Are you giving it your all?

“Are you giving it your all?”

This question comes up during many different times in my day.

When I’m studying…am I really giving this my all?

When I’m working out…am I really giving this my all?

When I’m at Church…am I really giving this my all?

When I’m talking to a family member…am I really giving this my all?

A lot of the times, this question arises because I am not. I notice that I am losing focus and procrastinating. When working out for instance, I notice myself choosing the lighter weight or taking a different path on the run.

To be honest, this question plagues me.

This might be you too?

There are many positives to being bombarded with this question.

Like, the hope of improvement.

Or, the constant search to be like Christ in virtue and love.

However, the flip side is many vices can dwell in this thought.

When giving it your all, is focused solely on you, it may transform into pride.

As usual, the Big Man Upstairs, gives us an answer to the question.

This is what Mark’s Gospel teaches us:

“He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.” Mark 12: 41-44

What can we learn from this?

This poor woman, in her poverty, gave all she had. Notice, the Lord mentions her poverty? We too like this women are poor. Maybe not financially, but what about the poverty of our daily life.

The poverty of focus.

The poverty of endurance.

The poverty of zeal.

Christ teaches us that when we give our all in these moments of poverty, we are giving even more than if we had abundance.

We must remember; however, that our “giving” must be aligned towards Christ and not ourselves.

So when you can’t focus and you just want to put that book down, offer the moment up to Christ and continue reading.

When you don’t want to run that extra mile, offer the moment to Christ and continue running.

When you are having trouble focusing in Church, redirect your eyes to Christ and allow Him to fill you even if just for a millisecond.

Friends, you can give it your all, if you give it to Him.

5 Things Changing My Life

I wanted to talk today about a few things I have started doing that are changing my life for the better.

1.The Practice of the Presence of God

This is based off of the work by Brother Lawrence. Basically, I have constantly been reminding myself in the present moment that God is with me right now. RIGHT HERE AND NOW. All so often we live in the past or the future. Many saints describe this and talk to us about the very fact that God’s grace does not cover our “imagined future” that is why it seems so scary!

My favorite quote:

St. Augustine said,

“Trust the Past to God’s mercy, the present to His Love, and the future to His Providence.”

 

2.Inner Mortification

When people talk about mortification they focus on fasting. However, inner mortification can be very powerful in drawing you closer to the will of God. Basically, I have been focusing on imaginal/memory mortification. What this means is when you catch yourself day dreaming or making up scenarios in your head you recognize it and stop yourself. Stop yourself before you get stuck in your own mental hole. This could be about something stressful like a test at school. When you notice yourself getting lost in doubt and confusion, stop, take a breath, and refocus on living in the present moment with God. You can also do mortification with memory. Many people have a past that is filled with fears and sadness. When you catch yourself living that moment over again and again, recognize it, give it to Jesus, and refocus on what you are to be doing in this moment.

3.Morning Prayer

Wake up. Stretch for a second. And then get down on your knees in front of a picture of Christ you admire. Open the Bible up. Pray the Jesus Prayer. Simply talk to your Father. Ask for guidance, protection, courage, trust, all throughout the day. I can assure you even a brief 10 minutes will change you forever. When you feel bored, when you feel like your prayer is futile, stay there longer. Pray even harder.

4. No Phone till later

Don’t touch your phone in the morning. Pray. Shower. Get dressed. Each breakfast with no external stimuli. Sip your coffee with God by your side. We are so prone to distracting ourselves constantly. We are prisoners of our own minds. Use your morning as a foundation for the rest of your day.

5. Notice Sorrow and Smile

When you catch yourself obsessed with the negatives, recognize it. Don’t get upset about it. Then smile. Think of the positives in the moment. Think of what you are grateful for. Think of how you can serve God in the moment. Think of those you love. Think about how you can be a light instead of a darkness for the world. Do this every single time. Every time. Flood your mind with the thoughts of God. This is a major component in your spiritual battle. The enemy wants nothing more than to discourage you on your walk with God.

Try these 5 out over the next few weeks and let me know how it works out for you. I have a feeling, actually I know, God will send you a wave of peace and security. Love you all.

Here is the truth.

Lately, I’ve been praying.

A pretty simple prayer.

“God, allow me to see the truth of who I am. Help me see myself the way You see me.”

Some people may never pray this prayer.

They may fully grasp they are a child of the One True King. They may understand that God died for them. They may see the beauty before they see their scars.

I am not one of those people. I lived in the illusion that I was for a long time. I didn’t see myself in the light of His eyes. I was persuaded by fears and failures to view myself through a clouded lens.

Today, specifically, God answered this prayer. For a moment, though brief, I believe I saw myself as He sees me.

I was sitting on the airport floor. It was in New York. The terminal was hot. There were people everywhere. My blood sugar was for sure low. I felt consumed by anxiety. I felt overwhelmed. I felt drained of everything.

Then out of nowhere came this probably 1.5 year old child. The kid wobbled through all these people. She looked at me and stopped dead in her tracks. All of a sudden her eyes lit up. She smiled from ear to ear and giggled. Time froze for a second for me. In that moment I knew that is exactly how my God views me. Just as that child saw me.

Friends, you may see your faults before your successes. You may feel lost at sea every single day. You may feel overwhelmed and consumed by your negative self talk, anxiety, depression, fears, etc. I encourage you to pray this simple prayer. Allow your current vision of yourself fade. Soon He will send you moments where, even if only for a second, you will see the truth of who you are.

Fighting the Prayer Battle

If you read any quotes, books, or stories about the saints you will see a common theme.

    1.Prayer is always the answer.

And also.

    2. Prayer is not easy.

For many of us we understand #1 but we have great difficulty implementing it into our lives #2.

 

Hopefully, my story can give you hope and allow you to keep persevering in prayer.

________________________________________

I remember sitting outside of my university’s science building a few years ago. I was talking to a friend and asking for some guidance on prayer.

Our conversation went a bit like this:

Me: I’m having some trouble praying. Like I want to pray, but when I do, I don’t feel right.

Friend: What do you mean?

Me: I want to pray but I almost feel restless whenever I do. I feel this deep unrest, and it makes me not want to pray. 

This was a few years ago and it did not get any better. It got so much worse.

Whenever I prayed, I was restless. I felt uneasy about myself and almost felt more unsafe. I felt intense guilt.  I didn’t like it one bit. I felt like a horrible person for it.

Why when I try to draw close to God do I feel horrible?

My folded hands were almost a stimulus for my anxiety.

This “feeling” took a gun to my prayer life. Over the past few years, I prayed a lot less. My nighttime routine seemed to fade away. Praying the rosary became a less frequent occurrence. Even during Mass, I resisted finding a quite place in my heart to talk to God.

My lack of prayer was not apparent. Looking back, I realize this now; however, it was very camouflaged.

Instead of prayer, I would use other “stimuli” to capture my attention. I would jump into the world of social media. I would post funny things in group chats. I would watch a lot of useless youtube videos.

I was constantly distracting myself from this earthly unrest by not living.

Well, this all took a turn the over the last few weeks.

After much reflecting on God, reading about the lives of the saints, going to Mass often, Christ-centered conversation, and more reflection I realized what was going on.

I lost the fact that I was just a human. A human jailed in the flesh, constantly being attacked by the devil. Prayer would not always come easy. The devil wants nothing more than to take us away from our King. The devil wants to destroy our relationship with Christ.

“The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” Matthew 26:41.

So I decided to prayer. I decided to lose my life in order to save it.

I decided to feel the horrible unrest. I decided to feel the guilt and the lack of peace.

I decided to do this all for Him. I decided to fight this battle against the enemy and praise my Lord Jesus Christ even if it did not “feel” correct.

And you know what happened.

Last night, I was praying the rosary.

And out of nowhere, I was hit by a deep peace.

Whenever, I am hit with despair and distress I am inclined to pray. I am drawn to let the Lord know what is going on in my life.

St. Padre Pio once said,

“Prayer is the oxygen of the soul.”

And he is right. My soul was gasping for air the past few years. Each time it got a breath,  I allowed “my feelings” to drown me. I let the voice of the devil and the unrest placed in my heart to stop my lungs from working.

If any of you out there have had a similar experience or are going through a similar one, I encourage you to pray.

Pray even when you have insane doubts.

Pray even when you don’t want to.

Pray even when you feel won’t be heard.

Because prayer is a fight.

And the good news is.

Christ has already declared victory.

 

 

 

Cause Love

There is someone out there that you love.

Whether that be in a romantic way, familial, or brotherly.

There is someone, who you will sacrifice for every day. A person you are willing to do anything for just because they are who they are.

Here are a few example you might relate to:

-A child who studies really hard day and night because he or she loves his or her parents. 

-A girlfriend who drives hours to surprise her boyfriend.

-A mother who doesn’t sleep in to make sure her children’s clothes are ironed.

-A friend who calls you even though they are having such a busy day

Love makes us do crazy stuff. Crazy awesome stuff.

Love is the energy. Selfless giving fuels us.

Last night, I thought a lot about love. I thought about how easy it was for me to understand what it means to do things out of love for those in my life I care about.

Like my parents, my cousins, or siblings…

 

Then I related this thought to Jesus.

And everything got a little simpler.

Do everything for the love of God.

Jesus is our Lord. Jesus is our best friend. Jesus is our father.

Yet, sometimes we forget we can do everything because we love Him.

If we change our intention, we will change our mindset.

By doing this, I can assure you motivation will take you over.

A great book on this topic is the book, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence.

Highly recommend, it is also super short so it can be read pretty quickly.

In this small book, Brother Lawrence talks about falling in love with God’s Presence and having it take over your life.

By constantly being aware of God’s love, the world changes.

The darkness may still be around us, but we can more easily focus on the light.

This week let us focus on loving God the way we love the important people in our lives.

If we do this, we can do the impossible.

 

 

She Held My Hand

Have you woken up in the morning and felt like you must have swam across the Atlantic in your sleep?

When your feet touch the floor, you catch yourself from falling over?

Your eyelids decide to stay partially closed and the shower does not help?

I felt exactly like this when I woke up today.

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Well, this morning I had Church at 8am.

My four hours of sleep wasn’t really cooperating with me.

But, thankful, I made it to Church and prayed for some energy to take part in the celebration of God’s awesomeness.

However, as the music played my eyelids became heavy. For the next 30 minutes I did everything in my power to fight it. My eyelids were bench pressing air and not successfully. Since I go to school far away from home, I usually am in Church alone. Therefore, I didn’t have one of my siblings or parents to give me the oh so gentle nudge with their elbow.

I was zoning in and out of during the Scripture readings.

I heard the priests homily and probably dozed off for a few seconds in between sentences.

I was not only tired, but extremely anxious.

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I had a restlessness embedded in my limbs.

I had feelings of fear.

I had feelings of uncertainty.

I was being consumed with negative self-talk.

It eventually came time in the Mass for the Our Father prayer. 

In some Churches people may hold hands, especially families.

But between strangers, it is rare.

As the prayer begins I am still in my head. I am not present. I am restless. I am doubtful. I am uncertain. I am scared. I feel terrible. I feel alone.

All of a sudden, as I’m putting my cold hand into my sweatshirt sleeve, I feel something grab it.

I look up, and see a woman in her late 60s, sitting two seats away from me.

She had the most peaceful smile I have ever seen before.

It was as if a force knocked me over.

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It was as if I was lost and found.

It was as if my heart began beating with a greater force.

The moment she grabbed my hand I felt the weight melt away. My eyelids were no longer heavy. I was filled with energy. I felt a lightening bolt of peace.

When the prayer came to the end, I noticed myself hesitating to let go of her hand.

I felt I belonged. I felt out of my own head. I felt freedom.

As I was praying before Communion, her action was really getting to me.

I start to tear up.

The small act of love this woman showed me today, gave me all I needed. She reached out to a man who was alone, and reminded him of how much he is loved. Grabbing my hand was not the comfortable thing to do.

She chose to be uncomfortable so I would be comfortable.  

This woman did not pay off all my students loans. She did not heal me of all my past hurt. Nor did she comfort me for hours with her words.

 

This morning gave me a lot of insight.

It reminded me that love is the energy. By receiving and giving love we are made new.

It reminded me of how many good people are out there.

It reminded me that being comfortable and a Christian doesn’t make much sense.

It reminded me that the smallest acts of love may make the greatest impact.

It reminded me that my neighbor is waiting for me. To hold his or her hand. To let them know I am here. To let them know that I care.

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She held my hand.

And because of that act.

I witnessed the reckless love of God. 

 

 

 

 

A Simple Little Prayer

Dear Lord,

Direct my soul to your love. Give me the strength to let go. Fill me with the courage to choose You over myself. Calm my restless heart. Remind me that the Holy Spirit is with me on this journey. Thank you Lord, for your presence. Refocus my gaze on You alone. Give me the ability to recognize my weakness and use it as a force of faith. Tear down the walls I have placed around my heart. Walls that block me from You. Walls that block me from my true self. Walls that prevent me from loving my neighbor as myself. Lord, water me like a flower. You are my sunlight. Lord, I am with you in this moment.

Amen.

Failing your New Year’s Resolution

Like the majority of the world…

whenever I start a new year’s resolution I fail miserably after the first few weeks.

After I get off track, I seem to give up because….well I lost.

My bad habits won. 

I get so discouraged at my lack of willpower that it seems to zap away all my strength to persevere.

I have learned over the past few years that I have this problem.

Well—most of us do.

We seem to forget that we are human and that changing a bad habit cold turkey is a lot harder than it looks.

For certain habits, maybe even miraculous.

The problem I have noticed is that we neglect to reflect.

We fail and then just like that the weight of our failure drags us down.

We do not use our failure to understand ourselves more, but rather allow it to destroy us.

Therefore, I encourage you all to start early this year with your resolutions.

A few days early at least.

Whether it be not clicking your snooze button.

Running a mile a day.

Cutting back on the smoking. 

Reading thirty minutes before bed.

Sending a text message of thankfulness each day.

Start today.

Start now.

This way you have a few days to fail and reflect on that failure.

And move on.

Make 2018 the year of using failure to fuel your engine. 

Take the risks.

Take the leap.

Take the time to reflect.

And make the change that will better the world.

 

The Purse Lady

I was in Church last week.

Placed on the seat next to me was a purse. The lady  who owned the purse was two seats away.

The choir started singing and just like that Church had started. Maybe, ten minutes into the start a couple walked in and the usher pointed to the seat next to me and the seat with the purse. Immediately, the purse lady  waved her hand to stop the couple saying she was saving it for someone. Everyone in the Church was staring. They were starting to make a scene. The wife told her husband to sit down next to me and she would sit somewhere else. She was obviously very annoyed at the lady so called “saving the seat.”

I talked with the lady about to leave her husband and told her to take my seat. I moved and just like that all was okay with the world. However, throughout my time in Church I watched as the purse remained on that seat.

No one came.

I could still feel tension between the couple and the lady sitting with the purse. We were all probably thinking the same thing. Was someone actually going to sit there? Or was she just being rude? Even if someone was going to sit there Church had already been going on for quite some time. This person could have just found another seat.

Then I had a realization. 

My immediate thought was that the purse-lady was a mean person.

My default was that she was selfish

My instincts shouted at me that she was not to be trusted.

Why do we do this?

Everyday our default in this world is that the OTHER person is wrong. The OTHER person is rude. The OTHER person is not smart. The OTHER person is causing trouble.

I hate that.

I want to see people the way Christ sees people.

So I challenged myself.

Why might this purse-lady have been saving this seat?

I made a mental list.

  1. She was waiting for a friend who promised to be there.
  2. She is claustrophobic
  3. She is too old to pick up her purse from the floor
  4. She was waiting for her husband who never comes with her. Praying this time would be different.
  5. She was too overweight/had bad knees so it was difficult to bend down and get her purse.
  6. She had something valuable in the purse and did not want to let it out of her sight.
  7. She had medications in the purse she needed to access quickly.
  8. She was fearful of getting sick so she wanted some space.
  9. She was waiting for her son/daughter to come for the first time.
  10. She was sick and didn’t want anyone sitting so close to her.
  11. etc. etc. etc.

That is when it hit me.

Look at all those justifiable reasons why she did what she did.

Friends, let us start making these lists.

Taking a deep breath.

And changing our default setting to something more positive.

And even if this women was just plain rude.

Maybe, by treating her with love and respect it would change her heart for the better.

I’m in a Windex Commercial

A few years ago, I was late for a campus event.

At this event we were advertising for campus student organizations. As an officer in one of the groups it was important that I was there to talk with possible future members.

I felt bad that I wasn’t there on time so I started to do the half run/half walk motion. However, as I approached closer to the building I picked up my pace. I started to run.

I was a few feet from the building when…

BAM. 

 

All of a sudden I was laying on the ground. My head hurt and right above my eyebrow was swollen. I felt like I hit a force field.

Looking up, I saw a lot of people staring down at me. Many of which were trying hard not to laugh but definitely smirking.

I was so confused. I was embarrassed. I was disoriented.

What just happened?

Peering at the doorway, I realized that the doors were made of glass.

Wow. I was stupid.

I felt exactly like the guy in this windex commercial.

Click here.

I feel as though this story is very relatable to my life.

Our lives.

Often, we feel like we know where we are headed. We the see the prize. We see the destination so vividly.

Yet, then God sends us a wake up call.

He puts the glass door in our lives to remind us to slow down.

When we are running towards our earthly goals we are consumed in our desires. We neglect the fact that the journey is not about us but about the Creator.

The glass doors in our lives shape us morally. They bring us back on the spiritual path. They allow us to remember that we are only human.

In the moment it may be difficult to accept the glass doors in our lives.

When people are standing around you laughing at your fall.

When you feel like you cannot get up anymore.

When you are experiencing physical or mental pain. 

However, once you get up and dust yourself off you realize something.

You are still alive and well.

You are stronger because of it.

It was only glass.

Friends, I encourage you today to keep striving after Christ. Allow the bruises on your head from the glass doors to become your trophy.

With enough faith…

You will be able to run right through the glass.

In Christ all obstacles are shattered.