prayer

On the Inside; On the Outside


 

From Me to the One Who Made Me

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During deacon formation, I was required to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church for one of my classes. While reading this document, I came across a beautiful prayer from St. Nicholas of Flue. It is a prayer that has become one of my favorites and it is one that I often use when I give talks at other parishes. This is the prayer:

My Lord and my God, take from me everything that distances me from you.
My Lord and my God, give me everything that brings me closer to you.
My Lord and my God, detach me from myself to give my all to you.

This prayer continues to touch me every time I read it. It is very simple, yet hits me where I need it the most. It’s about transforming my thinking from being about “me” to being about the One who made me. It’s about placing our focus on serving the Lord without getting caught up in the distractions of our world.

This is an extremely powerful prayer and yet it’s a very difficult prayer. Why? Because we tend to make things about ourselves – and we often get wrapped up with our own drama. When we place all of our thoughts, actions and energies toward ourselves – everything about me and what I want, there is simply no room for God. We in fact become our own God.

But when we take the time to center ourselves and refocus on our one true God, our perspective slowly begins to change. We become less self-centered and more Christ-centered.

When we allow God to “re-become” the center of our lives, everything simply falls into place. It’s just like St. Teresa of Jesus wrote:

Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you.
Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all.
Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone is enough.

Here Comes the Judg(ing)

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For some reason, I woke up this morning not praising God, but judging others. You may think that this is difficult because I haven’t even “seen” anyone yet. But for some reason, I was judging these people in my mind. I’m not really sure where this comes from, but this happens far more than I care to admit.

I often get this thought in my head that people don’t fit into the mold that I am trying to put them into. As I sit here writing this, I realize how terrible this action is. I am trying to make these people something they’re not. I am forcing my rules of living onto others, and they don’t even know that I am doing it. I am judging people according to my thoughts and beliefs. I am finally starting to realize when I am doing this, and I try to realign my thoughts as soon as possible. I was not placed on this earth to judge. That is not my job. God will judge – not me! My role is to love and serve the Lord and others each and everyday. I shall not judge because I have many obstacles of my own to overcome. I need to constantly pray for the strength to overcome my weaknesses and become more loving and caring.

It all comes down to realizing that I am not the one who is in charge. It is not about me and it’s certainly not how others should conform to my thoughts, actions and preconceived notions. I will continue to pray for the knowledge and understanding to accept this reality of God being the one who has control of every situation. By placing my life in God’s hands, I will be totally free of thoughts of judgement toward others. I will be able to love others for who they really are, and not what I expect them to be. I will be fully accepting of their gifts and talents and strive to live better because of them.

Help me, Lord, not to judge others – but to serve you with my whole heart. Amen.

Fear or Faith?

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More than 19 million Americans have this, and it causes difficulty in some area of their lives. What is it? It’s a phobia. A phobia is an excessive and irrational fear reaction. If you have a phobia, you may experience a deep sense of dread or panic when you encounter the source of your fear, whether it is of a certain place, situation, or object. Unlike general anxiety disorders, a phobia is usually connected to something specific. Here are a few of the most common phobias:

  • Altophobia: Fear of heights.
  • Arachnophobia: Fear of spiders.
  • Claustrophobia: Fear of confined spaces.
  • Arachibutyrophobia: Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth.
  • Theophobia: fear of God.
  • Ecclesiophobia: Fear of church.
  • Homilophobia: Fear of homilies. (Maybe even Deacon Allen’s homilies!)
  • Testophobia: Fear of taking tests.
  • Phalacrophobia: Fear of becoming bald.
  • Chaetophobia: Fear of hair (other people’s hair).
  • Xenophobia: Fear of the unknown.
  • Ephebiphobia: Fear of youth (teenagers).

There is an old proverb that goes something like this:

Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; hate less, love more; and all good things will be yours.

Notice, “Fear less” is at the top of that list of what needs to be done if all good things are to be ours. Moreover, “Fear less” was high on Jesus’ list of things you need to do in order to experience wholeness of life.

Jesus wants you to know beyond all doubt that you and I are important to God; that God wants to be in a relationship with us. You may turn on the busy signal if you wish, but God never will do that. We can always count on God’s constant care for us.

Each one of us is called to go out and serve those in need, the most vulnerable in our society – and that can be scary. We are often afraid to speak the truth, to stand up for what is right, or afraid of those who might try to hurt us. We might be afraid to try new things, or meet new people who are different than us. But Jesus promises us that God is in control: “Not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” Jesus reassures us of the value that God places on us. You and I are worth more than many sparrows; and we are also precious in God’s sight. With God by our side, we have nothing to fear.

Whispers of God

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A successful young executive was driving his brand new Jaguar down a neighborhood street when he noticed a kid darting out from between parked cars. As he slowed down, a brick smashed into his car’s door. He slammed on the brakes and drove back to the place where the brick has been thrown.

The furious man jumped out of his car and began shouting at the kid, “What the heck did you do to my car? Why did you do it?” The young boy was little scared, but was very polite and apologetic. “I am sorry Mister. I didn’t know what else to do. I had to throw the brick because no one else would stop to help.” With tears rolling down his cheeks, he said, “It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell off his wheelchair. He is hurt and he is too heavy for me. Would you please help me lift him back into his wheelchair?”

The young man was moved beyond words and tried to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. He hurriedly lifted the other kid from the spot and put him back in the wheelchair. He also helped him with his cuts and bruises.

When he thought that everything would be ok, he went back to his car. “Thank you, sir, and God bless you,” said the grateful kid. The young man was too shaken up to say anything, so he simply watched the little boy push the wheelchair-bound brother down the sidewalk.

It was a long and slow ride back home for the man. When he got out of the car, he looked at his dented car door. The damage was very noticeable, but he didn’t bother to repair it. He kept the dent to remind him of a deeper message: Do not go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.

Each and every day, God whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts. But most of the time, we do not listen to it because we are too consumed with the noise of our own needs, wants and desires.

My sisters and brothers, the Lord is always speaking to us. Therefore, we have a choice to make: do we listen for the gentle whisper or do we wait for the brick?

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

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.

It’s All About the Connection

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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.

Being an Evangelist is Not What You Think

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Who wants to be an evangelist? Typically when I ask this question when giving a talk somewhere, no one raises their hand. On very few occasions one or two people have.

It seems evangelism has become a scary word for us. In general, it is a word with which we do not want to be associated. For some, it comes from being on the receiving end of someone else’s evangelism, often coercive, even threatening. For others, it may be that religion isn’t something people talk about; or that one’s faith is private; or simply the desire not to be perceived as one of “those” people.

Whatever the reason, most people not only have little experience in evangelism but are downright frightened of it. And that, of course, cripples our ability to reach out to others with the good news. Today’s story of Jesus’ baptism (John 1:29-34) might be the perfect reading to invite us not only to admit our discomfort with evangelism but also begin to overcome it. Read More

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

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thanksgiving-brownscombeFather, all of Creation rightly owes you thanks and praise.
Your justice, love and mercy abound.
We thank you this day for all that you have given us:

For the Passion and Death of your Divine Son,
we thank you Father,
through the Cross, He redeemed the world.

For the Church,
we thank you Father,
it is our beacon for salvation.

For the martyrs and saints who give testimony to your Son,
we thank you Father,
their witness to your Son is our inheritance.

For our loved ones and friends who have died and gone before us,
we thank you Father,
their love abides with us forever.

For loving spouses,
we thank you Father,
together we seek you.

For the gift of children,
we thank you Father,
they are your precious gifts to us and to the world.

For the gift of our families,
loved ones and good friends,
we thank you Father,
Through them we see the reflection of your Son.

For jobs, our homes and all that we have,
we thank you Father,
give us only that which we need, as we seek Your Kingdom.

For the bounty we are about to eat,
we thank you through Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

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