3 Things I Learned about Life from Mowing the Lawn

According to author Joyce Meyer, “Even if you think the grass is greener on the other side, you’re going to have to mow that side too.” I got to thinking about grass, growth, and the greener side of things during a rare backyard mowing session. Due to precipitation from the late summer thunderstorms and the extended time between mowings, it took longer than usual to mow.

Mowing the Lawn

The sound of the lawn mower combined with the cool from a steady breeze allowed me mind to wander. I got to thinking, “I wish I trimmed the grass more often. It is like I am in a jungle out here!’ Mowing more frequently will make cutting the lawn easier. I also learned the following lessons about life as I gave my backyard its much needed haircut!

Cut Concerns Down with Consistency

“Part of courage is simple consistency,” Peggy Noonan, former speech writer for the late President Ronald Reagan stated. Maintaining frequency and a steady habit when it comes to your work and family life go a long ways in trimming down trouble. Probably the single because reasons for my success in dealing with irate customers was that I consistency approached the situations with tried and true methods to address and resolve their concerns. When you discover a process that work for your particular situation don’t change it. You may have to adjust your approach from time to time. You will likely have to tailor your service to fit client or customer needs, but the overall approach is consistency.

consistently grateful

As a writer, I have learned that my best success occurs when I am consistently creating content. I make it my goal to post at least 2-3 times a week to ensure I am reaching you my audience. If I go on a sudden writing hiatus, you will be disenchanted about my work. You may get bummed you did not see the latest article. Eventually, if the erraticness goes to long, an audience could leave. I would be bummed as well! I enjoy hearing your feedback. I enjoy seeing my favorite bloggers write regularly.

Being consistent builds trust. Consistent communication between a husband and wife forges trust. Consistent content generation helps businesses establish with their customers. Be consistent. Mow the lawn frequently and your grass will shine green for you!

Grow Consistently and Healthily with Gratitude

Want to experience a joy that is unshakable and frequently visited? Let’s do an experiment! Think of all the things you are thankful for! Set a timer for 2 minutes. Jot down all the blessings in your life. I ensure you when you reflect on this list you will find an otherworldly joy that cannot be taken from you if you practice gratitude consistently and authentically.

Graze down the weeds of despair with the scythe of thanksgiving.

Friendship is a Fertilizer for Long-Term and Natural Growth

friendship

The third life lesson I learned while mowing is that relationships matter. St. Thomas Aquinas once declared, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” True friends listen to you and also are truthful enough to provide you a push to be a better person. My wife is my best friend and toughest critic. She supports me and challenges me to be a better person.

Along with gratitude, friendships acts as a catalyst and fertilizer for character growth. Lifelong friends help the best as they help you weather the harshest of climates. Love yourself by embracing the love of your friends. Let them shower you with kindness, advice, and learning opportunities.

While we wish for greener lawns (or pastures),  it is important to realize that true and lasting growth does not come right away. Daily gratitude and frequently relying on your closest friends provide the best environment for growth. Start mowing down the concerns in your life now!

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My First Podcast Interview Just Aired!!

Last month I had the pleasure of recording an episode for The Catholic Servant Podcast discussing the importance of empathy at work, home, and in the spiritual life. Today that episode aired.

Here is the link:

https://thecatholicservant.com/matthew-chicoine

The article of mine that initiated this collaborative meeting can be found by going to this link: https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2019/07/01/the-power-of-empathy-2/

Hope you find it a useful and informative podcast discussion! Please leave any feedback in the comments section. 🙂

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3 Reasons the Worst Monday Ever Failed to Stop My Joy

its monday again meme

Mondays normally suck. This Monday is different. Today, I encountered the most confusing situations and the most livid of customers.

One word. Penultimate. Confused? Let me explain.

Perspective

Penultimate—this amazing word means second to last.

Example: Today is my penultimate day working at my current job.

See today is my second to last day of working at my current job. One Wednesday I start an amazingly frightful and exhilarating journey of being a full-time freelance writer. This has been my dream since 2015.

Helen Keller wrote, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.” Shifting your perspective allows you to overcome negativity. The entire day I kept my focus on the sun—the light of the Son Jesus Christ and also the sunlight of my new career opportunities.

Live with Purpose

In hindsight, this dream of being a writer probably began when I was a 1st grader. Collecting the complete series of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps I developed a deep love for reading. Reading opened up a love for storytelling for me. Every day since I was an elementary student I have at least 2 books in tote. Stories are a part of my life.

The seed for the love and passion for writing was planted over 2 decades ago. It will finally poke through the soil of time and work this Wednesday. No annoyance, irritation, confusion, or complex situation will lessen my gratitude and joy at this opportunity.

live purposefully

My Catholic faith motivates me and provides me stability during the storm. According to Jeremiah 1:5 God tells us, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” This verse is not merely a pious platitude. It reveals the truth about life. Life contains purpose. Life is not meaningless. Trust me. I endured the hell of losing a job I loved and the loss of several unborn children due to miscarriage. I was broken in 2015. Despair surrounded me. But the light of the Holy Spirit never left me. I almost allowed my suffering to kill me. Instead, I choose to let it define me.

response to suffering defines you

God allowed me to suffer in order to open myself up to others. St. Ignatius of Loyola declared, “If God sends you many sufferings it is a sign that He has great plans for you, and certainly wants to make you a saint.” While I am not even close to being close to a saint, I am going to trust the great Jesuit’s wisdom. To embrace suffering allows you to unite closer with Jesus Christ. I will do anything to unite closer to Him. Losing the security of a full-time job to pursue my purpose freelancing is scary, but will allow me to cleave to God more. Depend on Him more. That makes any cross sent my way endurable today.

Grateful Guarantee

Along taking perspective and living with purpose, the third way the “worst” Monday ever failed to defeat me was because of my attitude of gratitude. The first customer I spoke with started cursing and yelling. It is easy to respond to fire with fire. A surety to keep even-keeled during the stress storm is thankfulness. Building a solid foundation of gratitude helped me withstand incendiary language.

gratitude and joy

According to G.K. Chesterton, “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” Nothing heightens your ability to sense the divine action in your life or unite yourself to fellow humans as gratitude. I made a focused effort to be thankful throughout the day. Every hour. Every minute. I thanked God for everything. The nice customers. The choleric customers. Thanksgiving acted as a buoyed at first and then later an iron to prevent any negativity from penetrating.

No matter what throws at you it will be overcome it when you prepared. Be grateful. Not just once. Not twice. Not even 2,000 times. Always be thankful. Shift your perspective on your destination. Don’t let the minor circumstances of one awful day throw your overboard in the ship of life. Live will purpose. No matter how terrible life get it is always worth living. Trust me. I survived. And I will survive the future storms.

I just wanted to share to brighten your Monday!

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3 Reasons Why Critically Reading John 6 Will Convert Protestants

bread.jpg

From a young age, I always saw the world through a scientific lens. I needed to understand how the world works. When I attended college, that way of thinking applied to research papers and ensuring I had logical and concise arguments to articulate my interpretation of a particular historical event.

When I read the Gospel of John there is a logical flow to his account of the Gospel events. His entire gospel is masterfully written and laden with tons of symbolism. As a cradle Catholic, I heard John 6 [Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse] preached frequently during the Mass. It took years of analyzing this chapter and critically viewing it before I realized the genius and truth contained in Christ’s message. Inevitability my close reading of John 6 led me to this conclusion– the evangelist truly believed that Jesus was the literal bread of life that gives humanity eternal life! I give three strong pieces of evidence for this case:

Jesus as a Good Teacher

 I think most people would agree with me that Jesus’ followers considered him a good teacher. Jesus could relate to an array of people: rich, poor, fisherman, tax collectors, sinners, and strangers alike. Secondly, Jesus taught using a plethora of means including: sermons, parables, and miracles to name a few. A quality in any good teacher is consistency in content along with the ability to clarify their subject content should disputes arise. In the bread of life discourse in John 6, Jesus presented both his teaching consistently and clearly. Within a span of 24 verses [John 6:35-59] Jesus mentions point blank at least 6 times he is the bread of life. In verse 35, Jesus states, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” Verses 38, 48, 53-58 also support the Nazarene’s intrepid claim.

Sermon_on_the_Mount_Carl_Bloch-not-RTr-W300.jpg

It’s all Greek to Me

There are a variety of Greek words for the English verb “to eat”. Jesus says in John 6:54, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day.” The Greek word that the Evangelist uses in this verse is trōgō. Trōgō  translates as “chew” or “gnaw”. Why would John use such a fleshy and literal word for eat in this context? This translation only makes sense if we accept that Jesus literally meant that he is the bread of life. John even goes on to use trōgō in verses 56, 57, and 58– a grand total of four times!

wonder and awe.jpg

Loss of Followers

The evangelist writes in John 6:66 that many people who followed Jesus from the start of his ministry left him never to return. They were scandalized by the teaching of Jesus as the bread of life. I thought long and hard on this point. Why would many of Jesus’ followers leave him if he only spoke symbolically that he was the bread of life?

Well, if Jesus truly did intend for his claim that he is the “bread of life” to be interpreted figuratively, I doubt many followers would have left him that day. I mean think about it! People tend to become disenchanted with a leader when his or her message becomes too scandalous to bear. I doubt a man speaking figuratively, and poetically, would gather such scandal. Jesus repeatedly claimed “I am the bread of life”. He never qualified that assertion to be taken figuratively. Such difficult news may have been too much for these fair weather followers to swallow.

Most Holy Eucharist

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “The Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). It is a non-negotiable belief. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Saint John knew of the importance of this sacrament and he stressed it frequently in Jesus’ Bread of Life Discourse. Through my Catholic faith, I accept Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life. I ponder this question of Jesus frequently: Will you also go away? I ultimately hope that my answer is consistent with Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:67-69).

 

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3 Ways Hope Can Overcome Despair

According to the great English writer, J.R.R. Tolkien, “Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.” When I first discovered this pithy quote by the creator of Middle Earth, I paused and pondered his words’ truth. More often than not, the seed of hope gets planted within the soil of my loneliness. Over the past year, my wife and I experienced spiritual highs and lows. Currently, I am in a period of stability—a time where hope is my guiding light! Reflecting back on my personal valleys, I realized that the times I felt distant from God, my friends, and even my wife. Oddly enough, this become an opportunity for me to turn to the virtue of hope! Since I placed my hope [and ultimately greater trust in the Lord], I am better anchored in my faith—even in the midst of continual strife.

Mahatma Gandhi once declared, “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.” Hope defends against despair, especially hope in truth, goodness, and beauty. According to Mike Pacer in Mercy and Hope, “Hope guides us through the darkness. It assures of the light that is just beyond our sight.” Along with this profound insight, I discovered three easy ways which helped shift my mindset away from despair and towards hope.

Larger Piece of the Puzzle

Growing up my mom and I used to always work on jigsaw puzzles during hot summer days or cold winter months. Five hundred and one thousand piece puzzles seem daunting at first. What helped alleviate any anxiety is knowing that I was not alone in figuring out how the pieces fit together. A second key aspect to putting together puzzles is forming the outside frame first. Finishing the perimeter provided hope that the puzzle could be solved!

Getting lost in the shuffle of life is analogous to navigating through a massive jigsaw puzzle—without borders and helpers it is easy to lose hope and give up. Puzzles provide a concrete example of how different pieces fit together perfectly to create a completed picture. Knowing your place in the world—as a piece to the larger story of life—may be helpful in lessening anxiety and orient us towards hope.

Hope Our True Consoler, Not False Optimism

Dovetailing off the previous point, the virtue of hope is a true helper. According to Mike Pacer, “The key to hope is to acknowledge our feelings and separate them from reality (Mercy and Hope p.121). Hope should not be reduced to wishful thinking or mere pseudo-optimism. A realness exists with hope. The virtue of hope does not procedure a placebo effect like false-optimism.

Hope is a gift granted by God, most especially by the Third Person of the Holy Trinity—the Holy Spirit. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph number 691, “When he proclaims and promises the coming of the Holy Spirit, Jesus calls him the “Paraclete,” literally, “he who is called to one’s side,” ad-vocatus.18 “Paraclete” is commonly translated by “consoler,” and Jesus is the first consoler.19 The Lord also called the Holy Spirit “the Spirit of truth.”

Heaven—the Final Frontier

Referring to St. Paul’s assertion for our yearning for Heaven in Hebrews 13:14, Mike Pacer declared, “We are not living in our permanent home. Rather, we are on a journey. We have a definite destination (Mercy and Hope pp. 134-135). Put another way, St. Augustine’s axiom, “Our souls are restless until they rest in thee [God].” All the material possessions, power, and control in the world do not offer long-term and lasting fulfillment. Humanity keeps yearning for something greater, and greater, and greater!

St. Therese of Liseux famously summed up this truth using a nautical example, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home!” Earthly existence is a pilgrim journey. The virtue of hope allows us to don our theological lens to view more clearly that Heaven is the final frontier!


O my God, relying on your infinite goodness and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of your grace, and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer.

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Facts from a Whimsical Wednesday

Disclaimer: There is a sixth dimension that oftentimes interacts with mankind. It enters time and space unexpectedly and usually leads to mirth. Sometimes provoked by science, other times by faith, these experiences usually arrive in the mundane. This is the dimension of imagination. It is what I call…the Whimsical Zone!


Mark Twain wrote, “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.” I am naturally a worrier. Anxiety cripples me during a stressful or confusing day at work or home. Pulling yourself out of fretfulness is like attempting to pull yourself out of a deep hole covered in ice—it just does not work. Earlier this week, I encountered a series of unexpected whimsical moments that elicited joy. I have written a few times on my encounters with the whimsical, capricious things that uplift my spirits. Most peculiarly, and alliteratively, these encounters with the jovial occur on Wednesdays!

Spot the Spot

Last Wednesday morning, I was reading Daredevil #23 when my three year-old crawled onto my lap to look at the pictures. Looking at the villain, Spot, he exclaimed and pointed to the white and black dotted figure, “Daddy, look a firetruck (dog)!” I suddenly busted out laughing and the grin on my face remained for at least 5 minutes! I immediately woke up my wife and told her.

My son thoroughly enjoys toy cars, especially fire engines. His penchant for pups stems from his obsessive watching of PawPatrol and his favorite character is a Dalmatian named Marshall. If you are a comic book geek like myself or simply are curious about this spotty villain Spot I will tell you this—his superpowers involve an ability to create portals that lead to an alternate dimension and instantly cross short distances. How cool is that?!

Nuts about Nutty Bars

Another whimsical wonder I witnessed this Wednesday occurred on the drive to work. I noticed a Little Debbie truck ahead of me in the left lane.  I was a bit irritated because I was running late and the vehicle acted like the speed limit was under 20 mph. Switching lanes, I zoomed past it. I noticed the right side of the truck adorned with a picture of my favorite Little Debbie product—Nutty Bars. It took me a moment to realize that the truck’s wall read Nutty Bars instead of Nutty Buddy (a fairly recent name switch I was not happy with). This simple reminder of my favorite childhood snack instantly dispelled my annoyance.

What’s in a name?

St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.” Humility cures pride—the source of all evil and root of daily annoyances or irritations. Something minor, now in hindsight I recognize it to be little, that used to bother me was when people messed up my name calling me Michael instead of Matthew. This somewhat common occurrence happened to me again today. This time instead of finding it annoying I found a certain levity in the situation. I simply replied back with a happy face emoji! I am grateful to have grown in humility and learned to find the whimsical in a former annoyance.

Fanny pack Fanatic

American film director Terrence Malick declared, “Nostalgia is a powerful feeling; it can drown out anything.” Growing up in the 90s, many things lately have triggered my nostalgia—Pokémon, the N64, the carbonated drink Surge (yes I heard a reference to that the other day!), and revamped Disney movies. Arguably no item exemplifies the 90s culture, especially the corniness of it, as the fanny pack!

I received a text from my wife telling me of something epic she witnessed. I immediately called her back expecting to hear a milestone accomplishment from our baby or a funny thing our other kids said. “Matt, I just saw a lady at Walmart with a legit fanny pack!” she giggled over the phone.  As a fan of organization, corniness, and nostalgia her news added to my whimsical Wednesday.

If you are experiencing a dull, dreary, or a Debbie-downer type of day please don’t lose hope. Always be on the lookout for the ordinary, yet quirky happenings around you. You don’t need something extravagant to turn your attitude around. Ask for the gift of humility from the Holy Spirit and keep your eyes peeled for the hilariously mundane.

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Rocks, Monkey Socks, and Toy Cars—Joy Found on a Summer Morning!

Simple Joys

“I love the simple things in life. They tend to get overlooked.” This anonymous quote captured the entire theme of a morning at my home last week. Waking up early, my children itched for an opportunity to play outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun before the humidity set in.  Almost immediately, they rushed to the edges of my backyard to collect and play with rocks.

My son and daughter definitely received their geological glee from me—for a period I seriously considered majoring in geology! Noticing the different colors, sizes, textures, and hardness of the stones captivate their attention. If left to their own devices my oldest children would remain outside for hours and bring inside cartons of rocks.

Joy of a child

Joy of a Child

Along with my children’s joyful “jewel” collecting, their imagination was in full force as well. Albert Einstein once declared, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I most certainly need to pay more attention to my kids’ imaginative play as my thirst for knowledge has been stymieing my joy lately. The creative juices flowed greatly in the mind of my daughter. “Look dad!” she exclaimed, “Look at this. Taken aback at what I saw I asked, “What are you doing?” Proudly she exclaimed, “I am a monkey! Look at my monkey-socks!” Covering her feet were a pair of garden gloves I bought for her at the local home improvement store. Immediately, a grin spread across my face. Next, I just laughed—not a forced chuckle, but a natural, healthy and joyful guffaw!

Treasuring Toy Cars

Toys Cars

The final thing that brought joy to me that summer morn was my youngest son’s continual love and obsession over his toy cars. Being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in late 2017, we discovered that his obsession and impulsive playing with toy cars is part of what makes him unique. Carrying a plastic vehicle at all the time provides him relief amidst daily stresses of toddler life and living with rambunctious siblings. No less than a couple hundred times do we hear our two-year old say, “A car, a toy car! Look a car!” His enthusiasm and unbridled joy at the simplicity of a toy car reminds me of a spectacular point G.K. Chesterton made in his masterpiece Orthodoxy. He stated,

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.  

Joy of Daily Work

Meaningful Work

Repetition, work, and habits do not infringe on our ability to grow. On the contrary, finding joy in the simple matters of life and completing “monotonous” tasks regularly with joy instill true life in us. Days where I focus on my vocation as a husband and father with love are the days where my vocation does not turn into drudgery. The same is true when it comes to my daily work.

My dad displays this simplicity and adherence to his vocation as husband and father in an exceptional way. Rarely, did I hear him complain about his family duties. Weariness of parenting did not seen to wear on his face—at least from what I remember! In terms of spiritually living, my father is “younger” than myself in the sense that his obedience and joy in his vocation is anchored in the Pre-Existent God more deeply than my spiritual life is at currently!

I will leave you today with a few simple and profound quotes that I hope with awaken or sustain your spiritual life. I hope you discover the simple joy that children seem to naturally possess.


“What I know of the divine sciences and the Holy Scriptures, I have learned in woods and fields. I have no other masters than the beeches and the oaks.” —St. Bernard of Clairvaux

As St. Paul points out, Christ never meant that we were to remain children in intelligence: on the contrary, He told us to be not only ‘as harmless as doves,’ but also ‘as wise as serpents.’ He wants a child’s heart, but a grown-up’s head.” —C.S. Lewis

“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” —Greg Anderson, American author

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