Probably the Most Controversial Thing You’ll Read All Day

I recently read an article by one of my favorite bloggers that stated bluntly that the best way to get more readers is to “break the rules”.  By that, he meant that bloggers should write about a controversial topic and wait for the bickering to begin in the combox.

I’ve been savoring the idea and interesting post titles like “My Church is Better than Yours Because Jesus Founded It”, “Why (enter any religious institution besides Catholicism here) Is Wrong,” and “When He Said, ‘This Is My Body.’.. dude, He REALLY meant His body” came to mind.  However, after grounding my thoughts in ecumenical charity (and facebook and twitter), I arrived to the conclusion that there exists an even more controversial topic.  Sadly, the irony is that this topic will more than likely result in very few page views.

Here it is:

“Jesus Christ is Lord” & “God is love.”

There you have it.  That’s it.  The most controversial thing anyone can say has just been published on my blog.  I stole it from Philippians 2: 11 and 1 John 4:8, so technically I’m guilty of violating two laws:

  1. Plagiarism (what can be more controversial than that!)
  2. Going against the current mood of society

“The Catholic Church never suits the particular mod of any age, because it was made for all ages.  A Catholic knows that if the Church married the mood of any age in which it lived, it would be a widow in the next age.  The mark of the true Church is that it will never get on well with the passing moods of the world.  “I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15: 19

~Venerable Fulton J. Shane

Here’s the ironic part.  While it may be controversial, the odds of it booming my blog stats are slim to nil.  Why?  Because the way people show their love to bloggers is by visiting and commenting on topics that interest them.  Unfortunately, the vast majority of bloggers have already made their vows to the current mood of the world and find my little plagiarized nugget of truth unbearably naive and uninteresting. They won’t comment.  I will not be liked.  Three of my four followers will unsubscribe.

So then, the success of a Catholic blogger is not found in page view totals.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  The controversial content of your blog might lead to a true understanding of what St. Paul meant when he said, “That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~2 Corinthians 12:10

Accountability- a dangerous word for many, the key to success for all

I recently sat down to lunch with a colleague of mine to ponder the problems of the world and figure out what we can put into motion to solve a few of them (because that’s what teachers do during their lengthy summer vacation).  I came out of the restaurant with two truths-

Photo by David Roseborough @ Flickr Creative Commons

1) the tacos at El Ganadero on the northeast side of Grand Rapids are undeniably flavorful and

2) everyone in the world needs someone to keep them accountable.

It is true.  It doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer, doctor, teacher, student, writer or professional base jumper, if you don’t have someone motivating/ guiding you to be the best you can be, you will inevitably become mediocre.  And mediocrity spawns a life of disillusionment, fear, and spite towards those who have people keeping them accountable.

Here’s the irony, accountability requires people to humble themselves in the criticism of another.  This means that a certain degree of trust must be established in an accountable relationship.  Trust and humility are two aspects of life that most would prefer to do without.  The “I don’t need nobody” and “I can do this myself” attitude springs forth and a series of unfortunate events ensues.

My colleague and I talk often about our teaching crafts and we have scratched the surface of what our writing means to us.  He, very unknowingly, keeps me accountable in these two portions of my life.

My wife keeps me accountable as a husband and father.  She even gives me time to write and go to adoration to foster not only my spirituality, but that of my family.

So who keeps me accountable to God?  That is the question I have meditated on for many years now.

My wife?  To the (GREAT, WONDERFUL & AMAZING) extent that the sacrament of marriage allows, of course.

My parish priest? En persona Christi during Mass and Confession, yes.

But even with such spiritual giants as these keeping me somewhat accountable, how can I seek even more spiritual growth?

Answer- get a spiritual director.

After reading countless biographical and autobiographical pieces on the Saints, there is one common strand almost all of them share besides loving God more than all things- they all had spiritual directors.

And so, this Monday, I have my first meeting with a spiritual direction pro.  Let’s hope it goes well.  I’ll let you know what we come up with.

What about you?  What are your dreams? Who keeps you accountable for striving for them?  Do you have a spiritual director?  If so, how is it going for you?

Money “Inhales Wind Violently”

I just finished writing a prolifically short book review in which I stated that I was going to write something fun as a result of reading the book.  I am a man of my word.

Every time I muster up the gusto to review my online banking and watch as my measly earnings fall like plinko chips into the “bills paid” tab, I get frustrated.  Seriously frustrated.  I often ponder what life would have been like had the industrial revolution not happened.  Would I be living?  If so, would I be a farmer, hunter or cattle driver?  Would I be as worried about being financially stable?

I’m sure you’re in the same ideologic boat. But hold on, without the big buildings, boats, trains, planes and automobiles we wouldn’t have Macbook Pros, so the advantages surely outweigh the disadvantages, right?

I digress.

The point I am (failing while) trying to make is this: money sucks.

Father Robert Barron mentioned in his Catholicism Series that the most arbitrary things in life are the ones that matter most.  These trivial actions serve no particular purpose and are done for the sake of themselves which, in return, makes them more important, more meaningful than “justified” undertakings.  Watching a game thus becomes more important than jaunting to the barbershop for a haircut.  Sitting down for lunch with a friend is more important than cleaning the house.  Writing in your blog is more important than working…

You see the dilemma?  Of course you do, you experience it every day.  We would all much rather participate in those meaningless, yet profoundly satisfying activities that we love so much.  What stops us from doing them 24/7?  Money.

We can’t live without money so, we must work.  I won’t spend much more time on this because it depresses me (and you) but we must take into account the great blessing that work is.  God has given it to us for our survival, so that we can complete the meaningless tasks we love so much.  We should appreciate it as a means to prolong our love until we accomplish our missions and can spend eternity alongside Jesus doing them.

Here’s the kicker: we’re stuck here on earth for a while (especially the safely employed).  As long as your job doesn’t involve exposure to toxic materials or strenuous/demanding physical feats of strength, your time to participate in the pointless joys of life are far greater than many starving people in the world who deserve it more than you.  If you own a computer, for example, that purchase took more money than 80% of the people in the world make in an entire year.

I know, money sucks.  But don’t let that hinder your talents.  In fact, we’d be better off living simply and giving our money to those who need it so that they too can stop worrying about their survival and start thinking about their salvation.

You’ve been blessed with work and time to enjoy the pointless jubilations of life.  Take FULL advantage of it and make it your priority to see that others have the same opportunity as you. Otherwise when we arrive at the pearly gates, St. Peter will be like:

*Note, if your name really is “Outcho Mind”, you’re totally in, so no worries.

Words from a Missionary

Psalms from Saltillo- download now for free.  This compilation is a poetic manifesto of what God does to a soul who chooses to give it all. Called to serve the abandoned and abused youth of Saltillo, Mexico, my wife and I were lucky enough to work alongside present-day saints whose reflection of God’s light shone on us. To this day, their examples and the trials faced while helping those most in need have taught us more than we could ever have dreamed of about regarding Catholic social justice. These poems allow readers to relive that experience.

If you missed it I published another book you might like for free yesterday too.

Free Book On Effective Teaching

The first book in my School Spirit Series is now free to download, share and lend.  Click on the link below to get it and please, don’t hesitate to share it with your favorite teacher, coach, homeschool, principal or parent.

THE SCHOOL SPIRIT SERIES

A PROFOUND JOURNEY THROUGH THE GOSPELS FOR TEACHERS

Book 1- The Gospel of Mark
Paperback- $9.80
EBook- Free
The first book in my School Spirit is an Educator’s guide for reading the Gospel that all teachers can use to enlighten our students with the “richer and fuller meaning” of the lessons we teach. Whether you share knowledge in the classroom, home, church, workplace or anywhere else in the greater community, this book will help you spread the Gospel message through your vocation by imitating the master Educator- Jesus.

5 Rules for Blogging, Working Parents

With the recent birth of my second daughter, I’m quickly realizing that the time I dedicate to writing is thinning as quickly as my hair.  That’s why this post isn’t for everyone.  In fact, its really just for me.  I’m hoping that writing it will solidify my priorities and where writing fits into those priorities.  If it helps benefit your life too, then please read on.  If not, you’ll have to wait until 20 years from now when my kids are out of the house and I can finally get the time to get something up that’s fun to read (and write) about (sarcasm intended).

And so, here are the regulations I am imposing upon myself so I can be the best Papí, husband, teacher and writer that the 24 hours in each day will allow me to be. My wife is going to love this:

1) Keep prayer the most consistent part of your day

The sign of the cross you make when you open your eyes and the final moments on your knees beside the bed before you collapse into yor pillow might be your only conscience prayer, but don’t let the idea that you are constntly in the presence of God leave you.  Recognize Him in your thoughts often, but most importantly, recognize Him in the eyes of your family who reflect your vocation with every smile, hug, and dirty diaper.

2) Plan and prioritize your internet surf

When you hit the power-on button, travel into the deep sea like Jesus did with Peter and Andrew and take the big waves first. Pay your online bills, balance your budget, write a chapter in your book and then write your blogpost.  Finish up by replying to important Emails, then semi-important Emails and finally, if you have time, waste it on facebook and/or twitter. (Note, your priorities might be different than mine.  Where you waste time is quite different than where I waste time.  The point is, get the important stuff done first).

3) Set aside “screen time” for your kids and for yourself

The worst thing a parent can do is to be so entranced by technology that they miss out on the little (but very significant) moments of their children’s lives.  However, our culture is turning digial at an alarming rate which means not only do you need the internet to function (take online bill paying as an example), but your children will too.

This doesn’t mean that nature is left out.  In fact, since we Catholics have always been the greatest counter to worldly culture and lovers of nature, so we should limit our time with technology to a point that we are getting the best out of God’s natural creation and using our own technological creations to grow closer to Him. We can do this if we use technology to honor God and then teach our kids to do the same.

So, when you use the computer (and set reasonable time limits), allow your kids to use their’s.  However, when you are offline, they should be outside with you getting dirty, being curious, and scarping their knees from time to time.

4) Keep a pen and pad of paper handy

If you are a writer and a parent, ideas for posts and books (maybe even poetry) will pop into your head at the worst moments.  Odds are, you will be occupied with your family when this occurs and will feel guilty if you need to leave them to turn on your computer and write (especially if it isn’t during the previously mentioned screen time).  Don’t let this happen. Reach for the easy solution and use the ancient method of papyrus and ink to get your thoughts down on paper so you can return to them during your allotted tech time.

5) Writing is basically watered down actions

Writing is your last priority. Make sure you see your family’s eyes more than you see your computer screen.  Your life will be judged by what you do, not by what you write.  If you want to imitate Jesus best, then writing should be smal part of your ministry.

There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written

~John 21: 25

To dedicate too much time to your writing is like believing in the Bible alone.  As we all know, that’s just not Catholic nor reasonable.  Jesus was only only recorded writing once, which gives us a good model to follow as bloggers.  If we wish to write, our daily actions  must share the same “writing:non-writing” time ratio as Jesus’.

There they are.  My self-imposed regulations.  Now to adhere to them, eeek.