Sunday, May 22, 2011

Commandments 11 through 13

Today in his homily, Fr. Don Cullen shared his eleventh through thirteenth commandments.

He characterizes these as three things we can all practice, especially those of us who are married, to stay a little less troubled in life. Having heard him talk about these before, I immediately grabbed a pen because from the first hearing, I'd wanted to do a blog post listing them:
  • The 11th Commandment - "Thou shalt not presume anything."
  • The 12th Commandment - "Thou shalt not presume other people can read your mind."
  • The 13th Commandment - "Thou shalt not take anything personally - even if it was intended that way."
What wisdom!

I particularly needed to hear number 13 this morning. And number 12 was pretty beneficial as well.

At a class one night, he talked about the possibility of a 14th commandment. Unfortunately, I didn't get it down when he said it, and he couldn't later remember it either.



Monday, January 10, 2011

My Prayers for Ted Williams

Here are my prayers for Ted Williams:
  • He stays clean.
  • He has someone around him who really cares about him, his well-being, and is willing to help him say, "No," to more things than he's turning down right now.
  • He remains grounded in his humbleness and thankful attitude toward God.
  • He gets things squared with his family.
  • He's able to help those who are still out there on the street.
  • He spends less than he'll make.
  • He'll still get emotional when he talks about his mother.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Challenging Times? Look for the Blessings

A frequent question (so frequent in fact a book was written with the question as its title) is, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" Fr. John Corapi answers it by saying God allows apparently bad things to happen to good people so that greater good may come from them.

This perspective is tremendously helpful in dealing with the adversities you face. It allows you to get past your "why" question to ask an important "what" question: "What is the good and the blessing God intends (and perhaps has already presented you with) in this situation?"

Starting with looking for blessings in all situations presented to you allows you to better start growing as God intends from both the wonderful and the challenging things you face. Even amid the bad, seek the lesson, the caution, the redirection, the admonition, or the reprimand God is placing before you. Doing so allows you to be an active participant in the good God is trying to bring about in your life and the lives of those around you.

If you feel like you're pushing a boulder up a hill, take time in quiet and prayer. Ask God for the gift of being open to the blessings he intends for you. Realize those blessings will not be without sacrifice and struggle. Even so, surrender your will to allow him to guide you to the greater good he intends.



Sunday, March 21, 2010

Okay God, Even I Get It

We've talked before about the challenge of understanding when and how God is actively working in our lives.  I often pray to surrender my will so I can be open to God's will for me. There's a long way for me to go, but something happened last week where God made His work so clear, even I was able to see it.

Leaving a job in a big corporation last fall was a major test of faith. I firmly believe God created a situation where he essentially asked, "Are you willing to make the right decision and depend on me to lead you?" Through prayer, discussion, and understanding the beneficial impact my departure might have for other people, there was no choice but to leave if I wanted to be true to my life's core purpose.

Since then, it's been challenging in many ways, yet I'm at such peace with the decision. In both subtle and overt ways, God has placed signs along the way which signal, "I'm watching out for you. Believe."

With as much progress as we'd made on the business, it was clear a number of weeks ago that we needed to secure a significant project. At the same time, Lent was approaching. During this period annually, we are re-called to a life of greater prayer, sacrifice, and giving to others. So for part of our Lenten giving, I committed to give a certain portion of whatever a new project's fee would be to EWTN, the Catholic television network. It has been a tremendous blessing in my spiritual growth for many years.

Sure enough a potential project in the works since before I'd left my job came to fruition as Lent started. True to our commitment, Cyndi and I made an online donation to EWTN of $500 several weeks ago. Sure it would have been comforting to keep the money, but it was a vital commitment to fulfill. Last Thursday, we received an envelope from EWTN with a receipt and a note saying we'd be remembered in masses and devotions there the first week in April.

In the mail, however, was another envelope, this one was from our insurance company. It referenced a car accident we had in August 2004. On the way to an outdoor theatre, our car was t-boned (and totaled) by a big, old pickup driven by a driver with no insurance, no license, no tags, and apparently no inclination to yield the right of way. Thankfully, no one was hurt. Yet we were stuck in a bad part of town with an inoperable car, a dying cell phone, and a need to find someone to get us home. Cyndi's sister was traveling through town, however, and was able to come get us. As we waited, the Kansas City police officer stayed at the scene much longer than he would have had to, watching out for us. So beyond missing the show, having to find a new car, and covering the deductible because of the other driver's lack of insurance, we were really none the worse for wear.

The insurance company's letter let us know the pickup's driver was now making payments to them. Because of his commitment to repay his debt, the letter contained a check for $500, refunding our deductible! Okay, I may be tremendously dense, but even I could put all this together.

Think about it. We pray and expect God to answer immediately, not appreciating that God doesn't (and doesn't have to) act on our timing to provide for us according to His plan and His will.

In this case, an apparently random (and potentially tragic) event five and a half years ago (which was no more than a nuisance) had to occur to allow God to care for us at a time when $500 has taken on much more importance.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened since I left my job. Several times, just what we needed, whether financial or simply a word of encouragement, has arrived at exactly the right time.

The message?

Pray you have the foresight to get out of God's way and allow Him to direct you as necessary for His will to be done. Then be prepared and patient to allow His plan to unfold, even when it's not clear what it all means. Because you know what? It doesn't matter if you understand it; God understands it. And that's what matters.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sometimes God Allows Things to Be Difficult

Sometimes God allows things to be difficult:

  • So you'll pay more attention to what you're doing
  • For others (and not for you) to teach you to give of yourself
  • To put some appropriate fear back in you
  • So you'll learn to sacrifice your pride
  • So you'll let Him take over
  • To slow you down when you're going too fast
  • So you'll realize you need friends to make it through
  • Because it's what's best for you in the long run.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Decide to live humbly. It will make it easier when life decides to humble you.

Decide to live simply. You'll be ready when the simple pleasures are all you have.

Decide to live boldly. You'll attract other bold people who'll shore you up if your boldness fades.

Decide to share lavishly. What you share with those who need it will enrich you both.

Decide to leave quietly. You're more likely to hear if someone asks you to stay!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Suffering or the Lack of It

The idea of embracing suffering vexes me.

I've had a blessed life. Couple it with a problem-solving personality that tries to fix challenges (as opposed to passively embracing the MINOR sufferings I've experienced), and I often worry I'm running away from suffering.

Driving to an appointment the other day, there was an old broadcast of a Mother Angelica show where someone asked her to address the fact that saints so often wrote of taking on suffering for its redemptive value while we live in a society that constantly markets to us about eliminating suffering in our lives.

Her response was wonderful, "Very few of us are saints."

She went on to say that when she has a headache, she reaches for the aspirin bottle. And if those aspirin don't work, she takes some more. Only then, if the headache hasn't subsided, does she tell herself God must have some other plan at work.

What a helpful point of view.

We're meant to be acting in our lives, and there's redemptive value in the struggle of dealing with challenges while also being open to God's will in our lives.

That makes me feel a whole lot better.


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Many of you know my dad entered the hospital in early April. Three surgeries, four ICU stays, a life flight to Kansas City (followed by an ambulance ride back to Hays), and several weeks in rehab later, he was released Friday after 70 days.

Through the incredible prayers of many people, the indefatigable support of my mom, and his indomitable positive spirit, he's alive today, with something still to prove.

There were many ups and downs during his hospitalization. One 24 hour period stands out.

On Mother's Day, I headed to Hays when he returned to ICU with a blood clot in his lung. The ICU doctor pulled me aside and asked if I understood how serious Dad's condition was. I assured him I did. And even though it was ostensibly her day, I don't think I wished my mom Happy Mother's Day until 9 o'clock Sunday night.

Back at home, I laid in bed, making myself cry for the emotional release needed for the days ahead. I thought about what I'd learned from my dad and all the things he'd been and done in his life. And I got the idea for the piece below.

As I've told a number of people, when I went back to the hospital the next morning at 8 a.m., Dad was unconscious and on a ventilator; I feared the worst. At the 10 a.m. visit, he was alert and nearly squeezed my hand off; suddenly my tears from the night before turned to tears of joy. By the 8 p.m. visit, he was off the ventilator and watching "Dancing with the Stars."
That's my dad, and I'm so glad he's out of the hospital for Father's Day to be able to read this post.

I love you Mom and Dad!

My Dad

My dad is my dad.
He's a son, a husband, and a big brother to many - whether or not he's older or even a sibling.
He's a Kansan.
He's a friend.
He's a partner with Jesus.
He is loved by so many people.

My dad is a barber. He's a salesman, broadcaster, TV celebrity, and announcer. He's a chef and restaurateur. He's a board member and advisor.

My dad is an electrician, plumber, mechanic, gardener, carpenter, house painter, collector, comedian, impressionist, and artist.
I've seen him fix all kinds of things for people.
For those in genuine need, he's a bank, a financier, and investor.
Hard working and strategic; a solver and critic.
He has a distinctive personality. He's a learner and advice giver.
My dad is tech savvy, following me into blogging and tweeting.
He's incredibly proud of his son.

My dad's a positive thinker and struggling. He's sweet and rebellious.
A coach and cheerleader, with a cantankerous, opposing voice.
He loves sports; hates athletic ineptitude. That's why he's a frustrated golfer and Kansas City sports fan.
He's demanding and a loving, supportive man; big hearted and skeptical.
He's a confidant who is inquisitive (at times nosy), and doesn't take any bullshit from anyone.
He is infirmed, and he looms large.

My dad is a rock, a fighter, and seemingly to me, invincible.
My dad is my dad.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Are We Addicted to Technology?

There was a show today on EWTN, the Catholic TV network, about our societal attraction (addiction?) to technology. "Faith & Culture" featured an interview with Eric Brende, the author or "Better Off - Flipping the Switch on Technology," about his 18 month stay among a strict religious community that eschewed not only technology, but any type of electricity or motorized devices.

As a kid, Brende's father bought one of the first word processors. He noticed that while these new devices were being billed as time savers, his father became increasingly tied to the device. Later in a graduate program at MIT, Brende described himself as going against the grain in looking at the challenge of technology, particularly its tendency to remove humans from nature and interpersonal interactions.

A convert to Catholicism at 22, he began thinking more intently about the Church's admonitions against the unintended impacts of technology, particularly Pope Paul VI's societal warnings offered in Humane Vitae.

After marrying, the newlyweds moved to a rural community to farm in an environment with no electricity, motorized tools, or indoor plumbing. Despite the utter lack of technology, Brende characterized their life as more leisurely. His contention, addressed in the book about their 18 month experience, is that technology compartmentalizes activities and increases time pressures.

One example? Mowing with a push mower addresses functional aspect of mowing and creates an opportunity for exercise. A technologically advanced self-propelled mower however, only gets the lawn mowed. The person mowing, having completed the chore with no real exertion, is then compelled to drive to a gym to exercise. He also cited barn raisings as another example; both the functional need of building a barn and the societal dimension of neighbors interacting and bonding are satisfied.

Brende now lives in St. Louis, in the city's urban center. While it might appear in contrast to a rural existence, he cited his family's ability to get around by walking or biking and the proximity to neighbors in similar situations as creating interpersonal dimensions that don't happen as readily in the suburbs or even many rural areas. His family home schools, and Brende earns a living making soap and driving a bike taxi primarily in and around St. Louis Cardinals baseball games.

His suggestions for people wanting to start to shake ties to technology include walking or biking to work, home schooling, and eliminating or at least minimizing watching TV or working on the computer to increase the time for genuine, personal interaction.

A challenging message, yet one that certainly rings true. My time away from this blog has been a result of some new family responsibilities emerging in the past few months. I can't ignore, however, the time spent developing new presentations and Twittering as drains reducing my time for personal reflection and aligning my life to what's important. It's something I'll definitely be working on in the coming months.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3 Lessons from Today

  • Don't email your response to an angry email. Call or talk directly to the person who sent it. Ask them to help you understand the issues that concern them. Listen intently. It works.
  • Try to take risks on people who display determination. Even if they fall short in some areas, their tenacity has all kinds of potential to create something rewarding.
  • Become comfortable with the intriguing and unexpected twists in life God sends you that you could never anticipate or engineer yourself. Pray for the peace to accept and appreciate them.