Christian in Three Simple Words

What’s the definition of a “Christian” in three simple words? Love, God, neighbor. What? Listen to what Jesus said:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

Simple. The keywords are Love, God, and neighbor. So, if Jesus the Christ said it, the definition of a Christian—a follower of Jesus the Christ—is that simple. Love, God, neighbor.

It you think this is too simple think again. As I write over and over again, God means life to be so very simple. There should be nothing complicated about it. But we complicate life. Life is like a new closet that starts out as empty but we start storing junk in. After a while the clean (simple) closet is filled with junk (complications).

Love, God, neighbor. Wow! I’m watching an election season that has nothing about love, God, or neighbor in it. Just the opposite! But that’s the state of the world right now. There’s simply not a lot of love, little God, and even less care about our neighbors. That can only mean there are not many true—I mean really true—Christians out there. Sad but true.

My priorities for this week are love, God, and neighbor. Yours?

Have a FANTASTIC week walking in love with God and your neighbors!!!

Church or State?

The gospel reading at Mass this weekend was the encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees who tried to trip Him up about whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar/Rome (Matthew 22). I have to admit that when the deacon started giving the homily I shut down because I had no idea what he was saying. He was up in the clouds somewhere and I wanted to know how this applies to everyday, real life. There is so much talk about the separation of church and state, especially during the Amy Coney Barrett Supreme Court confirmation hearings, that it’s an old story with timely implications. So, here are my thoughts.

The Pharisees knew they had Jesus in a no-win situation. If Jesus said pay taxes, he loses His followers who were oppressed by Rome. If Jesus says no to taxes, Rome comes down on Him. So, Jesus gets them with the answer of give to Rome what is Rome’s and to God what is God’s. Gotcha!

More people today want to completely separate “church” from “state.” “Religion” is something that belongs in a church or in a quiet place in your home. The two should never meet. Period end of statement. In fact, some pundits and TV types have criticized Judge Barrett because of her strong Catholic faith. Some want a Supreme Court judge with no faith in God.

I think what Jesus was saying was pretty simple. We’re in this world so live in it. But God created this world so live for Him. “Religion” is not something for the weekends or a quiet spot. Living your faith, whatever faith that is, is about how to live life. The “state” should never dictate what “religion” you practice, which includes how you live your life. If you really, really live what you believe, “church” and “state” are really inseparable. There are matters of “state” and matters of “God.” Jesus said be mindful of both but he didn’t say to separate them.

I don’t live two separate lives. I live one life. I live in the world with all the things of the world around me. But I try my best to live in the world as God wants me to live in the world.

Have an OUTSTANDING week!!!

Glory

Glory is one of those difficult words to define when talking about God. But like all things in life, which is meant to be so very simple, I think that “glory” is pretty simple. Glory is the awe of God—everything that is right, perfect, splendid, shining, and magnificent. Glory is total light, like the sun rising on a cloudless, perfect day. Everything flowing from God flows in rays of glory. And, as God created us—He is in us and we are in Him—our own form of glory should flow from us.

The world is in desperate need of glory!!! We live in times that seem to get progressively darker. It’s like a string of damp, rainy days when you think you’ll never see the sun again. We blot out God’s glory and with it our own brand of glory.

It’s time for each of us to step up to let God’s glory flow, and along with it our own glory. The glory of God within us. Sound like more religious mumbo-jumbo? Well it’s not. It’s life. A life we need to make less dark and more glorious.

Smile at strangers. Wish everyone a great day. Buy someone in line behind you a coffee. Give of your time and money. Forgive. Love. Simply think glorious thoughts. You get the picture. It’s not hard. Simple.

I wish you a GLORIOUS day and week ahead!!!

Is God Lost?

I have heard more people questioning where is God? Is He hiding? Has He given up on us? All good questions in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed over a million lives, civil unrest that has virtually locked down some big American cities, and a world seemingly one button away from nuclear destruction. It just seems that we all hate each other and God is lost in all of this mess. Well, NEWS FLASH: God is NOT lost. We are!

I don’t know how many times I have written about this—too many to count. But our current story is the story of the Israelites thousands of years ago. They fled Egypt to make what was an 11 day journey across the desert to the Promised Land. It took them 40 years (as in 40 YEARS!!!) to finally cross over to the Promised Land. And only two Israelites who fled Egypt made actually made it to the Promised Land. All others died along the way.

The Israelites had no vision of where they were going. They doubted God, complained to Him, and turned their back on Him worshiping false idols. Wow!!! We have no vision of where we are going, what this country or even the world should be. We turn our backs on God, even during the scourge we call COVID-19. We have thrown Him out of our schools, and want His name off our dollar bills. And those idol bills we worship with a passion! The story of the Israelites has become our story. We are the ones aimlessly wandering in the desert of this world.

Whether you like it or not, God made you and me and everyone else. He is hardwired into each one of us. As such, God is less than a heartbeat away. Always there, always present. We’re the ones who deny that presence. We doubt, complain, and deny. We turn to all the idols we have built.

What can you do? Keep God front and center in your life. LISTEN for/to Him. Understand the unique, special purpose He wants you to fulfill with your life. Smile, laugh, love. Get away from the crowd. Craft your own path. Find your own Promised Land. It’s not hard. It just takes centering your life on God.

Take a read of the Old Testament dealing with Moses and the trials in the desert. Think about that and reflect on today. Then, set out on your own path and enjoy every step of the journey.

Have a TREMENDOUS day walking your walk with God in your life!

Today (Not Tomorrow or Yesterday)

I have lived a good part of my life living in tomorrow and yesterday. Thinking about what will be and what could have been. I’m not sure I have spent a lot of time living in today. That’s what I’m working on today. Living in today. Relishing today. Not living in tomorrow or yesterday.

The problem with living for tomorrow or in yesterday is that you don’t enjoy today. God wants each one of us to enjoy today. And the best way to deal with what we should have done yesterday and want to do tomorrow is by living in today.

Like everyone else, I want the todays of COVID-19 to go away. I long for the world to get back to normal—whatever that is. But the funny thing is that with all the bad news swirling around me I am trying to stay in today. To cherish what today brings, to stay in communion with God, and to make the best of today, whatever today brings.

Sure, I look back at yesterday to enjoy memories and think of what I would have done differently. But I don’t want to live in yesterday. And I look for tomorrow to leave COVID-19 behind, to travel again, and just be normal. But I’m not living in tomorrow. I’m living in today—COVID-19 and everything.

It’s a funny thing when you start living in today. Colors seem brighter, the air is clearer, and there’s more bounce in my step. And in every today, I spend time listening for/to God for the messages of today. I certainly try to make time for God. Today.

I hope you enjoy today to the fullest. There’s a lot wrong with the world we live in but there’s everything right with God. Live for today and what God has in store for you today!

Enjoy!!!

Real or Fake Christian?

It’s pretty easy to spot a real Christian. He or she simply follows what Jesus Christ taught us. Love (John 15:12), give the shirt off your back (Luke 7:29), and don’t judge (Luke 7:37) are several of the notable commands Jesus gave us. You can’t follow Jesus—translation, be a Christian—if you don’t do what He says. It’s that simple.

Listen, I call myself a Christian but make no mistake I screw up all the time. And I mean all the time. I do anything but love on occasion, I judge, and I turn my back on others. I’m far, far from perfect. But being Christian is not about being perfect. It’s about doing your best to do what Jesus asks of us. We fall off the horse at times. We simple need to get back up.

Jesus lived and died to rid us of our sins—our un-Christian behaviors. He doesn’t expect perfection but a realization of when we screw up. A “real” Christian not only knows what to do—what Jesus expects—but knows when he or she doesn’t do it. And tries harder the next time. Again and again.

I don’t want to judge but it seems there are a lot of “fake” christians out there. Then again, I don’t want to judge. I just want to focus on me and what is expected of me. In that way, rather than judging I can let my christianity flow to others. And let their christianity flow to me.

Being Christian is simply following Jesus (the Christ).

I hope you have an AMAZING day and rest of this beautiful week!!! 

What’s Really Important???

The novel coronavirus has been a virtual two-by-four to the side of the head in realizing what’s important in life. Health, life, safety, freedom, liberty, toilet paper, any kind of paper products, family, friends, meals together, school, bars, indoor dining, going out anywhere, the gym, traveling, airplanes, etc, etc, etc? All important to a degree but what’s most important? God.

The novel coronavirus and COVID-19 disease that has spread across the globe should be telling us how fragile, and precious, life is. To think that a microscopic virus can wreck so much havoc is beyond comprehension when you really think about it. It has disrupted life on a scale that’s now even tough to consider. But in any disruption, in any storm, there is always God. And if this experience has not driven us closer to God I frankly don’t know what will.

God the Father has created everything—you, me, coronavirus. Everything! God has a unique, special plan for you and me. Jesus shows the way and the Spirit empowers us along the way. This is the simplicity of life. In all this mess, this is what is really, really important. God. Father Creator, Son Savior, and Spirit Advocate.

If there has ever been a time to sit back and reflect on where we are going and what’s most important in life it’s now. What’s my real purpose in life? Where am I heading? What should I be doing differently? How can I LISTEN better for/to God? These are some of the questions I am asking myself. We all should be asking these questions and more.

I hope you have a really productive, and safe, rest of the week! And ask yourself what’s most important in your life.

Why Can’t We All Get Along?

We simply can’t. We spend more time tearing each down and apart than helping build each other up. We need to take a page out of Paul’s letter to the new Christian community in the Macedonian city of Thessalonica, “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) We need to stop listening to the media—both left and right—and the pundits who make their million dollar livings tearing down, rather than building up. We need to listen to God!!!

God gave us one basic command that involves us loving Him through loving our neighbors. He put a punctuation on that command by sending His One Son to live and die that love. Jesus reiterated that command of love when He said, “This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Anyone who professes to be a Christian does so because they follow Jesus Christ. Anyone who says they are a Christian because the follow Jesus Christ, simply can’t be a Christian if they don’t love. You can’t ignore Jesus’ one command to love. It’s that simple.

I don’t mean this to be a negative message. To the contrary. This is about being positive, not negative. About loving, not hating. About smiling, not scowling. About encouraging, not discouraging. About building up, not tearing down.

It’s time to change the world. That starts with one person at a time. Let’s not let the novel coronavirus be the only thing spreading across the globe. Let’s starting spreading love and encouragement!

Have an AMAZING day and week ahead! 

What Am I Missing???

I just don’t get it. Someone needs to help me out and explain something. God gave us very explicit instructions to love. That’s not about loving those you are close to you, it’s about loving everyone, especially “strangers.” Strangers, as in we don’t know them. And Jesus gave us a very simple command to love—to LOVE— before He sacrificed Himself for us. For us! So, what’s going on in this crazy world of ours? Why aren’t we loving?

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul… You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭10:12,19

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

Of course, I know the answer. Because we trust in ourselves. Not God. We know better. We know how to hate and abuse each other, regardless of race, gender, political leanings, country, etc. We have become experts at dividing us. God is shaking His head in disbelief. Satan is laughing all the way to hell. He’s winning (or at least he thinks so).

This isn’t about religion sports fans. This is about life. We either love or hate. There is not much of a middle road. And to put a dash of “religion” into it, one way leads to eternal bliss and the other to eternal anguish. You pick.

Change happens one person at a time. It’s time to change this world of ours spinning out of control. It’s time for you and me to start that change. With a smile, with a helping hand, with a donation, with love.

Spread a little love around this week. Make it a good one!

Prayer for Peace—I Can’t Do Any Better

Here is the opening prayer at the University of Notre Dame prayer service, Prayer for Unity, Walk for Justice on June 1st. The prayer is by Jo Cecilio, Rector of Cavanaugh Hall at Notre Dame.

God of Mercy and Compassion, we come before you today in grief, in anger, in mourning over the deaths of Ahmud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castille, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Sean Bell, Sandra Bland, George Floyd and the litany of names of men and women who have died at the hands of those charged to protect and serve. You know each one of them by name, and we know that each were wonderfully created in your own image and likeness. Their lives matter to you and to us, and so we ask you, God, to etch their memories forever on our hearts.

LORD, we are tired of the senseless acts of violence, the injustices, the oppression, the racism, and the ignored laments of black and brown communities. Hear us, LORD. Open the hearts, minds, and ears of all your children to hear and understand the cries of pain, of sadness, of trauma, and of immense loss.

Make us your disciples who speak truth to power. May we allow the Spirit to lead us to act for justice. Lord, we invite you to use us so that we might bring about a transformation in our world; a transformation that makes the Beloved Community real here on this earth.

We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

I simply can’t do any better!!!

Peace & Love. As God wants and commands.

Stay safe!!!