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.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Dieting – Change of Lifestyle

If you’re like me, always trying to lose weight, you’ve probably heard that fad diets don’t work, that if you really want to lose weight you need a “change of lifestyle.” So many of us have tried all the quick fix weight loss programs there are, but as soon as we go back to our “normal routine”, the weight comes right back. In actuality, there is no “quick fix” when it comes to weight loss, it really does require a change in lifestyle. True weight loss requires that we change our attitude, recognizing the difference between the food our body needs to survive and the food our taste buds desire. No matter how much we want to lose weight, unless the desire is rooted in a deep, firm, internal, long term commitment not to a diet, but to a healthier attitude and lifestyle, no true change can take place.

Is not the same exact thing true for our spiritual lives? How often do we attempt to settle for “fad diets” rather than seek the true internal conversion that is necessary for us to grow closer to Christ? If there’s anything I’ve learned this year, it’s that it is far easier to talk about growing closer to Christ than actually doing it. I mean for years I feel like I’ve tried to grow closer to God. I’ve gone to mass and confession, said my rosary, read scripture fairly often. But it hasn’t been until recently that I think my faith life has started to change from “superficial fad diet” to real change of lifestyle.

What’s the difference between a prayer life that is merely a “fad diet” and a true change of lifestyle, well it’s the same as what separates the Adkins, South Beach, or whatever other fad diet you can think of from a true, lasting change of lifestyle that leads to weight loss. The virtue I’m speaking of is that of surrender. Fad diets are all about what YOU can do to lose weight. Through each fad diet I’ve tried I worked so hard, but my work was never enough, the weight always came back. However, when I decide to stop focusing on what I should do, but rather surrender to what is best for my body then I can truly grow into a healthier person.

In the same way, our faith lives should not be about what we can do to grow closer to God, but on how we can surrender most fully to God. You see, the focus should not be on ourselves, but on God. A life that is truly changed by prayer is a life that seeks the most intimate union with God. See, prayer is not just merely talking to God as most of us were taught in CCD, it is so much more than that…it is allowing God to live in and through us. In order to bring about this incredible union with our God, we need to surrender to God each and every day. The focus is not on me, but on the almighty and everlasting God.

Even Christ says in the Gospel “Amen, amen I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above” (John 3:3). In order to see the Kingdom of God, we need to be reborn. Take a moment to think about that word…birth. Birth is not something we can do anything about. None of us willed to be born, there was nothing any of us could do about it. At our birth, we simply had to accept, to surrender, the fact that life had begun. In the same way, if we are to be reborn into the Kingdom of God, to truly allow Christ to live in and through us in life rooted in prayer, we need to surrender, to allow God to work without getting in his way through our pride, our sin.

“Heavenly Father, we know that without you we could never be truly happy as you are the source and summit of all good. We want to grow closer to you, to grow to be in greater union with you, through a life of true, profound prayer. Help us to surrender daily, in all humility, to your will. Use us as your instruments of love, in whatever way you wish, to build your kingdom here on Earth.”

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Notebook – True Love Perseveres

Those of you who know me probably are aware of the fact that I have a soft spot for chick flicks. One of the most famous, and most beautiful (if you take out the couple premarital sex scenes), chick flicks of all time is “The Notebook.” It is another masterful movie adaption of a Nicholas Sparks novel. It’s a very long, deep movie, but for the purposes of this post I’m just gonna try to tackle one scene. Think back to when Allie is engaged to Lon, but after spending a few days with Noah is reminded of the love they once had. Allie must then choose between the wealthy Lon, who would provide her with a lifetime of financial security as well as the approval of her parents, and Noah, the poor farm boy that her parents despise. An argument erupts between Allie and Noah, at which point Noah offers us this powerful quote…

“So it's not gonna be easy. It's gonna be really hard. We're gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, you and me, every day. Will you do something for me, please? Just picture your life for me? 30 years from now, 40 years from now? What's it look like? If it's with him, go. Go! I lost you once, I think I can do it again. If I thought that's what you really wanted. But don't you take the easy way out.”

One of my favorite things about this movie, and this quote particularly, is that it breaks the stereotype that love is easy. When Allie realizes that she needs to choose between Lon and Noah, Noah sees that she needs to be reminded that the most loving path is not necessarily the easy path. You see, Allie fell into a very dangerous path of thought, a path that many people today fall into. Allie started to see love as an emotion, rather than a choice.

We cannot change our emotions; they come and go based on a variety of things. We also cannot choose our emotions; if we could why would we ever choose to feel anything but positive emotions? No, emotions are natural, coming and going like the passing weather. However, just like the weather can be a huge factor in how we plan our day, our emotions tend to be very strong motivators in our lives.

The thing is, can something as beautiful and profound as love be based on something as shifting as emotions? Could positive emotions really be enough to ground the love of a couple married for 50 years? Would emotions be enough to ensure that love survives through the tough, difficult times of life? I would say no, true love is not an emotion, but rather a choice, true love is in fact a decision. In this scene, Noah acknowledges that their relationship will not be easy, and that it’s going to take a lot of work. He even recognizes that “We’re gonna have to work at this every day, but I want to do it because I want you.” The fact of the matter is I may not ‘feel’ like working at it every day, but I that doesn’t stop me from being able to ‘choose’ to love. Noah is not seeking a shifting relationship based on passing emotions, but rather true love, love that will last forever.

Look at Jesus Christ, whose life is the primary example of true love. In his suffering and death, Jesus chose to love us through some extremely difficult moments. Through all the humiliation, blood, and pain Jesus still chose to accept his death, showing an extraordinary love for each of us. “Love” based simply in emotions could not have lasted through the agony of the cross, but real true love practiced as a conscious choice, as an exercise of the will, can survive all of life’s difficulties with the help of God’s grace.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for being an example of true, unconditional love. Help me to come to see love not as an emotion capable of changing like the passing winds, but rather as a conscious choice to be made day in and day out. Guide and protect me, that I may choose love especially when my emotions make true love a very difficult thing. Never let me forget your loving and guiding presence in my life.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kindergarten Cop - Using God's Gifts

Ok so I know this movie is super old, actually as old as me it came out in 1990, but it’s still a favorite of mine. Also, who doesn’t love a little Arnold Schwarzenegger every once in a while? Anyway, Arnold plays Detective John Kimble who, along with Detective Phoebe O’Hara, is undercover looking for a wanted drug dealer. O’Hara is supposed to be undercover as a kindergarten teacher with Kimble doing the background investigative work. Unfortunately O’Hara gets sick the morning she is supposed to report to school and the two are forced to switch roles. While the kind and gentle O’Hara is stuck in bed, the tough guy Kimble, with absolutely no teaching experience, is forced to deal with a class full of kindergarteners. This is a recipe for disaster!

At first, it is quite a mess. The kids walk all over the confused and frustrated Detective Kimble, and everyone is sure that he will give up. Even Kimble acknowledges that he is no good at teaching and can’t handle these little kids, but is unfortunately stuck in this terrible situation because of the case they have been assigned to. What then does Kimble do, roll over and die? No, actually Detective Kimble takes a step back to think about what he is good at, what are his own gifts. As simple as it seems, Kimble decides that the two things he loves the most are being a cop and his pet ferret. When Kimble decides to stop feeling sorry for himself and begins using his detective skills and his pet ferret in class the kids begin to love him and listen to him. They are able to see his passion his love, and really begin to love their new teacher. All it took for Kimble to transform from a worthless teacher into an incredible one was recognizing his own gifts and talents, using them to make him a better, and happier, person.

God’s relationship with each of us is so personal, so unique, and so He blesses each of us in very different ways with very different gifts. Some of us are blessed with musical talent, others athletic abilities, others intellectual gifts, the list goes on and on. If we are to truly build the Kingdom of God “on Earth as it is in Heaven” we each need to recognize the gifts and talents God has blessed us with and allow them to shine. Just think about how many different saints there are…we have priests, religious brothers and sisters, married and single lay people, martyrs, children, musicians, fishermen, tax collectors, and much more. The communion of saints shows us that there is no stencil, no mold that you have be able to fit yourself into in order to be a good Christian. “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37,39). Use the talents God has blessed you with to bring God’s love to all you meet and grow in sanctity along the way; isn’t that what life is all about?

“Heavenly Father, thank you for the personal relationship you have blessed me with. Thank you for the gifts and talents that you gave me. Help me to be more appreciative of these gifts, to recognize them as blessings coming directly from you. Guide me, that with your help I may be able to use these gifts to bring your love to everyone I meet.”

Monday, March 21, 2011

August Rush

Listen do you hear that… shut up, just listen…. …. Come on I’m not hearing things!... Listen very carefully…. Is that the sound of the subway, a field of tall green grass swaying with the wind, car horns in the city, an old farmer picking at his banjo, the roar of a garbage truck, or maybe the sound of children playing? Do you hear that?

Well for Freddie Highmore who plays “August” in the hit movie which is musically inspired, that sound that you have been listening for was his divine call. Well…the movie may not portray it as a divine call but nevertheless it is still a call. If you have not seen the movie then you need to, but first read this blog then go see it and you’ll know I am right. August Rush is about a boy who is deceptively removed from his parent’s right after birth and through his intense and keen ear for music, finds his way back to his parents.
But the way that his small keen ears hear this music reminds me of the way that our small ears hear God’s call from birth. God is calling us from birth whether we are willing to accept it or not. Unfortunately most of us will not accept it as our own. We see God as this far off tyrant figure that has many laws and never does anything for me. God has such a deep impact on our lives and sometimes our heads are so buried into that life we created… we don’t recognize God’s fingerprints all over it.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." Jeremiah 1:5
But I believe we can learn a lesson from that 12 year old music prodigy August Rush, because he heard his call and he did not stop fighting for who he believed in until he had them. August fought to be with his Mother and Father. Well so should we. The magical call that August had was to reconnect with his parents. Well we all have that call too, and it is your responsibility to do whatever it takes to reconnect with our Mother Mary and our loving heavenly Father, who beyond all else just wants you to turn to him and embrace him in your life. If you believe in him enough, and work hard enough to find him, you will not be let down. There is nothing that our Father will not forgive or forget. He loves you unconditionally, he loves you when you sin, he loves you when you fall, he loves you even when YOU don’t love YOU.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Friday, March 18, 2011

Harry Potter – Offer up Penance

In my last post, we saw how Bill Gates is an example of the first pillar of Lent, almsgiving. Today, let’s learn about another pillar from one of my role models, Harry Potter. I’m going to dive about midway into the seventh book. Just after Dobby’s death, which we saw in the closing scene of the movie, Harry is absolutely distraught. He is overcome with tears and grief as he deals with the loss of a good friend. This grief leads Harry to make an interesting decision, as Harry decides to spend hours digging Dobby’s grave by hand, rather than instantaneously create a beautiful and perfect grave by magic. I absolutely love the way J.K. Rowling describes the scene, and I think it shows us the true spirit of the fasting and penance that we should be doing during Lent.

“He dug with a kind of fury, relishing the manual work, glorying in the non-magic of it, for every drop of his sweat and every blister felt like a gift to the elf who had saved their lives.” (HP 7 pg 478)

All the hard work and pain that Harry endures while digging this grave he decides to offer as a gift to Dobby. Since he sees the work as a gift for someone he loves so dearly, Harry “relishes” the work, the sweat, the blisters, seeing them as something beautiful and necessary. Seeing the work and pain as a precious gift also pushes Harry to work his absolute hardest, holding nothing back, as anything less would not be good enough for “the elf who saved their lives.”

Should not our Lenten penance be the same? Through our penance, our fasting, our mortification we choose to endure some pain in order to offer it as a gift to the Lord. Offering God our penances is one of the most powerful forms of prayer, as through it we can show God how much we truly love and appreciate Him. As Harry relished in the work, sweat, and blisters in order present a beautiful gift to the elf that saved their lives, we can also joyfully offer up penances to the God who has saved our souls.

In addition to offering God a beautiful gift, penance is also good for our own spiritual lives. Through denying ourselves some pleasure and giving it to God, we are reminded that nothing on Earth can truly satisfy us like the love of God. In a world where so many material comforts are so readily available to us, penance offers us a beautiful way to remind ourselves that “The world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever” (1 John 2:17).

As today is a Friday in Lent, we are all asked by the Church to abstain from eating meat, offering this up as a penance to God. In addition, we should all be practicing some sort of personal fasting throughout Lent. Don’t take this pillar of Lent lightly, as there is so much potential for spiritual growth through the prayer of offering up penance to God. If you have not been faithful to whatever sacrifice you chose to practice during Lent, maybe this is a good time to renew that commitment. It’s not going to be easy; in fact this pillar of Lent is going to hurt a lot. But just think…the more it hurts, the more precious the gift you offer to God.

When you do an act of penance offer a prayer like this... “Heavenly Father, accept the penance I offer to you. Accept my suffering as you accepted Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Through it, allow me to grow in holiness, that I may never forget that no Earthly thing could ever satisfy me as you can.”

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bill Gates - Almsgiving

As I said in my post on Ash Wednesday, the first of the three pillars of Lent is Almsgiving, the act of giving what we have to people in need. Today, I want to focus on a man who I think is a pretty good example of that, Bill Gates.

Remember back when Bill Gates was by far the richest man in the world? Granted, the man still has about $49 billion to his name, but now he’s second to Carlos Slim from Mexico who has about $60 billion. What happened to the founder of Microsoft that he’s lost so much money? Surprisingly enough, the reason why Gates is no longer the world’s richest man is he and his wife founded and donated $28 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a charity which focuses on global health, development, and education. That’s about a third of his money donated to charity! (Different sites give different monetary figures, but I think you can get the picture.)

In addition to that, Bill Gates has announced (see the first link below) that at his death his fortune will not be left to his 3 kids, but rather donated to charity. That same website quotes Bill Gates as saying “I knew I didn't think it was a good idea to give the money to my kids, that wouldn't be good either for my kids or society. So the question was, 'Can I find something that had incredible impact?' I knew I wanted to do that.” What he found was a way to bring better health and education to poor people throughout the world. In addition to that, I read that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are working to encourage other billionaires to publicly pledge at least 50% of their fortune, either during their life or at their death, to charity.

Growing up I always thought that Bill Gates was just another wealthy snob, another rich guy who thought he could buy happiness. However, I am now able to see Gates in a new light. Hearing him talk about his fortune not as something to be treasured, but rather as something to be given away to the poor people of the world really shows where his priorities are in life.

I’d say if the former richest man in the world decided that money will not bring him, or his children, happiness that’s good enough for me. If Bill Gates can realize that the world is much larger than the comforts of his home why can’t I? If Bill Gates can donate the incredible fortune that he built up throughout his life to charity, why can’t I give a little something to someone who really needs it? Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Mark 12:43-44 “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

“Heavenly Father, help me to be more aware of the needs of the poor throughout the world. Guide me that I may look past the comforts of my home and see the needs of the sick, the poor, and the needy. Help me to find small ways throughout this period of Lent to give what I can to those in need, be it money, food, clothing, etc. Guide me in your love.”




Ultimate Loyalty: Japanese Dog Refuses to Leave Injured Friend Behind

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pretty Little Liars – Vocation of Parenthood

Last night’s episode of Pretty Little Liars was epic! We are a step closer to finding out why Allison died, who killed her, and who A is. There’s also the fact that someone is trying to ruin Spencer’s life, Aria and Ezra are about to get busted, and Hannah and Caleb are done. Yeah…I’d say last night’s episode was one of the best we’ve seen in a while.

If you were paying close enough attention last night, you also may have noticed a beautiful conversation that took place between Caleb and Hannah’s mom. It was about halfway through the episode, when Caleb went to look for Hannah at her house. The ghetto “bad boy” of the show openly and honestly tells Hannah’s upset mother “I think she’s lucky. Maybe if I had a mom like you I wouldn’t be sleeping on a bus and making up the rules as I go along.” It’s a beautiful, emotional scene where Caleb admits that his life would have been so much better if he had parents who cared for him.

This powerful scene from Pretty Little Liars can tell us a lot about the huge role that parents have in the lives of their children. Caleb has all the “freedom” in the world. He can go where he wants, and do what he wants when he wants without ever having to deal with parents nagging him all the time. He makes his own rules, lives whatever life he wants to. Such a life seems like it would be so perfect doesn’t it? Well if such a life is so perfect, why does Caleb never seem to be really happy?

Here in this scene Caleb acknowledges that his “parentless life of freedom” isn’t actually so great. He recognizes that he needs good, strong parents who could love him and guide him. Caleb sees this, but I’m not sure Hannah and the rest of the girls do. Actually, I’m not sure that you and I are always aware of this. Oftentimes we see our parents as the bosses always trying to tell us what to do, always thinking they know what’s best for us. I know in the past I’ve thought that life would be so good if my parents would just mind their own business and let me live my life.

The issue here is today many of us growing up, especially during our teenage years, see our parents as the chauffeur, the cook, the landlord, the bank, etc. and not as parents. What is a parent? Most of you will probably be called by God to be parents. What does that mean?

Parents are given a special vocation by God himself. They are entrusted with bringing new life into the world. See how amazing it is, God puts a newborn baby into the care of parents, actually trusting those parents with the life of his own beloved son/daughter. Therefore the vocation of parenthood goes beyond simple care giving; parents are to love their children as God does, as the newborn baby is to first experience the love of God through his/her parents. To reduce parenthood to a simple biological requirement of procreating the human species would be an absolute tragedy. The vocation of the parenthood is in fact a vocation in and of itself, a vocation that exists within the context of marriage. It is a calling by God himself to an extraordinary standard of love.

This is why it is so tragic when parents give birth to a baby but do not live up to the parental vocation given to them by God. Not only is the virtue of the parents themselves weakened, as they are not living up to their own vocation, but the child himself/herself then goes through a crisis as well. When parents give birth but do not recognize and live up to this calling from God, a child is forced to grow up without the natural way God wants us to experience his love throughout our lives, and especially throughout childhood. Of course it is still possible for such a child to find God’s love and grow in holiness, but they are forced to do so without the help of the most fundamental guides, one’s parents.

Parenthood is a unique vocation given by God himself. It is a call to love, just like marriage, religious life, and the priesthood. I think looking at parenthood in this light can help me appreciate everything my parents do for me so much more. God has actually chosen to use them to share his love with me.

“Heavenly father, thank you for blessing humanity with the vocation of parenthood. Bless and guide our parents. Keep them strong in their vocation, that they may always seek to bring your love to their children. Also, guide those of us who you are calling to this beautiful vocation. Help us to never reduce parenthood to anything less than that, to never forget how truly fundamental the vocation of parenthood is for the building of your kingdom here on earth.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday - Giving or Recieving?

So today is Ash Wednesday, the day most people flock to mass to receive ashes. Yes, we receive ashes as a sign that “we are dust and to dust we shall return.” However, in reality the season of Lent which begins today is not about receiving at all! It is a season of giving, giving all we have to God so that come Easter Sunday we are more ready to receive the resurrected Lord into our hearts. How should we go about doing this? Look no further than today’s Gospel for 3 very practical, simple, and powerful ways to prepare yourself for Easter over the next 40 days…

“When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others” (Matthew 6:2). Almsgiving…the first pillar of Lent. Lent is a time when we should start looking at things we have that the poor may need. Maybe you have some clothing that you haven’t worn in years that could keep a homeless person warm at night. Maybe you could donate a few bucks here and there to people who need it a little more than you. Maybe you could spend some time hanging out at a local soup kitchen, giving some human contact to people who usually get none. In this first pillar we seek to give to God through those around us, to those in most need just as Christ himself did during his Earthly life.

“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:6). Prayer…the second pillar of Lent. Through prayer we seek to connect ourselves to God in a very real way, by communicating directly with Him. During Lent we should find some more time during each day to pray. There are so many powerful ways to do this…a few extra decades of the rosary, read some more scripture, receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist more regularly, a couple extra Hail Mary’s before going to bed, or even just finding a short period of time each day to just sit and be quiet just to be with God. The choice is yours, but the idea is to unite yourself more closely to our Heavenly Father through prayer, just as Christ did during his Earthly life (think of the Agony in the Garden).

“When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden and your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you” (Matthew 6:17-18). Fasting…the third pillar of Lent. Everyone is familiar with the age old tradition of “giving up something for Lent.” But I don’t think people are as familiar with the reason why we “give up something.” When we fast, we create a certain degree of discomfort, a certain hole in ourselves. Whether the fasting consists of giving up desserts, soda, snacking, television, Facebook, or anything else, the fasting still creates a hole within ourselves… a hole that we seek to allow God to fill. When we give up simple things such as those listed above, we show God that he is more important to us than any of these material things. We can live without them, but we could never live without God. When we fast, we seek to unite ourselves with God through suffering and attaching ourselves to God, just as Christ did during his Earthly life.

Through these three pillars of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting we seek to give, give, give. Give it all up to God. Give Him material things, your prayer life, and a spirit of suffering. Lent is the perfect time of year to grow in holiness, to let God into our lives. If we can all do this, make Lent a time of truly turning to God, of allowing him to fill every part of our lives, we will all be able to make Easter the high point of the year that it needs to be. There is no resurrection without the cross, so if we want to unite ourselves with the resurrection, the receiving of life everlasting, we must first unite ourselves with the suffering of the cross, the complete giving of self to God.

“Heavenly Father, help me to make this Lenten Season a period of real growth in holiness. Help me to turn myself to you through almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. I know that this will not be easy, but with your guidance I trust that these practices will help me to grow in your love, allowing you to live within and through me. Be with me, bless me, guide me that through the sufferings of Lent I will find the resurrection of Easter that much more special.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Last Song

Every so often I love to watch a nice dramatic chick flick. I know I may be risking my manhood with this one…but this afternoon I watched the movie “The Last Song” with my sister. Say what you want about Miley Cyrus, I think this movie is yet another piece of evidence that Nicholas Sparks is a genius. It’s a beautiful, emotional, and funny story that I really enjoyed. It also centers on a theme that is central to our lives as Catholics: the idea that struggles aren’t necessarily always a bad thing.

Throughout this movie Ronny (Miley Cyrus’ character) undergoes tremendous maturity and growth. She starts out as a selfish, and quite unhappy, teenage girl. She is bitter about everything and just wants to do her own thing. However, at the end of the movie she is portrayed very differently, as a mature young woman. She comes to value and cherish her family. She even begins to embrace her musical talent, sharing her gift with those around her. It is a beautiful story about the transformation of this young girl.

What was it that brought about Ronny’s incredible transformation? It was the extreme struggles that she had to endure throughout the movie, especially her father’s illness and death. Just as Ronny seemed to be starting to get close to her dad, the poor guy has a terrible heart attack, is forced to give up playing piano because of his illness, and then dies. It almost seems unfair that Ronny would have to go through so many struggles over the course of just a couple months, but there is no doubt that she became a stronger person because of those struggles.

Do you ever wonder why life seems to be so unfair sometimes? Why do some people have to go through such extreme struggles? Divorce, teenage pregnancy, and painful illnesses such as cancer are just a few of the incredible struggles that people today have to endure. Although struggles like these could never be wished upon anybody, the fact of the matter is that they do exist. What then should we do with them? Should we lose hope, concede that life sucks and just give up? Should we concede that maybe God loves some people more than others? If God loves each of us as sons and daughters why would he let us struggle as much as we do?

To answer these questions we need look no further than the life of Jesus Christ. Through his life, God the Father fully revealed himself to us. Did Jesus ever struggle? Isaiah 53:5 says “But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.” Jesus had to endure the struggle of the cross. Think about the physical pain: the blood, the whipping, the crown of thorns, carrying the weight of the cross, and the nails themselves. Think about the emotional pain: the ridicule, the embarrassment, the complete rejection by everyone. Think about the spiritual pain: having to carry the weight of all humanity’s sins on his back. Christ suffered more than anyone on this earth, but also think about the blessing of the resurrection that came about because of that suffering. Through the suffering of Christ the whole world was brought back to God’s love. How amazing is that!

God used the suffering of Christ to bring about extraordinary goodness to the world. Can’t God do the very same thing with our own sufferings? If we look at this movie in light of the Gospel, can’t we say that God was able to use the sufferings Ronny had to endure to make her a better person? In the same way, we need to have the faith and hope in our own lives to trust that God is always with us. God’s plan for each of us is far more complex, and even perfect, than we could ever understand. No, maybe it’s not always “fair”, that we have to endure the struggles and sufferings that life presents us with, but if we have faith that God plans on using those sufferings to help bring about the kingdom of God then those sufferings take on a whole new meaning, a holy meaning.

“Heavenly Father, today I want to offer up a new prayer, a somewhat unusual prayer. Today I want to thank you for my struggles, my sufferings. Thank you for allowing me to share in this most important, and most holy, part of the life of your son. Help me to have the faith and hope I need to trust that these sufferings are vessels that you will use to bring your infinite love into the world.”

Thursday, March 3, 2011


One of my favorite movies of all time is “Taken.” It is a movie packed with action, drama, and suspense. It also features a plot that hits home for all parents, or older brothers like me, of teenage girls. Basically the parents of this 17 year old girl allow her to go with her friend to Europe to follow their favorite touring rock band. Her mother willingly lets her go, but her father Bryan (played by actor Liam Neeson) is extremely reluctant to give her permission. In the end, he was right as his daughter and her friend are “Taken” by slave traders.

When Bryan and his wife find out that their daughter has been taken, all happiness is sucked out of them. They have lost the most important thing in their lives, their beloved daughter Kim. However, the second Bryan finds out that Kim was taken his immediate thought is how to hunt down the people that captured her and get her back. He doesn’t waste any time weighing his options, the only option is to rescue her. The rest of the movie surrounds Bryan putting the skills he learned when he worked as an officer for the CIA to use in order to find his daughter. Although the situation seems almost impossible, Bryan is determined to go to extreme lengths to get her back. Nothing will stop him from seeing his daughter again.

The past few months I’ve been reading (and teaching my CCD class) about a section of the bible that I think many people are unfamiliar with, the books of Kings. This has really enhanced my faith life and stresses a theme which I think relates perfectly to what happens in the movie “Taken.” After King David, we see king after king after king “do evil in the sight of the Lord.” The Kings, as well as the Israelites themselves run away from their Heavenly Father, forgetting the covenant their fathers made with the Lord. As they continue to be more and more lost and “Taken” by their ways of sin and idolatry, the Israelites lose everything…their kingdom, their temple, everything.

Although the Israelites had run so far away from God, our Heavenly Father simply would not stop searching after his people. In the book of Ezekiel 34:11-12 God so lovingly tells us “For thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark.” In this beautiful verse, God promises us that he will never give up on us, no matter how lost we get. Even if we find ourselves wandering into the thickest of darkness will always be there to look after and guide us as a shepherd watches his sheep. Just as in the movie Byron is determined to find his beloved daughter, God our Father is determined to never stop searching for us, his beloved sons and daughters.

In fact, God shows just how far he is willing to go to search us out and bring us back to his love in the very person of Jesus Christ. God wants to love us so badly that he himself came down to Earth to show us his love, and to save and redeem us. God himself shepherds us, just as prophesized in the book of Ezekiel, but not in some far off spiritual sense. He actually comes down to Earth to live among us. But wait…not only does he come down to Earth, he actually dies for us. Jesus Christ died the most horrific, most painful, most embarrassing death imaginable at the time. One of the most famous verses in the bible, John 3:16, reads “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” What more proof do we need of God’s incredible love?

Just like Byron never stopped looking for his seemingly lost daughter Kim in the movie “Taken”, God never stopped searching for the seemingly lost Israelite people. He is also looking for you and for me. He will never stop seeking us out until we open our hearts to receive him. I don’t know what God sees in me that he would offer me this amazing love that I am so unworthy of, but I am eternally grateful for that love that reaches out to me every moment of every day.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me, for never giving up on me. You are my Father, my King, my Comfort, my Guide, my Lord and God. Help me to accept the love you are constantly offering to me. Help me to not be afraid to let you into the depths of my heart. Give me the strength and courage I need to allow you to live and through me, bringing your love to everyone I meet.”

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


As kids, I'm sure you were used to hearing, "Honesty is the best policy." or "The truth shall set you free." These are not new revelations. They've been with us since the beginning of time it seems. However, in the past few months, or even years, I have come to realize what it means to be honest with myself, a whole new dimension to just an honest opinion.

I was watching a clip from the show 90210 on YouTube and this line stuck out, "I don't think you can see this right now but you're being honest with yourself and everyone else. It's only going to lead to good things!" Personally this struck a core because I have reached a point in my discernment where I am being honest with myself and things are starting to make sense. In a broader, more general sense though I think what this quote gets at is the thought of personal acceptance.

Many of the pop artists, athletes, celebrities, and average people seek tangible evidence to know they are accepted. Pop artists look towards record sales and views and fans to feel accepted. Athletes look towards their pay checks. Celebrities look towards the number of Oscars they were nominated for. {I know I am playing off of stereotypes but you get the picture} The thing is, all of those tangible pieces of evidence are temporal and fleeting. Their lime-light comes and goes. However, a sense of personal acceptance, a sense of being honest with yourself will last much longer and have a greater impact.

If you want to go far, you have to be honest with yourself. You have to accept who you are. Be comfortable in your own skin. There is always going to be someone to love you. There is always going to be someone to care for you. There is always going to be someone to offer you an umbrella on a rainy day or shelter in a storm or whatever other type of analogy you want to use. Anyways, there will always be people who love you and there will always be people who don't. So be yourself. Be honest with who you are. Let good things happen.

From my own experience, in being honest with myself and with others I have found peace even in times of opposition. I know my family is by my side. I know my friends are my true friends because they love me for who I am and not for who I make myself out to be. Honesty has done a lot for me. What's it going to do for you?