Living Without Fear

Each time I am out with our kids at a park or a cottage, I always marvel at how daring they are.

Flying High on SwingClimbing the monkey bars, flying high in the air on a swing and walking in tightrope fashion on elevated beams before jumping to the ground are just some activities they perform without any reservation.

They also venture into the woods and scoop up frogs, chase snakes in the lake and hook worms on to their fishing rods – showing no hesitation along the way.

I should not be surprised, I suppose, as I reckon I was the same when I was a youngster.

As an adult – or a parent, more to the point – I am much more protective and far less courageous when observing them in their adventures.

I often find myself having my hands right near them when on a play structure, just in case they may stumble and require support.

It is not uncommon for me to remind our kids not to run too far into the forest, and I squirm practically every time they ask me to help secure their squiggly fishing bait.

Considering this, I easily wonder why it is that our children are so brave while I am so afraid.

I figure there are some underlying reasons as to why I am fearful on so many occasions.

This may strike observers as odd, given I strive to live a life rooted in faith, believing God is my anchor and my guide. After all, as Psalm 23 tells in the Bible, I have no reason to fear, for my Lord is always with me. (Psalm 23:4)

It has been said the Bible carries 365 mentions of the basic message telling us not to be afraid. That is a daily reminder for all of us to live a life of fearlessness and trust in God.

Courageous 2With this in mind, then, why is it I – along with so many others – battle indecision or fright, passing on opportunities or second-guessing ourselves out of tremendous possibilities?

Why can we not simply read, believe and apply the words of God when He tells us He is always with us and we have no reason to be scared? (Joshua 1:9)

During the gospel reading of a recent Mass, I encouraged our kids to always follow Jesus, for He never forsakes them and will forever carry them through times of trial.

I could not help tell myself to remember the same lesson, though, as I read about Peter sinking after he had begun walking on water.

Imagine, told by God to join Him out on the sea, Peter steps out of a boat and proceeds to walk on the waves. Fearful of the winds, however, he takes his eyes off Jesus, prompting his descent. (Matthew 14:22-33)

Therein lies the rub.

It seems when we grow complacent in our faith, we tend to follow God less, causing us to drift from Him and lose our sense of courage in the process.

This could lead us to depend on other (artificial or temporary) resources for help in our time of need.

Distracted by so much in life, the challenge for all of us remains to stay close with the Lord, who reassures us regularly to not live afraid. (Isaiah 41:10)

Courageous 1Author Matthew Kelly shares, “So much can be accomplished in one moment of courage. And so much can be lost to one moment of fear.”

Jesus invites us to surrender our fears to Him while facing them with confidence. In doing so, we can then live more assuredly, knowing we will overcome anything or anyone that hinders our full, God-given potential.

Noting all of this, I guess I still have some work to do before I can demonstrate the same fearless spirit our three young thrill-seekers show me.


What are we Marketing?

What are we MarketingMy brother-in-law has recently introduced a clever opportunity for his axe-throwing company to draw in customers. As a small business operator, he, like many other owners and managers, is always exploring various ways to attract interest, stay competitive, and remain operational.

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Sucking Away the Dirt

Ask people what their favorite house chore is and you might be hard-pressed to get an answer.

I bet we can all rhyme off what our least favorite would be rather quickly. (For me, scrubbing toilets tops that list.)

Picking a chore we actually like doing? Well, that would probably take a bit more time to determine.

I figure emptying stinky garbage cans from the kitchen, bringing recycling bins to the end of the driveway in the dead of winter and mowing the lawn on a hot summer afternoon do not necessarily scream “fun times” for anyone.

I caught myself mulling over this exact question recently as I was vacuuming various rooms in our house.

Vacuum 2After plugging in the central vacuum hose to the wall and assembling the brush, I began my usual routine of starting in the living and dining rooms before working my way to the kitchen and family room.

Even though our main level consists of flooring instead of the carpet found upstairs and in the basement, vacuuming this space isn’t any more enjoyable. In fact, no matter where you go in the house, you could say having to vacuum really – ahem – sucks.

The finished product, however, is much better.

I love seeing the straight, groomed paths along a rug or bedroom carpet, while it is such a relief to not have any food crumbs under the kitchen table or dirty particles dragged in from shoes outside.

Vacuum 3You see, while vacuuming might be a necessary nuisance, it certainly does pay dividends.

With all of the dragging and sucking, the dust gathered and the noise generated, vacuuming brings us a state of cleanliness and restoration.

Evidently, God works in the same way.

Wanting simply to renew us to our original and pure state, God is always with us to rid us of our dirt.

Whatever thoughts, choices or actions that cause us or others harm, He wishes to suck them all up.

Every day, God seeks to clear us of any filth that covers us. Any debris or waste in our lives that prevents us from being our best version of ourselves, the Lord aims to clean us in order that we may be fully restored in relationship with Him.

Through Jesus, God shows His unconditional love for His children without hesitation, wanting to lead us and relieve us of any undesired weight. (Matthew 11:28-30)

But our burdens should not serve as discouragement for us. Rather, we can take heart and celebrate our belief that, despite any part of our lives appearing soiled, Jesus can easily convert our weaknesses into strengths. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Much like a vacuum canister holding dirt, Jesus gathers all of our sin and stores it away, dispensing of it for good through His forgiving mercy. It is thanks to Christ’s crucifixion and glorious resurrection that we can always be made whole again when we are broken. (Isaiah 53:5)

Mary Undoer of KnotsAs if Jesus’ compassion and grace were not enough, He also has His mother Mary assist us in our endless time of need.

Just as a vacuum hose or cord can often get tangled up, our lives can frequently become twisted with all sorts of complications.

In these instances of feeling stuck, God invites us to call on Mary, who lovingly works to undo the knots in our lives so that we may better know and be in closer relationship with her saving Son.

So the next time you’re tasked with vacuuming the house or any other space and are feeling frustrated having to lug around the machine, perhaps you’ll turn to God to assist in sucking away all the dirt.

Doing so will not only ensure a cleaner home, but can also work wonders for your mind, body and soul.

Living Clearly

Every morning when I awake, I sit up, put my feet on the floor (while wincing over my aching back) and proceed to make our bed. I then walk over to the windows to open the curtains.

Curtains Opening & LightWith our master bedroom right above the garage and three large windows facing the street, you can imagine the abundant light that comes into our room.

A vast brightness appears immediately.

For me personally, a sort of fog vanishes and I am quickly enlivened.

It’s as if I was carrying a heavy load that has been lifted and I am now free to move happily and clearly.

At various points in life and particularly during these days, many people could feel a burden of one kind or another, prompting the desire for a sense of peace to enter their lives.

Seemingly overwhelmed with demands or expectations – from others or ourselves – so many of us can seek comfort for our worries.

Amidst all the scrambling, one could begin to despair, believing their weight will only increase.

As sung in the church hymn City of God, however, we need only to turn to the Lord for a path of light to shine through any darkness. (Isaiah 9:2)

Receiving God’s light should not suffice, though. We must also display it in order to reap its benefits.

Just as each day is a perfect gift from Heaven, we have daily opportunity to live with the light of Christ through how we live with others.

Recognizing this, we can accept God’s invitation to figuratively open the curtains of our lives and let His light shine around us.

Every day, we are called to take advantage of so many chances available to live in God’s love by showing and sharing it. (1 John 4:16)

Mother Teresa - Peace Begins With SmileIt might seem hokey, but ordinary yet powerful gestures like smiling at someone passing by can help provide a noticeable bounce in our step, revealing God’s eternal light radiating from us.

With uncertainty and anxiety covering our world today, such simple actions as offering a friendly greeting can warm the heart of another while helping us further live our ultimate identity as reflections of God.

In this time of social restrictions, mirroring God by living His light is a practice that should never cease.

Lighting the Way

Growing up, my parents used to take my sisters and me to local museums occasionally, helping us appreciate and learn more about our fine city.

My favorite one had this big dinosaur exhibit and was built like a castle when you looked at it from outside.

But the one that sticks in my memory the most would have to be the Museum of Science and Technology.

I wouldn’t say it was the best one (not that any of the museums were bad) but it did have features that drew my attention the most.

Inside, there was this spot called the Crazy Kitchen, which had you walk through a tiny space on a slanted angle. There was also another attraction that allowed you to place your hand on a shiny ball, prompting your hair to stand straight up.

While these were cool enough for a kid under 10 years old, what really caught my eye were a giant railroad locomotive and tall lighthouse, both stationed prominently outside near the museum’s main entrance.

Lighthouse with SkyThat was my first live encounter with a lighthouse. I have since seen another one each time I visit relatives in Rhode Island, as my uncle and I often head to a scenic spot by the ocean for early-morning reflection time and there’s one standing as a nearby landmark.

About the only other time a lighthouse crosses my mind is when I hear a song played by the Christian band Rend Collective.

One of their most popular tunes, My Lighthouse, is so catchy I can’t help but beat my hands together and bang a foot on the ground each time I hear it.

The song gives me so much energy just through the music alone, but when I focus on the lyrics, I feel even more of a charge.

Every occasion I listen, I am reminded of God’s powerful and unwavering presence around me. Particularly when I’m feeling down or battling some hardship, the words lift me with this huge boost of reassurance, as if God is standing right before me, providing security as a lighthouse does.

Think about it – just what purpose exactly does a lighthouse serve? That tall structure off in a distance primarily delivers navigational aid to ships at sea and warns boaters of dangerous areas.

During His earthly ministry recorded in the New Testament and in modern times today, Jesus always stands by His followers, leading us through our lives and offering direction for joy and success – both on earth and in Heaven.

Lighthouse Under Tidal Wave Siege 1Christ never shies away from an opportunity to give His people shelter from storms while lighting a path for our protection in times of trouble. (Matthew 4:16)

No matter how raging the waters of life, much like a lighthouse, our Lord stands strong and supplies needed comfort through His teachings. (Psalm 119:105)

When we experience difficulty or are feeling lost in our lives, there are several outlets we can pursue in order to find rescue. Many of us turn to family or friends in conversation, or seek professional counselling. Others may resort to isolated contemplation in a remote area or unhealthy, ill-advised practices such as recreational drug use.

The question holds, however, will we follow the true path leading to the beacon light we so desperately need in our daily living? (John 14:6)

Lighthouse Under Tidal Wave Siege 2In moments of fear or uncertainty when waves of all types are crashing upon us, let us express the courage to follow Jesus.

Only in placing our trust and hope in Him can we be led safely to the shores of peace.

Watching our Words

SwearingAs a teacher in a Catholic high school, it is not uncommon, sadly, for me to hear students use profanity every once in a while (or more often than that). Walking in the halls or out in the schoolyard, students can easily drop the occasional swear word as part of their regular conversation. Teachers may even hear students curse in the classroom, as surprising as that might seem.

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Sitting with St. Joseph

Nativity & JosephEvery year on my birthday, my mom calls to send along happy birthday wishes. During our call, she will invariably recount to me the events of my delivery. Without fail, she will tell of how my dad and the doctor were caught up in sports conversation, seemingly unaware of her understandable pain endured trying to bring me into the world.

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Balancing the Scales

Work Play BalanceOne activity our family enjoys most is heading to the park together on a sunny afternoon. When weather allows, we will hop on our bikes or simply walk over to one of the several playgrounds in our neighborhood and have our pick of many fun options.

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Chatting Chastity with Youth

Chastity TalkWith the school year now in full swing, students and teachers are settled into their fall routines. Teachers are focused on lesson planning and test marking. Administrators are setting their attention on programs related to such matters as student safety, literacy, and numeracy scores. Parents are checking on kids’ homework completion and emotional well-being, while ensuring extra-curricular activities are all entered into the family calendar.

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