Aug
20

Camel shoving.

camel_up_closeI have never tried to shove a camel through the eye of a needle.  I have never tried to shove any kind of livestock through anything, really.  A piece of thread seems difficult enough to me.  There are enough impossible situations in our daily lives that camel shoving has fallen rather low on the list of priorities.

Impossible is a curious word.  It simply means, “There is no possibility.”  So when Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 19:23-30 that it is impossible for them to be saved, I’ll bet there was a bit of drama.  You could probably hear that needle drop with no camel attached.

The disciples immediately look to their own commitments.  “We left our homes for you!”  “We have been camping out for years with you!”  “We have given up everything for you!” “I don’t even like all this walking!” We, Us, I, …etc.

Jesus is a master communicator and sometimes not only the king of kings, but the king of bluntness.  He responds simply.  “For God, all things are possible.”

It is impossible for you to go to heaven.  It is impossible for you to love.  It is impossible for you to breathe…without him.

Possibility comes from the creator.  Our relationships and our way of life are made apparent by the undeserved grace of the lover of lovers and the master of creation itself. We want a reward but we have not really deserved it.  Thank God for God.

It is possible for me to love my daughters today because of Christ.  It is possible for me to work today because the king extended himself to me.  It is possible for me to reflect on his glory because his glory reigns among his creation.

Possibility comes from recognition of this truly one-sided humble relationship I am in called “faith.”

Grab your needle today and go steer that camel right at it.  Laugh at the impossible challenges at work and defy gravity.  If he can own your heart and heal you of your brokenness, nothing is impossible.

Not just today, but for eternity.

 

Aug
19

Sell your stuff.

Sell your stuff.

Recently, my wife and I decided to sell our home.  A buyer emerged and had the home inspected.  Inspection discovered mold in our attic that had been growing there for years.  Mold removal ended up costing us the entire sum of our equity in the home and most of our life savings.  This is the synopsis of my summer thus far.

I love summer.  I mean, I really love summer.  I usually make a ton of plans.  My kids practically live in their swimsuits and I relish the pretty intense tan.  We do swim lessons, camping trips, outdoor hobbies…the works.

Enter destructive home selling escapade.

All of our plans this summer were disrupted.  Bank accounts were drained and reservations were cancelled.  Silver lining?

I have never felt so much frustration with life as I did in the past two months.  It seemed just as things could not get worse for my wife and I, Murphy reared its ugly head and poked us in the eyes.

Okay, enough whining.

Isn’t it amazing how we can let our reality dictate everything about us?  Our routine gets thwarted and we plummet into self.  Our expectations our dashed and suddenly we are single centered victims peering into hopelessness.   And, we call ourselves believers in undeserved saving grace?

Self is no place to make a living.  Matthew 19:16-22 tells the story of the rich young man.  He wants to be a disciple and knows all the rules (the commandments).  He even tells Jesus to his face how he has got the rules mastered…well done.  Christ probably smiled, peered deeply into the fellow’s heart and thought to himself, “Oh, I see exactly what is keeping you from letting me own your heart, it’s your stuff.”  Boom!

Jesus asks the guy, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all your stuff.”  Why?

We paid for the mold mitigation and found a beautiful new home.  We are starting over financially in our late thirties and it is really frustrating.  This is our new reality, but it is a Jesus centered one.  Our stuff is spread out all over the place and much of it is being given away.  This is liberating.  This is the way of discipleship.

We can’t seek perfection without seeking Jesus.  Jesus first.  He doesn’t want us to be perfect; he wants us to be his.  Saints were sinner too.  Saints had a lot of stuff they needed to get rid of in order to more fully pursue holiness…hello St. Francis!. Our stuff doesn’t make us who we are.  We are his.  He is our home. Lets all get our priorities in order on this summer day.

Apr
8

Preach the Gospel at all times using words…did I get that right?

st_francis_preaching_to_the_birds-400

“Preach the Gospel always, use words when necessary.”  This quote attributed to St. Francis has been on many coffee mugs and the tongues of ministers for years.  It feels good to say and it generally inspires a young audience to attempts at authentic witness.  The challenge here is relatively simple.  At some point you have to say something.  You have to actually utter the words “Jesus Christ” to someone in order to be a genuine teacher of the faith.  I know, crazy right?

I think St. Francis would find the quote amusing.  After all, he and his brother friars preached constantly.  When no one would listen, they would start teaching the animals.  This is a lot like working with Junior High youth.  Kidding.  Sort of.

St. Francis would look you in the eye and say, “Speak up when speaking of Jesus.”  After all, he was never ordained a priest because he felt himself unworthy but he did become a deacon because he so desperately longed to PREACH the Gospel. (Emphasis mine, sort of).

Evangelization is a crazy word.  The concept literally encapsulates the notion that a believer is willing to spread the good news.  For this to work, the believer must first want to express their personal witness.  You wouldn’t believe how hard this is for folks.

Mother Teresa tells us:

“Just allow people to see Jesus in you, to see how you lead a pure life, to see how you deal with your family, to see how much peace there is in your family. Then you can look straight into their eyes and say, this is the way.”

Evangelization must always have its roots in prayer. We cannot share what we do not have.  If all we have is us and we are never inviting Christ in, then what good news are we really sharing?  Ours? In order to know Jesus and speak about our hope in the Resurrection we have to nurture our own faith using the tools we have been given. Jesus promised He would not abandon us.  This is kind of important.

“And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you. “I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you.” John 14:16-18

So here are some ideas to help get you rolling:

  • PRAY!
  • Continue to study Scripture and the teachings of our Catholic Faith (Catechism). You can’t preach what you don’t know.
  • Ask the Lord for opportunities to witness and evangelize.  This usually means being open to opportunities outside your comfort zone.
  • Ask the Lord for His courage, joy, wisdom, words, sensitivity and gentleness and above all humility!  It is not your good news, but his.
  • Draw people with genuine friendliness and warmth—be a friend first.
  • Be Christ to each person you meet.  This usually demands a great deal of prayerful thought.
  • Share the good that God has done for you—how He has gotten you through difficult times and is evident in the joyful times.
  • Offer to pray for people—and then do it! Then check in with them to see how they are doing.

Above all remember that evangelization is God’s work! It is not about us– it is not to be seen or chalked up as an accomplishment on our part.  We have nothing to offer but ourselves.  We are at our best when we are filled with him because we invited him to consume us.  We are just the tools that He works through. So it is important to study, pray and prepare ourselves so that He can use us and then we need to allow him to work!

Apr
5

Naked old men.

Old-man-exercise-cancerMy wife and I joined a health club two years ago.  I never thought that exercise would become a part of my life.  Sticking with a diet of nachos, raman noodles, frozen burritos and sugar cereal served me well in college.  Why not now?

Upon arriving at the club for the first time, I remember being intimidated by all the people running around (literally) looking like they know exactly what they are doing and the exact allotted amount of time it will take to do it.  I felt lost.  It took me a while to find my groove.  I researched the exercises that would help me build muscle and play kick ball with my kids without passing out.  I found the machines that didn’t cause excessive soreness and I began to “work out.”

I never would have expected to find it so enjoyable.  There is something unbelievable about exercise that frees your mind to wander and inquire introspectively.  I began to crave my time at the club as an escape.  I starting eating better also.  I heard diet has something to do with being healthy, so I gave in.  Then something unexpected happened.

Usually when I exercise, I throw in the earphones, tune out the world and get to work on the rowing machine.  This limits chit chat and allows me to be productive in my limited amount of time.  In the locker room, however, headphones are out and one cannot help but overhear ever conversation happening within a 20 foot radius.  You would be amazed at the depth of conversation that  middle aged business man will have while standing stark naked with a cell phone in his hand and a towel (covering nothing) around his neck.  It never ceases to amaze me. Middle aged naked white people have a fearless sense of self when it comes to locker rooms.  Who knew this?

Some of the older guys with lockers around mine have become friends.  They find what I do fascinating and always ask about my kids. I inquire about their business dealings and the lates gossip from Kiwanis club.  The mutual interest in each other’s lives is born out of an environment of total vulnerability.  What else are you going to do when you are getting dressed but check up on a guy’s racquetball game and get advice about replacing your roof?  Don’t answer that.

For me, the brief locker room chats are a kind of spiritual direction.  More than ten times an old timer will respond to my griping by saying something like, “Don’t worry about it son, you are young and this is nothing.”  You can read that line in a thousand books or hear it from plenty of friends, but it just means something more when a stranger can look you in the eye and wish you well.  You know they are sincere because they have been there and done that.

I’m glad my poor health choices drove me to a small town health club with a lot of personality.  I am blessed to be exposed (pun intended) to such an array of wisdom. I hope someday I can be a guy listening well and encouraging a younger person.  Preferably while I am clothed.

Apr
2

Sabermetric Messiah

Baseball creatorLast night I curled up on the couch with my ten year old daughter and watched the opening night of the baseball season for my beloved Mariners.  It was a blast.  They won by the way. My daughter understands some of the ins and outs of the game.  She enjoys a great defensive play and cheers on a pitcher that can throw the high heat.

Baseball is a game of tremendous skill.  There is no clock. The athletes are not brutes.  On the contrary, a great baseball player can look like a short junior high PE teacher (David Eckstein) or an executive administrator (Greg Maddux) and still dominate the game.  I love this.

It is also a game of intense statistical analysis.

Earnshaw Cook, Bill James and David Grabiner are just a few of the names of folks that have revolutionized keeping statistics on the national past time.  James coined his brand of statistical analysis “sabermetrics” essentially taking baseball mathematics to a whole new level.  He wanted to properly reward the players on the field for their accomplishments.  This is a good thing. Recognizing the limits of traditional statistics like Earned Run Average (ERA), Runs Batted In (RBI) and the average Errror, James sought a more specific measuring tool in assessing the value of a player.  For example, how often a player gets on base (On Base Percentage) give a better measure of their offensive value than their batting average.  A pitchers WHIP (Walks = Hits per innings Pitched) measures more accurately how a pitcher can contribute to a loss than how many runs they gave up.  Its fascinating.

The other side of the baseball coin is the age old human side of things.  “This guy has a great looking swing,” a manager might say about a young player.  You can see the potential in a player or you get a gut feeling about their skill set.  How do you measure the presence that a player has in the locker room as a leader or a distraction.  Statistically a player can be great, but is he great when the team needs him most.  Do all of his hits or walks come when the team is up 7-0 in the bottom of the 8th inning or is he a clutch hero. Is the player destined for a long career because of a healthy lifestyle or are they relying on pure talent only to stay in the league for a brief stint?

Sabermetrics and gut feelings make up the method to the madness of coaching/managing baseball.  Isn’t this the way of the spirit as well?

I am so thankful that our creator knows everything about us.   He can quantify our every move and measure our giftedness.  Our contribution to the good of humanity is a complicated equation with millions of variables.  Our purpose  thrives on our make up to gauge and measure, asses and discern possibilities.  So why have the cross?

We have potential.  God is for us.  He wants us to succeed.  We are built for sainthood and little less.  Our bodies glorify creation and destroy it.  We can get by or we can revolutionize with our actions.  Human touch and the will to succeed is what drives us into relationships with infinite possibilities. The human heart is immeasurable.

We are a beautiful combination of mind and body.  Together our humanity includes quantifiable worth with infinite value.  This is the relationship I have with my kids and certainly the one I strive for with Christ.  I love what my daughter is and who she can become.  This love is virtually inseparable. I know Christ  knows me and I know he loves me.  He can see my errors but he always…and I mean always…believes in my potential.

So, encounter spirituality in your life with both mind and body.  Seek perfection and settle on the inherent value of your human qualities   Most importantly, just get in the game and beware of the hight heater (that a fastball for all you non-fans).