Join us as we see where God is present in our lives. We most definitely aren't walking with Him in the Garden of Eden despite the fact that so many are shedding clothes instead of covering themselves up. However I am willing to bet that God is closer to us than we think and that He has genuinely planted truth in the flesh of our hearts.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Ben Zobrist: Giving it to God

It’s not too often that you find a celebrity who is famous for anything other than their crude behavior in the national light.  It’s not too often that you find fans who are interested in the personality of their “idol” rather than their stats, outfits, or hair.  I cannot tell you the number of people I know, who would “just die” if they got the chance to be in the same car as the Jersey Shore crew of pirates. (Because they Drink, Smoke, Fight, have sex with anyone that has two legs and is a, “Juice-Head Guido”). 

But maybe it’s time we became real fans. 

In 2008 the Tampa Bay Rays went to the World Series, and Ben Zobrist was a benchwarmer, with a batting average of .253, with 30 runs batted in, 12 homers, and 3 stolen bases.  But in 2009 his number were sparked to life with a batting average of .297, 91 runs batted in, 27 homers, and 17 stolen bases thus earning his nickname “ZORILLA”.  These are some staggering numbers especially for one offseason and he still gives it all to God.  Now THAT is a true celebrity.   

Baseball, America’s favorite pastime is one of my favorite sports.  Ben “ZORILLA” Zobrist, first baseman, second baseman, shortstop, and outfielder for the Tampa Bay Rays, has been one of the more successful professional athletes in America, and whether you know it or not, he gives it all to God.  His wife, Julianna Zobrist, is a Christian singer and has performed at many of the Tampa Bay Rays games along with other baseball games and events. 

So often we hear about professional athletes and other celebrities getting themselves into trouble for doing things that, let’s just face it, aren’t normal.  Plaxico Burress Shot himself in the leg…while at a nightclub.  Lindsay Lohan has easily fallen off the deep end, after stealing jewelry… while on probation.  Miley Cyrus is turning out to be just another Britney Spears, and she is the reason I do not believe in young stars.  Well maybe it is time we became fans of real celebrities, people who care and are setting good examples.       

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Knicks Blockbuster Carmelo Anthony Trade

This has been a historical month for the New York Knicks. Not too long ago, the Knicks were one of the most embarrassing organizations in professional sports. Part of the reason why I could never get into the NBA was because of how pathetic the Knicks have been for so long. Now all of a sudden they add not only Amar’e Stoudemire but also Carmelo Anthony and they are a real basketball team again. This mega deal for Carmelo Anthony has really gotten NYC excited about the Knicks for the first time in a long time.

So yeah, ‘Melo gets to play in the big city, New Yorkers get to watch one of the NBA’s biggest stars…this trade really seemed like a win for everyone, right? Well not exactly…there’s one person who is not happy about the trade. It’s a story that hasn’t made the headlines because it ruins the “perfect situation” that the ‘Melo trade was supposed to create. Here’s the story…


Basically the article says that Chauncey Billups was the forgotten man in this “perfect trade.” Unlike many professional athletes, the most important thing in Billups’ life is not his stat line or his contract. No, what matters most to Chauncey Billups is his family. Being able to finish his career in Denver, his hometown, was Chauncey’s dream. Finally he could settle his family down and not force his kids to move to another new school. Keep in mind this is a man who a few years ago refused to play for Team USA one summer so that he could be a stay at home dad for his newborn daughter. Chauncey Billups is a real class act, a real family man, and it is unfortunate that he had no choice but to move across the country. This was touch for Chauncey, as well as the whole Billups family. I truly feel for them and I pray that God may help them get through this difficult transition.

Although this trade created an unpleasant, almost depressing, situation for Chauncey and his family, I have no doubt that Chauncey will play his heart out in New York. He is a truly good man and will give nothing short of his best effort to his new team. He is a great man, and a good leader, the New York Knicks are lucky to have him.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pretty Little Liars – Created or Learned Evil?

Pretty Little Liars fans have enjoyed, or maybe even hated, the havoc that the dreaded “A” has been bringing to the lives of Aria, Spencer, Emily, and Hannah. “A” just won’t seem to leave them alone, and is quite literally destroying their lives. Whoever “A” is, and believe me I’m dying to know who it is, he/she seems to be downright evil…almost like Allison herself. As the episodes progress and we learn more about Allison, she seems more evil by the minute. Did she ever do anything that wasn’t manipulative towards one of her “friends?” Both “A” and Allison seem to be straight up evil characters that the world would be better without.

This past Monday’s episode brought up the question “Are some people born evil, or do they learn it?” The episode seemed to leave the question open, perhaps leaning slightly on the side of people being born evil. I mean I don’t remember “A” or Allison ever doing anything good, could there be any good in them at all? I think we also have people like this in our own lives. Think about it…is there anyone you know that you just can’t seem to find any good in? We all have “enemies” in our lives: a.k.a. the person that always makes my life more difficult. Wouldn’t it just be so much easier if he/she would just disappear?

Yeah…unfortunately we all have people like this in our lives, it’s impossible to have a perfect relationship with everyone, but the question remains “Are some people born evil, or do they learn it?” Luckily for us, the bible gives us a very clear answer to this question. Going back to the very first chapter of the book of Genesis we see that “God looked at everything he had made and found it very good” (Gen 1:31). God doesn’t create evil. God was pleased with all of his creation. However, when God creates humans he takes this goodness to another level, “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). God created us with a goodness beyond that of everything else. He made us in his own image and likeness. We are more like God than any other creature on the planet. Could any human person be born evil? The book of Genesis would say absolutely not, God does not create evil.

This is a concept that Jesus understood perfectly. In the Gospels he tells us very clearly “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44). People who appear to be our “enemies” are still good at their core; they were still made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore Jesus decides to challenge us here to look past the external things makes someone appear to be an “enemy”, and see the goodness of God within that person. People like “A”, or Allison, or that person in our lives that just doesn’t seem capable of doing any good in their lives are still beloved children of God. Despite their sins, God loves that person enough to die on the cross for him/her. Loving our enemies is not an easy thing, but as St. Paul says “I have the strength for everything though Him who empowers me” (Philippians 4:13).

“Heavenly Father, thank you for creating me, for giving me life, for making me in your own image and likeness. You never fail to show your unending love for me, and for all of humanity. Help me, guide me, strengthen me as I try to follow Christ’s teaching and love my enemies. Help me to see those around me, especially those that I find the hardest to love, as you see them, as beloved sons and daughters.”

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Justin Bieber - Pray

So unless you've been living under a rock the last few months you'll know that Justin Bieber has become one of the hottest musical artists around. Whether you like Bieber or not you probably know his two most popular songs, "Baby" and "Somebody to Love." However, one of his less popular songs is this one...and it's so beautiful and incredibly profound. I'll let it speak for itself...

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Rite

Newest exorcism movie, “The Rite”, is about a young seminarian, Michael Kovak, whose lack of faith leads him to the Vatican, where he takes a two month course about exorcisms. While in the Vatican, he is instructed to become the new apprentice of Fr. Lucas, (Anthony Hopkins), who is an experienced veteran exorcist and has successfully completed thousands of exorcisms. Through demonic experiences while with Fr. Lucas, Michael finally finds true faith.
While this movie is based on the true story of Fr. Gary Thomas, real life Catholic priest from the Diocese of San Jose, California, it has been twisted to fit the big screen.
Many Catholic Christians in this modern day Church are afraid of the topic of demons and exorcisms. It is somewhat of a taboo topic, driving most Christians to stay away from movies like “The Rite”. Some Christians do not even believe in demons, Satan, or the power of evil.
“He who does not believe in the devil, does not believe in the Gospel.” Pope John Paul II
Whether we like it or not, Satan is real, and his demons, and evil forces are very active in this culture of death that our whole world seems to have accepted as the “norm”. As our recently passed Holy Father points out in the quote above, the devil is very much alive, and we must know this, accept it, and use our belief in the Gospel to fight it. The salvation message in the Gospel alone should be enough for us to combat the evil forces active in our society. But as if that weren’t enough God gave us the Holy Spirit, and as Catholic Christians, we are baptized, we are temples of Christ. As shown in the movie, possessions are real, but “Be not afraid”, for your temple is full, it is full of the power of Jesus Christ, and the Holy spirit. And as if that was not enough, God gave us the Eucharist, and when we consume the Body of Christ, there is no possible way, that our body could share a Christ and a demon. For Christ is more powerful than Satan can ever be; it says in James 2:19:
“You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble.”
So while we have good reason to fear the devil, we have even more reason to not be afraid, to embrace Jesus Christ and the message he brings in the Gospel. Open your hearts to Christ and nothing can stop you.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

When in Rome - Free to Love

Every so often I love a good chick flick, hence today’s post of When in Rome. It’s probably not winning any Oscars, but I thought it was pretty good. Basically what happens is this woman named Beth (played by Kristen Bell) takes some coins out of a magical fountain of love in Rome, causing the men who threw those coins in the fountain to fall in love with her. Of course these guys are all awkwardly creepy and begin to obsess over this beautiful woman because they are under this extremely strong magical spell. The big twist comes when Beth herself falls in love with this guy Nick (played by Josh Duhamel), and he obviously loves her too, but Beth thinks the only reason he loves her is because one of those coins, more specifically a poker chip, that came out of the fountain belonged to him. Here arises a moral dilemma: do you take advantage of the “spell”, are acknowledge that the love is not real because he did not freely will it. The question is; can true love be forced on someone. Luckily for us, Beth makes the right decision, providing us with this beautiful quote…

“If I take his love against his will, it is not love at all”

This perfectly reflects one beautiful aspect of God’s love for us. God has blessed each and every one of us with free will, we are all free to choose to accept God as our Lord and Savior or to reject him and follow the ways of selfishness and sin. Sometimes, especially in our world today where sin seems to be everywhere, it’s easy to imagine a world without free will, a world where everyone had no choice but to worship God and follow his commands. Such a world would be a world without war, murder, rape, pornography, a world where kids obeyed their parents, everyone went to mass, spent their lives worshiping God, etc. What a peaceful place the world would be!

The thing is that in order to obtain this “perfect earthly world”, individual free will would have to be sacrificed. However, just as Beth tells us in this movie love that is not freely willed is not true love. If God did not bless us with a free will, allow us the opportunity to freely accept him ourselves, rather than him force his love upon us, God would not be a loving father, but rather an oppressive dictator. God IS love, all love comes from God; therefore God is also the example of perfect love itself. Just think how much richer, deeper, truer our relationship with God is because it is freely offered and not forced. We are not God’s robots programmed just the way he wants us to be, no…we are God’s beloved sons and daughters. Though we will run away from our Father in Heaven at times, we know his love is always there for us, always being freely given to us.

“Lord God, thank you again for the blessing of our relationship. It humbles me so much to think about how you, the eternal amazing God of the universe, would desire a real, personal relationship with me. You never stop offering me your unending love. Help me to freely respond to your gift of love, to show my gratitude through acts of worship to you alone, and charity to my brothers and sisters.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I'm sure you guys are tired of long posts, so I'll keep this one short.

Companionship is a vital part to life. It is through relationships that you learn to communicate and to love (as well as many other things). To love means you are willing to give of yourself and that you are willing to receive someone else's gift to you. As you grow in love you grow in selflessness, willing to give completely of yourself.

In life you will be the singer of Umbrella, singing words of comfort, hope, and encouragement to a friend. Other times you will be that friend hearing someone offer you shelter. both moments are necessary in life, but let's not over look them.

Take a moment to thank God for your friends and loved ones who you stand under an umbrella with. Thank your friends for opening their umbrella up to you. Embrace those relationships that get you through the day.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Glee - Instruments of God's Love

I was thinking the other day why is it that I love Glee so much…why do I get so incredibly passionate about some crazy TV show? Why do I get so emotional and obsessed with this seemingly never-ending musical drama? The answer is simple: besides the fact that this show is riddled with Nuggets of Truth, I love putting myself in the place of the characters. At times I see myself as Quinn: the one who falls and goes through so much pain as she tries to pick herself up just to eventually fall again, Artie: the one who knows he’s as talented as everyone else but has to keep pushing through his physical limitations, as Puck: who is so truly good at heart but whose passions lead him off target at times, etc. I love feeling the pain, as well as the joy, of each character as they journey throughout the episodes. Tuesday night’s episode of Glee really hit home during two very intense scenes. However, for the purpose of this post I’ll just focus on one of them…

In the closing minutes of the episode Rachel suggests that New Directions should sing an original song written by them for regionals, rather than the My Chemical Romance song they just practiced. However, Rachel is unanimously outvoted by her teammates leaving her feeling like an outsider: alone and unappreciated. Next, Finn approaches Rachel in private and tells her that he not only agrees that they should do an original song, but that Rachel should be the one to write it. Rachel, who just had her self confidence shattered, asks Finn “You really believe in me that much?” Finn simply smiles at her and replies “more.” He then takes a few steps, turns back to Rachel, and tells her how much he likes Rachel when she is herself, when she is unafraid to let herself shine even when other people may not like it. With this newfound confidence Rachel simply smiles and begins to tear as the episode ends. It really was one of the most beautiful and emotional scenes I’ve ever seen.

In this scene I find it very easy, especially recently, to see myself as Rachel. I know what it feels like to be unanimously outvoted by your friends on something close to your heart. I know what it feels like to feel alone, like the outsider. I know what it’s like to feel as though your opinion doesn’t count because you come from a different perspective. It’s not a fun place to be. It’s a feeling of complete loneliness, a loneliness that can kill anyone’s self esteem.

However, I also know how incredible Rachel must have felt after her conversation with Finn. To hear that Finn believes in her, that he loves her for her gifts and talents even if they may be different and unpopular at times, gave Rachel the self confidence she needed to actually smile and not be afraid to be herself. I’ve been there quite recently in fact, and I know how dangerously wounded Rachel’s heart would have been had Finn not been there to instill that confidence in her.

When we feel alone and lost, God will often send us his loving presence through those around us. He chooses to use us ordinary people to be instruments of his extraordinary love. Though, we Christians are called to not only be recipients of this love, but to be “distributors” of it as well. The thing is we have to be open and willing to allow him to work through us. Seemingly simple and ordinary conversations could in actuality be a communication of God’s love that someone desperately needs, like in this example with Rachel and Finn. Am I aware of this incredible power? Am I aware that if I allow God to live in and through me that he will use me to bring his love to those around me? I have the power to have a real, true impact on the lives of those around me. Rachel really needed that “vote of confidence” from Finn, is there anyone around me that needs a little “pick me up?” Remember, that “little pick me up” could mean far more to that person than you ever realize, it could mean allowing that person to experience the love of God during a time of real loneliness.

“Lord Jesus, during your Earthly life you always brought comfort and love to those who really needed to experience the loving presence of God. Help me to be more aware of the fact that you want to use me in the same way to spread your love to those around me. I want to be nothing more than your humble servant, use me as you wish to spread your love to those who feel far from you.”

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jersey Shore - Objective Truth

I think it’s time to head back to the Jersey Shore for another golden nugget. This past Thursday we saw two and a half seasons worth of frustration between Sammy and Ronny finally blow up. Ronny’s anger literally exploded as he trashed all of Sammy’s stuff, throwing most of it (including her bed) out onto the porch. I can’t even describe how ridiculous this fight was. The one thing I can say though is that watching the epicness of this fight probably either had you laughing your butt off, or feeling really bad that Sammy and Ronny are simply incapable of love, or even respect. I’m also willing to bet that if you watched this episode you got so caught up in the ridiculousness of the fight that you missed an incredibly profound quote by Mike…yes Mike the Situation…while he was commenting on everything that was going on. If you don’t believe me, you can watch the episode again on mtv.com, it happens around the 32nd minute.

“Ironically Ron called Sam every curse under the sun and destroyed all of her stuff. Ron had been pissed at me for…guy code…it’s like, you know, where’s general human code?”

General human code…so what Mike’s saying here is that what Ronny is doing to Sam is completely unjustifiable. There is something about the way he is treating her that is inherently wrong. Mike cites no biblical or philosophical evidence for his statement, just that he’s going against “General Human Code.”

The Catholic Church would call Mike’s “General Human Code” the NATURAL LAW. It is because of the Natural Law that we believe in the principle called objective moral truth. In short, this means just what Mike said: that some things are just wrong no matter what the situation, no matter your personal opinion, etc. In this instance, Mike said that treating a human being like Ron treated Sam would be wrong no matter what. The Church would add things like abortion, murder, premarital sex, etc. to this list. However, the important thing is that we must acknowledge that such a thing as objective morality exists!

Throughout the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, he has continually stressed that the greatest danger plaguing the world is Moral Relativism: the idea that objective morality doesn’t exist, that each person must decide for himself/herself what is right and wrong. The thing is moral relativism repeats the same sin that Adam and Eve committed way back in the beginning of Genesis. They refused to accept that God is greater and smarter than they could ever be, and disobeyed the one law God gave them (eating the fruit). Through moral relativism we humans also try to make ourselves gods, thinking that we know better than the infinitely perfect God that created the universe. Rather than try to make ourselves gods, we humans should embrace what God made us to be, his beloved sons and daughters. We have the most perfect father in heaven looking after us that we could ever imagine…should we not trust that when he asks us not to do something it must be for our benefit?

“Thank you God for being a father to me, for loving me as your own beloved son/daughter. Help be to trust in your greatness, to trust that you know what’s best for me. Help me to see and obey the moral law, the natural law that you placed in my heart. Through my humble obedience, allow me to grow in holiness that I may one day live in your eternal paradise.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Ke$ha Geaze What a Sleaze!

Anyone who listens to her music will tell you that Ke$ha is a party person focused on alcohol and sex. Her lyrics don't hide this. She's brushing her "teeth with a bottle of Jack", she "[takes] it off" and she asks someone to "put a little love in [her] glove box". These are pretty convincing arguments to write Ke$ha off as a tramp, but who are we to judge her.

The other day Travis was telling me about a little epiphany he had on judgment. He told me something along the lines of, "We can judge an action as being good or bad. However a person we cannot judge because they are more than just their actions." This further reminded me that it is not our place to judge someone as good or evil for we don't know the depths of their hearts like God our Father does. We can judge their actions, we can judge their book by it's cover. But to truly judge and write them off as good or evil is not our place. We don't know the words that span the pages of their life's book.

I will admit that I wrote Ke$ha off as a skank based solely upon her songs on the radio and their related music videos. Given that's a lot of evidence to back up my judgment, however all that evidence focuses upon one aspect. Even worse is that Ke$ha is probably just the messenger. Those lyrics and music videos are probably someone else's ideas. Today, in boredom, I found an unpopular song by Ke$ha that made me realize that she's more than what I wrote her off as.

The song: "Dancing with Tears in my Eyes"

The lyrics to this song tell a whole different story than her other songs. This song is reflective upon her actions. She doesn't just throw caution to the wind.  For once she seems to realize that her actions have consequences which tells me she's searching for truth just like any of us. She just gets misguided... Frequently. Which is still like us. We sin, we screw up. But we learn and I would say Ke$ha has too.

"Dancing with Tears in my Eyes" to me is a reflection on an occasion of sin or a lapse in judgment, whatever you wish to call it. She "wasted the love of [her] life" by her actions. Though the specific action is never stated, we can assume it's something detrimental to the relationship and not leaving the toilet seat up. She lost her love, her life, all because of sin. Haven't we done the same thing to God? Don't we put ourselves in situations where "with every move [we] die?" Then don't we "fight to get through the night."

What you should take away from this song is that we fall short. We are human. But God still loves us. Notice with in the lyrics it is Ke$ha who gives up, not her love. God doesn't want us "on the floor... just a zombie". He wants us to grow in him and in his love! He wants us to recognize that we need to change. That's why we get those moments when we realize who we are is not who we want to be. Don't be like Ke$ha and feel like your "in pieces left behind." Allow God to make you whole. Allow him to mold you and work with you.

In the end, can you really judge people like Ke$ha? No. You never know when she will see her faults and short comings and then turn around and seek forgiveness. She obviously has started to realize there are consequences for her actions, hopefully that will be enough for change.

My challenge to you is to reflect upon where you are in life. Are you pleased with the life you're living? Is God pleased? Maybe it's your turn to change. Maybe it's time to stop judging people based on their cover and start trying to understand what's on their heart.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Harry Potter - The Power of Love

Being the big Harry Potter fan that I am, I love reading about all the incredibly powerful forms of magic used throughout the series. There’s so many amazing spells that go on throughout the books including transfiguration, flying, potion making, Harry’s favorite “Expecto Patronum”, and even the three “Unforgivable Curses.” However, there is one type of magic in the Harry Potter series that is unquestionably the strongest and most powerful. It is the magic that protects Harry from the evil Lord Voldemort throughout his life.

This mysterious, powerful magic that Lord Voldemort will never understand is love, but not just any love…this incredibly powerful magic is sacrificial love. Going all the way back to the night Voldemort tried to kill Harry; we find that before Voldemort could get to Harry he had to kill both James and Lily Potter, Harry’s parents. However, if we look at Lily’s death specifically, we find that Lily didn’t just accept the inevitable death coming her way, but really honestly truly desired to die so that her son Harry could live. Her love was sacrificial; it was so profound and true that she wished to die so that her son may have life. What happens next? Voldemort is unable to kill the tiny infant Harry with the most powerful killing curse known to the wizarding world. Then, when Harry and Voldemort are reunited eleven years later, through Voldemort’s parasitic relationship with Professor Quirrell, Quirrell/Voldemort can’t even bear to touch Harry’s skin. The sacrificial love that Lily Potter had for her son was infinitely stronger than any dark magic that Lord Voldemort could conjure.

This is a principle that needs no analogy or metaphor to enlighten our faith life. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us very clearly “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus Christ is the living example of this verse. He loved us enough to sacrifice his own life so that we may no longer endure spiritual death, but live eternally with God. Like Lily Potter’s love for her son, Jesus’ incredible love for us is a love that will always triumph over the powers of sin and death. If we stay close to Christ and really allow his love to work in our lives, we need not worry about the powers of Satan; we simply need to trust in the eternal love and mercy of God.

Harry is clearly a recipient of his mother’s love, as we are recipients of God’s love, but Harry doesn’t just accept his mother’s love and stop there. Harry takes the example that his mother gave him and continually sacrifices himself for the good of those around him. In just about every book/movie Harry seems to be risking his life for the sake of his friends, as well as the wizarding world as a whole. In the same way, we are called to not only receive God’s gift of perfect love through the cross and resurrection, but to share that love with everyone we meet. We are called to be signs and bearers of Christ’s love. We are called to sacrifice ourselves, just as Christ did, for our friends, families, and neighbors.

“Lord Jesus through your cross and resurrection you have shown us that true love is sacrificial love. Thank you for being such a perfect example of love in our world. Help me to love those around me with that same inclination towards self sacrifice that you had. I know that this will be an incredibly difficult task, but I also believe that with your grace anything is possible. Allow the love I spread to those around me help them, as well as myself, to grow closer to you.”

Monday, February 7, 2011

Part II: Katy Perry's Firework

To recap what was said last Friday: music reflects the views, opinions, and desires of a culture. Katy Perry expresses her desire for a lasting love in her song "Teenage Dream" but losses hope and settles for a fleeting love that launches itself towards lust. Our generation wants to experience a sacrificial love but are afraid of commitment and the work that needs to go into giving of one's self. I'd even say our generation has lost sight of the gift of life and with that our sexuality. We've devalued ourselves.

Why is it that we are so afraid of commitment and giving of ourselves?

We've made ourselves out to be fragile people. We are afraid to offend anyone. We live as if we must please everyone. We change who we are to fit in or we seclude ourselves by becoming wall flowers so people don't realize we stand out. We are afraid to commit because we fear the loss of a loved one. We fear giving ourselves because we have seen through some of our family, friends, and relative's examples and media how heart broken it can leave you. We put up so many walls we suffocate the light inside of us. That light that makes us unique. The light God has entrusted to us to further his Kingdom here on earth.

 "Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind wanting to start again?" I sure hope not. However I know in my life I've experienced all of Katy Perry's metaphors. I've felt worthless, fragile, trapped. I've felt like a wall-flower. I just wanted to blend in even though I knew I stood out. Self-esteem is a huge struggle I've dealt with in life. There is no doubt about that. Despite all of this, the greatest part of the struggle was when I finally ignited that light inside of me (of course with God's help through the Sacraments and my family, friends, and community). I let my uniqueness show and I became comfortable with who I am. I "[owned] the night like the 4th of July!" I allowed God to use my gifts and talents he's given me to help bring others to him.

I know it's easy to here Katy Perry sing about igniting the inner light. But think, what could God do with your life if you only let Him be that light? God loved you into being. He has loved you from the start. He'll love you til the end. He won't leave you in between. What joy can you bring others by being yourself?
Imagine. What if Jesus didn't live as himself? What if Jesus, who was fully God and fully man (yes, 100% and 100%), didn't let his light shine by submitting himself to the will of the Father by dying on the Cross? By being himself God the Father was able to reconcile the world to Him through his Son Jesus! That's what God can do when you be yourself. God can do the impossible and he's already begun!

One of my greatest joys about this song is that Katy Perry wants here audience to find the light inside of them. She doesn't sing for you to go out and have sex, drink, and do drugs til the issues go away. Rather she wants you to see that "you're original, [and] cannot be replaced." "You just got to ignite the light and let it shine." I know it's easier said than done. Trust me. I've been there and done that. It's no easy road. But it's a road better traveled having a light than traveling in darkness.

God has blessed you with unique gifts and abilities. Use em! You never know what God has in store for you. That being said, hold your head high! Be proud! Cherish the kodak moments of life. Cherish your life and the life of your loved ones. Don't sell yourself short, especially with your gift of sexuality. I'm not going to go all Theology of the Body on you, but cherish it!

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Thursday I posted my analysis of the Super Bowl, but there is another reason why today is one of the most important days of the year. Not only we get the most important football game of the year, but we also get the return of one of my biggest obsessions in life: GLEE!!! Yup that’s right Rachel, Finn, and crew are back for some new episodes starting tonight right after the Super Bowl. To celebrate this amazing occasion that I’ve been waiting so long for I thought a little Glee analysis is in order.

Take a minute to think back to the very beginning of Glee, back before New Directions became the incredible music group that stole our hearts with their incredible renditions of all our favorite songs. Think way back to the Pilot episode when New Directions consisted of what seemed like the 5 most awkward kids in school. There was nothing “normal” about any of them. Rachel: the loser in choir who thinks the world should bow to her, Kurt: the awkward closeted gay kid who gets thrown in dumpsters every day, Artie: the crippled kid nobody even pays attention to, Tina: the strange emo girl, and Mercedes: the hidden super-diva that nobody at school knows. When Mr. Schuester first started trying to revive the Glee Club at school he didn’t get any of the cool, popular kids; he got the awkwardly weird kids that nobody liked. Isn’t it amazing to see how Mr. Schuester took 5 weird, unpopular, kids and turned them into the New Directions group that won sectionals two years in a row? The really incredible thing isn’t that Mr. Schuester was able to turn these geeks into amazingness, but rather the connection that all this has to the Gospel!

When Jesus called the 12 apostles to follow him, one would think it would make more sense for him to pick quite prominent members of society. With preachers, wealthy benefactors, politicians, etc. behind his back Jesus would have had the resources to spread his message quickly and easily throughout the land. However, in the Gospels we know that this is not what happened. The men Jesus called were “nobodies” in society. Many of them were fishermen, and Matthew was even a Roman Tax Collector, a job which was absolutely despised at the time because tax collectors would always collect a little extra than they were supposed to and keep it for themselves. Though, apparently Jesus knew what he was doing as this group of nobodies was able to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, continuing the work of God’s Holy Catholic Church.

When he was on Earth Jesus didn’t hunt out the people who were perfect, but rather loved and embraced people nobody else would despite their imperfections, and through God’s grace they were able to accomplish great things. How beautiful it truly is that God still works this way even now. God doesn’t look for perfect people to bring about his kingdom; he rather chooses to use regular, ordinary people to do the extraordinary. I know I’ll never be perfect, but that doesn’t matter because God doesn’t want me to be perfect. Like I said, God calls the ordinary and uses them to accomplish the extraordinary. You can accomplish extraordinary things if you allow God to work through you. How incredible is that?

“Thank you Jesus for giving me a real, personal relationship with you despite my sinfulness and imperfections. Help me to never forget that no matter how ordinary I feel, I am always extraordinary in your eyes. Guide me, that I may never forget that incredible, never ending love you have for me.”

Friday, February 4, 2011

Part I: Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream"

Music reflects the culture of it's audience. It expresses the desires and longings of the one singing and the ones listening. It conveys their values and moral standards as well. Most of you probably don't think twice about Katy Perry. You wrote her off when she came out with her single "I kissed a Girl" and things didn't get much better with her new album featuring "California Girls". Despite your opinions of her lyrics her songs quickly rise to the top of the charts. This has to say something about our culture. Right?

What exactly is it that my generation longs for?

In "Teenage Dream" Perry, in my perspective, combines two ideas of love. She merges the idea of having shelter within another person's heart (a type of pure and fulfilling love) with a fleeting love that is rapidly approaching the border of lust. Now only the artist knows the true meaning of their work. I however, as the audience, am entitled to my interpretation. The message I see Perry conveying, and her fans seeking out, is that there is hope for true love, a love that will sweep you off your feet and make you feel like your "living a teenage dream."

I don't think I need to explain the "teenage dream" metaphor but for those of you who maybe out of touch with it here is a quick explanation: to a teenager, typically the female ones, their dream of love is a handsome guy who will court them; someone who will serenade them outside their window late at night. They want someone who will make them feel complete, loved, sheltered, and taken care of.

Now in our culture filled with the ideology that sex is recreational, men become animals. The teenage dream is crushed and the hope of finding a gentleman is thrown out the window. Let's be honest, Katy Perry didn't find her soul mate. I will even venture to say that all she found was a one night stand who left her heart-broken and searching for true love. Why do I say that?

If you look at her lyrics you'll see that her imagery starts off with true love. "I know you get me/ So I'll let my walls come down." exemplifies that love involves risk. "I was a wreck... You brought me to life" demonstrates the constructive aspects of pure love. But then she throws that all away for one guy's touch. She believes love is out their simply by the reaction her heart has from a touch in her skin tight jeans or when he looks at her. She claims to "find [her] missing puzzle piece." Truth be told that despite these images of true love, Perry throws all that down the drain with imagery of fleeting, uncommitted love. I don't know about you but my dream of love doesn't include anything along the lines of getting drunk, renting a hotel room, and trying to convince myself that I can go all the way tonight and tomorrow I won't have to look back.

Yet people love hearing this. People love hearing about a love where their heart stops. Um, Katy Perry... Did you realize that when your hearts stops you're dead? If this was about true love you heart should be racing. Now given you're way too drunk and horny to see this but you have to realize that what you're conveying is simply a one night stand that only leaves you longing for more.

Now if you want love, or should I say LOVE! Then might I suggest reading Song of Songs in the Bible or listening to Matt Maher's "Set me as a Seal". Those include images that won't deceive you. They portray a true love that captures the same sensual love Perry talks of. HOWEVER this sensual love is not self centered or strictly there as sensual love like in "Teenage Dream". Take the challenge to do one of my suggestions. What are your opinions?

Our culture longs for love but they aren't willing to put forth the work. They give up so easily and settle for sensual love when their heart longs for sacrificial love in which they give of their whole self.

Follow along Tuesday for a continuation on Katy Perry and Culture. We'll be looking at her song "Firework" in conjunction with this blog post.

(To Be Continued...)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Super Bowl Sunday!!!!!

For a good percentage of Americans, this Sunday is one of the most important days of the whole year. The Super Bowl really is what football season is all about, the day we’ve all been waiting for. In case you are wondering who I’m rooting for…I’m all for the Packers because I love Aaron Rodgers. I know that’s not really relevant to this post, but I thought I’d throw it out there.

I really love seeing how Super Bowl Sunday is an extreme high point in the year for most Americans. Think about it… First think of all the millions of people who will be watching football. When asking people if they like football the two most popular answers are usually “Yes absolutely”, or “I usually only watch the Super Bowl.” Next, think about all that we get besides the best football game of the year: the best commercials of the century always air during the Super Bowl because of all the extra viewers, and we also usually get a pretty amazing entertainment show. This year Rachel from Glee will sing “America the Beautiful” before the game, and the Black Eyed Peas have the halftime show, so I’m super excited!! Finally, think

about the sense of community that the Super Bowl creates. How many people attend super bowl parties with friends and family? The food, drinks, and football on this day in particular bring people together in a very special, beautiful way. How truly empty football season would be without this incredible feast to end the season with!!

Super Bowl Sunday has clearly become an extreme “High Point” in our country’s calendar. Did you ever realize that the Church has its own “High Point” which gives everything else its meaning? Well it does, and the beautiful thing about the Church’s “High Point” comes a lot more often than just the one a year Super Bowl. Of course I’m talking about the Mass!

Take a step back and just think about the power of the Mass. Through it we find the absolute fullness of religious truth, as well as establish an incredible connection with God Himself! The mass is filled with beautiful music, begging God to forgive us, praising the infinite greatness of God’s love, listening to the Word of God in Scripture…and that’s just in the first half of the mass! We spend the entire second half of mass preparing for the most powerful mystery of our faith: The Eucharist. Though the Eucharist God himself not only becomes REALLY AND TRULY PRESENT (not just a symbol), but he actually enters our body as food. God himself literally feeds us with himself. What could be a better “High Point” than gathering together as a community of faith to engage in such a deep and powerful mystery? Everything we do as Catholics finds its high point in the Mass. Just as football season would make absolutely no sense without Super Bowl Sunday, a Christian life without the Mass would be just as empty and meaningless. What an incredibly amazing mystery the mass truly is!!

“Lord Jesus thank you for giving your Church the Mass as its central and highest form of prayer. Help us to see the Mass as the most important, most heavenly part of our lives. Give us a renewed love for the Mass. Allow the graces we receive at Mass to penetrate into our entire being, truly giving our lives meaning and focus.”

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Poker Face by Lady Gaga

Oh yes! I'm going there. It's about time someone tackles the surprisingly complex creative mind of Lady Gaga. I refuse to think that her sole intent and motivation for her lyrics is sex. She can't be blessed with so much vocal and musical talent to throw it away for cheap fame. Or can she?

Anyways, if you peel back the obvious references to sex I would say that Poker Face is themed around identity and accepting the cards you've been dealt in life.

First off the lyrics open with a metaphor about Texas Hold 'Em. At the surface, this metaphor is obviously about "[playing] the cards... That's on his heart." But the original metaphor of life being like playing cards is much deeper. In life we are dealt certain cards to play with. Some we "hold 'em," others we "fold 'em." Really your playing poker in life. You have to live life with the cards you've been given, what other people have in their hand you have no control over.

Then Lady Gaga has this feeling of "He can't read my poker face." To me that sounds like it could mean something along the lines of 'He doesn't understand me.' In poker you want to win. You have to make the most of what you got. Sometimes your blessed and other times you have to make a 2 and a Jack (of different suits) work. But really a poker face just creates a barrier between you and the other players. They don't know if your happy or sad. They don't understand you essentially. That's rough. And it's lonely. Poker is not a team sport. You fly solo. Though in cards having a poker face is beneficial. In life, it can cause a lot of hurt.

Delving deeper, to Love means to take risks. "Russian Roulette is not the same without a gun." Thus love is not the same without risk. (Please don't take this analogy as love is death. It most certainly isn't). Anyways, with these lyrics I feel like Lady Gaga let someone behind her poker face. She let her walls down because she wanted to love this person. To love someone fully you have to open yourself up to them. Allow them to understand you; allow them to experience all of you. It's risky business and can cause a lot of pain. But it's necessary to "show him what I got." The lyrics lead me to infer that this experience of love left her hurt seeing as she sings the lines "She's got to love nobody" in her refrain. I guess you could look at this from two perspectives. The first being that she got hurt or the second as a realization. For those of you who saw the movie Eat, Pray, Love you may recall the scene where Liz yells at Felipe that she doesn't need to love someone else to prove she loves herself. That is how I wish to take it. I hope to believe that this is where Lady Gaga accepts the cards she's been given in life and loves herself for them. After all she does sing, "Check this hand cause I'm Marvelous!"

Now the real question, Where is God?

From my own experience in life I would say that God is in the line "Check this hand cause I'm Marvelous!" I've felt the sting of playing with cards I didn't necessarily want. I let it get to me. And because of that I put up a poker face and made sure no one could understand the real me. Somewhere along those lines though I took a chance at love and let my guard down. I began to realize how "marvelous" I really am. In The midst of chaos I was able to find God in my search for love and my search for identity. I found God helping me understand how I need to play my cards. I guess what I'm trying to say is I stopped asking God to give me new cards and instead embraced the ones he's given me. My cards are really my cross, but without those cards there is no way I can win the jackpot of eternal joy in heaven.

So Lady Gaga's song maybe all about sex. Only she knows. The great thing about art is that there is also your perspective. So take with it what you will.

Love is a risk, but it's worth finding that shelter in someone else, especially God.