The sleek shadowy black corvetteahead of me roared its engine. This sudden sound caused my dropping eyelids to pop open. Peering around me I noticed the grey dreary sky adorned with ominous clouds. Fresh precipitation remained on the ground. The scent of a fresh rainfall 🌧 lingered.
While some people lament about the weather this day, I wait, in joyful anticipation, for the cloudy ☁️ doldrums. After what seemed like an eternity, the sports car moved forward. Inching forward, another aroma mixed with the dewy scent. A sweet, yet bitter smell engaged my olfactory sense.
Waiting. Has time actually stood still? The longing persists. It is difficult to wait any longer. Five minutes has passed. Will another five or 500 pass before I acquire this liquid gold?
Thank goodness! 🙌 The roar of the ebony corvette wakens me again. Looking up out the paned window I notice my time has arrived. Waiting. Waiting all too long.
Finally, I am met with those beautiful words—“Here is your one large coffee ☕️!”
“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
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
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
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
Last week I talked about three valuable lessons that we can learn from givers. This post will focus on the reverse side of the giver/taker coin—taking. While givers tell us what to do takers will help us know what to avoid. We will focus on three specific lessons.
Don’t be fake
Nothing frustrates me more than dishonesty. People who are takers camouflage their intention under the guise of “helping.” In reality, takers seek elicit a quick, immediate, short term relationship in hopes for a quick reward. Authenticity requires diligence, honesty, and integrity. Those virtues don’t normally lead to quick results. St. Mother Teresa stated, “Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway.”
Creating a facade may give you a sense of strength. That is a lie! It only leads to a fleeting, temporary strength. Eventually the truth with catch up to you.
Don’t be greedy
Another motivation for takers is seeking money and power. A natural fruit of inauthenticity is the need to compensate for any failures. I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. Three servants are provided varying amounts of talents (5, 3, and 1) by their master. He expects them to be fruitful with them and provide a return upon arrival back from his journey. The servants with 5 and 3 talents used them wisely and shared them—as a result they received double the portion. Greedily the servant with 1 talent hoarded his without a thought about helping others. The master chided him saying, “His master said to him in reply, ‘You wicked, lazy servant!” (Matthew 25:26).
Takers don’t care about others they selfishly hold onto best practices, advice, or help (unless they get a GUARANTEE of a return). Giving does not lead to loss—in the long-run. You only receive. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his November 16th, 2008 Angelus declared, “the parable places a greater emphasis on the good fruits brought by the disciples who, happy with the gift they received, did not keep it hidden with fear and jealousy but made it profitable by sharing it and partaking in it. Yes, what Christ has given us is multiplied in its giving! It is a treasure made to be spent, invested and shared with all” Don’t be greedy. Share your talents with others!
Don’t rush things
Along with avoiding dishonesty and greed, takers teach us to the value of patience. According to Jason Vana in his Linkedin video on Givers vs. Takers the latter seeks to hook you with short term trick such as an instant promotional message upon connecting or spamming your inbox. Takers seek out the short-cut, the easy way, the path of least resistance. While the path of least resistance brings success instantly, life is not a 100 yard dash. Instead, it is a marathon. Some days it feels like a mega-marathon!
Saint Pope John Paul II wisely wrote, “Young people are threatened… by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire.” I would add that all people struggle against the temptation to take the easy road, the “lazy way”. All good things take time to grow in order to flourish. Be on the lookout for takers falsely promising “instant success”.
Even if you personally are not a taker you still can learn what (NOT) to do. Avoid taking advantage of others because inauthenticity and greed do not provide long term success and health. Promote a giving mentality—not for notoriety, but because it is the right thing to do. I guarantee you that would be blessed beyond measure if your heart is in the right place!
Perhaps the most difficult phrase a person has to hear in life is: You need to wait. Whether you renewing your driver’s license and have to wait at the local DMV or waiting for a job interview or searching for your vocation in life, waiting can be tough. St. Paul wrote about the importance of patience. Perhaps his most famous, and arguably his most timeless passage, 1 Corinthians 13:4, the great evangelizer ever reminds us, “Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated” (emphasis mine).
Wait it Out
My natural tendency leans towards impatience. Busyness and speed dominate my daily life. Whether this issue began as a child, as I was diagnosed with ADHD or if my fast-paced work environment and reliance on technology is a factor may be debated. Regardless, at the end of the day, I am in charge of choosing to slow down, to pause, and to reflect on my crossroad events in my life. Certainly, today it seems is a turning point in my life. Earlier this week, I learned about a fantastic job opportunity within my company that would be a perfect match for my skills. Excitedly, I discussed this chance with my manager. Needing permission from senior management to apply—as I am still only a few months in my current role, my manager informed me that I needed to wait for a year from when I was hired in my current role.
Failure as a Learning Opportunity
Disappointed I took this time to focus my efforts into working diligently. Focus. This word permeated my thoughts today. According to the great Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Oftentimes, courage is associated with quick thinking. However, sometimes the courageous thing to do involves waiting—patiently. That is what I did today. I paused and assessed my frustrating situation. “I am stuck in a position where I am not happy. It is not a good fit!” I initially told myself.
After inwardly reflecting I realized that waiting is not necessary a bad thing. The American author Joyce Meyer poignantly put it, “Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” Taking time to reflect on my apparent failings gave rise to a mantra that helped re-focus my attitude—F.A.I.L= Focus+ Assess + Inward=Live
Live life to the fullest. We are called to a joyful life. This does equal a life free from suffering—today certainly proved that with my disappointment about the job opportunity. Nevertheless, any cross, big or small, presents us all with an opportunity—to run from it or to embrace it. Today, I choose the latter! St. Therese of Lisieux encountered suffering most of her earthly life. The wisdom gained from accepting her crosses was profound. The French saint stated, “For one pain endured with joy, we shall love the good God more forever.” Love is patient. God is love. Therefore, God is patient. May the Holy Spirit grant us the virtue of patience and ability to transform apparent failings into fruitful joys!
American found Benjamin Franklin declared, “I have met the enemy, and it is the eyes of other people.” While his contributions to the start of the United States is undeniable along with his numerous skills as the premiere “Renaissance man”, I disagree with this quote of his. Other people are not our true enemy. Instead, your worst enemy is much closer. Your ego, pride, is the opponent that has to be slay daily. Franklin’s quip relates to the evil of envy. However, envy is not the greatest of sins, that claim belongs to pride. According to St. John Vianney, “Envy, my children, follows pride; whoever is envious is proud.”
The root of all evil originates from believing yourself to be greater than others and ultimately the Other (God). Whenever, I get envious of others’ success, the underlying issue is that I am too prideful. In the past, I have struggled with seeing my co-workers’ promotions especially when they have less experience. Envy clouds my judgment causing me to drive a wedge between myself and others. Jealousy only exists due to my ego. My worst enemy is myself. Your worst enemy is you! Over the course of my life, I have gained a few strategies to combat myself. We will discuss three of the most effective weapons to erode the ego!
Twentieth century French philosopher Simone Weil wrote, “The only way into truth is through one’s own annihilation; through dwelling a long time in a state of extreme and total humiliation.” My experiences as a parents testify to the veracity of his claim. Prior to becoming a dad, I believed any child acting up or acting out was “naughty”. In many cases, I judged the parents of “misbehaving” kids as “lazy” or “ill-informed”.
Becoming a parent certainly humbled me. Walking back from the communion line carrying a screaming toddler shot down my ego. Whispering to tell my daughter, “You cannot call your brother a butthole! That is not expected.” while entering their SCHOOL is not a better alternative. My wife and I laughed at the “Children are like Drunk People” Memes—until we realized nearly all the memes described our kids!
C.S. Lewis declared, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Parenthood necessary entails humility because you are forced to think of your children. Born they are helpless. Babies, toddlers, kids, and teens take time. Time away from being focused on yourself. If you think about yourself too much don’t worry—kids are quick to remind that they need help. Nothing kills the ego like having to put others’ needs above your own!
Along with being humble, another good thing to focus on to defeat pride is taking proper perspective. American businessman and author Al Neuharth plainly declared, “The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective. My wife and I recently purchased Superflex … a Superhero Social Thinking Curriculum to help manage our older children’s reactions to problems. Earlier this week we watched the first episode on YouTube.
Although geared for younger audiences, shifting perspective does not have a specific age range. Everyone can learn to be less rigid in thinking, myself especially! Oftentimes, I make mountains out situations in reality are much smaller in scope. Taking time at the beginning or end of the day to reflect on whether your reaction matched the size of the problem will help keep your ego in check!
Be Patient—Ask for Patience!
Patience is a strong weapon to have in your utility belt in the battle against the self. Matthew Kelly stated in his book Rediscovering Catholicism, “Our lives change when our habits change.” Change sucks! Transforming bad habits into good takes time and is painful. It is easy to get defeated. I personally struggle with anger, impatience, and pride. I get impatient that I do not possess the gift of patience always!
St. Augustine declared, “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” Wisdom takes times—years and years! It is not an instant process. The paradox regarding patience is we cannot wait to acquire that virtue. Patience cannot be earned on your own merit. It must be asked. Ask daily. Ask hourly if necessary.Robert P. Reed wrote in Renewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts, And Revive Your Catholic Faith, “The Holy Spirit is the origin of all the gifts, talents, and abilities we need to be of service to others” (p.11).
St. Teresa of Avila best describes the power of waiting, “Patience obtains all things!” Over the years, I am slowly realizing the truth to her statement. Through patience I have learned to whittle down my rough edges of the ego—smoothing out my rash outbursts and judgment. I am still far from rounded out as a person, but I am aiming to improve daily.
Pride is the root of all other evils. Selfishness must be combated on a daily basis in order to live a peacefully, joyfully, and authentically. Asking for the virtues of humility and patience together with perspective taking daily will allow you to defeat your worst enemy—yourself!
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices
According to the 20th century Scottish novelist John Buchan, The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.” During this first week of Easter I ponder the hope, Jesus infused into the Apostles upon his return. After the apparent defeat on Good Friday, his followers returned to their “day jobs” as fishermen (cf John 21:3). That day began without much hope— they caught nothing after several hours! Appearing at the Sea of Tiberius, Jesus, not yet recognized by the disciples, gave the following advice, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something” (John 21:6). This resulted in the fulfillment of their hope— an overabundance of fish!
Hope in the Hauling
Jesus begin his ministry in Matthew 4:19 with a similar promise of hope— “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Originally, piscators by trade, Christ transforms the Apostles work from a mere day job to a new way of life! After his Resurrection, the first command Jesus gave to the Apostles occurred in Matthew 28:19. Jesus commanded, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, God makes it clear that EVERYONE is called to hear the good news of his Resurrection! I know this may sound cliché, but the example of Peter, James, and John being called by Jesus to become fishers of men is an extremely appropriate and ever applicable way to speak of how we should spread the faith!
While not an expert in fishing, I have a couple family members who fish for a living. A few years ago, my family and I went fishing with my father-in-law. While a lot of things are necessary for fishing, I will highlight only two things that directly apply to evangelization— patience and fishhooks.
Wait for the Big Haul
First, patience is essential to fishing especially when we went because it took over thirty minutes before we caught anything. The same is true for spreading our faith. We must wait and lead others to Christ on God’s time. God is not giving commission-based raises on how many converts we pull in, rather I image God wants us to patiently wait for the right people to be placed in our life that need our help or hooking to lead them to the Catholic Church.
Along with the virtue of patience, fishermen require a fishhook. Without that barbed instrument on the end of the line it would be nearly impossible to hook and capture a fish. Likewise, I tend to see Jesus’ command to be fishers of men (see Matthew 4:19) in a more nuanced way, namely, that we should be the hook that captures people and keeps them on God’s line.
Imagine the greatest evangelists in the history of the Catholic Church: St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi. What did they all have in common? They all suffered from a “barbed past”. Paul murdered Christians. Augustine suffered from sex addiction. Francis came from a miserable family. A fishhook is designed to be sharp and curved at the end to hook a fish’s gums. Similarly, God uses saints with a “barbed” past help Him reel in new people into the Catholic Church.
My challenge to you, my readers, is this: if you sense that God has placed certain people in your life to evangelize to please do not be afraid to do so. The best witness to evangelize our faith is to hear from people that have suffered yet maintained a steadfast faith in God. Do not shy away from a “barbed” or hurtful past. Open yourself up to share your faith story. I truly feel God is calling me to work in a secular workplace to shine forth his truth. As a matter of fact, I had a couple co-workers interested in my faith! I feel called by God to be his “fishhook”. Fishing requires patience. Sometimes our target will slip away because we act too rashly. We must allow God to do most of the reeling in. Christians are merely His evangelical instrument. God is the Divine fisherman!