Friday, March 2, 2018

Would You Push an SUV up a Hill?

Curtis Martin of FOCUS tells a story about pushing an SUV uphill.  He says that there is nothing wrong with the SUV except that nobody turned on the ignition.  How hard it would be to push an SUV up a hill without the engine running!

It is a good example that allows us to relate to the challenge of evangelizing.  While our parishes have all we need to move forward in sharing the gospel, are we trying to do it manually, without the Holy Spirit?  Without first becoming disciples ourselves?

What will it take to "turn on the ignition" in our parishes?

It begins with an activation of the Spirit in our personal lives.  When we are transformed ourselves, so that we are bursting with joy at the Good News of salvation, then we can evangelize, because a joy-filled faith is attractive.  Others might wonder, "Why are you so animated in your faith?"

But so many of us are struggling in our faith.  We feel stuck.  We don't know how to move. We lose confidence and trust that God is present. 

Whenever I hit a bump in the road that shakes me, I turn to scripture.  As the inspired Word of God, the bible is God's revelation of himself to us.  What could be a better aid to help us move out of a spiritual slump than to sit quietly with the Lord and just listen.

His words of comfort can come through others, too.  Sometimes they are a word of encouragement or simply a quiet prompting.  Regardless, we must never give up.

It might sound too easy, but sometimes if we just sit with a crucifix in our hand (a cross with the body of Christ on it) and focus on the cross, powerful thoughts may arise.

We should be careful not to grow too content in our faith.  We do not want to become (or remain) nominal Christians.  If we want to become evangelizers, we must begin by stepping out.  Take a class!  Listen to a podcast or go to a presentation!  Go on retreat!

We must do something that we have not done before and open ourselves to God through opportunities.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Janet Cassidy

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Moving the Dial on Culture

I heard Curtis Martin of FOCUS make this statement during one of his talks:

"Culture eats strategy for lunch; we need to renew the culture; good culture makes it easy to make good decisions (and the reverse)."

Reflecting on his statement recently, I now have more clarification as to what he meant.  We can make our elaborate plans.  We can put on our programs for change.  We can encourage, scold and prod people until they cannot take it anymore, but in the end, without a wide cultural shift, our success will be limited.

So what can you and I do?  We are just one person.  How can we impact the wider culture so that it becomes easier for our children to make good decisions?

Well, we may not be the head of a multi-million dollar corporation, but we do have--as Stephen Covey says--our "circle of influence."

Like that proverbial pebble making ripples in a pond, we begin where we are.  The waves will carry our work out, further than any one individual can reach.

Here's an example.  Let's say I want to "change the culture" around me ("my circle of influence") to help people understand why exercise is important.  First, I must act on my belief, so I start exercising every day.  What I discover along the way is that exercise makes me feel better.  While I may not be moving the dial on the scale, I am moving the dial on my life.  My movements come more easily when I exercise.  I have a lot more energy.  My clothes fit better.  You get the idea.

As those personal changes begin to take place and begin to affect me, I notice that from my increased level of energy, I can actually be more productive.  This ultimately benefits those around me, as I inspire and encourage them.  This does not simply happen because I talk about exercise more, but because the changes they see in me testify that what I am saying and doing is true.

This can be applied to the moral concerns of today as well.

So we can see, then, inspiring the two (or ten) people around us by living out our beliefs can potentially change the culture, as others are moved to make change as well.

Admittedly, this may be a very slow process, but it is a place to start.  What can YOU do today, in your "circle of influence" to move the dial on our culture?

I welcome your comments.

Janet Cassidy

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Is Your Child Exploring ALL Their Gifts?

So I have been thinking lately about families--kids and their activities.  I wonder how we are doing in providing children a variety of opportunities so that they can see the multitude of gifts God has given them.

When I was in 6th grade, I tried out for cheerleading.  The reason that stands out for me is because there was really no way I was destined to cheer.  Oh, I had enthusiasm all right, but definitely not the moves.  I actually, sort of knew that going into the audition, but I tried anyway, being a little hopeful.  End of story.

Before that, I had a love for teaching and writing. 

I like to say I had the most well-educated stuffed animals around.  They would spend their time lined up on my bed as I taught them on my big chalkboard (which, I must say, was the BEST Christmas present ever!)

Some evenings I would type away on my mom's portable, electric typewriter, working on stories that I was sure were wonderful.

My point is, my mom never limited me.  I could try whatever interested me and succeed or fail, it didn't matter.  I believe it built my confidence as I tried many things.

I like to play the piano--and I must say, the key word here is "play."  Am I good at it?  No, not especially.  But do I enjoy it and get pleasure from it?  Definitely.

So what about children today who are focused on only one thing--perhaps being the best gymnast or hockey player or wrestler?

How will they discover their hidden talents (or at least explore various interests), if they only focus heavily on one thing?

I know there are exceptions--like our laser-focused olympic athletes--but I expect it is not every child that has the skill, discipline, financial resources and focus to achieve that level of expertise.

Come to think of it, this sort of reminds me of our homeschooling days.  Some homeschoolers thought it was enough to let their child take the lead in deciding curriculum.  For instance, if their child liked taking things apart, then they would center their curriculum on that, figuring they could encompass other subjects and get all they needed.

That never made sense to me, because if they were mostly focused on one thing, they might miss exploring some other things.

So when it comes to our children, I believe parents would do well not to let their children have all of their confidence come from one particular activity.  Not only does it put way too much pressure on them, but perhaps more importantly, it sets children up to see their whole identity as wrapped up in one thing.

God gave us all a variety of gifts.  We would do well to give our children a variety of ways to discover them.

I welcome your comments.