Devotion is such an interesting word, often overused to indicate one’s pursuit of a goal as a means to an end.  Though, if we delve deeper into just what devotion is, I think we might be surprised.  Every example of the definition of devotion has a moniker of love associated with it.  Either through the pursuance of faith, religion, or even the love of a spouse and children.  Typically this might involve a sense of urgency as it relates to want or desire pertaining the devotion.  It would perhaps carry a zeal or enthusiasm as we approach anything in context to our devotion.  Where we begin to trip up is the self-interpretive benchmark our culture lays on our shoulders to create a devotee status which is worthy of our peers.  In other words, our society seems to place an importance on our personal devotions which is neither substantive to our personal pursuits but instead becomes a socialistic collective of ideas bound to meet an ideology of equality in outcomes.  Ok, so this is was a mouthful, the lay version of this is, people have their own pursuits and want us to want what they want.  If we do, they are pleased with us, and if we don’t we seem to be a pariah to them or to their cause.  So, the question comes back, and hopefully we can discuss this in depth as a matter of interpretation and fulfillment of our devotional development.  Where does your devotion stand, based on the influences of our culture?

Let me begin by saying, everyone is on their own spiritual journey in life, so for anyone of us to think or believe we’ve cornered the market in devotions would be tantamount to a priggish snobbery.  There is no place in the Heavenly context we talk about for behaviors such as this.  However, if we approach our faith and our interactions with all of God’s people as a matter of zeal and an enthusiasm, seeking not to tear away (as is the devil’s desire), but to bring together as in one “church”, one “body”, then we’ve found the truth of a true devotion.  Every day, I run into people who are on one path or another, some are seeking the spiritual guidance of God, and others are just trying to tread water in this world long enough to see earthly goals realized.  Though, objectively speaking, where do we go when we’ve been blessed to see our earthly goals come to fruition?  Do we stop, or is it human nature to seek more and more?  My money is on human nature, although imprinted with the image of God, seeks to fulfill its own accord or desire.  Sacrifice isn’t apart of measure of achieving more.  In my own life, it took falling down, and disappointing almost everyone I knew for me to realize, my desire to seek selfish goals was achieving the figurative equivalent of pouring out God’s precious blessings.  I was shouting in the silence, “I don’t need you”, all the while being miserable with what I was seeking.

There are numerous types of devotions, and I want to discuss what I see as the top three.  The first being our pure and truthful devotion to God.  The second is our devotion to the covenants and missions we chosen in life.  The third is one’s devotion to their family.  As you can see, none of the devotions can be truly realized without the first, in the context of truth.  However, when we attempt to put the second or third devotion over our devotion to God, we find a misappropriation not altogether wrong, but somewhat misplaced.  Take for instance the beauty of a flower, to recognize its beauty is epidermal, and to associate a function of the senses proves to be yielding of purpose.  Though this purpose could wane with mood or time, and our once simple devotion no longer exists as a matter of course.  This all changes, of course, when we look deeper into the meaning of the flower and to its lineage of creation.  This is to say, when we peel back the layers of the flower’s inevitable creation, we see God as the architect of this beautiful, and seemingly insignificant portion of our lives.  Now, the observation takes on a new priority, and in this priority, we find as we stop and “smell the roses” we are not just appreciating the sights and smells of this beautiful example of nature.  We are also finding appreciation in the gifts God gave us as a matter of natural design.  So, perspective changes all solutions.  This is to say, our devotions will take on new characteristics as our perspective of God and our natural existence changes.

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In descending order, let’s look at the devotions one-by-one.  The third, family, a devotion worthy of kings but given as a gift to even the poorest of beggars.  The family is so important to God, he choose to lower himself, as a man, and be born of a woman, who was betrothed to man.  Then to be raised by this family, until such time as the fulfillment of the ultimate sacrifice would come to pass.  The apostles walked with Jesus, and created an ad hoc family of believers specifically focused on the evangelization of the world.  As we can see, family should be in the upper three and we should never dilute the importance of family, let alone allow culture to dictate what the definitions of family should be.  Here is where devotion should play its most significant part.  We devote ourselves to raising families and teaching our children the ways of Christ, and in doing so we build upon the stone foundations set by Christ Himself, leveled and adjusted as the cornerstone of life.  Men, our wives are there for us and we are there for them.  We enter into a covenant with God, when we enter marriage (nothing to be taken lightly, I assure you), and we create a physical family focused on the rearing of children and teaching them the ways of Christ as they were taught to us.  So, what if we weren’t taught the ways of Christ, and this is all news to us?  Good news, The Catholic Church is the “Universal Church”, in other words, the biggest family you could ever know.  Not here to judge, and never here to condemn, but instead here to pour forth compassion, and teach us everyone is invited to the table of redemption and love.  This is what we must teach our children and this is what we must show our spouses.  This isn’t easy, to be certain, choosing the covenant of marriage and choosing to raise children with my wife, has been by far one of the toughest choices of my life.  However, I tell my kids all the time, “go to the hard” your results may vary, and you might just fail, though failing isn’t the end, it shows we must try harder.  The knowledge of seeing where we must go is God’s gift to us.

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I personally can attest to the forgiving nature of my wife and my kids when it comes to my failures.  I cannot state this with enough importance, I am a hard person to know, and I thank God for the gifts of my family, and of the family of The Church.  We are all one family, maybe not by blood or in the natural law abiding sense of the description, but as devotion goes with God, we are all family in the ecumenical bonds set forth by Jesus Christ himself, even with those who don’t believe at all.  Just like a family member who refuses your company (I have one of those), all we can do is lovingly want the best for this family member, and then pray this blessing for them.  Perhaps they will walk our path with us once more and we can rebuild and repair as we journey through redemption.  Make family a priority, treat everyone as a meaningful person who we can be more with, in doing this we might just be able to move the obstacle of egotism away from our path.

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The second devotion (covenants and missions) is more hidden in our lives but carries with it the interpretation of God, and the point of views we possess as they translate into our daily activities.  I already wrote about the covenant of marriage, and in this I discussed its application as a familial matters are concerned.  Now, let’s talk about the covenant as it relates to our spouse.  This person whom you choose and they choose you, and just how this daily gift can be looked at as a struggle or as a blessing.  Early on in my marriage with my wife, I perceived everything I did as “the struggle”, never to be undone but to be layered one struggle upon another.  In doing so, I blamed everyone else for my problems, and I wanted them to feel sorry for whatever predicament I was in.  Even if this predicament was of my own making, and if as a matter of course I was facing the consequence of my decisions.  As a point of fact, I didn’t devote myself to my marriage and this was its faltering.  My wife was willing to work hard until she could see I wasn’t and in the overall process we allowed our feelings and egos to decide best course of action.  Emotive responses are good for the movies but have little place in the decision to do what’s best when discussing true problems with any relationship.  We often forget, the dynamic of any covenant is a realization of our place within the covenant.  Too often, in our culture, we see people demanding an answer for evil, demanding to see a relationship with God on an inverse level.  They subordinate the Most High, into a subservient position as a requirement to answer questions which within the context of understanding or not knowable.  Cardinal Sarah (Power of Silence) indicates we neither can know the highest of the highs or the lowest of the lows, but we insist on an answer.  The covenant between us and God, isn’t a matter of knowledge as to how, but rather as to why.  The answer as to why, is all just a matter of love.  Love is God, in every pure and concentrated way possible, and as we approach our covenants and missions we must do so as God has done with us, in love.

The second part of the second devotion is our mission, our perception of the work with which God lays out before us.  A choice as always, because love is not love if we don’t have the free will to choose to love in the first place.  Though our perception of a loving God, is the fire for the enthusiasm to approach our mission as reflect the goodness and love of our creator.  I’ve discussed “mission” in the past, and let me say, my mission is what brings to reality the true desire to seek the redemption God is so willing to give.  It is also the pathway which allows me to stop wandering in the desert of doubt, and instead head for the mountain of faith.  Without my mission in life, which for me is to be a husband and a father (in that order), and to be a reflective light for all of God’s people.  No matter the perception of anyone else, I am here to be a reflection of the Light of Christ, and in doing so be an example to show love in any and every way possible.  I must confess, I still have a long road to travel, I seem to trip and fall a great deal, but this hasn’t discouraged me one bit.  I can still see the mountain, and I am as energized to and full of strength to pursue my faith as I’ve ever been in my life.

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Finally, the first devotion, God.  This is a devotion we were all born to realize.  Some of us do, and some of us fail to see where devotion should always be.  When we pursue anything in life, without the guidance or devotion of God, we find the pursuits can be meaningful at times, even to fulfill somewhat the desires we set as goals.  Though, with enough water which passes under the bridge, we become unfulfilled once more, seeking more goals to get us back to where we have a sense of purpose or even belonging.  If we think of this like the addict we might just see many familiar traits, both ending in death, and both being abundantly clear to the objective observer, this life was wasted in the greater context of life in general.  As I discussed earlier the cultural predication, we deserve an explanation, runs counter to any meaningful relationship we could possibly want or know.  Logical fallacy as a matter of course seems to be the ruling ideology of the day.  We can apply, as a culture, a system of fallacies which neither prove a point nor can be sustained as a pillar of an argument, and then we vacillate between fallacies in order to create false equilibriums of perceptions and right actions.  Supposition, as we know it today, is more an art form of fallacy, than it is of following and interpreting evidence of anything as one would deduce a set of clues.

To be sure, evil exists in our world, and this evil is set on the destruction of love, the separation of covenants, the diminution of family, and the belief there is nothing but what we see and what we know as the objective truth.  Our devotion to God, changes all of this.  I know evil exists, and I know this evil does terrible things to all people no matter the place or time, but I also am aware of an existence of the loving embrace of God.  This embrace is indicative above all else, which is as terrible as evil is, it becomes inconsequential to the overall narrative with which life has been written.  It is our choice to accept what we can’t change, but to know it is God who lifts us up, and not the other way around.  The topic of devotion to God, has filled the pages of books, beginning with the Gospels, epistles, writings of the Old Testament, and the inspired writing of authors for millennia.  I would never presume to come close to the writings of the masters who were titans to my insignificant attempts.  Though, if I had one take away to give to anyone reading, my life has utterly changed with my devotion to God.  For years I was stumbling around in a darkened room of awareness.  This awareness, seemingly innate, was telling me to open my eyes to the truth.  It was painful, to the extent, I wasn’t forced to tear anything down, and I gladly did so.  The truth hurt because it was growth, and any real growth in our lives should involve a level of pain.  The pain which I felt, in some cases has become the signal my devotion was right, and in other cases has become an expected portion of my spiritual growth.  I would be ridiculous to think my devotion to God was as simple as truth and understanding.  The hurt still hurt, the poor still exist, and the evil in this world still hunts the weak of spirit.  Our devotion to God, is our first line of defense against the, for lack of a better expression, ways of evil this world chooses to thrive on.

None of us are immune to sin, and we’ve all let our devotion wane from time-to-time, but the redemption we seek is a matter of accepting the truth.  Hans Urs Von Balthasar remarked about the “theo-drama”, a play which is produced, directed, and written by God, only to be countered by the “ego-drama” which is a play written, directed, produced, and stars us.  This is something we all insist on being in, and why our devotion seemingly diminishes or at least teeters on a brink at all times.  We are all cast in God’s “theo-drama” some big, some small, but the truth is we have the perfect part, one written especially for us.  This is the truth, no one want to witness a play where one actor upstages all, and demands more than others.  Instead, we want to be a part of something which allows our devotion to expose the relevancy of our existence as it translates to the creator.  We want to play the part with the most love we can provide.  Remember, truth isn’t a matter of interpretation, it just is, as God is “ispsum esse subsistens”, the very nature of being itself.  God isn’t changed and will forever continue on the path of existence within our lives whether we accept this truth or not.  I hope I’ve brought salient points of interest to the forefront of your mind with what I’ve written, at the very least, hopefully these topics will allow you to think and discern the needed devotion to God and the way in which you love yourself, those closest around you, and for better or worse the world.  I pray God places many blessings over you and your family, and these abundant blessings will help you attain a new perspective on your devotion to life and God.

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Are You Wandering In The Desert?

God’s Grace is the living breathing functionality of love, and then all at once it culminates in the one great sacrifice, Jesus.  Within this sacrifice, we see the desert for what it really is, a treacherous gift.

From time-to-time we hear about someone wandering the desert, and I’m not sure we assume a literal translation but either something of a metaphor or an allegory to teach us what we may need to know. At the very least, remind us of what we’ve forgotten.  However, if we look at the overall paradigm of our lives and their relation to an eternal existence, we see how the wandering we do in this desert of life is set more profoundly than we could ever imagine.  There is a deeper meaning to all of this, if we’re willing to look around and ask those hard questions which never come with easy answers.  This desert write about, seeks to confuse us with mirages and the promise of salvation just over the next hill.  This false hope we chase is bent on giving us an earthly fulfillment but when we really examine the fountain of knowledge we see, we find nothing more than the proverbial sand and wind so many have endured before.  So, are we truly lost in a desert?  Are we being led to the oasis which is a truthful promise of our life and salvation, or are we just wandering aimlessly, just filling time as we see it? Do we attach ourselves to those people who will help lead us through the desert of life, and do we trust them enough to help lead us?  The next question which comes to my mind, is who do we trust, and how do we know to trust them?

I’ve read, and listened to speakers talk about the wanderings of Jesus, as he didn’t so much wander in the desert, but embraced it.  Jesus, fervently approached a time of fasting and want as those necessary steps in the ultimate sacrifice he would inevitable make for each one of us.  St. Theresa of Lisieux, who in her writing “Story of A Soul”, remarks over and over again about her excitement in the sacrifice which would be asked of her.  Her story of course, is an extraordinary one, but not a story of bewilderment.  She approached The Trinity with a fervor and an innocence, I’ve never encountered before.  Her laments in life were over what we would admonish as a mere triviality, and yet she begged in some ways for hardships and tests so as to prove her devotion.  She aggressively pursued a relationship with God, this pursuit, until her death, was a reflection of the vigor Jesus displayed to all of us as he walked in the desert.

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So, the question comes back to the forefront.  How and who do we know to trust to lead us through the desert we wander in life?  I know it’s too simple to suggest we listen to the voice of God, but in truth, this is the answer.  Quiet yourself, allow your heart, your ears, and your soul to hear the silent voice of God as you begin to pray.  It’s not a matter of sitting still, though it can be, but more a matter of the willingness to be patient and focus on all around us.  To sit in awe, as it were, and notice every inch of every movement, and every sway of every branch to be the integral creation (beyond our mere comprehension) of God.  God’s Grace is the living breathing functionality of love, and then all at once it culminates in the one great sacrifice, Jesus.  Within this sacrifice, we see the desert for what it really is, a treacherous gift.  I know this may sound like your standard oxymoron, but let’s think about it.  In past writings, I imbued the concept of falling, not for the sake of our pain, but for the instrument of God’s love in the greater cognitive reality of our lives.  We stumble, that we might realize the need and love in our lives provided by God.  Isn’t this true for everything?

I had a discussion with my wife the other day, and we talked about the incomprehensibility of people only willing to accept part of a truth.  In other words, they cherry pick what is important to their point and seemingly forget the rest, although to fully accept the truthful logic presented, one must accept the whole truth.  We can’t drive the car without gas, we need all of it for it to work.  The objective truth, is neither concerned or acknowledges ignorance or willful disobedience.  Though you cannot willfully acknowledge an untruth and carry with you the credence of logic or proper discourse, there will always exist and fallacy of truth exposed by the existence of objective truth.   It just is, and in its being, we can either accept or deny.  Even though we can exist in the gray matter of ambiguity, we are still challenged to accept or deny as a matter of faith, logic, understanding, and pursuit.  Some of us get into trouble, pursuing an ends, which is neither truthful nor morally sound.  We attempt to pursue a pathway which is untruthful, whether we acknowledge this or not.  Any pathway which leads us from the truth carries with it, the opposite of love, and the opposite of God.

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Ok, so why is the desert of life a treacherous gift, because we need this gift to understand who we are and who God is to us.  We need those hill which move constantly, and those hidden enemies which test us at every turn, but more importantly we need the mundane and never ending perception of blandness to remind us our sacrifice and struggle in our lives and those of the people we come in contact with are the most important.

If any one of us has ever been in a desert, you will find, there is a rugged beauty to what we see.  This goes away quickly, and what we begin to see, is harshness.  There is no water, the animals which seem to inhabit this forsaken land are treacherous.  Snakes, scorpions, and even the plants are all living warnings telling us to stay out.  Though, after our initial shock (especially in life), we begin to look past the epidermal layer of fear, and notice a whole new world of beauty.  We come back to the rugged beauty of our surroundings and we notice, on a deeper level the colors, the movement, the history, and the uniqueness of those entities which desire to keep us out.  With enough time, we are no longer worried about the danger, but wish to explore a newer brighter world which pushes us further and further into the exterior of everything we know, and we push past the barriers to see everything.  All the while, we rely on a deeper voice, God’s Voice, to give us direction in where we must go.

This is where I’ve been in my life, not truly knowing where to go or what to do.  Many friends and family have benefited from the clarity of purpose in their lives as a focus on family or careers.  I wasn’t blessed with this type of focus, but for me, the clarity of a more providential purpose has been my focus of faith.  How do I translate my faith into purpose for my life, and for those around me?  How can I become a true reflection of light to everyone I meet?  In the end, this hasn’t been easy, to say the least.  I seem to be challenged at every turn, either from my relationships in a professional or social environment, to my son and his never-ending challenge to what seems like me personally.  I would translate this as when we first step into the desert, and our perception of the desert.  How we must take everything in before we can truly appreciate it all.  It’s not about the paradigm of the desert, but rather, it is about our recognition of mission as we journey through the desert.

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In my personal relationships with people, and the frustrations which come along with these relationships, I find there is excitement in getting to know the people and finding out about them personally.  This can be difficult to a large extent, especially when everyone is so guarded these days, and we all seem to exhibit an atmosphere of underlying hostility towards society at large.  Though, if we can only imagine, we have opportunities everyday to show God’s light in every situation we are faced with.  Now, I’m not writing this with an exuberant level of optimism, but instead, our situations are loving means to our inevitable ends.  The end being an eternal relationship with a loving God, who desires to be with us and longs for us with open arms.

This becomes the paradigm we exist in, if we accept our faith journey, then truly no matter the situation, our faith becomes paramount.  I know this seems in some ways rudimentary, but the real questions are can we apply this new focus on faith to all situations?  For instance, you’re diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable disease, given only months to live.  Can you accept you’re almost through the wandering desert of your life and although this last challenge will be the hardest, it will be the one you gain the most insight, the most ability to love, and the greatest opportunity to show God’s love.

As we believe we are truly lost in this life, truly lost in this desert, this is where we should be learning to let go and give God the control.  Ok, so what does it mean to give control?  Control, is another way of saying to be patient, accept not everything will go your way, but above all show the true light of God and give love at every turn of your life.  To accept one’s way as a matter of course and quit lamenting the perceived negatives is the first step in our personal focus to look past the barren landscape of the desert and we start to see the colors and beauty of God’s work.  St. Theresa looked forward to the hardships of life, and her laments were more concerned with the frivolities and luxuries of life.  Jesus was asked by a wealthy man with many possessions, because he followed all the commandments, what must be done to inherit the Kingdom of God, and Jesus’s response was “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21-23) Truly all which is being stated here, isn’t the obvious, but instead the focus of our lives.  How can we accept God, if we can’t give ourselves to the journey?  The journey of our wandering through the proverbial desert has become our mission as we seek God.  In Mark, Jesus was asking quite literally and figuratively to follow him.  In the literal sense, he desires us to drop our worldly need for possessions as we seek him, and in the figurative sense, Jesus seemingly was eluding to our ability to focus on the beauty of life, even as we walk through the desert.

So, as I begin to focus on my own desert, I realize, I need my children to challenge me to be a better father.  It’s at those times when my consternation is at a heightened level, I begin to see the colors with which God painted the sands of my life.  They are truly beautiful, and I’m blessed with an abundance of joy and gifts truly given to me by God.  Just now, as I’m writing this, I receive a wonderful blessing as my son tells me goodnight.  He is growing to be a handsome and responsible young man.  He has his whole life ahead of him, and yet he still finds the time to come and tell his old man good night.  I’m not saying this is what fatherhood is about, but instead it is one of God’s blessings to allow me and his mother an ability to focus on our task as our son’s parents to teach him about God’s love in its completeness as we understand it.

I’m not saying I have everything figured out, in fact, I don’t.  I get more things wrong than I get right, and this frustrates me almost to the point of exhaustion.  Though, I see everyday the light shining brighter and brighter in my life.  With every passing moment and every written word, I find more strength to become a reflection of this light and become a beacon for others who wonder in their own deserts.  This has been done for me, by my parents, and by those people who have entered the pathway in my life and lovingly helped me.

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Why do we wander?  I think above all else, we wander because we are looking to be filled, much like the man who was unwilling to give away his possessions.  We want eternal love, but at first, we might just be too unwilling to put in the work, especially for something we can neither tangibly see or know.  However, this is our faith.  This is the journey, to give one’s self over to God, even when everyone disagrees.  To wander the desert with him, and know, he holds us up through everything which comes our way.  To realize, although things don’t turn out the way we imagined or wanted, to assume we know the narrative of God’s plan is to become the epitome of arrogance.  This is perhaps why we wonder the most, we allow our egos to interceded and decide our path, instead of our hearts.  We look for excitement, instead of love.  Love is our decision, a decision to accept what we cannot change, a decision to embrace who we are and why God loves us.

I hope as you wander through your desert of life, you seek the reflection of God’s light in those around you to indicate which way you should go.  Don’t rely on easy answers for your journey, but don’t expect every step to be drudgery.  Look around, look at God’s beauty in everything.  Who hasn’t ever watched a storm roll in and been amazed by God’s presence in nature?  I know this is an overused line, but stop and smell the roses, and then look deeper into the pistil and the petals.  Go further and think about the design of something so insignificant yet so beautiful in this world.  When God goes to this level for something like a rose, imagine to what level He would go for you.  You are precious in His eyes, and because of his love he longingly wants you to see the beautiful canvas He’s painted for you.  I pray God blesses you and your family in everything you do!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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How Right Are We?

We need to be humbled, we need to seek redemption, and we can only do this by a self-reflective quality which will manifest itself in the silence we seek within the rightness of God’s voice!

Last week I had the pleasure and in some cases the burden of reading N.T. Wright’s book on St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus).  The burden lay in my extreme lack of knowledge of a person who was so instrumental in developing the Christian theology as we practice it today.  This burden was pouring through the details and minutiae which existed based on Wright’s expert knowledge of the subject.  The pleasure in the reading was focused on learning the human aspects of a man, whom God personally chose, to bring the news of life to all peoples.  His focus was primarily on the conversion to Christ.  Christ, whom Paul never met, but who spoke with him on the fated road to Damascus.  The blinding light, the voice, and the redemption given to Paul to proselytize the Christian mission until his dying days.  So, this is where I would like to begin, and discuss the mission, the perceptions Paul faced and how we seem to face very similar derisive decisions in our own world today.  How does this affect our daily lives as husbands and fathers, and just how can we fall more in love with God?

I think it might be fair to say, the ancient world was a tough place to live.  From disease, short-lives, warring regimes, autocratic rule, religious fervor, and hard physical work.  We see a lot to be miserable about but this isn’t what we find when we explore the words of Jesus or the disciples.  We see tremendous hope in the face of the gravest danger, and this is compounded by conditions which would cause any one of us to shrink in our seats with fear.  We see in numerous writings the joy which seemed to be infectious for those early Christian believers, a willingness to enter the homes of strangers, and the walls of societal implement being torn down to receive the open arms of love.  If we were to believe what we see today, we might just think the world was in its own handbasket to hell.  Everyone utilizes their own supposition based on nothing more than just their perceptions, and in the process they go through to know and understand why they believe something amounts to little more than a cursory search of multimedia pictures and click-bait ads.  We are all experts at everything, and we all don’t need to be told how to do anything, especially by older people who are out of touch with reality, right?  Wrong!

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Something which occurred to me when I was reading Wright’s book was, how does he know all of this information?  How can he know so much about a person who lived 2,000 years ago, and at best had very little written to explain motives and understandings of this person?  It hit me with clarity, he knows because of his extensive knowledge of historical writings, of personal experience, of teaching and researching this topic ad nausea, and the culmination of his life’s work allows him to intelligently speak about topics which are as foreign to us as Greek (assuming you don’t speak Greek, but if you do that’s awesome).  The more and more I looked into a person’s expertise the more I was astounded at the authors who neither have an expertise (including myself) and the numbers of people so willing to listen to a person who has no basis of knowledge whatsoever.   I’m not saying the people who aren’t experts are going to make competent comparisons and analysis, but there is a great risk in accepting what is said at face value.  Though we do this on a daily basis.  We listen to the news, and we think because of the perception of the person delivering the news, we can trust what they have to say.  Because the news isn’t so important we must check it daily, we accept stories with little to no fact as truth, and we buy into the acceptance of ideologies which neither have the capability to encapsulate our society nor explain it very well at all.

Non-Expert experts are everywhere.  Their form is usually deceiving, and as life goes leads us down a path of regret and selfishness.  I have been down this path, and I would owe it all to my inability to distinguish between what was really truth and what was not.  I listened to anything which sounded like it made sense, and then built a cognitive stream of thought in order to rest my back upon this new founded information.  At the end of the day though, there always seemed to be a “fly in the ointment” and would cause me to give up my new opinions or beliefs about something.  After a period of time, this became so disconcerting, I almost felt like giving up.  There seemed to be no redemptive quality in my actions, and the more I tried the more it seemed to compound me and cause a disconcerting turn of events to unfold against me.

This was when I began to realize, perhaps I should go deeper in to the meanings and trappings of life and find out a truer purpose than to just live.  This presented me with a challenge, questions down to the very fiber of who I was.  Questions which threatened to dismantle everything I ever thought I believed.  Who is God to me, and just where do I think I go when I die?  These questions have taken many years, and it seems to me, I always knew the answer, but my need to hang on to what was in this life carried precedence, to my shame.

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My questions needed to be answered by those people who seemed to float in and out of my life, by the circumstances of everyday and the experiences I dealt with daily.  I was given answers to these questions when I least expected it, but people I never thought would have the answers, and most importantly my humiliation was key to a realization of humility which for me is soul saving.  This isn’t to presume I don’t continue to make mistakes daily, as though I’m in a contest to win a prize for the person who makes dumb decisions.  I still have days which make me scratch my head and wonder just how I could have done something so selfish or stupid.  However, on the overall scheme of things, I see a growth in myself which seems to breed an overflowing abundance of joy.

Those times which I just knew I was right, I was completely wrong, and this acknowledgement of my own flawed paradigm gave me the clarity to realize.  We are all like this, we are seeking to prove our points of rightness, but we are all guilty of a failure to realize we don’t know everything.  Not only do we not understand or have the ability to conceive everything in a competent way, we are miserable at it.  Oh sure, we have experts on the law, on art, or ever on politics.  Though, I find most people are seeking some truth in life, to become an expert in anything else is a way to fill the gaps in the more important question, who is God to you?

Ok, so the gauntlet has been thrown down.  Is God your main point of purpose?  Do you wake up and constantly think about God throughout your day?  For most people the answer is no, and they have their “right” way of perception and a belief in their “rightness”.  However this amounts to little more than a grasping of earthly footholds in an attempt to ascend a mountain of unknowable dimensions.  The only way to truly ascend this mountain is to allow God’s loving hand to gently set us atop.  The analogous understanding in all of this is, we are always in God’s hand and when we attempt to do it ourselves, we are trying to leave the grasp of the one who loves us the most.  Think back on times, in your own family when you push away those who would love you unconditionally, and in your attempt to free yourself and possess the “rightness” you so desired, you were willing to hurt in the most egregious ways.

This is where I’ve been, I’ve been at the precipice of life thinking I was completely right, and when finally exposed to the objective truth, I was shocked.  I was shocked at just how little thought I put into those things which required the most thought, and I was shocked at the depths with which I was accepted by those whom I hurt the most.  This prompted me to begin to look at the world in a completely different way.  I was willing to explore everything in its deepest way, to search for the meaning I could find in all of it.  Believe me, this can be exhausting, but in the best possible way.  The most exhausting part of my new perception has been to realize, most people don’t want to go too deep for fear of getting the answer I was so afraid to find out myself.  Some people are sure, like I was, I am wrong and they don’t want to hear what I have to say which brings me to the next big point.  A knowledge of the truth isn’t about telling everyone you meet, it’s about showing everyone you meet.  Let them figure out through observation and discussion just why you are who you are.  Let them know, your only motivation in life is the pursuance of God’s love.  In this and only in this can you be a reflection of Christ’s light.

Now this isn’t to say, when you meet people you are bound to silence, we aren’t Trappist, but what we are, are people in awe of God.  Delving deeply in to a love for God, means simply finding the deepest possible meaning in everything, even those which aim to hurt us and cause a tearing of the fabric to which we would cling in this life.  It will present a paradigm, whereby God is our focus, and because we can never hope to completely comprehend his reasoning, we can accept it more fully.

My role as a father is a challenge every day, my wife challenged me a few days ago about my need to be more as a father to my kids.  This wasn’t accepted well, but she wasn’t wrong.  Her observations of my actions, and furthermore willingness to face my anger over her understanding of “rightness” as it pertains to the objective truth, was what my soul needed to accept the task, one more time, to try harder as a father.  I was also challenged to accept, I wasn’t right in this instant, I was completely wrong.  My back also felt this, as I was presented with a night on the couch as a means of my stubbornness to prove just how right I was.

As it just so happens, when I was more level headed the next day, and for all intents and purposes very humbled by just how wrong I actually was.  I could see a definitive change in my interactions with everyone.  It was as if I had been walking around in the dark, and suddenly the room was filled with bright light to illuminate the fact I was always standing near the door.  My wife is a true reflection of God’s light in my life, and she is right most of the time because of this.  I can only hope to have as much fervor and love for God as she does.  I have so long to go, but I’m not discouraged in the least way.  I am looking forward to my journey.  I have conversed with several people about what I write, both good and bad, but I’ve learned something from everyone.  I am so very thankful for God’s graces to be poured out in the manner in which I’ve received them.  My stubborn need to be right, and my acceptance of just how wrong has been the sanctified understanding, my life is meant for more than just waking up and doing a job while running through the motions.

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No matter what is happening to us at any given time, we must look deeper in to whatever it is we do.  In most cases, as they pertain to life and God overall, we might just find we are more wrong than we are right.  This should humble each and everyone one of us!  When I entered my graduate program for business many years ago, I was challenged by a professor who asked each and every one of us, if we were aware of just how much we didn’t know.  When I was asked, all I could see was a forest of knowledge and me standing on its edge fearfully waiting to enter.  Don’t let fear hold you back from pursuit of God, don’t let fear dictate what you will or won’t do when it comes to the truth.  Don’t be afraid of fear, don’t be subject to the paralysis which accompanies a fearful life.  Go out and be a disciple of Christ, and spread the message of God through your works.  As fathers and husbands, we must do this, we must be the example to our kids and our spouses.  Although they may not say it to us, they rely on us.  Although, my wife keeps me centered on us, she needs me to do the same for her when it comes down to it, but she also needs to be evenly yoked with me.  Which above all else requires my dedication to my marriage and my family.  If one spouse is doing all the work, the burden will be too heavy to sustain and will eventually cause the dissolution of the marriage, the failure of the covenant before God.  When we let go and give everything we have to God, then although the world will still continue to move around us, we will have joy about it.  Although we will still face hardness of hearts and times which cause deep sadness, we will still have joy in the understanding we are here for more than what amounts to a glimmer of time.  We are here for more than to just be right, we are here to be wrong and recognize it.  We need to be humbled, we need to seek redemption, and we can only do this by a self-reflective quality which will manifest itself in the silence we seek within the rightness of God’s voice!

I do hope some of my words will help, especially if you are struggling today with your life.  You are truly loved and you are truly special in God’s eyes, but also every Christian who stops and answers those questions I posed to myself.

So I want to ask one more time, for you, as well as for myself.  Who is God to you?  Where will you go when you die?  I hope these questions are a permanent fixture in your life from this day forward, if they already weren’t.  Joy in life isn’t about being right, it’s about filling yourself up on the abundance of love provided only by God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Is Stubbornness a Good Thing?

“Are we satisfied with cultural status quo, and are we better served to leave things as they are or search for an objective truth?”

I think it’s fair to say, anyone who has ever met me and of course known me for any time at all would characterize me as being a little stubborn.  Once I have something set in my mind about what anything should or should not be, I’m almost impossible to convince otherwise.  In my defense, I spent inordinate amounts of time searching for an answer before setting my mind to a point.  Therefore, I’m a little stubborn when it comes to what I think, and how I interpret what is happening.  I will also argue, as my mom has stated for years, “with a brick wall, if he thinks he can win”.  True as well, I’m not satisfied with listening to anyone’s point which carries either a logical fallacy, or clearly hasn’t been thought out well.  This is a common phrase I hear from people when I talk about something and proceed to enter a deeper thought stream regarding the point, “I don’t know, I just don’t think about things that deeply, most people don’t look at it that way!”.  At this point, I almost can’t see straight with the ludicrousness with the phrase just spoken to me.  Whereby I will begin to start justifying why I do what I do, and hope (at least in the back of my mind), they nod and say, ‘you know what, you’re right, I was wrong in how I perceived things my whole life”.  So, this is a mountain of stubbornness, I’ve been working on most of my life.  I think people could agree, stubbornness can be good in some instances, and because of a prideful affect detrimental in other situations.  I want to write a little on just what these have done to really create a positive and negative situation in my life, and perhaps we have similar stories.

From the earliest age I can remember, I could think fast, and usually fast enough to have a quick-witted, and usually unkind response to anything anyone stated.  Sometimes, my responses were met with laughter and other times a look of awkwardness on the faces of people standing near me as if I’d relieved myself completely unawares.  In fact, I’ve made a true ass of myself so many times, I qualify some statements to people with a phrase, “I hope what I’m about to say isn’t offensive to you”.  Over the years, I’ve taken a more rigid and institutional look at my opinions as they pertain to my discussions and found, if I don’t have any experience and I’m not well read on the topic, it’s probably best I keep the information to myself.  This has given me great results over the last few years, but I still step in it from time-to-time.  What I will say is, because I’ve tripped up so many times in the past, I feel as if I’ve got a good point of reference when talking to my kids.  I can literally see what they’re doing and remember when I did the same thing, and I can tell them (not that they listen that much) not to do whatever it is they’re going to do.  My stubbornness in its infancy has created a stubborn need to keep pursuing a correctness and in some way perfection to “get it right”.  Nowadays, I would rather read ten books about a topic before talking about it, because I don’t want to be embarrassed again.  I think we can all reason with this in some small way, no one wants to be humiliated because they didn’t think something out properly and were eviscerated by another’s argument to a point, the scar can still be felt a decade later.

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I feel like stubbornness is like a mutant power from the X-Men and all I’ve needed to do was harness it.  Of course, this is a silly notion on the surface, but when we delve a little deeper, we see truly everything should be something like this notion of expertise.  I have natural ability to argue, or at least pick a side and think cogent thoughts to make my point.  I don’t always convince, but at the same time, they don’t walk away from the table saying to themselves, I have no idea what he was saying.  However, at the same time, I spend more time stirring up whatever it is I’m talking about, instead of true points of conviction being harnessed.  My stubborn nature finds this to be a goal worthy of pursuing, but not at the cost of anything or anyone else.  I can see the same nature in my children when they want me to allow them to do something, I otherwise said, “no”, to and I’m asking them to convince me.

All of this is less of an attempt to show anyone I know what I’m talking about, than to raise the question, “Are we satisfied with cultural status quo, and are we better served to leave things as they are or search for an objective truth?”.  On the surface when I ask people about this, they always say, “objective truth, of course”; however, when they are confronted with the actual objective truth, they tend to shy away and back track.  It seems the truth has a way of confronting anyone, especially if their beliefs are wrong, or their understandings are completely inaccurate, of exposing them and at the same time in the silence of their minds shaming them.  Who wants to be shamed, I sure as heck don’t, so like many people, I myself have run the opposite direction of truth many times.

However, do we have the stubbornness to eventually accept, we were wrong, and then to move in the direction of truth, no matter what castigating vitriol we must face to get the truth we seek?  Take for instance our political climate we deal with from day-to-day, currently we have three relevant perspectives.  All three have in their own ways valid points of view, and all three have relevant areas of needed development.  For many years I tottered with an idea where I would look to the most relevant at any given time, but the problem with looking at things this way makes subjectivity (my truth) the qualifier.  This never works, because my subjectivity could change from day-to-day, as many people’s perspectives do in our ever-changing cultural landscape.  In this case, what does a man of faith do?  Do I hang on to a platitude as a common phrase spoken, or do I challenge myself to pursue the objective.  Since asking myself this question many years ago, I’ve concluded (see why I’m so stubborn), objectivity is the only way to pursue anything at all.  This means, principles must be adhered to, and objectivity is always the pursuit of truth in everything.  We should be stubborn about this.  We should always apply a litmus test, which when it doesn’t pass, the point is cast aside until another can challenge and defeat the point we now possess.  The great thing about objective truth as we pursue this understanding with our completely stubborn nature is, it is what it is and we can see in the entirety a fairer way will never be met past a certain point.

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Take for instance an argument where one player takes an argument to a valid extreme, but the other player, because of recognition of the truth which has just been exposed fails to acknowledge this truth and either ridicules or dismisses what was stated almost immediately.  So, out of stubbornness, because the first player sees the truth, they try again, and once again the second player refuses the attempt.  Is it at this point, player one should relinquish their pursuit or continue to challenge?  In my experience, player one should stop, otherwise their stubborn need to be right will subvert anything they could hope to attain through this conversation.  Ideas are seeds meant to be planted in the mind of another, if they are truthful, all ever need be done is to plant and leave alone.  If we continue to pursue without changing our perspective we, risk uprooting whatever has been done.  Therefore, in an argument, an extreme case should always be offered to meet the extreme confines of the paradigm, and if shown not to destroy the argument, you’ve attained a truth, at least within the argument.  Maintaining this principle out of stubborn pride, is wrong, but maintaining this principle out of a stubborn need for a pursuit of objectivity is right.

So how do we know when we should pump the brakes or continue ahead?  Are there warning signs to let us know when we may be taking it too far?  Of course, there are warning signs, but generally experience is the only way to recognize, unless we get a “life” coach and the coach can be with us every day of the week and will sit back quietly to watch our actions, and based on their experience will only speak up when they can see us going awry with our actions.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but I think this would be a silly notion. Which usually leads to another parallel, as smart as people may be, there is no substitution of experience.  Thinking one’s way out of a situation is terrific, but only one theoretical point of view is grasped within this convention of solution.  When we hire, or promote anyone with experience to a position of leadership or coaching, we are really looking for a successful track record of experience which will allow for difficult situations to occur, as they do in anything, but to have a leader at the helm who knows exactly how to handle them.  Within most police departments there is usually a minimum amount of time before anyone can be considered a supervisor, not because an effort to discriminate is prevailing, but simply a matter of time must exist for a potential candidate to attain supervisory levels needs the experience to handle what ultimately, they will need to know when faced with similar situations under their watch.  I think it would be a good use of stubbornness to continue an effort holding to a standard such as this; when we allow some levels of hubris to enter our stubborn pursuits, we will always fall short of any glory we hope to have.

I will admit, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken my stubbornness superpower to the very next level.  In my attempt to teach my children and a husband to my loving wife, I’ve failed miserably.  I’ve been so stubborn as not to take the advice of my wife or recognize the imploring needs of my children for one thing or another.  It’s so easy to write off what I do, or rather what any of us do as a matter of course or in the end, we never meant to achieve such dubious goals in life.  Though with much thought, I must admit, I failed them at this point, and it’s up to me to make it better.  I was fortunate to listen to a wonderful homily given by our local priest, and his explanation of fear was one of the best I’ve ever heard.  His exemplification of the normal paradigm we all face was our lack of doing what is right comes from the innate fear we have for whatever it is we attempt.  His point was rather, if we fail to do anything at all, it has more to do with our own failure to attempt to accomplish a goal, and saying to ourselves, “I’m no good for any of this, so why even try”.  So, in retrospect, we fear the change of life, so we subordinate ourselves to being stubborn, so in futility we hope we can stop time by saying “no”.  This is where I’ve been for the last couple of weeks, my focus has been on me and what I want, rather than sacrificing my time for God.

So, if you will forgive my absence from writing over the last couple weeks, and if you will accept my confession of selfishness and the stubborn pursuit of “me”.

At the end of the day, no one person is immune to a condition of stubbornness; the real question happens to be more a matter of do we have the self-reflective ability to change our ways when we can see the bigger picture and realize our actions are going nowhere.  Being able to step back from whatever paradigm we happen to live in and look at outside influences and apply a healthy principled foundation to whatever decision we make will help all of us be better men, fathers, and husbands.  Our roles in this world require of us a tremendous responsibility, so being stubborn until you have the full objective truth is an absolute must.  Don’t ever bend to the feelings of society, especially when you know those subjective feelings can turn on you in an instant.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Why Do We Never Have Enough Time?

God’s love isn’t about rules, it’s about the pursuance of his affection, and in this pursuance, your guidelines to stay on the lighted path will appear to be rules, but really, they are instructions to find your way home.

Do we ever really have enough time in our lives to do what we want to do?  So, there seems to be two valid yet disqualifying answers when we really think about our lives.  Yes, we always have plenty of time to do what is needed.  At the same time, do we ever truly do what we ought to do?  The answer to the second question seems to be a resounding, “no!”  For me personally, I find a multitude of items to fill the space, and none of them ever completely fill the void.  Instead seemingly prolong an internal agony I feel constantly by not placing the most primary goals and items in my life in the appropriate order.  Deep down the worst part is I really do know where I need to be, but my laziness, and indeed acacia have proven to get the better of me.  I know a deep recognition resides in the most quiet and resolute places of my soul.  Those places which recognize God as being my sole purpose in life, but instead of keeping his love and presence as front and center to my everyday actions, I find I seek out, with what time I have something other than the truth as a replacement.  So, when I do finally realize my shortcoming, I say to myself, “I never have enough time!”.  Which, for all intents and purposes, is one more lie to myself and to God, whom I love but not enough to be honest.

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Ok, so here’s the rub, we are all given a specified amount of time to exist in this earthly life, and we are challenged to live life to the fullest.  I once heard a homily given by a priest friend, who exclaimed, we should be living every day as though it is our last.  We should be living every day as if we were given the terminal diagnosis, which interpreted properly gives a time-stamp to our days.  A gift as it were, a period for us to realize our own mortality and make best use of time.  I am sure many people look on death or the circumstances of sickness and then subsequent death as an awful transaction of a godless world, but I don’t see it this way at all.  We are all creations of God, and in the process of living an earthly life we must live it fully, loving all we are in contact with, and at the same time finding our own path (lighted by God) to fall in love with the One True God.  Since all our pathways are separate but uniquely convergent as well, we find intersections of pain and loss along the way.  No one enjoys pain, hence the word, but to the extent we experience life, isn’t most of our life attenuated by the reduction of pain?  Think back on a time where we did experience a real pain, perhaps a loss of a loved one, or the failure of a much-anticipated goal.  Didn’t we learn from our experience, don’t we carry that pain in some small measure with us?  If it is true pain, doesn’t it linger with us, when our presence of mind is consulted about what we should do next?  The entire misconception is, we are the doctors to affect the healing of our own pain.  We aren’t, how many doctors have you ever met, perform open heart surgery on themselves, it just doesn’t happen, but without the much-needed surgery, they will die.  The surgeon must rely on another to help in the process of dealing with the pain, and then in the process of moving past the pain.  An open-heart surgery patient, if coaxed to do so, will indicate what they’ve dealt with in overcoming their pain as it relates to the physical and mental of the surgery.  Isn’t this like those of us who’ve dealt with some form of pain in their lives?  A properly healed wound isn’t something someone is afraid of confronting, but a wound still in need of proper healing will continue to fester and with writhe with pain.  When asking myself the question of time, and realizing I was avoiding the answer all along, the recognition of my avoidance, and the flood of a realization of the emotional and spiritual pain which has crippled me the whole time was an experience everyone should realize.

My pain exhibited its traits in my poor attitude towards people and life, in my avoidance of people and events, but most importantly it affected my decisions towards those I love and those I was always meant to love.  This avoidance, or sin as we all know it by, is one of the most powerful weapons the devil has as an influence over us, the confrontation of pain is something our culture would much rather do without.  Look at the world around us, we can’t speak truth for fear of the environment it will cause, or the offense it may give to another because of what we think or say.  Our feelings are the emotive equivalent to the Washington Monument, apparently, and defacing our emotions at the expense of reality has become verboten among large groups of people today.  This is never truer when we confront the truth of God, and for doubters out there, truth doesn’t care if you believe, it just is.  Now, just imagine being a skeptic all your life and then suddenly realize everything you think didn’t exist does, and not only that, you have a lot to make up.  You think to yourself, I just might not have time to make up for all the lost time.  Never fear, you have time, if the God of all can raise a life from the dead, then you can repent and believe.

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Where does this leave us then?  Where do we go with our time?  Should we just hang it all up and enter the cloister with the Franciscans?  Well, if you feel this is the life you should lead, and with proper guidance from a spiritual director, then I pray for your journey!  If you are like me, and have a wife and kids, then this is the real question.  How do we have a life focused on God, but not oppressive to the people we love the most?  The answer is once again, simple and yet seemingly a matter of personal perspective as it translates to what is best for each one of us.  Some of us are challenged to enter the cloister, perhaps some are challenged to see a perspective of life dealing with personal physical sacrifice, there are those of us who must accept loss as their path, and even those who deal with their own pain as it translates to their loved ones.  Whatever the path might be, the time focused on God’s Graces, as they pertain to each and everyone of us, is a matter of significance.  Like any loving relationship, God allows us the free will to choose what we will do.  To make a determined decision to either fall in love with Him or walk away.  What we will all inevitably see is, our choice to walk away ends in a determination, we never had enough time.  We never did enough, we never made enough, we never experienced enough, but in the end, with God as out focus we will be completely full.  No regrets, at least not in the manner of seeking God, except to lament not doing more to grow the unconditional love we seek.

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Perhaps there are events in your life, I know there are in mine, where I regret the decisions I made, no matter the significance or the inscrutable circumstances which surround my regrets, they are mine and mine alone.  Even to have someone I truly love and care for tell me to move forward doesn’t always wash away my guilt or recognition of the delta which exists between what was right and what was wrong.

As time continues to march on in my life, and my hair gets more and more grey with each passing year, I find my memory serves me well, I forget those things which cause great pain, and I seem to remember those which brought me the most joy.  I fully believe this is a Grace poured upon me by God, because the devil wants nothing more than for us to relieve the hurt we cause or the pain we felt, this is ideal way for him to keep his liar’s clutch on us.

Suppose there are things about you or someone you love which are almost too much to bear or at least you think they are.  Consider this, stop wasting time, confess your sins, reconcile their impact in you life and the lives of other, and rectify your decision.  Your decision to waste time, your decision to push yourself further from the loving gaze of God.  Realize, you have time for what you make time for, and in the process of learning what is most important, realize those who want to fill your life and embrace them.

When I was in school, I was not a part of the “in-crowd” I performed on stage and spent a great deal of time reading and philosophizing with my father and friends.  Over the years, I’ve had significant run-ins with people who seemed to look down upon me in school, but for reasons unknown matured and treated me as a person worthy of their attention.  I have subsequently done the same, and it occurred to me an analogy which in a manner of perspective sums up our lives and how we treat people or how we are treated.  Imagine yourself on a team of any kind.  This team has captains who receive all forms of adulation from everyone, some deserving and some not so deserving.  Then there is you and me, we serve the captain, we get the captain what they need whenever they ask for it.  In our eyes, we perform a valuable service, but in the eyes of the captain, he doesn’t even know our names, or possibly a nickname is given.  When the captain achieves a monumental victory everyone on the team is thanked but us, we are left to continue our seemingly subservient duties until we can move on to something more befitting our own aspirations or desires.  What did we learn from the experience?  We have two ways of looking at it, much like anyone might perceive.  The first way would be the most typical, we are stepped on because the captain imbues a level of sub-distinction on us, even if the work we did was exceptional.  The captain always thinks of their self as superior, even if they don’t come right out and say it, their actions speak louder than any utterance to move past their lips.  The second perspective can also look at the same situation and realize this, God is our focus, and much like Jesus washing the feet of Peter (John 13:5-9).  We are to make ourselves as servants to all, and in our humility, we glorify the one true God.  In our attempts to serve the captain we seek God’s love, in our search for God’s love we face the ridicule of the captain, but it doesn’t truly matter.  It doesn’t dampen our spirits, it just shows us we have much work to be done, if we choose to seek the light of Christ.  Christ, hanging from the cross, served all humankind by a humiliation never realized.  The Divine Christ allowed himself to be tortured, spat on, beaten, and crucified as a matter and an example to every one of us.  His efforts in their actions spoke to us saying, I love you, and I will die for you.  I will humiliate myself for you, give me your time and energies as I have given them to you.  Love me, because I love you so much.

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Ok, so where does your time focus at?  What will you do with the extra five minutes you have at lunch?  Will you help those people at your work, who struggle but need someone with a loving soul to figuratively wash their feet?  Remember, we are the subservient, we take the beatings because in our own sin we’ve given them out.

As husbands and fathers, we watch those we love the most treat us with love and disdain.  We watch a child, whom we nursed from sickness, stare into our eyes with utter contempt because we told them “no”, and they give not one second of thought to us when making poor decisions.  Though when they are in trouble they look to us for answers.  Did we not do this to our own parents, from time-to-time?  Were we not the “captains” in our perception of the game of life?  I know I was, I know I behaved abhorrently when it came to the people who loved me the most.

When we think about time, and we think about what we might have wasted, don’t let the fear of what people may think regarding decisions.  Your decision to love God, is a matter between you and God.  It doesn’t matter what people think, or say, or do.  What matters is the agape you have, the love sense to look towards true light of God, this is what will cleanse you and light your way.  Nothing any person can do will sanctify your life, except the sacrifice of Jesus, and worrying what another person my say or do in this life proves to be nothing more than wasted time.

If you feel like you’ve wasted time in your life, welcome to the club.  I wasted so much time, at first, I thought I needed to play catch-up.  What’s worse is I didn’t know what to do or where to look, I was running around trying to do everything, and this in an of itself cause levels of consternation with my family and I was perceived as being a priggish interlocutor condemning those who weren’t willing to see my perceived goals.  As I grew a little wiser in my relationship with God, it was only then did I see the humiliation I cause and faced my own humiliation.  I was embarrassed to know people disliked me because of how I treated them.  I was the “captain” and I treated those who were most willing to love me with contempt because I thought I was better.  I wasn’t, I truly desire to wash the feet of those who surround me, I am contemplative and want everyone I meet to know, I love them with the light of Christ.

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When you look at your wife tonight, realize how much she serves you and how much you should be serving her.  Realize, with her a grace has been poured upon both of you, and in this grace, you will reflect the light more fully to everyone you meet.  Recognize, the time spent teaching your children the ways of Christ will be worth every moment.  They won’t always understand, but be solid, be unwavering in your love.  God’s love isn’t about rules, it’s about the pursuance of his affection, and in this pursuance, your guidelines to stay on the lighted path will appear to be rules, but really, they are instructions to find your way home.

Don’t waste any more time, don’t give yourself any more excuses.  Seek God, ask for a transformation of your soul and the time to bring yourself into his fullness.  Spend just a few minutes each day in communion, conversation, confession if you can.  He desires this from us.  Don’t be the child who pushes the parent away, because they don’t understand why the parent said, “no”.  Instead, trust God knows what is best for us, if we would just be willing to accept the truth.  I’m sure there are many people in your life who will tell you, you are wasting your time, let them.  They need God’s love as much as we all do, so be the reflection of this love, so they will stop wasting their time.

I pray God’s light will enter your life, and illuminate the way for you, your path is your own.  Don’t waste any more time searching for sources of light which will neither illuminate your path or direct you down another’s misguided way.  Put God in the forefront, cognizant reaches of your mind and keep Him there always.  May God bless you and your family, always!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

What is Faith Without Love?

We are called to do nothing more than to find the beauty in all others, and in our understanding of this beauty we can love our neighbor!

This is a question Paul asks in Corinthians 1,13:1-2.  A question, which at the times he preached was relevant, especially with the groupings of Jews relegated to focus of Jewish law as a means of living, for the one true God.  However, as we see time and again, within the Gospels, we see the challenges given to Jesus in a manner of what appears to be a question with no way out but answered flawlessly by Jesus.  So, in his answer, what was the one key ingredient the scribes and Pharisees were missing?  Love!  Their questions were aimed at a focus of rule and regulations as set forth by the Jewish teachings and prophecies as they were interpreted by the prophets.  This is finally challenged when the Divine God walked, suffered, cried in pain, and eventually died for us as a matter of love.  Our very definition of faith was challenged at this point.  We were challenged to see, life as a matter of love and sacrifice in this love as a way of living.  Essentially speaking, a new rule was brought forth, to challenge every rule ever set before.  The rule was love, to seek a path so we could fall in love with the Eternal God, and in this path, we may be the light for others (like Paul), to help light their paths.

How many people have you ever met in your life, and wondered why they are angry, upset, or seemingly without joy, but at the same instance you see this joyless expression you determine your calling being the light this person needs for their pathway to be lighted?  I will admit, I see it all the time, and I’m as befuddled at a solution to help light their way as I am my own, but I see the need.  When we expressly understand, the need in others, this is the gift God has given us in the sacrifice of Christ.  To not only have the faith to believe in what we see in others but combining this with love as we pour out ourselves to the other.  Fulton Sheen said, “for no one comes to Christ, and comes back the same way he came” (Meditations of the Magi, Catholicism, Barron).  Our path is such, we are forever transformed by what we see and feel.  I’ve asked this question before, but for those, who have never read these words, “where you think you go when you die?” are the foundational understanding of our lives, our faith, and our interpretation of love.  Once we truly answer this question, we are never the same, our pathway is forever changed, our blissful ignorance has become the very sand blown away in a desert to reveal the stone with which we build our foundations.

I talk a great deal about love, over and again on this, but it is for nothing more than the pursuit of faith and love we exist.  We can never hope to fall in love with God if we are just faithful to the commandments.  My son, indicated during our discussion, “yeah, I have to be good, so I can go to heaven, right?”.  My eyes were wide at this moment, not only because, I felt he missed the mark of our faith completely, but I also felt this was a teaching moment to help form his faith more solidly and become a principle he could always come back to as his life continues to move forward.  My answer to him was Heaven wasn’t about winning or losing, but about our relationship to God as a focus of our lives.  I used the analogous example between my wife and myself as the prototype of the love we seek in Christ.

Imagine having a relationship where we seek only the result as a means of winning or losing.  Many Christians may have this interpretation, one where they see the result of life as being good and walking through the pearly gates of Heaven or doing bad and burning for all eternity in the absence of God known to us as Hell.  Since, I’m not a theological master, I can only explain it as my interpretation of faith as it relates to the Catechism.   CCC – 1024 “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme definitive happiness.”  I ask you, have you ever thought of Heaven in this manner?  “To live in Heaven is to be with Christ” (CCC-1025).  God has opened our minds to see past the rules and effectively attached our ability to fall in love with him, and in doing so, a beatific vision is given to all of us, allowing for our contemplation within the expression of love.  Could we ever love our wives without being allowed to think on her and what makes her so wonderful in our eyes, but then not limited to an understanding she opens herself to us and creates an ability to understand her.  We don’t always know ourselves but being open to exploration of our love and our purpose in our lives, allows our spouses to truly love us to depths we can hardly imagine.  This is true with God, God opens himself to us in a way where we are called (through prayer) to contemplate on God to fall truly in love.

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There isn’t a list which indicates, if you complete all the rules and follow everything which is said, you will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.  We are called to do nothing more than to find the beauty in all others, and in our understanding of this beauty we can love our neighbor!  Our perception of life and love is distorted by the times we live in, we find abject beauty as being a prerequisite for love.  We also determine, if we don’t feel a sense of emotion or jittery feelings as they pertain to our perception of love, then we truly must not be in love.  This pursuance of an emotive acknowledgement within our own person as the litmus test prevents us from seeing the real person we meet.  We are ridiculed if we are with anyone who isn’t beautiful on the outside first, or at the very least pleasing to be around.  Though this comes to us like a double-edged sword, why would we want to be anything other than accommodating when it means we have an opportunity to be around someone to love more?  Have you ever treated, anyone who you determined in your eyes to be diminished of your own stature, in a less than loving way?  In my shame, I have, I haven’t always treated people as though I am, if anything lucky to be in their presence.

So, is it any surprise to us when people attach an emotive understanding of love, to associate with God.  In this pursuit of feelings (a reciprocal effort), when they don’t receive their expectational response, they determine a lackluster quality to a pursuit of love in life as it relates to God.  Then it becomes, as I explained to my son, an atheist’s pursuit of life and to follow just the rules as to follow a rule and receive something for our efforts becomes a subjective morality and value system ever more.  Morality isn’t a set of rules we must follow, in order we may fully understand our faith.  Instead, morality is the surest way to keep ourselves focused, that we might have a clear chance to deepen our faith and love for the One True God.

Ok, so where do we go from here in our lives, if we determine God is truly where we want to be?  A life of love, put down those instruments of hate and determine (unto our deaths) where Christ is, and don’t just walk or meander down this path, but doggedly pursue the relationship.  Don’t let it elude your efforts by letting life slow you down or become the whisper in your ear indicating your unworthiness.  You are worthy, you are lovingly fashioned by the hands of God, and it isn’t about emotion, it’s about your pursuit of faith in love which will create the deepest seas of emotion you’ve ever experienced.

My life as a father has been one of confusion for me, but one of the greatest rewards possible, and I can’t imagine what God must feel from us, when by our own unloving actions, we say, “leave me alone, I don’t want you!”.  How this must hurt!  Let this perspective soak in for a little while.  Are we as fathers pursuing a loving relationship with our children and especially our wives?  Do we allow God to lift us up for the lessons so desperately needed as a daily dynamic in our own families, or are we insisting our trying to be the unmovable rock?  Don’t get me wrong, men, we should be men always, and our pursuance of a society, which has a pure focus on God is our utmost responsibility, but at the same time, are we seeking to understand above all else.  Have we taken this beatific vision, and let the love of God permeate our senses to move us closer to God’s light?

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My son’s comments today, made me question how we see events as they relate to those around us.  His friends, who don’t believe in a God, are without a strong parental figure to show them the objective truth, but instead attempts to teach them the only way to a proper life is one of subjective feelings and morality which applied to life is the aberration of love altogether.  This isn’t what God is about, God is about our attempt to have a closer relationship to Him, but we obtain this relationship by loving those around us, without condition.  No matter what they throw at us (Acts 7: 54-60, St. Stephen’s Martyrdom), we must be willing to face this with only the armor of faith, and the weapons of love.  Without either one of these, we can’t hope to best the giants which faces us, like Goliath and David.  Without both, we will succumb to our own expectations and our own perceptions of what love should be.  It is an all or none, a black and white existence, although we live in a grey world, our pursuit should be one of truth.  The truth is, without the free will we have, we can never truly know love, but within our free-will, if we don’t pursue love, then our pursuit of right and wrong is marred by no other than us.  My advice to my son’s friends, was to be the loving example God gave us, Jesus.  Be the best person he could be to everyone, but be true, be himself, no matter how much people accepted him or not.  It’s not about the acceptance of those who are not on the same faithful, loving journey we are on, it’s about us being the love to light their way.  I’ve had too many situations based in some manner of conflict, over the years, to not have a take-away which is an understanding, our actions in love have more power to move those mountains which stand in the way of faith, than anything else we could ever imagine.

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When you go out today or tomorrow, remember, you’re never alone, and so, all you need is to believe.  Your belief will bring you great joy, but more importantly, your belief will be fulfilling.  This pursuit of the fulfillment in your life is love, the ability to become fulfilled is faith as the tool to accept love.  When you’re sitting in your spot tonight, watching TV, or when you look up from your plate at dinner tonight, and you look over at your wife, think on three things.  The first, do you think it would be possible to love her if she didn’t open to you who she truly is?  Second, could you love her even if she didn’t seem to love you back?  The third, is love more transcendent than your own perspective of reality do you have to understand everything about her to love her?  Sometimes, we aren’t meant to understand everything, we must trust our spouse, we must have faith in them, which isn’t too much to ask seeing as how we are in a covenant with them before God.  As our trust/faith in them grows, we see a ripping away of those cultural and societal constructs which represent a shallow pursuit of love, and we see the deepening of a bond which as strong as an oak, sways with life.

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I hope and pray we are all pursuing a means of faith and love as it relates to a closer relationship with God and our fellow man.  We can’t take this physical life with us, which is why faith and love are the deepening of the soul, encouraged by the physical joy we feel by our pursuit.  Don’t be tempted to act on a matter of reverse egotistic tendencies, when we don’t receive the answer we wanted or the response of another.  Don’t give up, when we see the path change before us, and it isn’t what we originally planned our lives out to be.  Have faith, know we are all going through our own journeys of faith and we all need each other to light the way.  Objective truth shows us, our love is all God desires, and our purity though this love is needed that we may be in Heaven with God.  If you see yourself sinning, sacrifice those sins so you can fall in love with God, be willing to let go as a matter of faith to feel the love of God in return.  God speaks to us, within the silence of our hearts, and when you think about your family and friends, are we not moved to love them more when we see them sleep or see their actions of love as a matter in our own quiet contemplation on our feelings towards them.  God is much the same, take time to think about your relationship with God, and in your silent contemplation, you will see how He fills those spaces of your life with the loving graces to an overflowing capacity.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

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What is Our Sickness?

The damnable quality of sin is just when we think you’ve got a handle on it, or just when we think we’ve overcome the sin we’ve struggled with, we become mired in its grasp and search for God is as if we never knew him. 

When we think of ourselves, are we consumed with thoughts of who we are as a person, or what we are capable of?  Do we look at ourselves the way we want others to look at us?  Why don’t we look at ourselves as someone who should be in a hospital?  I recently spoke with my mother-in-law about perception of sin as it relates to those who do us the most harm.  For her, it was my father-in-law, a person she loved at one point in her life with unimaginable unconditional love.  She saw her life, as an old woman, growing old with her husband surrounded by kids and grandkids.  This wasn’t to be, she faced a reality whereby, she was deceived and eventually abandoned by her husband.  Her wound was deep, and in human fashion, she was forced to deal with a new reality which included hard-times, strife, and the coming face-to-face with an all to reality of loneliness.  In here reality, she was forced to look at those items of her life which caused her the most grief and deliberate over the face of the person who wounded her the most.  In her despair and anger she found solace in God but struggled with forgiveness of the one person who caused the greatest pain in her life, her ex-husband.  So, this is where my point of recognition begins.  This in my conversations with her over more than two decades has become the realization of our sickness.

So, bear with me, imagine you are walking through a hospital, and you see a patient burned beyond all recognition.  Burned so bad, you’re not sure if there is a hope of his survival, he will probably gain some manner of disease, or eventually die of the pain.  Then imagine, you look around and everyone in the hospital ward seems to have the same degree of pain and wounding.  You look around and begin to ask questions about whether there was a fire or an event involving terrorism.  No one around you has a good answer but they are feverishly trying to use their machines and medicines to alleviate the pain and suffering, but more people are coming in by the droves.  You think to yourself, “what is this madness, why are all of these people coming in?”  Then suddenly, you are struck down with sever pain, you can’t seem to understand why you are feeling so ill.  Sores and blisters begin to form on your skin and the pain is unimaginable, and yet you can do nothing to stop them, eventually you fall and are picked up by medics hoping to deal with your pain in the same manner you were just dealing with the patient’s minutes before.  Eventually, all who come to the hospital, in pain and agony will succumb to their pains, but it’s their decision on just how they deal with the pain.  They can push away those people who are there to help, perceiving the help given as a poor attempt at control, or they can accept the help and realize although they don’t understand everything which is happening, they will trust in the help given.

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Imagine again, life is like this hospital, and the sickness incurred is the sin we gladly accept into our choices and allow to stain our souls.  As we begin to move more and more away from the will of God, we become more reliant on anything to fix our problems except the one truth, God.  One part of my discussion with my Mother-in-law was our inability to see sin for what it is, a true sickness on our soul.  Imagine walking through the hospital ward, seeing people writhing in pain, and being unaffected by this display of pain and the need for compassion.  Would we really walk by someone in need of our charity and love and tell them no, especially if we could see the sores exposed for all the world to see?  The answer is if we have a human bone in our body, we would probably bend over backwards to help this person as much as possible.  Our discussions pertained to the actions by which we perceived either an evil action or an action with so much malice behind an action it was perceived as evil.  Though the real question should have always been, is he dealing with more than we know?  Is there something which is he is dealing with, which requires patience and understanding more than my anger?  If he was sitting in the medical ward, with sores all over his body, writhing in pain due to the sin and influences he was dealing with, would I be more compassionate to him?  This is how I think God sees us, not as our sin a rapacious causality to our choices and behaviors which keeps Him away from us, but instead, sees us with love, and sees these sores and pains which cover the landscape of our soul as a matter of the need to be healed.  God’s compassion for us, is one which lovingly holds us with care, and wills us to be nursed to health by His will alone and our decision to accept His help.  This creates another analogous paradigm, which manifests the most bizarre perspective of all, because we writhe in pain, we don’t realize it, because our conventional understanding of pain isn’t exhibited, so when God offers to heal our sickness, we push God away and insist we can do it all our own.

I would also, point out, accepting sin as a sickness, much like I described, isn’t too far off the mark.  We can’t see the true form of sin, because we lie to ourselves, we fool ourselves into thinking what we do isn’t all too bad, especially since no one was hurt.  Though, at the end of the day, our sins are there no matter how noble they may appear to us, care no nobility whatsoever, they are what they are, sins, and those sins push us away from God.  With each sin, if we can only imagine the wound we inflict on our own body due to the sin we choose.  Some sins, may be small in the larger estimation of our actions, but if we think about any time we’ve run through a wooded area, and thorns were everywhere, while running we may have been aware of a thorn here and there cutting us up, but when we stop and we look our entire body over, we see more wounds than we could have previously imagined.  In this we can determine, even our actions, seemingly innocent by our estimation, could still cut us, because in the objective truth, a sin has been committed.

Ok, getting back to my mother-in-law, where is she at pertaining to the hurt inside?  Well good news, she is much better than ever before, she seems to have forgiven the man who hurt her deeply, she seems to have moved past the pain, and realized the one truth, God, and placed God before her in everything she does.  In our discussions together, we both agreed, looking at people who we deem to be sinners including ourselves requires our sympathetic perception of pain before anything else.  We should be looking on those, especially the ones who touch our lives, as a matter of a doctor dealing the medicine of love to those who seek relief, even if they don’t know they do.

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Our sin is a lot like a sickness in many ways, if we spend too much time around it, it can affect us.  It truly creates derision in everyone causing a ripping or tearing of the fabric of love.  In doing so, we see exactly what we are seeing today, less people willing to make decision of faith, or more people willing to ridicule and criticize those who attempt to go through life looking for the light of God.  The sickness is the darkness of sin, and the only way to rid one’s self of darkness is to be presented and exist in the light of God.  It cures our soul of the sickness we feel, or don’t feel, but we allow to reside in us.  The damnable quality of sin is just when we think you’ve got a handle on it, or just when we think we’ve overcome the sin we’ve struggled with, we become mired in its grasp and search for God is as if we never knew him.

Being a husband and a father has been the most challenging things I’ve ever associated myself with, in my life.  I’ve never not loved my kids or my wife, but I chose to love my wants and needs more.  I chose to put something before my very God, and I confess to all of you, I am like Peter in my abandonment, and I have wept bitterly because of it.  The sickness grew inside me so much, the sin took over, and I said to myself, “what’s the point now, I can never be the perfect child I saw myself to be, I’m stained with this sin forever?”.  This was the devil trying to influence my thoughts and make me feel worthless, and it almost worked.  It was “Screwtape” trying to capitalize on my mediocrity of life and decision, and in my lack of enthusiasm and fire, I almost let go.  I didn’t know, even when I wanted to loosen my grip on the life I thought I lost, there was a hand over the top of my very own hand.  This hand in its strength, in its silence spoke to me, or rather spoke to my heart.  It said, “no, don’t go, I’m still here and I love you!”.  It was as if I had a thousand stones lifted off my chest, and I could breath once more, I could think about something other than myself.

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So, what was I missing?  Fire!  I was missing the fire of the Holy Spirit.  The only topic in my life which ever seemed worthy of my attention was the study of God, and the actions according to my faith, so when I failed my friends and family, I thought I covered the fire over with the dirt of sin.  I was so very wrong.  The one thing the devil doesn’t want you to know, is God’s forgiveness is the medicine we all need, we are all looking for redemption from our failures.  Some people have more than others, but this doesn’t negate the powerful forgiveness of God.  His love extended to a man, a man who chose to love us so much, he would die for us.  Love hung on the cross, love bled for us, love died for us, love conquered death for us.

Men if you have something in your life holding you back, and you know without the recognition of this sin and the wiping away of sinful behavior you can never walk one step closer to God, then stop now.  I would tell you, right your wrongs, ask forgiveness of those who’ve hurt you.  Be men!  Be strong!  Be the example, your children can look up to.  If you yelled at your wife, because she hurt you or angered you in some way, apologize to her, hold her, tell her how much she truly means to you.  You are one with her, you are bound to her within a covenant put together by God, so treat her as such.  I will be the first to admit, I’m no saint when it comes to anger or treating people the way I should, but I will say, the rush of emotion when you do ask for forgiveness is God’s gift to you, it’s God’s way of saying, “I love you!”.  What is more powerful, is when you do ask/beg the forgiveness of the wounded party and they forgive you, there is nothing more powerful in this world than someone who is truly hurt by your actions, willing to accept you for who you are, a bond of unconditional love is formed.

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Sickness wishes to ruin this, spoil this holiness, sin wishes to tear apart the bonds which bind us lovingly.  It takes many years to forge a path of love in pursuit of God’s will, but it takes only seconds to obliterate the very path we seek.  What is so wonderful, is God doesn’t deride us for destroying the path, but forgives us, and wishes to give us light so that we may see the path once more.  Sickness is darkness, and in darkness, how can a father ever show his children the way or be the reflective light his spouse so desperately needs when she is in her own mire of sin as well.  I know this seems almost too much to burden any one person with, but I assure you, life was never meant to be easy, it was always intended to purify and create lovers.  God’s beauty is the weapon of love, of righteousness, of hope, and of faith.  The Saints are our examples of this beauty, their lives are examples of the sin we fall into, but the faith which will carry us out of our own willingness to walk away from God.

I pray, within our own sickness we can realize, sin isn’t a matter of disobeying a rule set forth by God, but rather sin is our way of pushing the hand of God away from us when we are sick, and all God wishes to do is make us better.  I pray we can accept the forgiveness of other, but also be willing to forgive those who writhe in pain because of their choices in sin.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

Jesus Forgives