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Category: Reflections

A Boring Job *IS* your Dream Job

A Boring Job *IS* your Dream Job

“Instead of planning for a vacation, create a lifestyle you don’t need to take a vacation from”. Helped me decide to pick low stress jobs most of my life, and I’ve noticed for me things have been phenomenally better than for most of my friends

Come and see

Come and see

If you want to start a life in Christ, do just one thing that Jesus taught in an area of your life he spoke about. Faith starts with a single act of trust. Test his wisdom and see if it is not a better way than yours.

These might be a good starting point: the parables of Jesus

Believing in God vs living in Christ

Believing in God vs living in Christ

Sam Phillips : I don’t record material that doesn’t sell. Gospel, like that, doesn’t sell.

Johnny Cash : What’s wrong with the way I sing it?

Sam Phillips : I don’t believe you.

Johnny Cash : Are you telling me that you don’t think I believe in God?

Sam Phillips : You know exactly what I’m telling you. We’ve already heard that song a hundred times. Just like that. Just… like… how… you… sing it.

Johnny Cash Well you didn’t let us bring it home.

Sam Phillips Bring… bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing *one* song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you’re dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin’ me that’s the song you’d sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it’s real, and how you’re gonna shout it? Or… would you sing somethin’ different. Somethin’ real. Somethin’ *you* felt. Cause I’m telling you right now, that’s the kind of song people want to hear. That’s the kind of song that truly saves people.

Despite declining numbers, the vast majority of people in the world and even US still believe in God. But I think this interaction from the movie Walk the Line about the singer Johnny Cash captures exactly the difference between when people that say they believe in God and people that live in God. It’s the difference between the hypocrisy of the Pharisees that did the deeds and followed the Mosaic laws to the letter vs those that lived in a relationship with God that asks for mercy, not sacrificeMatthew 9:10-13

People know when you’re being authentic or not. When your actions or words are coming from the deepest part of who you are or if you’re just putting on a mask. They may not say it, but people almost always can tell when your lying, acting the part, or just feeding them a line you know they want to hear. You’re putting on a mask. When we wear masks of lies too often, what you experience is that people slowly drift away from you until you wonder – how did I get here? Alone and just with superficial relationships.

I think the reason people are increasingly filled with less hope is that a we are increasingly wearing more and more masks despite decades of calls to always just ‘be your self’, encouraging people to bring their authentic self, and live all manner of different ways to challenge the status quo/patriarchy/etc.

People have a deep seated hunger for real relationship. Relationships are based on authenticity, truth, and vulnerability. It’s in the very core of our being – and we create it if we don’t have it. Right now, we’re seeing LOTS of different groups trying to fill that need for relationships using words like ‘community’ and ‘culture’ as we cast off previous social norms.

As we cast off the past, we cannot cast off our need for belonging and meaning. We have replaced belonging and meaning in business by creating and promoting certain ‘cultures’. Non-profits and activist movements try to build ‘community’ around values. The problem is those entities, without real truth, just create more masks.

Each community and culture constructs a narrative and sets up rules and expectations of behaviors. If you challenge those behaviors, rules (written or unspoken), or leaders – you are immediately causing disunity and problems. I have seen this kind of clash happen in business environments and in non-profit and activist movements. Increasingly, many of them act more like cults under charismatic cult leaders than the ‘enlightened’ groups they claim to be.

We are doing this at a more and more furious pace than ever before as we tear down the ‘shackles’ of past community and culture – only to replace them with a new community and culture. We have largely given up on reforming cultures as we throw out the values of forgiveness and repentance. Instead we tear them down as soon as they fall out of favor to only be replaced by a new one with even more dubious leaders with even shorter track records. It is no wonder that people are exhausted and increasingly skeptical running from one new movement and activist group to the next. It seems businesses embrace new cultural values each year. Activist movements come and go with breakneck speeds. Leaders are again and again outed and canceled for hypocrisy, embezzlement, and lies. It’s activity that creates emptiness, disillusionment, and hopelessness for many people.

The real answer is that we need to see ourselves and the desires of ours hearts, in the light of real Truth. That is not something, in our broken world and limited understanding, we can do ourselves. Instead, we need to see ourselves in the light of something that is proven to be True. Something that has stood scrutiny for literally thousands of years – and not just a movement/philosophy of this day, this week, this month, this quarter, this year, or this decade.

There is such a real Truth – it is the teachings and life in Jesus Christ. It’s not about following a rulebook/wrote behavior (as Sam told Johnny Cash) or chasing a fad movement of today. A set of rules or guidelines is empty song we’ve heard a thousand times. Instead, Christ offers real and true relationship with Him – and the promise of eternal life with Him forever. Where every tear is wiped away, everything that has ever been done revealed, every hurt healed, every wrong righted, and every relationship repaired. All we need to do to start the journey is to turn to Him today, invite Him in, and live by his teaching. This requires work. We need to dedicate ourselves to learning what Jesus taught and converting our lives and behavior to become His friend.

So, just like Sam Philips would say, don’t just repeat the words of someone else or give the same pat answer – respond with your whole self authentically and be amazed where a life in Christ leads. I can confirm you’ll never be the same – God will take you places you never knew were possible, met people you never imagined you’d meet, open doors to things you never thought possible, and change your and other lives in ways that are nothing short of miracles.

Pride and willfulness

Pride and willfulness

Want to figure out how much pride and willfulness is in your life? Ask yourself this:

How many times in the day do you get angry because of an inconvenience?

The ease and degree to which you get angry demonstrates the lack of peace in your heart. From slow line at post office/grocery store, bad driver, coworker that causes an issue, getting stuck at a train, etc. Each inconvinience demonstrates how attached we are to our own will, our own plans, and our own agendas.

Instead, use those moments to invite the King of Peace into your heart and mind. Every moment can be offered for some gain to yourself or the world.

This world is passing and fading but the relationship you form with God hour by hour lasts for eternity.

Reflections of a visionary

Reflections of a visionary

It sometimes happens that we make light of little things [in the spiritual life]. There is nothing little in the spiritual life. Sometimes a seemingly insignificant thing will disclose a matter of great consequence. Many spiritual undertones are concealed in little things.

A magnificent building will never rise if we reject the insignificant bricks. Sin depends on the degree and light within the soul. Sometimes we consider these faults as sins only in the strictest definition (discounting them as trivial). This is also true in [what seems like mild] imperfections. Yet these petty things are of great importance to a soul that is tending towards sanctity. They should not be treated lightly, but with patience and kindness to open the way to the innermost secrets of the soul.

St Faustina Notebook I – entry 52

For those willing to dig deeper, I find the modern world is continually re-discovering the inner truths that Christianity has known for millennium. St Faustina is describing an element of what we today would call emotional intelligence, self-awareness, etc. For those seeking improvement, self awareness comes from reflecting on ourselves (prayer and reflection), paying attention to even our little behaviors, getting feedback on how we’re behaving (measuring our actions against standards of behavior/sin), and then hold ourselves accountable for change (via confession). While the world does this to it’s own constantly changing standards, the Christian measures themselves against the teachings, example, and living relationship with Jesus.

Despite hundreds or even thousands of years, just about every historical document from humanities earliest days shows the same human frailties exist. Most are just as true today as a thousand years ago. Just like the equations of gravity that rule the orbits of our planets to the tensile strength of certain kinds of steel, we can put our complete faith and trust into what they tell us. We trust our planet won’t fly out of orbit to our doom and build bridges out of steel will hold the cars we drive over it. In the same way, this is the true shocking meaning of putting your trust in the teachings of Christ. They do, and have, worked through all time. Two thousand years of proof is pretty compelling.

In reading this quote from St Faustina, I found the observation to seriously consider even the small bricks as important when building a beautiful edifice to be really worth reflection. We all have likely seen something that has been put together by masters. One of the hallmarks of a master is the amazing attention to the smallest details.

Yet, in today’s very distracting world, many of us rarely attend to our inner and spiritual lives because we’re too busy distracting ourselves with near constant, often largely pointless, ways we waste our time: music/noise, travel, careers, money, buying new things, clothes, popularity, consuming social media, etc.

If there was one thing I can recommend to this modern age, it would be this: slow down, viciously defend your quiet reflection and prayer time, and listen to the inner voice of your soul. It is only there that real peace will come.

You must invite him in

You must invite him in

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. 29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. 31 With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. 32 Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

Luke 24:13-36

The Road to Emmaus is a personal favorite and one of the most powerful stories after the resurrection of Christ. It contains just about all the major themes (theology) and experiences of Christian life – a life believers understand well today. It is a pattern for the mass, for conversion, His presence in the Eucharist, and many other wonderful teachings about how God works to reflect and meditate on.

This year though, I was caught by verses 28 and 29. Even after talking and walking with Christ along the way (but not recognizing him), having him explain the scriptures to them, he still acts as if he’ll keep moving on. It wasn’t until the 2 men INVITED him to stay that he came, ate a meal with them, and then revealed in the Eucharist that He had been with them all along.

It’s a reminder that we need to make explicit invitation for Christ after we have had an encounter with Him. Sometimes that encounter comes clearly through reading scripture or receiving Him in the Eucharist during mass. Sometimes its encountering Christ acting through others, through healing and answered prayers, a visit or kind word when especially needed, sometimes it’s the odd coincidences that make us think we had an encounter with God. But in all cases, Christ will never invite Himself in. We must take the initiative and explicitly do so – or He might continue on His way. This doesn’t just happen once, we must make this invitation again and again as we meet Him in all these different and unexpected ways like the 2 disciples walking to Emmaus.

It’s a good practice, at least once a day, to explicitly invite Jesus into your life and whatever is going on. Maybe as simply as saying, “Lord Jesus, you are my Lord, my savior, and My God. I invite you to stay here awhile with me and be with me through <whatever this is I’m doing> today. Stay and rest in my heart and there break bread with me so we may live like this through eternity.”

Chat with an Exorcist

Chat with an Exorcist

I had not seen Fr Chad Ripperger’s videos before, but I think he’s spot on in his observations about trends we see going on in the world. What’s interesting is that his observations are independently backed up by many scientific studies about happiness, social media, and news reporting.

This shouldn’t be shocking that science is slowly confirming many of the very core beliefs that Jesus and the Catholic Church have taught about what brings us happiness and fulfilling lives. Contrary to Hollywood’s incorrect take on religion as anti-science, Catholics believe religion and science are not in conflict but in unity for centuries. Certainly longer than most every current country on earth. Some of the most famous scientific discoveries such as physics (Newton), genetics (Gregory Mendel), and even the Big Bang (co-discoverer Fr. Georges Lemaître) were theists or religious who never saw a conflict with their faith – quite the contrary in almost all cases.

So when it comes to human behaviors and social trends, it should be no surprise that the teachings of Christ tell us how we should and shouldn’t act as well. What things bring division, hatred, destruction, and evil – and which bring joy, peace, and relationship. Give his talk a listen. Even if you don’t believe in God or don’t like the words ‘spiritual warfare’ – you should see that the core ideas and teaching are still correct whatever words you’d like to use.

Walking through Nineveh

Walking through Nineveh

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Reluctant Jonah is preaching to Nineveh. A story that captures the heart of the season of Lent. A city that is apparently embroiled in enough evil that its destruction appeared eminent.

Historically, there’s a lot of corroborating evidence for this story. Jonah is believed to have lived in the 9th-8th century BC. Nineveh was indeed a hugely growing and prosperous capital of the Assyrian empire all during the 8th and 7th centuries. During that period, it was the largest city in the world for about 50 years. It still exists today as the eastern half of the city of Mosul and is still called Nineveh by residents.

At the time of Jonah, the total area of Nineveh comprised about 7 square kilometers (1,730 acres), and had 15 great entrance gates. It had an elaborate system of 18 canals brought water from the hills to Nineveh from about 40 miles away. The city likely had around 100,000-150,000 residents. It housed a magnificent palace with at least 80 rooms with large numbers of tablets, sculptures, massive winged Mesopotamian lions weighing 30 tons, carved stone walls depicting historical scenes, and untold other art. The gardens of this palace are sometimes thought to be one of the ancient wonders of the world: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

When reflecting on this passage; I was caught by the fact it took 3 days to walk through the city while preaching. I tried to imagine what walking through a city like this must have been like. It very likely had many different neighborhoods and districts as today’s cities do. There was the grand palace and gardens. As center of the empire, there were likely all manner of legislative/government/military buildings. There were probably many temples and religious buildings. As an early center of trade routes up the Tigris, it likely had many kinds of markets and trade districts. There was likely financial districts, districts of homes/families/living areas. There were probably schools of all kinds. There were probably centers of fabrication, crafts, and trades of all kinds (pottery, leather, bronze, iron, etc). There was even probably red light districts. In short, every kind of area and part of daily life.

In reflection, I thought about the people who lived and worked in those areas. What must this been like to be at whatever you were doing and hearing his call of pending destruction? People engaged in business, education, prayer, cooking, etc. Things we do every day today. But wait, don’t I do those things too? My life isn’t that different than the parts of this city…

Just like Jonah’s walk through the city, maybe we too need to walk through all the districts of our life this Lent and preach repentance. Perhaps it’s a good time to sit down and reflect on our ‘financial district’. Are we using our money and treasures as God would intend? Do we tithe and support services to the poor? Do we give to organizations that follow Catholic social teaching and are financially transparent/responsible?

Maybe it’s time to proclaim repentance to our work and our ‘professional district’. What are my career goals and are they lead and guided by the teachings of Christ? Am I fair and honest in my dealings or have I embezzled or stolen money or property from work? Do I avoid slander, gossip, and maliciousness towards coworkers? Am I a servant leader or serve primarily myself and my desires? Do I spend enough time with my primary vocations to prayer and raising my family/supporting my spouse (if you have them) or do those take second seat to earning money or career advancement?

What about the district of my home? Am I present enough to the care of my family and home life? Do I get along with my neighbor? Do I help out with family chores and do my part? Do I nurture my relationships with those in my household? Am I estranged or holding grudges? Do I avoid spending time with them for my own pursuits?

What about my spiritual district? Do I pray enough? Is God really the center of my life, or only a side effort in my plans?

What about the hospital and food districts? Do I take care of myself and recognize my body is a temple of the Lord – or do I abuse it with dangerous activities, overeating, substance abuse, etc.

What about the educational district? Do I take time to grow in my wisdom, knowledge of scripture/God via good reading, or using my various gifts of intellect by developing them? Or do I consume endless social media and lower forms of entertainment that numb the mind?

What about the ‘red light district’ in our lives? Do we have hidden or secret lives we live (especially online, professionally, or in poor relationships)? Do I watch pornography, abuse substances for pleasure, engage in sex with people who are not my spouse? Are there things I do in private I would be embarrassed if others knew about?

Try to imagine all the districts in a big city near you – and all the different areas of life each city needs to serve. We too have these areas in our own lives. During Lent, it’s the perfect time to reflect on them all and let Jonah preach repentance to each part of our city.

In some number of days we too will reach the end of our lives and must make an account of how we spent them. But in Christ and during Lent we can visit the different districts of our life with prayer as the prophet. We can reflect and listen to any need for repentance. We can find forgiveness in the sacrament of confession, find the grace to make real changes for the better, and then find salvation and reunion with the God who loves us more than we love ourselves.

Finding of Jesus at the Temple

Finding of Jesus at the Temple

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:41-52

I wanted to share a recent reflection during some Lexio divina (divine reading in which we read; meditate; pray; contemplate).

This reading comes up early in the gospels, and is also the 5th joyful mystery of the rosary. In many meditations, I found myself drawn to how hard it was for His parents. Can you imagine the fear when by the end of the first day they realized Jesus wasn’t in the party and they needed to turn around? Then perhaps on the end of the second day when they were likely asking everyone they passed, not finding Him, then needing to end their second night without any luck? Those must have been terribly frightening and restless nights. Then the third day when they finally found Him – perhaps when they had exhausted the obvious places in Jerusalem and went to the Temple to pray for help. We can imagine all the feelings and fear they had when looking for Jesus – many of the same fears, struggles, and disappointments we sometimes get while trying to find God in our own lives – only to find him in prayer/sacraments when we come to our wits end and stop relying only on ourselves.

We can also focus spiritually on this as a prefiguring of Jesus’ three days in the tomb. Or perhaps as a mirror of our journey through Lent in which we search for Jesus in our lives during Lent/his 3 days in the tomb, only to find him at the resurrection at Easter. We find He has passed on to His Father’s heavenly house where we finally find Him.

But in a recent reflection, I found myself focusing on what Jesus must have experienced.

I got lost once in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on a family trip when I was about 10 years old. I got completely captivated playing with a set of really cool mechanical gear displays. (It turns out someone else liked them too and put a recording up on Youtube.) I think playing with these displays was one of the first really big moments when I got fascinated in engineering. It was definitely a formative moment for me and hit a chord that lead me down the roads of math and sciences.

After being completely captivated with workings for a long time, I turned around and realized the rest of my family wasn’t there. I tried to find them but didn’t know where they’d gone. A couple saw my peril and took me to the central desk. They pinged my parents on the intercom. It turns out I was only a room away from them. It was only for a few minutes but with 5 kids they didn’t notice I wasn’t still in the gaggle of kids in the crowd, nor had I notice they had moved on. I think every parent/child has had this experience.

I was reflecting on this reading and that memory surfaced with all the feelings at the time. Perhaps Jesus was also completely captivated by the Temple and felt a powerful connection to His Father. The passage says they went every year, but this particular year Jesus must have been drawn especially for some reason. Perhaps it was like Samuel who is called while in the house of the Lord where the ark was kept.

I think we all have these moments of being completely captivated by something so that everything else falls away. For me as a kid it was those fascinating mechanical workings – to the point I didn’t even realize I’d ‘lost’ my family. In later years, praying with the blessed sacrament was the place I found an even more profound captivation and sense of place, home, and real peace in my heart. In those moments, there was nowhere else I could imagine being. Maybe Jesus experienced this at the age of 12 as He was captivated by His Father’s house and spent time there until He’d completely missed the fact his parents had left. I certainly have felt that kind of complete absorption in prayer at times.

But what about first night? Where’d He stay? Or the second night? Where did He get food? I get the feeling this might have been the very first awakenings of turning to and trusting in His heavenly Father to provide everything He needed. At some point as the evening fell, He must have realized his parents were gone. Perhaps He decided to stay where He most felt at home – the Temple where He was in His Father’s presence – the only place Jesus could imagine being. Perhaps He slept in the doorway or inside the Temple itself. Perhaps people gave Him bread and food the second day. While being there, He probably met the scribes and priests and started asking questions.

Jesus speaks very matter of fact to His parents about this. I think many parents have asked kids why they did something and children also state such wisdom and reasoning so matter of fact. I also wonder that this was probably a huge formative moment in which He, and all of us, learn that we can and need to completely trust our heavenly Father to provide what we need. Jesus seemed to think all His answers, material needs, and place was with His Father.

Do we find ways to turn to God in our day – as the one place we come back to again and again no matter what goes on in life? Do we return to God in prayer as the one place we find refuge during the great joys, the quiet times, the worried times, and even times of feeling completely lost?