On the Inside; On the Outside


 

Sleeping in God’s Love

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Sleeping Hermaphrodite: https://evolvingcritic.net

Imagine that you’re sleeping soundly in your bed, comfortably snuggled up in your blanket. You are in a dream-like state, and you feel secure and rested. Then your alarm goes off; and suddenly, you have a choice to make. You know that if you get up, there are things to do and people to see. Or you can stay right where you are and just give in to the peace and comfort that you’re feeling. Even though the outside world is calling, in your mind you know that there is no other place that you would rather be than where you are now.

Each of us has experienced this feeling of wanting to remain in bed where we feel great peace and comfort. While we do not always have the luxury of staying in bed and sleeping in every morning, there is a good place that we can remain in every moment of every day; and that place is in God’s love.

Every day, we have the opportunity to remain in the love of our Father. While we can all agree that sleeping in is a pretty nice every once in a while, it is nothing compared to the peace and comfort of knowing that we have a God that loves us so much and only wants us to have the best. God is love, and there is nothing greater in this world than loving and being loved.

I heard it said the love of Jesus is like an electric current. If the current does not pass through you, it cannot enter into you. Similarly, if the love of Jesus does not pour through us to others, then that love is not really in us. The love of God has to be recognized, responded to and passed on. It is not just a ‘given’.

We have a chance to remain in that source of that love, but we cannot just hold onto it for ourselves. We need to find a way to share that love with others, giving to others what God has given to us.

By remaining in God’s love, and sharing that love with others, we will experience a life like we have never known; because His joy will be in us and our joy will be complete.

May the peace and joy of the Lord be with us each and every day!

Are You a Seeker?

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While on retreat a few months back, my spiritual director asked me this question: what am I seeking? (She asked me this question because it states that I am a seeker on my website and business card.) And, it was a good question for me to ponder while on my retreat. And ponder and pray I did – while walking and sitting on the shores of Lake Michigan. Here is the answer to this question as it came to me.

I am seeking to grow ever closer to the God of love. I want to continue to deepen my relationship with Him so that I can help others to have a personal relationship with our heavenly Father through a solid prayer life.

I seek to learn more about our faith.

I seek to become a better husband, father, and man of faith.

I seek to discover new and fresh ways to show the importance, relevance, and need of our faith to teens and young adults.

I seek to help others know that God is always present and with us – no matter what we do, say, or think.

I seek because I never want to be complacent or stuck with where I am. I may not always know where I am headed, but I want to try to enjoy the journey. And I am always looking forward to the surprises that God has in store for me.

I am seeking to help others find the way.

I am seeking; forever seeking.

What about you? Are you a seeker too?

Unrecognized Identity

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Has this ever happened to you? You are in a grocery store, the mall, maybe even taking your dog for a walk, and someone comes up to you all smiles and beaming eyes. They say “Hey! How have you been? It’s been such a long time. You look great.” You look deep in their eyes and you think for a second and the truth begins to sink in….you have no idea who this person is. This is truly embarrassing to say the least. Unfortunately, this happens to me more times than I care to admit. I have met so many people through the church and sometimes the face looks familiar but the name escapes me. I think we’ve all had a case of an unrecognized identity at one time or another in our lives. Read More

Off the Rails

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In 1980, Ozzy Osbourne released a song called “Crazy Train.” In this song, Ozzy asks when we can all learn to love in a world gone mad:

Crazy, but that’s how it goes
Millions of people living as foes.
Maybe it’s not too late
To learn how to love, and forget how to hate.

Mental wounds not healing,
Life’s a bitter shame;
I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.
I’m goin’ off the rails on a crazy train.

What the apostles were doing in today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5:27-33) must have seemed a little crazy to much of the surrounding world. The Pharisees and leaders certainly seem to think this. Drawing attention to the public proclamation of Jesus as Lord was indeed crazy.

The apostles preach the gospel, encounter imprisonment, are miraculously released, and immediately get back to preaching the gospel – in the exact same place their message seemed to fail the first time! Crazy, right?

How often are we eager to shake the dust off our feet when opposition to our faithfulness arises? There is a time for counting our losses and moving on, but our scripture encourages us to return to those hard places, to keep at the work of faithfulness, and to proclaim the good news again regardless of the results we see. Twice the apostles preached in the temple. Twice they were arrested. Once they were flogged. And yet, Acts 5 concludes with the apostles rejoicing in their sufferings and preaching in the temple every single day.

Too often, discouragement and indifference creep in, and we cease to proclaim and live the gospel. When we find the strength to obey God’s commands and respond to the promptings of the Spirit, God becomes more present in our lives.

Let us get off of our crazy train and persevere in our faith. If we strive to become witnesses and partakers in God’s joy, we will never go off the rails.

And Now, I Wait

Posted by | Emotions/Feelings | 2 Comments

I am one of the disciples of Jesus. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I am in hiding because of the events that have recently taken place. After what had happened to Jesus, I feared for the worst. All I could think about was could this possibly happen to me as well? I was terrified, and I fled for my life. Here I thought that my faith was strong enough to withstand anything; but man, was I wrong. I abandoned my Lord, and I feel awful. He told us to trust in him, but I didn’t. But can you blame me? I’ve never been so frightened in my entire life.

And now, I wait.

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Don’t Have a Cow!

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The expression, “Don’t have a com, man!” was made popular by Bart Simpson in the TV sitcom The Simpsons. But its history can be traced back to the 1950’s when first introduced in Great Britain as an expression of “having kittens” rather than a cow.

“Don’t have a cow” means to chill out, calm down, to not to be worried, upset or angry about something. I also think this expression has a significant meaning in our own Lenten journey. Read More

Prayer Changes Our Hearts

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Don’t hold back when praying to God – tell him exactly what’s wrong and insist on holding him to his promises. Prayer should be like speaking face-to-face with a friend: “without fear, freely and also with insistence.”

Pope Francis made these comments in a homily based on today’s reading from the Book of Exodus (32:7-14), when Moses begs God to spare his people, even though they have created a golden calf to worship as their god.

Pope Francis said that Moses shows what praying to God should really feel and sound like: not filled with empty words, but a heartfelt, “real fight with God.”

Moses is courageously insistent and argues his point, and prayer must also be “a negotiation with God, presenting arguments” supporting one’s position.

When God decides to not punish his people, it’s not God who has changed, but Moses, Pope Francis said.

“Prayer changes our hearts. It helps us better understand what our God is like. It helps us grow closer to him, recognize his love and rejuvenate our faith.”

The pope underlined what Jesus said: “In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.”

“No, say what’s what: ‘Look, Lord, I have this problem, in my family, with my child, with this, with that … What can you do? Now see here, you can’t leave me like this.’ This is prayer.”

Pray like Moses did, face-to-face with the Lord, like a friend, freely, with insistence and good arguments, the pope said. “And also scold the Lord a little: ‘Hey, you promised me this, and you haven’t done it …’ Like that, like you talk with a friend.”

Open one’s heart wide to God and get to know him better, and you’ll be amazed at how your relationship with the Lord will deepen and grow.

The Cocoon of Self-Absorption

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One of the many wonders of nature is a cocoon. A caterpillar encloses itself in a type of tomb and then emerges transformed and flies through the air in the form of a beautiful butterfly. We view this as a type of death and resurrection.

An image for the Gospel today is that of a cocoon. Rather than a transformation into beauty, we witness a deformation into misery. The Gospel never says that this rich man committed any crime, but it seems that he is just so overly focused on himself that he cannot see beyond his clothes, his meals and his own doorstep. His wealth is something that he spends on himself and not something he shares with others. He is so tightly woven into his cocoon that he cannot seem to break out.

This disturbing parable tells us to not be absorbed with ourselves, to pay attention, and to wake up. We need to remember that our possessions are not owned by us, but loaned to us. They are entrusted to us; not only that we can meet our basic needs, but also so that we can help others. St. Augustine described sin as being caved in on oneself. Sin closes us in on ourselves and charity draws us out of ourselves and that is where we find joy.

We’re instructed to pay attention to Moses and the prophets; that is, to pay attention to God’s word given to us in the Scriptures and by Jesus.

And we need to wake up because most of us at times can be like the rich man. And the five brothers – they represent us too. We are not to expect some sort of personalized message, but should instinctively live out our faith by loving God and our neighbor. Actions have consequences, and so do our inactions. We can sin by what we do but we can also sin by what we fail to do.

This Lent, let us pray that we receive the grace to not be imprisoned in the cocoon of self-absorption. Rather, let us strive to live generous and joyful lives not selfishly but selflessly.

It’s All About the Connection

Posted by | Everyday Life | One Comment

I love social media! In fact, I’m all over social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, and LinkedIn. You can find me @DeaconAllenT. Make sure you check me out.

What’s great about social media is that you can make a connection with people across the globe in seconds flat. You can instantly communicate what is happening at any moment of your life. And it’s an excellent way to stay in touch with your family and friends wherever they may be. I just love social media!

However, there is a downside to social media. We often become so self-centered and making things all about us, getting consumed with how many likes we receive or how many people are following us. When we make things about us (which is a nasty form of vanity), we often neglect, we criticize, we say rude and crude things about others, and we spread lies and rumors in order to make us look better or more superior. Sometimes, we are just downright mean and not very Christian-like. And it doesn’t matter if we are not on social media. We all find ourselves doing these exact same things without being online.

We are living in a constantly-connected world but have somehow allowed ourselves to become disconnected from our God.

During Lent, we are asked to turn away from evil and return to the good. We are asked to repent sincerely, to openly recognize and admit that we are sinners and need to re-connect with God through fasting, prayer and sincere sacrifice. And this all needs to begin with internal conversion of our mind and heart.

I challenge all of us this Lent to stop the lies, negativity, anger, and hatred toward one another – whether on social media or in face-to-face reality. Let’s start this right now, by truly feeling the cross that will be traced on our foreheads. Conversion of our mind and of our heart must lead to loving God and others. It’s all about connecting with the One who leads us to conversion. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Identifying the Christ

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Peter experiences a moment of clarity in today’s Gospel (Mark 8:27-33). Briefly the clouds part and he speaks from the heart: “You are the Christ.” It is the discovery of one who has followed, asked, watched, and questioned. But as our story unfolds we realize Peter knows almost nothing about the implications of his declaration. He speaks a seed of truth without knowing how, when, or where it will grow.

Jesus’ identity was widely debated. The disciples give a number of answers reflecting the speculations of the people: John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet of old. All they really know is this one is very different.

But no one has a clue just how different Jesus really is.

For the disciples the declaration implies political freedom, armies, war, riches, and power. God’s Messiah will set Israel free from the clenched fist of Rome. They are imagining a king, a court, and multiple thrones.

So Jesus begins the monumental task of redefining their expectations. He speaks plainly of suffering, rejection, death, resurrection. Peter offers his quiet word of correction. After all, no one will follow into battle if Jesus talks like this. They expect blood to be shed – but not the blood of Jesus.

Jesus’ words are clear but, with the exception of Peter’s rebuke, each time the disciples have nothing to say. Mark offers the only word of explanation later in the Gospel: “Though they failed to understand his words, they were afraid to question him.” (Mark 9:32).

After all, it is so unexpected. So Jesus must slowly open a space in which to reveal God’s suffering, death and resurrection which will lead the disciples to understand how they will be freed by the ultimate sacrifice of God’s love.

Let us pray that we may have that same revelation.

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