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.

Why the Media is Making Us Useless

Overwhelmed. 

Describes perfectly how most people feel when watching the news.

It is like falling into a pool of negativity with our mouths open.

However, there are many positives to the media.

Such as being able to be an advocate for the oppressed, seeking change, pursuing truth, changing policies.

These are awesome.

However, I have noticed something.

The media is making us useless.

We as humans are not inclined to tackle giant tasks. We are biologically and socially adapted to taking things step by step.

We read a book page by page.

We follow schedules by the hour.

We draw line by line.

We write word after word.

When we have a goal, even if we don’t realize it, we break it down into steps to achieve it.

Such as going to school and getting a degree. We take classes. We study for individual tests.

Our big picture is made up of many microscopic pictures.

So why is the media making us useless?

Because all we see everyday is the big picture. The big scary picture.

We see giant issues that take time and creativity to find solutions for; however, they just keep coming.

Instead of realizing the pace at which we as humans tackle such issues, we are inclined to seek immediate solutions. When this does not happen, we get frustrated and remain idle. We complain. We criticize. We post our feelings. And yet we do nothing. Things do not get changed exactly because we are so overwhelmed.

In order to escape this trap we need to take time and reflect on the information overload. We need to take practical steps into making a difference and cleaning up a leaf or two floating in this negativity pool chilling in our backyard.

And that is the best thing we as civilians can do.

Do not let the media overwhelm you to the point of paralysis.

Take in what is necessary to make small changes.

Take in the negativity with a straw. Small sips. Enough to keep you aware and willing to make a move.

Friends, I encourage you today to not let the BIG PICTURE freak you out. Think practically. Initiate small change. And in due time your frustration will shift into a focus for the greater good.

 

It’s All Good

 

In my house above one of the doors there is a sign that reads,

God’s got a plan, and it’s all good.

It’s a nice little slogan.

Looking at it usually gives me a surge of peace.

It is a call to action: trust in God.

In reference to the Bible it probably relates to Romans 8:28.

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” ROMANS 8:28. 

This past year for me was not really what I expected it to be.

I had a lot of troubles enter into my life that I did not understand.

I had a lot of moments where I felt like Lt. Dan from Forest Gump as he shouted at God while on the fishing boat in the middle of the storm.

Lt. Dan Loud Conversation with God link

Like Lt. Dan, I did not understand. I could not grasp why my life was turning out such a way.

Thoughts flooded my mind…

Why was I in this situation? 

When would I have hope again?

Where was God going with this?

I am sure you have found yourself stuck in the middle of such a storm and confused about God’s plan for your life.

Humanity and confusion basically mean the same thing haha.

With this confusion, can come a lot of anger and bitterness.

For me this was visible in how I viewed my Creator.

I started to see God just as Lt. Dan did. I saw God as a coach forcing me to do as many sprints as I could to become stronger. I saw God as a military leader doing all he could to train me to become a warrior.

While I do believe God does exemplify some of these traits, I was missing the largest piece of all.

The mercy of Our Lord.

Surely God was their through my trials, yet I viewed Him as the cause rather than the comfort

Thinking about this now is extremely sad for me.

My perception of my Lord was stained all because of fear and pride.

My way had to be the right way.

My way must be the best for me.

My way was what I worked towards.

How often, in your life, have similar thoughts filled your mind?

So what are we to do?

We are to remember, Romans 8:28.

We are to remember that God is not the cause but He is the comfort.

In Him all trials, pains, suffering, and fear can be transformed into gift.

For this to happen, we must humble ourselves.

Look courageously towards Heaven.

And remember our way is not the right way.

Because God has got a plan, and it is alllllllll goooood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Before the Suicide Note is Written

Over the last few months, news of suicide has been aired all over the media.

Prominent people who seemed to have very content and happy lives chose to take their own life.

Suicide continues to be discussed because it so hard to understand: for those who have never had suicidal thoughts/feelings.

Mental illness can be equated to getting a bad injury.

Lets say a broken arm for example.

You’ve never broken your arm. You’ve never not been able to use your arm. So when you see someone with a broken arm you can only imagine what they are going through. You can imagine how difficult it is to get up in the morning. You can imagine how hard it is to get dressed. You can think about how painful it is to break a bone. But all in all. You can never feel what they are feeling unless you experience it first hand.

You may have broken a finger and try to empathize, but most of the time it does not do justice to the other’s problem.

Whether it be depression, anxiety, OCD, schizophrenia, bulimia, anorexia etc. one can never know the full extent of the mental anguish. You may try to remember a time you were very sad, and believe this is exactly what depression is like. You may have moments of tidiness and assume this is how someone struggling with OCD feels. With mental illness, this is very difficult to do and more often than not perpetuates false stereotypes (such as OCD only being about cleanliness).

People say mental illness is invisible. It is so difficult to treat because unlike a broken arm, the public cannot see it.

I contest this statement.  

It is visible. Very. If we are paying attention.

For example. If my brother had a rough day at school. He may get into the car and be less talkative. He may turn up the radio a little bit. He might avoid a lot of eye contact. He may not eat as much dinner.

I notice this because I know my brother. I know how he acts during a normal day. I notice this because I am not focused solely on myself. If my brother walked into the car and I was blaring the radio and not connecting with him, I may never know how he feels. The more I think about myself, the less I would think about my brother.

Therefore, I would take action. I would ask him what happened. I could ask him why he does not seem like himself. Did he fail a test? Did a friend say something mean to him? Was he just tired? I could explain what I noticed and look for a solution.

I understand that with mental illness sometimes it may be a snap of the finger moment. An individual with depression or bipolar disorder may become depressed very rapidly which would prevent a friendly ear from seeing the signs.

However, I believe this is the minority.

Mental illness shows its face. It is subtle, but visible. We must be on the watch.

I write today to urge you to take action before the suicide note is written. Ask a friend why they seem so down lately. Get lunch with a friend that seemed really anxious all week.

Listen. Listen. Listen. 

We as a species are very astute when it comes to noticing an abnormality. As a kid I am sure you played those games where you had to spot the difference between two pictures. One picture had a flower pot with two flowers the other a flower pot with three. We have been trained to notice differences. If you could identity it in a game as a child you can identify it now in the people in your life.

Love. Love. Love. 

Deny yourself and take time out of your day to love others. Did your friend seem a little sad? Go hang out with them and get ice cream. The minute your mind starts saying things like, “They are okay, I have a lot to do etc..” stop it. Even if nothing is wrong do you think your kind act won’t be noticed? How do you know it will not have a long term impact? You don’t. 

Educate Yourself. 

Read up on mental illness to dissolve your stereotypes. Do you know the signs and symptoms of depression? Do you know the different types of depression? Do you know the differences between all the eating disorders? Do you know that OCD may have absolutely nothing to do with germs and neatness? The more you educate yourself the more capable you will be to notice problems, take action, and recommend counseling.

Before the suicide note is written, we all have a responsibility to…

Listen intently.

Love whole-heartedly.

Educate Ourselves and Others.

Through our actions, I pray at least one less suicide note will be written. 

Why so intense?

The archbishop St. Charles Borromeo once said,

“If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness.”

I think this quote does a great job explaining the zeal required for a Christian. In order to do the will of God it is necessary that we start again EACH AND EVERY day. This call to “new eagerness” represents growth. St. Charles is stressing the importance of continuously reflecting and asking ourselves why we are doing the things we are doing. Every action must reflect our desire to serve God.

In one of todays readings, 1 Peter 4:7-13 we are reminded about the importance of action

“The end of all things is at hand.
Therefore be serious and sober-minded
so that you will be able to pray.
Above all, let your love for one another be intense,
because love covers a multitude of sins…”

When hearing this passage this morning, I was taken a back by the word “intense.” After looking at other Bible versions, I very much enjoy this wording (other versions use words such as “deeply”, “fervent, etc.)

When I heard intense I think crazy. I think of someone so crazy they would do anything no matter the cost. I see a marine trudging through mud to get to where he or she needs to be. I see a student chugging back buckets of coffee studying their butt off through the late hours of the night. I see focus. I see desire. I most of all, see purpose.

I think something that is lacking in young Christians today is intensity. We allow Christianity to be diluted and do nothing about it. We are so worried about pleasing everybody that we forget to please Our Lord.

In today’s Gospel reading, Matthew 11:11-26 Jesus shows us exactly what he means.

As people buy and sell in the temple area, Christ overturned the tables.

He explains in fervor that this is not what the temple is meant for.

Now apply this to your life.

I encourage you today to flip the tables inside your heart. Drive out all that is not meant to be there. Any hatred? Seek forgiveness. Any fear? Seek God’s power and trust. Any shame? Seek God’s love.

At the beginning of this Gospel passage, Christ curses the fig tree.

The next day as they were leaving Bethany he was hungry.
Seeing from a distance a fig tree in leaf,
he went over to see if he could find anything on it.
When he reached it he found nothing but leaves;
it was not the time for figs.
And he said to it in reply, “May no one ever eat of your fruit again!”
And his disciples heard it.

I don’t know about you but I have told myself many times,

“it is not my time right now…later.”

I have chosen to hide behind my leaves and not bear fruit.

This may look like:

Going on social media instead of loving a family member.

Watching TV instead of doing service. 

Sleeping in instead of working on that project. 

So what must we do to change this?

Be intense.

Follow in the footsteps of Christ so confidently it startles the world just like Christ freaked out the money changers.

Remind yourself, bearing fruit is why you are here on this earth. Nothing else matters.

Later on the story continues,

Early in the morning, as they were walking along,
they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.
Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look!
The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
Jesus said to them in reply, “Have faith in God.
Amen, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain,
‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’
and does not doubt in his heart
but believes that what he says will happen,
it shall be done for him.

Here Christ continues with His lesson of intensity.

He proclaims to us to have intense faith. 

If we choose Christ, the impossible becomes just an average day.

Melt your doubts by taking intense action.

Pray hard, work hard, strive to live like Christ.

Go the extra mile and then run a marathon.

Keep persevering for Christ and you will be rewarded in paradise.

 

Let love be your fuel and intensity be your steering wheel. 

 

 

 

 

His Palms are Sweaty

We have all been there.

So nervous, our palms are like little lakes.

And then, of course, you are going to have to shake someone’s hand right away.

Ashamed of the fact, that they now have to grip onto your slippery fingers.

Are you a member of the clammy hand club? Because I sure am.

Sweating, to me anyway, reminds me of humanity.

We cannot escape it. It keeps us cool in the summer. It shows up under our armpits when we go on a first date. It embarrasses us when we have clammy hands. It stings our eyes when we go on long runs.

 

The other morning I was just waking up. Super groggy and going in and out of sleep.

I was delirious, and out of nowhere a thought popped into my mind,

“Jesus sweat”

 

For some reason, this little thought struck me. I could not stop thinking about it.

I saw Christ in the garden, with palms sweaty in anticipation of his Passion.

I saw Christ carrying the cross, sweating on the way to His crucifixion.

I saw Christ, preaching to the apostles on a hillside with his hair drenched from scorching sun.

Knowing of the divinity of Christ, sometimes it has been difficult for me to understand His humanity. It has been hard for me to empathize with the fact that He fully understands the human condition.

We know He understands pain through His crucifixion.

We know He understands loneliness through His betrayal.

We know He understands anger, as He walked through the temple.

For some reason, meditating on the fact that Christ sweat has opened my eyes up to His humanity. It has allowed me to trust that Christ gets it. Our Lord understands the trials and tribulations of our time here on earth.

So, next time the world has got you sweating. Take heart! Because physiologically our Lord experienced the same thing.

When your palms are sweaty, remember Christ in the garden.

When your hair is drenched, meditate on our Lord’s preaching.

When you are exercising, thank the Lord for carrying the cross.

His palms were sweaty friends, let this give you comfort.

For it is a comfort to remember, that our Lord gets it.

 

Praise through Pain

I was sitting in Church today.

Before Mass started I decided to say a quick prayer.

“God, please allow this to be the best Mass of my life. Help me to let go and just dive deep into Your love. Let me be present. Let me feel Your presence. Fill me with courage.”

And naturally, two minutes in my mind started buzzing.

But, this time it was different.

This time it was worse. Much worse. 

Distressing thoughts were filling my head. I felt fear and anger inside of me. I was anxious. I was uncomfortable. Frankly, I felt like a bad person.

This was of no shock to me. Why?

Because I called out to God and evil tried to do all it could to prevent courage. 

I’m sure you have noticed this in your own life. The moment you strive for something good, the world tries to side track you. Evil tries to distract you.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting a lot on the presence of evil in the world around me. In every situation I have started to ask myself, “Is this fear/doubt/distress/thought bringing me away from God?”

The world is full of trash that the devil places within our neurotransmitters.

Yes, the devil. Denying the devil’s existence does nothing more than give him fuel.

So, lately I’ve been calling the devil out.

I forget which saint said it but I enjoy the quote that goes something like this,  “The only person you can tell to go to hell is the devil.” So yeah, tell the devil to go to hell and scram.

I fought my flesh for the rest of the Mass. Second by second shifting my focus on the Lord not my mind. Rumination does nothing for the soul.

The minute I went up to receive the Eucharist. Everything changed.

I had a simple yet powerful realization.

I asked myself, “Why do I always feel like I am not doing enough?”

The answer I heard was: This is not Heaven. 

I then asked, “Well, how can I make this Heaven?”

The answer I heard was: 1. Receive Him in Communion 2. Praise the Lord Always

Simple yet it knocked the wind out of me and filled me with joy.

Is that not what Heaven is?

Praising God, loving God, and Him loving us FOR ETERNITY. 

Why not bring that here right now?

Bring Heaven to earth.

But how?

Praise Jesus Now and Forever.

Praise Jesus in every single moment.

Praise Jesus when you are anxious.

Praise Jesus when you are filled with joy.

Praise, and Praise, and more praise.

All in all, it was the best Mass of my life.

Because I received the body of my Lord and Savior and praised Him through the pain.

Friends, I encourage you to act as though you are in Heaven.

Filled with nothing but the love of God. 

This is why life is hard.

A few questions we often ask ourselves is,

“Why is my life so hard?”

“Why did this happen?”

“When will I be happy?”

And many more similar questions…

In all of these we seem to be calling out to God to explain the answers.

“God, what gives?”

And this is exactly why life is so hard. 

In Matthew 16: 24 Christ tells us,

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

A major problem with Christian living today, is the “deny themselves” part. People seem to think that denying themselves means donating a little extra on Sunday, or doing some service work, or maybe holding the door open for a stranger.

Christ did not call us to a life of nice deeds, but a life of radical love.

Christ is calling us to action here. Action that must happen every second of our short lives.

How many times a day do you look inward instead of outward?
How many times a day do you dissect and analyze your cross instead of looking towards His cross?

How many times in a day do you use excuses to prevent you from loving those around you?

I for one, do this everyday. The modern term for not denying oneself would be

“getting in your own head.”

Got a test coming up? Analyze yourself, make up a million scenarios about messing up, procrastinate, refocus, think about not being what you want to be in life…etc.

Got in an argument with a friend? Analyze yourself, make up a million scenarios why you were right and they were wrong, shy away from forgiveness….etc.

Got bills to pay? Analyze yourself, ask where you messed up in your budget, make up a million scenarios as to how you are gonna get this fixed..etc.

See, the problem is not the situations, but our outlook on the situations.

We are a culture so obsessed with turning our eyes inside ourselves. We have the constant false belief that by looking in we can fix the situation.

We need to develop the habit of forcing ourselves to look up at Christ on the cross.

By focusing outward, we are denying ourselves. We are establishing that in this moment we have a cross to bear, BUT we are walking with Christ. We will follow Him and carry our cross with dignity and courage.

The hardest thing in life is to suffer alone.

This is why life is so hard. We are constantly choosing EVERY SINGLE DAY to suffer alone. God is shouting at us to look towards Him and to never ever ever be alone in our suffering, yet we choose to stare at our problems instead of the Creator.

Friends, in order to make life not so hard we need to remember Christ is right here at all times.

As St. Patrick once said,

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Today, I encourage you to refocus your gaze on Jesus.

Unite your suffering with His suffering.

Deny yourself, forget you even exist.

And become a solider for God, so strong, so confident, so radical…

All the fears on the battlefield transform into another opportunity to be victorious

They become another opportunity to give glory to God.

 

 

 

Heart Rate and Jesus

Heart rate tell us a lot about our state of mind.

If you have a fast heart rate a few things could be happening.

-You might be anxious

-You might be exercising

-You might have just woken up from a nightmare

If you have a slow heart rate a few things could be happening.

-You might be relaxing

-You might be in a cold shower

-You may be in a deep sleep

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Lately, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to my heart rate. It allows me to get outside of my head and notice how my body is responding to any given situation. I may not notice I am anxious but by paying attention to my heart rate I am made aware that I most likely am. If my heart rate is low, I am probably very focused on a task, such as studying.

Today, I thought about my heart rate but I also thought about Jesus and His heart.

I thought about how in times of distress, such as flipping over the tables in temple, Christ had a fast heart rate.

I thought about Christ focusing as a carpenter and having a slow heart rate.

I thought about Christ’s heart rate going from slow to fast as He heard Lazarus had died.

I thought about the agony in the garden, and how Christ’s heart must have been pumping so fast He sweat blood.

The beauty of thinking about Christ’s heart is the reminder….our Lord UNDERSTANDS.

 

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Jesus had a physical body that reacted to the human emotions of the world.

Is this not the most comforting thought?

We are not alone in our joy, sadness, anxiety, fear.

So next time you are stressed and your heart is exploding out of your chest…think of Christ.

When you are relaxing and your heart rate is low….think of Christ.

When your heart rate is all over the place…think of Christ.

By remembering the humanity of Christ we can further appreciate His divinity.

Allow your heart rate to be a constant reminder of Christ’s love for you.

Jesus gets it friends.

Allow this thought to fill you with peace.

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The Stranger Who Changed My Life

Have you ever felt your life change in but an instant? Most of you may know what I am talking about.

Maybe, the moment a loved one passed away?

Or, the moment you fell in love with your future spouse?

Possibly, when you won an award for something?

Those moments are great and all, but they are not what I am going to talk about today.

Today, I want to talk about a micro moment. A micro moment is such a small event it may seem insignificant. However, micro moments continue to change my life everyday. They may mean nothing to the friend or stranger that spoke or acted, but they significantly impacted my life.

Here is one of my micro-moments:

The Patient 

At my medical school, we have fake patient encounters. This allows us to practice the clinical side of medicine. Towards the end of my first semester, I had a fake clinical encounter scheduled. The entire first semester I faced a lot of adversity. I was at a school I did not intend on going to. I had not found many friends. I was struggling to keep up academically with my peers. I did not have much support. And day in and day out I was reminded that I was not good enough. I thought about quitting every night. It would be so easy wouldn’t it?

It is time for my patient encounter. I knock on the door and have a patient who apparently is experiencing burning sensation in his chest. I started the exam and ask him exactly where the pain is located. I talk to him like I would with any other patient, but he stops me midway through taking his patient history.

My first thought was that I royally screwed up.

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Patients are not supposed to break out of character during these encounters.

It is a no no.

So, for him to do this I must have said or done something pretty bad.

He starts shaking his head.

My palms start to get very sweaty.

My heart rate is elevated.

He looks me dead in the eyes and says,

“You have ******* potential kid.”

 

Shocked by his compliment I did not know what to say.

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Over the entire first semester, positive words were not what my ears were used to hearing.

The man continued to explain why he thought I would make an excellent doctor.

This conversation lasted a minute or so and that was it.

I never saw the man again.

But, this micro moment changed my life. 

In my bedroom, above the light switch, is an index card with this man’s praise. His comment to me, on that random day in November, gave me the hope in myself that I was missing. He could have just gave me a good score and moved on with it.

But no.

He stopped me dead in my tracks and filled me with encouragement.

He told me to fulfill what I was meant to do.

He saw a future me that I did not think existed.

 

It is our duty to create these micro moments for the friends and strangers around us.

 

Let us always remember this today, and live a life of love and encouragement.