Two Truths That Could Change Your Life. They Did Mine.

For me a friendship with Jesus began in college.

Before then we were acquaintances, at best. We spent time around one another on Sundays and on the occasional weekend retreat in high school, but for the most part me and Jesus were in similar social circles, but never really hung out. I liked it that way. His style didn’t too much cramp mine.

This changed in college. After repeatedly declining invitation after invitation to Christian things on campus, I finally caved. I signed up for a retreat with other students from William Jewell College. It was on this weekend that I heard Truth #1.

#1 "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength." Luke 10:27

On this IMPACT retreat, I heard that God was supposed to be number one and everything else second, third, fourth and so on. This was a new concept for me. I was compelled by the force and simplicity of it, and how the application of it promised a new and clear horizon by which to navigate life.

But even if it didn’t hold out a better life (it did) I was drawn simply by its weight and truth. God can ask to be first because God set the whole thing up in the first place. A great freedom flowed from allowing my life to be caught up in the given-ness of the way things were, rather than the scratching and clawing against the way things were.

For the first time, living life in closer proximity to Jesus, things made sense. Hope and joy emerged. Shame and guilt subsided. Going to Mass and confession now meant something. It was Jesus who I received in communion and Jesus who forgave me in confession. It was as though my black-and-white TV was instantly upgraded to High Definition. What a difference this truth made in me.

I was on the road to integrity, no longer nagged by the awful predicament of double living. It really didn’t work to go to Mass on Saturday nights so as not to go hungover on Sunday mornings. That was the given-ness I was bumping up against. In that sort of fight, God always wins. I finally surrendered.

In the days, weeks, and months that followed I began to pray a little bit each day, read the bible, and regularly shared with a group of men my ups and downs and the implications of living a more Christ centered life. A relationship with Jesus had begun.

These habits (prayer, scripture, and accountability) were the practical outworkings of living my life with God at the top. These habits opened me to discover Truth #2.

#2 "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

From a very early age I knew myself to be something of a people person. I could hold my own in conversations with grown-ups and even dared (quite regularly) to make cold calls to unsuspecting teenage girls whose number in the phonebook was labeled “teen line.” How else was a goofy dude who goes to an all boys high school supposed to find a date to prom?

So a year after the IMPACT retreat, I went on a “Relationship Retreat.” We learned about things like the God-given differences between men and women, what makes for good and bad communication, and the stark reality of marriage not always being ‘happily ever after.’ That stuff was all fine and good and I learned a lot. But that wasn’t what I was there to hear that day.

A political science professor of mine, Dr. Dale Kuehne, gave the last talk. He did a masterful yet subtle job of moving the conversation from relationships horizontal to relationships vertical. He proposed to us, each drawn in that day by the beauty and promise of fulfilling long-lasting human connections, that there was a relationship that would transcend them all.

+ A relationship that began before we were born and would last long after we die.

+ A relationship of love, faithfulness, and joy that we could always bank on.

+ A relationship defined by who I was (a child of God) not by how good I could be or how much I could accomplish.

More than our closest friends, parents, even our future spouse, this relationship was the only one we could trust, always and everywhere. A bell went off inside my head. This is what I had been searching for in each friendship, every silly cold call, and all manner of relationships in-between.

friendship with Jesus was born.

And rather than negating anything that had come already, this friendship built on the foundation of hours spent in Church receiving the Sacraments growing up and the relationship with Jesus that had begun just a year prior.

Two-life altering truths.

One gave rise to a relationship, the next to an everlasting friendship. One made God a priority, the other made God up close and personal. My life hasn’t been the same since.

Hey Catholics! Three Things that Must Change if We are Gonna Share Our Faith.

Photo Credit: Lorika13 via Compfight cc

Even for Catholics who have encountered Jesus, experienced his forgiveness and chosen to pattern their lives after him, fear, shame, neglect, and false ideas still prevent many of us from sharing our faith.  We know we should and we might even want to, but we don’t.  What gives?

In order for the balance to shift in our actions and attitudes around sharing our faith there are three things that need to change. 

+ Our minds

If we are honest with ourselves we don’t really believe talking with others about Jesus and the Church is all that pressing, important, or even acceptable.  What rattles around in our mind isn’t a worldview molded by God’s word, but rather thoughts that flow from our feelings (that’s scary) or the movies we watch (people don’t respect Jesus freaks), or from misplaced Catholic mantras like the St Francis quote, “preach the Gospel at all times, when necessary use words.”  Ugh!!  We counsel ourselves everyday with wrong ideas that fly in the face of “go and make disciples of all nations.”

What to do?  Memorize scripture. As far as I know, Catholics are able to do this too.  Since what we think, becomes, it stands to reason that as we internalize the truths of scripture, they become the seedbed for new decisions and actions. If you memorized one scripture a month - a year later you would have memorized twelve times as much scripture as you probably had the year before.  Winning!

Here are two to get you started.  Romans 10:15  & 1 Peter 3:15

+ Our habits

Matthew Kelly once said that “our lives will change when our habits change.”  More often than not I wake up with that thought on my mind. And when my next move is to grab my phone (before I grab my bible) I know I am still a day away from real life change. :)   We are creatures of habit.  What gets in the workflow tends to stay in the workflow.  Starting good habits isn’t easy and it’s even harder to break bad ones. 

What to do?  Start a new habit. Try mentioning the name of Jesus, once a day, in conversation.  Recently, this has been something I have been doing. It’s harder than it sounds, but there is great power in Jesus’ name. It’s a word that won’t go easily unnoticed and often leads to deeper spiritual conversations. 

+ Our prayers

Listen to your prayers.  Are they prayers of a person who hopes to share their faith with somebody else? If your prayers are like mine, they are often self-focused.  Bless me, bless me, bless me.  Help me, help me, help me.  

What to do?  Pick 3 people, pray for them by name, out loud, everyday for a month. Pray specifically for their hearts and minds to open to faith and for opportunities to speak with them about your faith. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. 

Insanity has been defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  We are crazy to think that we are going to share our faith more next month than we did this last month if something doesn’t change.  I suggest changing your minds, habits, and prayers.

What do you think? What needs to change about you for you to share your faith more often?

Tired of Telling your Son During Family Prayer, Quit Licking the Table? Try this.

Praying together as a family often causes more vice (my frustration at my fidgety, goofy, distracted sons) than virtue to enter into the collective air that our family breathes.

Sing this. Listen to that. Stop licking the table. 

Family prayer can feel like I am doing something to my kids for my benefit, rather than raising their hearts and mind to God for their benefit. Recently, in confession, I admitted that family prayer was not working and it was something that I had stopped trying to do altogether.  Facepalm. 

During that confession the priest wisely counseled me to keep it simple, brief, and pure.  He said that family prayer doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, simply prayer with your family.  Another month went by and it wasn’t until I confessed it again that I was convicted something needed to change.

So here it is. We are committing to the following plan through the remainder of Lent.  

+ At night we will pray together the Act of Contrition (to help my 8 yr old prep for 1st Confession).

+ In the morning before the boys head out the door for school, we pray the suscipe by St Ignatius of Loyola.

Nothing fancy, but it’s prayers we say together as a family.

Voila! Family prayer.