Sanctification in Daily Work
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My Shoulder to Bear

Just over a week ago I had rotator cuff repair surgery. It doesn’t really sound too intimidating until you learn about it and especially those first few days after the surgery. I confess that I was dreading it and scared of it. I had to make a promise to myself to quite Googling every term, medication, outcome, problem.

To start with, it means that I can’t drive for at least six weeks and have to have my arm in a sling night/day. So that means no business travel or the kind of field work I do. Then I have another six weeks before I’m allowed to lift anything with my dominate right arm.

Lots of questions about how this is going to affect my business, how am I going to be one-armed and left handed, will the surgery be successful, etc. were running through my mind constantly.

I was finding it very hard to concentrate on my prayer life and to trust in God that no matter what happens it is His will and He will give me strength to deal with it. So, I’ve made it a part of my meditation each day to just let God help me, provide me with inspiration. Then when this subject came up speaking with my wife and Chelsea, my daughter who was paralyzed in an auto accident 17 years ago. I was complaining about how annoying having my arm strapped to my side was. She casually reminded me that she wore a very restrictive collar around her neck for months after her spinal cord surgery. Wow. Did that ever put things in perspective for me. I almost started crying on the spot out of shame for this trivial little matter that will most likely be very successful for full arm use and within less than that amount of time.

How can I not be thankful to God for this? It happened when I picked up a heavy object and there was a loud (to me) pop and pain in my shoulder. Yep, torn tendon. Not good. But then, maybe it really is. I can thank God for this and offer up my pain united with His on the Cross.

I have still had a few early bouts of what I guess they call situational depression while sitting in a recliner and feeling sorry for myself. Worse, I’ve imagined all the things that can go wrong and started focusing on the challenges my business faces, family relationship problems and more.

It’s pretty easy to become lukewarm with my faith at these times but that does no good. By the end of my first week post-surgery I am feeling a renewed energy and positive outlook for the future. I know my goal on Earth is to become a saint and look at this wonderful opportunity God has given me to work toward that.

I continue to pray that I’m worthy of God’s love, dedicate myself to my prayers and finding ways to help others, by starting with my wonderful wife and business partner. I take her for granted so much. She is the wonderful mother of my children and on this Mother’s Day I want her to feel special, needed, valued and loved. I pray to my Mother Mary to pray for me and for us as we move forward on the path to holiness. Amen.

Beatitudes for Daily Examination of Conscience

BeatitudesOne of the most beloved parts of the Bible is the Beatitudes. I highlighted it in mine a long time ago.

Recently I was visiting friends back in Jefferson City, MO. This included one of my friends who is also involved in the work of Opus Dei. The subject of daily examination of conscience came up and in particular what to search your conscience for when you really haven’t committed any mortal sins against the ten commandments. As is often the case, my friend made a brilliant suggestion that I would not have thought of. He suggested using the Beatitudes during daily examination.

So I started doing that. There is a lot of comfort you can take from these words of Jesus and meditating on them in light of your own words, thoughts and actions put them in a whole new context for me. For example, using “Blessed are the merciful . . .” I am asking myself if I’ve been merciful in what I think, say and do. If I have not, then that is a clear case of an opportunity for atonement and to resolve to be more merciful in the future.

What do you think about using the Beatitudes for this purpose? Make sense?

Closing Out Year of Faith

Pope FrancisOn Sunday Pope Francis closed out the Year of Faith that had been proclaimed by Pope Benedict. It is my hope that many, many people viewed this past year as a journey to come in closer contact with God. Here’s an excerpt from his homily.

Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.

Your Public Example

Another point from The Way by St. Josemaria Escriva is this one in the first chapter.

How I wish your bearing and conversation were such that, on seeing or hearing you, people would say: This man reads the life of Jesus Christ.

One of the points that struck me when I first read this was “bearing and conversation.” This said to me that living out my faith does not mean putting on a robe and sandals or having a large cross hanging from my neck. Not that there is necessarily anything wrong with that. However, most of us living in the world and not in an order don’t need to dress out of the ordinary. Some people need to wear a uniform for work for example. By ordinary I do not mean like a lot of the inappropriate clothing that is so common today.

No, we need to wear our faith by our actions, by the words we use. Can you imagine if no one used profanity, shared pornographic images or jokes or talked bad about someone else? What if everyone did their job without complaining? What if we helped each other instead of thinking only of ourselves and ignoring those around us in need? It would be a very different world.

We’re called to this and even if no one else lives their faith, we should. People will notice. They may make fun of us. But we’ll make them think and we’ll be an example for them.

I admit it’s not always easy. A very simple but tough thing for me was getting in the habit of making a sign of the cross and saying a blessing at a public meal, either by myself in an airport or at a convention banquet. I have had strangers come up to me and thank me for doing it though. Talk about some positive affirmation. Let’s all give it a try.

Get Up And Do Something

I’ve been trying for years to figure out what my “voice” is on Path to Holiness. My first reason for creating it was to help promote the spirituality of Opus Dei which has had such a profound impact on my life. I still want to do that but I also want to do more than that. So here’s my first shot at a way I might use this mechanism to accomplish what I feel called to do.

Don’t let your life be barren. Be useful. Make yourself felt. Shine forth with the torch of your faith and your love.

This is a part of the first point in The Way, by St. Josemaria Escriva. You can find his and his books are not expensive .

When I first read The Way and especially this first point, I mediated on it and what it meant to me. I realized that it’s not enough to just say my prayers and go to Mass. I am called to do more. Not to do miraculous things, no. But to change my life so that just my example will have a positive impact on everyone I meet. I need to not just have my faith but I must live it and that means getting off my butt and doing something even if it’s just some little thing no one but God will know about.

I don’t know about you but I believe in the spiritual life. Our thoughts and actions have an impact on it. We can’t say that our actions don’t have an impact on others. Of course they do. A positive or negative thing I do impacts everyone.

So, here’s my start. I’ll write as often as I can and I welcome your feedback and comments.

Relaxing Rain

The covered lanai by our pool has become my new relaxation location. This morning for morning prayer it is wonderful since it’s raining. That may not sound like relaxation but it is. In fact, you can listen to what it sounds like below.

We’ve got a tree surrounded back yard filled with frogs and birds to listen to also. So Cindy and I are finding that when it’s time to relax (anytime) this is our go to place. I’m working on an outdoor kitchen area too!

Here’s the sounds of this morning: Sound of Morning Rain

One Hundred Fifty Three Fish

The Gospel reading for today is Jn 21:1-14. In it there is a very specific mention of 153 fish being caught in a net that did not tear. I’ve always wondered what the meaning of the number of fish is. Today our our Pastor told us what he had found from his own research.

Here’s a segment from the reading:

So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.

Apparently at the time of the Gospel what we would now call zoologists had categorized 153 species of fish. Therefore the subjective meaning of the number would be the bringing to Jesus all the people of the world. There is also significance to the fact that the net was not torn, meaning that Jesus’ love is large enough and strong enough to encompass everyone.

I’m sure there are other interpretations of what this number means but it’s the first time I can remember hearing this explanation and it not only makes sense but it really helped bring the meaning of this particular Gospel passage home to me in today’s Mass.

Total Consecration Time

I just completed my annual Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary and thought I’d suggest once again that you consider it for yourself. This 33 day effort is well worth your time, especially if you’re looking for a good series of meditations that let you focus on what’s important.

The preparation for consecration booklet is currently available for $5 from Montfort Publishing. I would recommend you first read “True Devotion To The Blessed Virgin Mary.” You can also find these in the iPieta app for iOS or Android smartphones.

I’ve been using this “spiritual journey” for quite a few years and have come to look forward to it. The 33 days of preparation are broken up into series of reflections on your self, Mary and Jesus. We should all be doing daily meditation, especially with a particular examen. However, several weeks of extra contemplation time are really useful in our fast paced world. I also have been able to start out this devotion each year deer hunting. So I’ve been able to do the daily readings, prayers and reflections while sitting in a tree or on the ground in the woods. It just doesn’t get much better than that!

Feel free to email me if you’ve got questions about this devotion.

Thank God No One Was Hurt

Yesterday I was overwhelmed to learn that my brother Paul’s house burned down. This is a photo he sent me from his phone. It was still burning the next morning.

I can’t even imagine what they’re going through right now. Talk about an emotional jolt at best and right before Christmas. On the good side of this, no one was hurt, they have a small “guest house” on their property that he used as an office. It’s a one bedroom, one bath house and they have 6 children, 5 of which still live at home. So they have a roof over their head and good insurance. But they lost a almost all of their belongings. The help and support that poured in from neighbors and friends was unbelievable. I spoke with Paul late in the day and he said one church even had a food schedule for them for the next week!

My first thought was to hop a plane for Atlanta but Cindy helped me think that through. They have more support almost than they need right now and it’s kind of chaotic. Not much I can do there really. We’re going to Atlanta for work in January so we can leave early and stay with my parent’s who live nearby and see them then.

I’ve really had trouble getting this out of my mind since I learned about it yesterday. Besides thinking I need to go help I did say a prayer and many more since. It has also made me think about what is really important. They are all alive, they have a place to stay and they have their faith which remains unshaken! They will rebuild and start new memories.

Be Patient This Gaudete Sunday

It’s a cold day in Missouri on Gaudete Sunday. We just had our first snow of the season and the wind is howling. Hopefully the roads won’t be any problem going to Mass in a short while

Here’s an excerpt from today’s second reading that I thought I’d share. Besides the whole concept of being patient, which is one I need to work on constantly, I like the reference to farmers!

See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. (Jas 5:7-10 Reading 2)

How Vain Are We Today

Today’s first reading at Mass (Ecclesiastes 1:2-11) made me feel compelled to make this note. I love this reading. Here’s a portion of the reading.

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains for ever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises.
The wind blows to the south, and goes round to the north; round and round goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns.
All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again.
All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun.

What hit me about this is how true it is in describing what I have felt as an arrogance by certain elements in our culture that think they know how things should be when in fact they know next to nothing and for all their words and actions, won’t even be remembered in the near future. Because of my work in agricultural communications I come into contact with people and information from groups who think they know how our government should work and be controlled, who think they know what everyone else should eat and who think they have found some new truth about the environment. Really? I think it’s more about using scare tactics to deceive stupid, gullible people into agreeing with them and providing them with power and control for their own purposes.

I’m all for sensible environmentalism. The farmers I know are the best environmentalists who walk the walk and talk the talk. The wackos who can do nothing but condemn every business trying to make a profit (farms) while holding their hands out to the government for a bailout have no credibility with me. But look at how much money groups like Greenpeace rake in. As if they are actually accomplishing anything or aren’t really trying to feather their own nests.

There’s so much good that can be done in the world but humility is needed as I think the reading of today suggests. Let’s take care of our resources but realize that there’s a bigger goal and that is to serve God and seek to join Him in His kingdom someday.

Reflecting On The Last Year

It has been a year since I was diagnosed with pneumonia and that’s made me think back on all that’s happened since. After the initial diagnosis it took a couple weeks before I wound up in the hospital where I stayed for 11 days and had multiple procedures that ended with some major chest surgery to get rid of the infection. Some time afterward one of my doctors used the term “near death experience” referring to the condition I was in before surgery. So this holiday weekend has been a good time to reflect on the experience and what it meant to me then and now.

Let’s just say that I’m glad to be alive. Every day is a wonderful opportunity to serve our Lord more. But more than that the experience taught me another lesson in patience and it has provided many opportunities to offer up some pain and suffering.

I remember hearing a number of family and friends say that maybe it meant I should “slow down” and not travel so much for work. I wondered about that and prayed for guidance on the issue. I don’t think it has been that simple. I’ve done quite a bit of travel since then but have had more periods of no required travel. One reason is that we lost a significant amount of work that required travel from one of our clients. That has meant more stay at home time but also more pressure on our cash flow. It seems like there’s always something.

I’ve found myself working harder to live a healthy lifestyle but now that I’m mostly back to normal I’m back to battling the same old temptations to eat too much and not exercise enough. Realizing that I’ve hit this one year milestone has made me re-commit to my resolutions though. It has made me think about how blessed I am to have a wonderful faith and family. My wife just had some major surgery of her own recently and now I can pay her back for her extra efforts when I wasn’t able to do much around the house!

So there you have it. A year since I didn’t think I would be here at all. But thank you Lord for allowing me more time to make amends for my sins and serve you more.

Let Your Example Be A Force For Change

It’s a challenge to find time to write here when I am on the road live blogging events for my company. During the week I had several inspirations for posts that I have now forgotten. Hopefully I’ll come up with them this weekend.

However, a couple of things come to mind. Several people I’ve spoken with this week have expressed feelings of despair, hopelessness and doubt over what they see as a world out of control. They see and hear so much alarmist information that they feel on edge emotionally all the time. I think they may be bordering on depression as a result.

I understand why and how they can have those feelings. Let’s take abortion as just one example. If you really stop and think hard about how many babies are killed just in the United States each day it will drive you crazy. Especially when you consider how little you can do about it. But I’ve learned that you cant give in to these feelings of hopelessness. That’s what our faith is for, and not just my Catholic faith.

I just got back home from an agricultural animal health conference. There were people there despairing over the impact from animal rights wacko groups like the Humane Society of the United States. In case you think they are an animal welfare group that supports animal shelters, think again. They’re a huge scam operation of militant vegans. You can find out all you need to know about them at Don’t support them. Support your local animal shelter instead!

Okay, back to the subject. New digital media tools are allowing all of us as individuals to have a voice in the world. That’s why our Holy Father has urged priests and the laity to use them to evangelize the faith. At the same time they’re being used by anarchists, terrorists and to promote promiscuity and pornography. But I think we can let ourselves get overwhelmed by the messages and lose our peace.

Let’s step back. Take time to meditate in a quiet place. For me, daily Mass is a great way to put all that behind me and put myself in the presence of God who loves me and will always protect me. I get a fresh perspective and then go back to my work knowing that I will not allow the forces of evil in our society to discourage me and that I can make a positive impact for true change, not the kind touted in Washington, DC these days.

Consider this. If you courageously speak up when you need to for what is right, correct people you come in contact personally when they’re wrong and set a good personal example by your own conduct, you will be a force for change. I like to think that if I save one baby from being killed in my whole life that I will have made an accomplishment of immeasurable value. If I convert one person, if I bring one person back to the faith, if I change one mind for the good, I have done what God wants and I have something to be proud of. I don’t care if I ever know who I impacted. Maybe I will after I die. I don’t know but God does.

That gives me a real sense of peace even in light of the terrible things that are happening in our society and around the world today.

Is It Really News

While waiting for my car to get an oil change I thought Id comment on the news. First off is the Presidents budget which is in the trillions and they claim it reduces domestic spending. Right.

Then I just saw a story about a reality tv star saying shes a born again virgin. Okay. So supposedly shes 45 and hasnt had sex in a year and a half. This is really more information than I can imagine anyone caring about. Wish she had a faith base message to go along with her story but I didnt hear one.

Then Fox just had a story about a woman wanting to get married so she can get health insurance. Apparently shes pleading for someone to marry her.

All I can say is that the news is really a sad thing these days. And I didnt mention the outrageous Grammy outfits or the aetheists outraged over a Mother Theresa stamp!

40 Days For Life

40-days-lifeThis morning after Mass we had a table set up with brochures and signup sheets for the 40 Days For Life campaign. The next campaign is coming up soon.

From February 17 through March 28, teams in 156 cities from coast to coast in the United States – plus four Canadian provinces and three Australian states – will take part in this mission.

40 Days for Life is a community-based campaign that draws attention to the evil of abortion through the use of a three-point program:

* Prayer and fasting
* Constant vigil
* Community outreach

40 Days for Life takes a determined, peaceful approach to showing local communities the consequences of abortion in their own neighborhoods, for their own friends and families. It puts into action a desire to cooperate with God in the carrying out of His plan for the end of abortion in America.

The 40-day campaign tracks Biblical history, where God used 40-day periods to transform individuals, communities … and the entire world. From Noah in the flood to Moses on the mountain to the disciples after Christ’s resurrection, it is clear that God sees the transformative value of His people accepting and meeting a 40-day challenge.