Lose.

July 2nd Sunday Readings.

When was the last time you experienced something that made you say, “That was IMG_1552amazing”? Recently, I was at a concert where the lasers, lights, music, and performance were so overwhelming that I kind of forgot where I was for a moment and just stood in awe. This past weekend I stood on the beach of a beautiful lake and got lost in the sunshine and trees and water. Playing a game with friends recently, I laughed so hard I was concerned I might pass out (seriously), and I lost track of time.

I think the experience that these moments all hold in common is this sense of forgetting myself. I was so overwhelmed with awe or joy or beauty that I lost myself. If I really think back about the most memorable and profound moments of my life (wedding day, birth of my children, etc.) those moments also seem to be when I stop thinking about myself and focus on another.

In the gospel this weekend, Jesus says, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I think this experience of losing one’s self is exactly what Jesus is talking about here. In other words, when we are able to forget about what we think we want or need, only then do we get to experience a life fuller than we could ever hope for.

As good as the concert, the sunshine, and the laugher was in helping me lose myself momentarily, it is really in moments of profound prayer and in helping others that I truly forget myself. The music faded, the sun set, and the game ended, but 10 days later, I am still thinking about the moment at the end of Mass over a week ago when I prayed a prayer of surrender and I lost myself in the Eucharist and music of Mass. It’s the faces of the children in Mexico or my own children that push me outside of myself and move me to lose myself more than a mere memory.

If you want to live the fullest life possible, then give your life your life away. Lose yourself; find God.

LIVE IT: Make 15 minutes this week to go and sit in a quiet, empty Church this week. If it’s Holy Name of Jesus, make your way into the Adoration Chapel. Be silent.

I trust you (kinda).

June 11th Sunday Readings.

originalI’m scared of heights. I don’t mean I don’t like them or they make me uncomfortable. All that is true, but my fear of heights is so much more than that. When I find myself in an potentially unsafe heights situation, I loose the ability to think rationally and clearly.

One time on a high ropes course, I got about halfway up the rope ladder when I totally and complete froze up. I couldn’t move up or down. I wanted to do the ropes course, but my body wouldn’t move. I was tied into two safety lines and had a rope controlled by a climb instructor attached to my belt.

Rationally, I could say to myself, “Self. You are totally safe. You have a rope tied to you. The rope holds 500 lbs. You are safe.” I believed that the rope was there, but I couldn’t trust it. I knew it existed, but I wouldn’t trust it with my life.

Our gospel this Sunday is a familiar passage, John 3:16-18. We hear it so often that we can take what it means for granted. One of the keys to unlocking this verse is to understand what Jesus meant when he said the word “believes.” Jesus doesn’t mean the kind of belief that recognizes that God exists. The devil believes that God exists.

The kind of belief that John writes about here is putting our trust in God. In other words, everyone who puts their life into God’s hands will be saved. It is through a full submission and surrender that we are saved through Jesus Christ.

When we understand “belief” to be “acknowledgment of existence” we can be stuck in our faith or our lives just like I was stuck on that rope ladder. It is only when we believe in God so as to trust him with our lives that we can move forward fearlessly.

LIVE IT:
Go to a trusted person in our life – spouse, parent, child, friend, priest, etc. – and start a conversation by asking them this question, “What do you think it means to trust in God?”

How many times…

March 5th Sunday Readings.

“How many times do I have to ask you bring your clothes basket upstairs?” I uttered in is-that-not-brilliant-i-think-it-s-brilliant-hv4hw7-clipartfrustration. It finally happened. I realized I was becoming my mother.

Which honestly isn’t a bad thing, my mom is great. As my kids have gotten older, I feel like I understand my parents better and better. It’s like I understand why they said what they said. More than that, I understand something I really didn’t understand as a young person –

Obedience is a form of Love.

In the second reading, Paul outlines this way of thinking about Jesus as the one who, when Adam was disobedient, was totally obedient to the Father. If Adam disobeys God, it is Jesus who redeems through total obedience. If Adam’s disobedience caused a separation between man and God, then Jesus’ obedience repaired that rift. If Adam’s act brought death, Jesus’ obedience brings life.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually value obedience. Maybe it is that us Americans seem to enjoy a rebel. Maybe it’s just that I rather like being in control and obeying someone else means that I have to give up that control. Whatever the case, I rarely have thought well of simple obedience.

Yet Jesus shows us that one way to love, and to love well, is to obey the virtuous request of those who love us. Obviously, I’m not suggesting we just do whatever someone else tells us. But when asked, by someone with total care and love for us, obedience is a way to love.

How can I love my spouse? How can I love my parents? How can we love God? Obedience.

Live It:
How do we know what God is telling us? Read scripture. Try reading this Sunday’s readings by clicking here.
or if your my kids, take your baskets upstairs. 😉

Proof is in the Vinegar.

February 26th Sunday Readings.

I don’t believe in all that homeopathic mumbo jumbo. Intellectually, I can maintain that

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Not medicine. 

eating newt’s eyes and massaging a particular place in my thumb doesn’t really do anything. I wouldn’t ever try and talk someone into non-traditional medical care.

And every day for three weeks I’ve been drinking this concoction of Apple Cider Vinegar, Turmeric, Honey, and hot water. While my whole family spent days in the pits of a gross cold, I have remained cold free and feeling good. I’m not willing to say the not-so-delicious vinegar drink is working because I don’t believe in crazy home remedies. But I drank my weird drink this morning and I’ll probably drink another one tomorrow.

I say I don’t believe that homeopathic remedies work, but my actions don’t really match my words. In the gospel, Jesus points out that sometimes we act this way with God too. Jesus said, “So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek.” He was pointing out that even though someone may say they believe in a loving and caring God, when they don’t really act like it, can we say they really believe it. In other words, is it our actions or our words that define us? I might say I am a Christian, but if I live like God doesn’t exist, aren’t I just an atheist in practice?

If we say we believe in God and believe Jesus is God, do our lives reflect that? If we say God loves us and wants to show mercy towards us, do we actively seek that mercy? If we say God is good and knows what is best for us, do we really trust him fully?

Fr. Mike Schmitz often says that if we want to know how we are doing at following Jesus Christ, we shouldn’t look to our words, but instead, examine our calendars and our bank statements. Examining where we spend our time and our money is probably a good way to examine what we value and who we trust. If we truly trust and believe in a loving God, our lives will reflect that belief.

LIVE IT:
Open your calendar and your bank statement. Ask God to bless these two items and to help you trust and love more, worry less, and give more over to God. If you’re brave, examine how you’ve spent your money or time and discover what you value most.

You gotta play by the rules

February 12th Sunday Readings

I loved recess. I’m not saying it was the best part of my day or that I didn’t like actual class, but at recess I could play with my friends, do whatever we wanted to, and just have fun. For the first half of 4th grade, I spent most recesses arguing. My friends and I were trying to play football, but usually we would just end up arguing, sometimes about what happened, but usually about the rules. The reason was we didn’t develop or agree to any set of rules for our pickup football game. So after picking teams, we would just start and then something would happen that would cause us disagree. The lack of agreed upon rules kept us from being free to really have fun.

Sometimes rules get a bad rap. Rules are seen as the things that keep us from being free. Sometimes we even paint Jesus as the ultimate rule breaker and rebel. Yet, in the gospel for this Sunday Jesus says this, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish the law but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.”

When the rules come from God, they are rules made for our own good. If you believe in God and you believe that God loves you and you believe that he knows what is best for you, then the rules he sets are not restrictions to suffocate you, but, truly, rules to let you be free and happy.

G.K. Chester wrote this, “Catholic doctrine and discipline may be walls; but they are the walls of a playground.” He goes on to describe an island in the ocean with walls all around the cliff edge of the island. When the walls remained, children ran free and happy. When the walls were removed, the children silently huddled together in the center of the island. When we know our boundaries, we can have more fun, freedom, and happiness within them.

Live It:
What rule or moral guideline or teaching of the Church do you struggle to agree with? When was the last time you prayed about it and took your objection to prayer? Take 3 minutes this week (all at once or broken up into small segments) to pray about that rule or law that you struggle with. Offer it up to God, offer up your questions and objections, and then be silent and let God speak.

Death on the Arkansas River

Nov. 20th Sunday Readings

fc-white-water-raftingIn high school I went on a high adventure trip to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. We rode horses at 10,000 feet. We visited the Air Force Academy. It was an amazing trip. The highlight was when we went on a 2 day whitewater rafting down the Arkansas river.

Whitewater rafting on a seriously dangerous river like the Arkansas isn’t something one does on their own. We hired a outfitting company to rent us the rafts, supplies, and to provide guides for the river. We were assigned three expert guides all who knew the river well and seemed to know what they were doing at all times.

Before we left on our trip, we went over the rapids we would be rafting through; I literally thought I was going to die. Each rapid was rated based on the likelihood that you will survive if you were to fall overboard. A level 1 rapid is a timid little flutter of water that will barely soak your suit if you fall into it. A level 6 is almost certain death if you were to fall out of the boat. We had 2 level 5s and handful of 4s and 3s. The one that scared me the most was called “The Widow Maker.” So scared.

Yet, I was confident that we would all be okay. Why? I trusted my guide. When he yelled “Left side!!” The left side of the boat would paddle like crazy. When he told the right side to reverse, they would paddle backwards. When we were on the water, our guide was 100% in charge.

Have you ever had a time when someone was 100% in charge of your actions and decisions? Have you ever given someone else that kind of power?

Everyday we make hundreds of decisions. When I was in the raft on the Arkansas river, I gave up my own opinion of what to do in each situation to someone else who knew better what was best for me. In our lives, we have the opportunity to give power to Jesus, to make him king of our lives, because he knows what is best for us. If we really believe that God loves and wants what is best for us in every situation, why wouldn’t we let him rule our hearts?

This Sunday we celebrate Christ the King Sunday. We recognize and celebrate Jesus as king. And we do that with a gospel about his crucifixion. Why? First, Jesus is labeled king by the very men who killed him. Secondly, the very means of his death is the way that he conquered death. Jesus’ demise is his triumph. What looks like failure is in truth, victory – the victory of a conquering king.

Jesus desires the best for us more than even we do. He loves us more than we love ourselves. Jesus is the kind who conquered death and wants to give us life and live in abundance. Will we let him be our king?

LIVE IT:
One of my favorite songs is “King of My Heart” by Sara MacMillian. You can listen to it here.

Destroyed

Nov. 13th Sunday Readings.

A month ago I had some relatives come in town and we took them down to check out us_bank_stadium_-_west_facadethe new Viking’s stadium. We were all impressed with the size, shape, materials, design, and creativity of US Bank Stadium. The kids vacillated between ooh-ing, ahhh-ing, and silently staring up at the monumental structure. “Wow” was the most common word associated with this architectural marvel.

I recently heard this quote about about another stadium – “I haven’t found a thing yet that I don’t like about this place.” Quite the endorsement. So who said it? Jim Lemon the hitting coach for the Minnesota metrodome4Twins…in 1982 after he first toured the Metrodome.

As amazing as the Metronome was in 1982, by the time I got to Minnesota in 1998 everyone seemed to be talking about how wretched it was and how it should be torn down. And as amazing as US Bank Stadium is now, there will come a time when fans will want to replace it too (provided we have football – I hope someone is reading this article in 2051 and laughing).

In the gospel this weekend the crowd is enamored with how well adorned the Temple was with costly stones and votive offerings. They marveled at the size and majesty of the Temple. Jesus warns them that as amazing as the Temple is, it will be destroyed (which actually happens in 70 AD). This would have shocked those who heard Jesus because the Temple was God’s house. The Temple was the center of his community’s religious and political life. The destruction of the Temple meant the end of the world as they knew it. Wasn’t he supposed to save them? Why was he forecasting their doom?

The reality is that Jesus didn’t come to save things the way they are or to save the things we think are important. Jesus came to save us. For that to happen, it might mean that world as we know it is destroyed. For Jesus to save us, it may mean that the things we love the most that aren’t God must crumble.

For us this means that have an opportunity to examine the things we hold tight. Whether we like it or not, there are things to which we are unhealthily attached. Part elgreco_thecrucifixionof our job as Christians is to detach ourselves from the things we love more than God, to literally let our Temples crumble while seeking a deeper and more profound relationship with Jesus.

Need inspiration? The disciples walked the earth with Jesus of Nazareth for 3 years and, at the end, watched him die on a cross. They had to watch the man they thought would save them and their country be executed by the government that was oppressing them. It was only when the Holy Spirit came upon them in the upper room were they truly able the let God’s will be done.

Come Holy Spirit.

LIVE IT:

Find a quiet time to pray this simple prayer:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.