Editor’s note: Article originally published on September 11, 2019.
Gratitude is everything. Everything in this life originates proceeds through gratitude. I am incredibly grateful to have lived through a tornado and only have water in the basement it’s not even that much water.
According to Blessed Solanus Casey, “Gratitude is the first sign of a thinking, rational creature.” Thankfulness breeds kindness, productivity, and leads to reciprocity between individuals. Ingratitude walls us off from others. The primary culprit of ingratitude is selfishness—pride. Pride suffocates us. It kills us. Gratitude is the oxygen by which we breathe in blessedness and breathe out all other virtues.
Suffocation through Selfishness
I’ve been so selfish. Jealous. Of others’ successes over mine. I worry. I’m anxious. I doubt. I despair. Why? Because of I have not double downed on gratitude. I failed to always puts the big scope, the greater picture, in front of me. Life is like a mural. If you look at it too closely or only in portions you see ugliness.
Gratitude allows us to see our lives as chapter of a grander story. A good story. A beautiful story. A true story. I did not intend to write this post I don’t even know how these words are forming in my mind this is just me talking it out my feelings my gratitude now my sincere regret for being selfish and ungrateful. I’m just an instrument these are not my own words. These are His words.
Growth with Gratitude
I’ve been crying tears of joy this whole time I’ve been composing this post. That’s just so crazy for me to think about. The last day and a half I’ve experienced tangibility with the divine I can’t describe in words. But I do know that I am thankful. I am thriving since being more intentionally grateful.
It is both frightening and joyful. Have you ever had such an experience that is indescribable?
Please share your indescribable experiences and how you maintain a grateful attitude in the comments.
Memory is a profound thing. Certain images, events, and facts stick with us over time and become housed in our long-term memory. Remembrance is the act of recalling past events through memory. The Catholic Church’s sacramental life centers on memorializing events from the Gospels. For example, during the Last Supper, Jesus stated, “Do this in memory of me.”
When I taught New Testament at a Catholic high school, I unconsciously created a memory regarding the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10. I united my love of literature with love of scripture by referring to Zacchaeus as “the hobbit of the New Testament”. Students chuckled at this provisional quip. The former tax collector was described as a short man who needed to climb a tree to view Jesus’ arrival in his town. J.R.R. Tolkien once described his creations as,
I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which allows them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making a noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off.
Linking the minor character in Luke’s Gospel to hobbits helped forge a permanent memory of Luke 19:1-10 within me. In the years following this mnemonic device, I frequently recall the life of Zacchaeus and Jesus’ mercy whenever I see anything related to The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Below are three things I learned from “The hobbit of the New Testament”
Persistence pays off
Zacchaeus could not initially see Jesus as he entered Jericho. Instead of letting his short stature prevent him from seeing the Messiah, St. Luke tells us, “So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way” (Luke 19:4).
Imagine a grown man scurrying up a tree or pole to see a local celebrity, politician, or other important figure. In today’s age of social media I bet someone would certainly go to Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube over such strange behavior. Climbing up a tree indicates not the strangeness of Zacchaeus, but rather his persistence and recognition that Jesus was someone important! The short man in Luke is definitely a role model for me in showing that my faith life is a constant work in progress.
Jesus Chooses the Imperfect
Along with Zacchaeus’ persistence, the tale of the hobbit of the New Testament demonstrates that Jesus loves the imperfect and calls the sinner to follow him. Zacchaeus struggled to physically see Jesus among the crowd. he also had an occupation despised by his fellow countrymen. He was a tax collector!
According to Luke, the crowd hated Jesus’ invitation to Zacchaeus by stating, “When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner (Luke 19:7)”
Personally, I need to be reminded that Jesus dined with sinners— the spiritually infirmed. I struggle with the sin of pride. I battle with being judgmental. Luke 19:1-10 gives me perspective that God’s love is ultimately above my total comprehension. God’s love is transformative as well. The “hobbit of the New Testament” was changed after his encounter with Jesus. “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over,” Zacchaeus stated (Luke 19:8).
Do not let Limitations Prevent You from Growing
Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus taught me spiritual growth is possible despite my limitations and past failures. Christ welcomed sinners and culturally ostracized groups with grace and forgiveness.
Oftentimes, I use my limitations—my low patience with my kids, my OCD, and struggles with pride—as an excuse to put off growing in my spiritual life. Zacchaeus’ transformation in the presence of Jesus gives me hope that I am able to change too.
J.R.R. Tolkien once said, “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” Certainly that is true for his Lord of the Rings trilogy where the bearer of Sauron’s ring is the simple hobbit Frodo. Zacchaeus, like, the hobbits of Middle Earth, provided change in the course of the future—for sure my future!
Scaling a sycamore tree, Zacchaeus did not let the possible danger of falling or others’ perceptions of him stop him from gazing at our Lord. I ask for fortitude from the Holy Spirit to allow me to boldly seek Jesus just as the hobbit of the New Testament intrepidly sought after God.
I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” –J.R.R. Tolkien
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 19, 2019.
“Ow, ow. My pants are wet! My pants are wet!” I woke up to this sound of my three year old crying in the basement. Remembering the constant thunder and lightning that boomed and flashed throughout the night, I jumped up and rushed down the stairs. Immediately, my fears were confirmed. Water. Pouring. Through. The. Window.
I wish I was more composed initially. I want to say I remained calm and did not curse. Sadly, that is not true. Frustration seared through my veins. I quickly brought my son upstairs and had my wife attend to him. Next, I zoomed outside to start vacuuming up the raising water with the wet-dry vacuum. A full moon +a teething baby +flash flood= a bad start to the day!
According to author Margaret J. Wheatley, “Without reflection, we go blindly on our way.” If I did not reflection on my situation, I would have meandered aimlessly for the rest of the day. I want to share three incredibly simple words to remember when stress slams you down.
Stop. Wait. Halt. Either way you describe it does not matter. Just make sure you pause. Stressful situations keep us moving and moving. Faster and faster until our emotions blow up! Pausing to stop the seething sea of stress coursing through my body and mind definitely helped. I took a short break to compose myself.
The second key word to think about during stressful times is perspective. According to American psychologist William James, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
Perspective allows us to pick a different thought over the negative ones that flood your mind during stressful times. The natural result from pausing during a stressful situation is the ability to develop a perspective. Perspective actually derives from the Latin perspectus meaning “of sight, optical” or perspectiva, “science of optics.”
Perspective also relates to being able to view things from a different point of view. Setting a moment or even a couple minutes of time aside to take a break or simply closing your eyes to reset your mind helps in developing perspective. For instance, I started to develop negativity at work today. When I sensed negativity gnawing at me, I left my desk and took a short bathroom and water break. That small break gave me the opportunity to reset my attitude—shifting my perspective.
The third simple word to remember to help overcome stressful situations is plan. Unlike pausing and taking time for changing your perspective, planning does not always occur instantly or at the same time anxiety hits you. Pause and perspective are offensive tactics to fight stress. Planning is more of a long-term and defensive in nature.
Planning takes time a bit on effort on your part. There is no one size fits all shield of a plan to combat anxiety. I am reminded of Captain Cold’s quip in the CW’s The Flash, “Make the plan. Execute the plan. Expect the plan to go off the rails. Throw away the plan!”
Pause. Perspective. Plan. Two weapons and a guard to battle anxiety. While these are incredibly simple tools you need to utilize these daily. Life does not take a day off. Neither can you! I guarantee that if you consistently use these tactics your mentality will change. You will gain more stamina to stave off negativity. You will be more hopeful, confident, and grateful. I hope you found value in this article. If you have any additional thoughts, tips, or tactics to battle stress please share in the comments section!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on October 25, 2017.
According to a recent Gallup study, the average American adult employed full-time reported to work an average of 47 hours a week. While I attended college and before I had children, I worked 60 or more hours a week for months on end. The United States is sort of an outlier when it comes to finding a work/life balance.
Even though I no longer log the insane amount of hours, I still struggle with finding time to relax and separating work from home life. This battle seemed futile until I stumbled upon the writings and witness of a Spanish priest—St. Josemaria Escriva! I am not entirely sure how I came across this gem of a saint, but his writing provides such practical wisdom. This article will provide three practical tips I learned from Fr. Escriva’s The Way that saved me from being a workaholic.
Photo courtesy of St. Josemaria Institute.
Perspective is Key
Josemaria mentions the need to broaden our perspective in the first chapter. “Get rid of that ‘small-town’ outlook. Enlarge your heart till it becomes universal, ‘catholic’,” he says. Lately, I struggled with having a narrow gaze when it comes to my job. I see things from my perspective alone.
I resist the Holy Spirit’s promptings in daily events whereby I am given chances to widen my limited purview. For example, my manager challenges me to think beyond my cubicle walls. I need to daily heed the Spanish saint’s wisdom.
Pardon my Excuses?!
Along with possessing a narrow outlook I tend to fight constant urges to make up excuses for my failings. “The computer system was slow”; “No one told me the new update”; “Things are too busy”. These are just some of the various excuses I tell myself throughout the week. According to Father Escriva, “Say what you have just said, but in a different tone, without anger, and your argument will gain in strength and, above all, you won’t offend God.”
Perhaps such excuses may be admissible, but I need to be aware of my tone and frequency of complaints. “Let those very obstacles give you strength. God’s grace will not fail you,” St. Josemaria states. Stumbling blocks need not be hindrances. These blocks in my path are actually building blocks for my character. Relying on Jesus as my cornerstone, I will be able to pick up the stumbling blocks [i.e. excuses] and use them to build up the kingdom of God!
Work with Character and Substance
A third major theme within the initial chapter of The Way focuses on developing your character through work. St. Josemaria deliberately states, “Don’t say: ‘That’s the way I’m made… it’s my character’. It’s your lack of character: Be a man [or woman].” In other words, do not allow your past and your genetics define your being.
I am guilty as anyone when it comes to blaming my woes and defects on my chemistry make-up. Often I blame my failure to listen to my wife on having ADHD. But that’s a cop-out. Excuses aren’t a way to grow in holiness.
Father Escriva’s states in the next line, “Get used to saying No. Turn your back on the tempter when he whispers in your ear: ‘Why make life difficult for yourself?’” Character is built on resisting the Tempter. I need to work on the sins of gluttony and sloth. I fight the urge to eat fast food and lack motivation to play with my children after work.
Canonized on October 6, 2002, St. Josemaria Escriva is a perfect role model for people living in the 21st century. The bustle of life is only going to increase, especially in an age of instant communication via social media and the internet! The Spanish saint provides a humble witness as to how to incorporate God into my work through real, tangible, and practical means.