4 Reasons I Get Tongue Tied with the Name of Jesus


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Often I substitute other words in conversation, in place of ‘Jesus’, because I fear what comes with the territory. How about you?

  • God, Church, Faith? Easy. Rolls off the tongue. They keep the conversation going.

  • Jesus? Hard. Like Flappy Bird hard. When it’s time to fill in the blank with the word “Jesus”, I often take the chicken exit.

Think about it. How many times in the last week did you bring up the name of Jesus in conversation? Probably less than you could have. I certainly missed a chance or two.

In fact I’d suggest the average Catholic would rather drop an f-bomb than bring up the name of Jesus. Why is this? I’ll throw out four reasons. 

It’s not socially acceptable. In some situations an f-bomb (or a curse word in general) actually helps. A well placed swear word can take you from being super-dork to being one of the guys, just like that. If it worked for me as a 10 year old on the playground, it can work for you. The name of Jesus, on the other hand, often has the opposite effect. Who can stand the funny looks, the fidgeting, the labels, or even the rejection? I rarely can (but I need to, more).

Nobody else is doing it. Why stick out when you can fit in? Very few Catholics at your parish are talking that way, why should you? It’s just not a part of our everyday vocabulary. For better or worse, we absorb our surroundings. Like when you move to Minnesota and you start talking like Marge Gunderson. It just happens. If other Catholics you know are brave enough to talk about their ‘faith’ it’s often still in more generic than specific terms. Baby steps are good, but the world isn’t gonna be changed by doing what we’ve always done.

People don’t talk about what they don’t know about. When the conversation turns to managing a corrugated box factory I stop contributing. I know nothing about factories and even less about corrugated boxes. As soon as I open my mouth about nuances of such a product you’ll immediately see I’m in over my head. The same thing is true with the name of Jesus. You can be a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic and still know nothing about Jesus. Heck, even if you know a lot of facts about him, you may not say that you actually ‘know’ him. Like me and Peyton Manning. I know a lot about him, but don’t know him personally. 

The devil don’t like it. There is more power in the pinky finger of the name of Jesus than all the words in the English language combined, and the evil one knows it. Probably far better than I do. So he gets us talking about really really good things (God, faith, Church) so long as we don’t mention the absolute best thing there is (Jesus). I’m convinced he’d rather have us talk about faith generically than Jesus specifically. Why, you ask? Because Jesus is “the name above every other name” (Phil 2:9), the ”name by which we are saved“ (Acts 4:12), and ”the way, the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6) If your whole goal was to prevent people from connecting with God (as I’m sure is somewhere on Satan’s to-do list), keeping Jesus off the minds and lips of Catholics wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

So, here’s a thought.

For the next week take a leap and substitute ‘Jesus’ where you might otherwise default to a word like God, Faith, Church, etc.

For instance, when you might say to a friend: “My Catholic faith is important to me”, say “Jesus is important to me.”

or to your kids when you might say “let’s pray about it” say “let’s talk to Jesus about it.”

It’s one part new habit, another part courage, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You aren’t just substituting one word with equal value for another.  You are setting the stage for the person you are talking to to consider another person more important than you - a person who loves them and wants to lead them through life.

Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t work like like Find & Replace in Microsoft Word.

As such, don’t substitute it if it’s not true. The first step for you, rather than bringing up a stranger’s name in conversation, might be in discovering better who Jesus is and how you can have a relationship with him.  Also, some instances do call for more generic terms. We can’t get away from the imperative to meet people where they are at (so long as we don’t forfeit our position along the way).

Most of the time we over think it, are scared, or are simply unaware of our speaking patterns. It’s time for a change.

So, be discerning and wise, but also bold and brave. 

Who’s with me?

How Protestants Saved Me From Leaving the Catholic Church

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When I went to college I didn’t know my faith very well.

I knew there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, but I was unaware that the distinctions were big enough to cause any real problems.

Pretty naive, I guess.

This all came into graphic relief during my last year at William Jewell College (a historically Baptist college). A communications major (a Catholic) was giving her senior presentation about Christian unity at Jewell. One negative example she gave was of overhearing a conversation where the Student Senate president, who was Catholic, was referred to as “Satan.” 

I was stunned.

That Catholic Student Senate president was me.

I was given this nasty moniker not because of the kind of person I was, but simply because I was Catholic.

In that moment I realized the Catholic-Protestant divide was no joke and there were a lot of people out there who had really big feelings about it all. Rather than being appalled, I wanted to jump in. While I didn’t understand exactly what all the fuss was about, I was put on notice.

Not to further divide, but unite.

A hope for healing, unity, and understanding between all Christians came alive in me.

Most all of my interactions with Protestants at William Jewell College were really strong. I never experienced personally the anti-Catholic bias that was referenced in this speech. Whether it was in small group settings or on retreats or serving at soup kitchens I only knew Christian unity, nothing else. Which is why it surprised me so much to hear Christian disunity expressed so blatantly.

In fact throughout my conversion experience in college I encountered three things from Protestant Christians at William Jewell that ultimately ensured I never left the Catholic Church, and as such, have become something of a template (of course alongside thisthis, and most recently this) for an approach to Christian unity these many years later.

No one spoke ill of the Catholic Church to me. It didn’t take me very long, while I was on campus, to realize that non-Catholic Christians had real questions about what Catholics believe, but I never encountered anyone going on the offensive. Sure, things came up regarding our beliefs about things like praying to saints or the authority of the Pope, but never was I made to feel ashamed of who I was as a Catholic.

No one encouraged me to leave the Catholic Church. This never came up. This hasn’t been every Catholic’s experience, but it was mine. I was in a number of strong men’s groups towards the end of college, regularly engaging other non-Catholic Christians in faith related discussions. Never once was I encouraged to “check out their Church” or reconsider mine. I’m really grateful for this because my experience as a Catholic who had awakened to Jesus, become his disciple, and desired to lead others to him would be a mission fulfilled within, rather than outside of, the Catholic Church.

The focus was on Jesus. More than anything I walked away from my relationships with other Christians at William Jewell with a greater love for Jesus. Jesus was the focus, the center, and the end-goal. This shaped the sort of Catholicism I would embrace beyond my time at William Jewell. Come to find out it was also the Christocentric Catholicism of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and our current Pope Francis.

This focus on Jesus prepared me to re-receive the gift of Jesus in the sacramental life of the Church.

  • Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist became meaningful and eagerly desired, rather than rote and impersonal.

  • Going to confession and knowing that my sins have been forgiven was no semi-annual afterthought, it was healing, sanity, and mercy.

This all kept me Catholic. 

People who loved Jesus were willing to share his love with me - no matter the crazy scary nicknames uttered about me behind my back. 


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.

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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?