Strike a Balance!

Well this has been an eventful few weeks. Just off Covid, I had a ton of catching up to do! I am almost up to date, with a few things still behind, but the church just seems to keep generating work! I want to be clear on this, this is a good thing. But this does create an issue that must be dealt with.

In our lives we (most of us) have three areas to be concerned with. First is our relationship with God, second is our relationship with our family, and third is our relationship with our boss. Interesting how every aspect of our life has to do with relational concerns, almost as if because our God is relational with all in love, He would like us to have plenty of practice while in this broken world!

But as God is omnipresent, we are not. (though it would make things much easier!). We must be careful to strike a balance in our life. Which of the three areas do we spend the most time with? Which of the three areas should we spend the most time with? Of course the answer to this depends on your calling, but rest assured, all three should be in our lives at all times.

Say God gave us a call to be an accountant. Then much of our time will be spent doing that job to the best of our ability. Say God also called you to be a parent, likewise, in good examples, we spend much of our time away from the office being the best parent we can. Lastly God calls us to worship. So in the best examples we spend time with God daily.

But what does this all look like in reality? Our job takes over our life! Family comes in second and God is a distant third; if He gets noticed at all!

I found, in the last 30 years of being an employed adult, that as life happens, we play the balance of the big three like some weird three sided teeter totter. At times we are focused on our job, ignoring God and family. Sometimes we focus on family, shorting God and work. And there were times we focus on God, ignoring work and family. None of these are healthy nor good examples of how to live life. We must strike a balance.

Work requires 8 hrs a day, 40 hrs a week. If yours is requiring more, you should speak with your family about the reasons why. Say you are starting a business, and your family is on board with the first few years of absenteeism, that would be fine. But if it becomes a lifestyle, your work schedule needs to change.

Family should get evenings and weekends. Your children need you..they may not say that or even express it with their bedroom door slammed in your face, but they need you. They don’t need your money, they don’t need gifts, they don’t need cards or phone calls, they need you. Some nights there will be meetings, and that is OK, but most of your evenings should be spent with family.

Sundays and at least 30 minutes each days should be spent with God. Prayer is important, but do not let it get in the way of family time. Please do not take this as a “God comes third” statement, God gave us our family responsibility, and though God comes first, He does expect us to tend to our families by working to put a roof over their head and giving them a proper raising (time spent). If you think you need more prayer time, wake up early or go to bed late to spend more time with God. Lunch is a great time for prayer, so are breaks during the day, so if God is calling you for more, make certain to be inventive, don’t steal time from family or work. Rosaries while driving, or even listening to the bible on your car stereo are also great ways to make the best of down time and giving it to God.

Striking the balance is difficult, but we must constantly keep after it! Look at your balance and see where you are off, then sit down and figure out how to give appropriate time to all three areas.

Fr Scott

Worried? Stressed Out? Read this.

We are certainly in interesting times. As we come out of 2020, a year plagued by Covid, we are well into 2021…a year still plagued by Covid. A year and a half with such a dark cloud over our heads has produced an economy that is less than certain. The news is awash with experts telling us the forth quarter of the economy is going to be bad. And if you look at the internet there are many, many people telling us that the future is bleak.

What do we do? Of course each of us will have to make up our own mind on which pundit to believe and chart our courses the best we can. But I want to remind you that God has the answer.

God has from the beginning told us He would take care of all that believe in Him. I think we all, that believe, know this. Why do we worry then?

Will God take care of us as we would like to be taken care of? I like my house, I like my car. This list of “I like’s” could go on for awhile. I know that if times get tough I am going to have to make some tough decisions on those things “I like”. Will I have to sell my RV, or how about one of our cars? Heaven forbid I have to sell my house! This is where stress and worry come from.

But God will take care of us, we know this. But we still worry. This stems from trust. We read in scripture that God wishes us to live simple lives, this has to be the most ignored piece of scripture. Is God, through bad economic times, directing us back to simple lives? Are simple lives, being God’s wish, the better life?

Answer, (in question form) has God ever led you wrong?

Of course He has not. We should look at these times as God leading us to better lifestyles…maybe not financially, but spiritually. Can you come to grips with selling off some of your “I likes” and thereby enabling yourself to look forward to God’s peace?

I have to say, a little more peace in my life sounds very good!

Without a doubt, protect yourself from whatever is to come financially. But as you start to worry and fret, remember that God is with us, and is going to use these times to help us get closer to Him. So every hard decision you make, make it with an alleluia (as hard as that may be at the time) knowing that God is working even in the worst of times to bring you closer to Him.

Fr Scott

The Cross

Feast of the Holy Cross

Today we celebrate something that to an atheist would seem very odd, a form of execution. The cross in Jesus’ time was very simply a means to end lives of enemies to the state, whether they be criminals or the unfortunate folks that were frowned upon by the reigning authorities. Even to a Christian, to honor a form of execution might seem different, until you look at what that device did for all creation.

The cross itself was instantly turned into an object of veneration. After the death and resurrection of Christ, many believers would flock to Golgotha, the site of the crucifixion…of all crucifixions. So many came that the empire covered it in a mound of dirt and built a temple of Venus over the site. The mother of the emperor 200 years later ordered the site excavated and found the real cross that Jesus was crucified upon. They knew they had found it when two people in close proximity that were ill were healed instantly upon the crosses uncovering.

From the moment after the crucifixion, the cross has been venerated. It should remind us of the sacrifice that God made for us. It should remind us of God’s love. It should remind us that we should make a response.

Christ emptied Himself for us. We likewise should empty ourselves for Christ. Our hopes, our dreams, our desires should not be our own, they should be God’s. This is hard. We grow up dreaming of “our” future. We dream of what we will do and what we will see. We forget that we are created by God for His purpose, to do otherwise is to be outside of God’s plan and likely to be miserable. Look at the use of alcohol, drugs, prescription drugs today. We have an epidemic of sad and unhappy people that make themselves comfortable by partaking in things that hurt the body. Finding God’s call for our lives is the real answer.

Empty yourself, just as Christ did. See the cross as the constant reminder of God love for you and His call for your life. Put down your own thoughts as to your life, and follow God and the cross, it is there that you will find true happiness.

Why Mary?

As this post goes out, we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I have to admit, coming from protestant tradition, I have been surprised by how many Marian feast days there are. Protestants of course range in their reverence towards Mary, from “she was just a woman” to a nicely formed Mariology, you will find all form of Mariology in Protestantism.

We should look at why we revere Mary.

Mary was born without original sin, she was made specifically to give birth to the son of God. This alone should warrant celebration. That God would create such a woman, that He would bless the human race with someone worthy to carry God’s son. But we tend to be selfish; “why her?” “Why don’t I get that special treatment?”

My answer to this is we did all get special treatment. We all have ministries here in this life. We were all specially made for our ministry. The problem is, we all seem to want our neighbors ministry, not the one God gave us. We look at our life and we think it is not that special. If only I had my neighbor’s job, or if only I could have more prestige or money.

As the old saying goes, “the grass is always greener”.

But the truth is, life is always better when we all do our job. When we let those called to lead, lead, those called to manage manage, and those called to work, work; this is when we have our best results.

Mary was called to carry Jesus, she accepted this honor from her own free will. As we look at Mary and ask “why her”, we should also look at what she gave up to complete this task. She kept herself pure. This certainly should be seen as a gain instead of a loss, but we should know that keeping pure requires giving up many of the things we find enjoyable in this life. The venial sins that lead to mortal, the idleness that leads to sin, it is a sacrifice to get back to productive work and not take that extra break. It is work keeping pure in this world, and she performed that work without fail. It has been told and told again, but Mary’s betrothal and pregnancy was dangerous. She could have been stoned, or at least shunned. We all know that through the message of an angel to Joseph she would be saved, but she did not know that when she said “yes”. The trip to Egypt while pregnant, the birth in a stable, what hardships she endured! Raising her son only to see Him executed as an innocent.

The grass is not always greener. We should celebrate the birth of this great woman, we should marvel at what she accomplished in her life. We should rejoice that she still comes to us through apparitions. We should make every attempt to model our life after hers.

God made us all for a reason, we should always ask ourselves; “are we living up to God’s call”? Pick up your cross, just as Mary did, and further the kingdom of God here in the Church militant.

Fr Scott

How Mary helped me to the Catholic Church

I was newly ordained as an Episcopalian minister, and I had been assigned to All Saints Episcopal church as their youth director. (among other jobs). A summer mission trip had already been planned by the rector (pastor) of the church, so of course he was all too happy to let me take the lead on the trip, though he would also go. (Just as an aside for my SJV readers, this is where I would meet Fr Stephen Jones, as he was just entering the process for discernment to ministry, and he had volunteered to go on the trip as one of the chaperones.). The trip was to Cuernavaca Mexico, flying into Mexico City and taking a bus to Cuernavaca.

My youth group was huge to my experience, as my previous group in Wisconsin was around 20 strong, this trip alone would have over 50 teens. I had never had to use the “number system”, but this group required it. Every so often I would yell “count”, and they would all count in order from one to fifty-each had their own number. This made certain that all were present even when I could not see them all, like when in crowds. We boarded the plane and headed to Mexico.

When we landed, we boarded another bus and headed for Cuernavaca, but with one stop, the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. As I mentioned in the last article, I had no problems with Mary, and to be honest I knew very little Mariology. But I was excited as a former architect to see the churches associated with the shrine. As we unloaded and counted at the shrine, I could see this was a youth ministers nightmare. People everywhere! My first thought was to tie them all in a line like kinder-gardeners do, but for many reasons, including lack of a rope, I decided against it. So off we went, I told everyone to meet at the bus at a set time; it was going to be impossible to keep track of them through the shrine.

The first thing that hit me about the shrine were those people crawling on their knees across the plaza to the shrine. Episcopalians were known, for right or wrong, as the “frozen chosen”. We were formal in liturgy, music, and life. We might believe strongly, but to give an outward display like crawling across a public plaza was out of the question. There were many, many people selling rosaries, and their business was quite brisk. I had never bought a rosary, I had no idea how to pray one.

To my disappointment, the oldest of the shrine churches was under construction and closed. Disappointed as I was, I then bolstered my spirit with the knowledge that at least I would have nothing keeping me from shepherding my young flock. (like studying an older church that not many would be interested in) So I turned to the main, modern church and decided to wander in.

I should take a moment here to say, at this moment in time, summer 1999, I had heard of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but I had no idea of the story, or even that this “lady” was the Blessed Virgin; I was what most would call completely ignorant.

I walked in, and wandered, and to be honest I could not tell you where I went first. Eventually though, I found myself on the escalator that moves everyone beneath the Tilma. Many of my group were going up, so why not, follow as many as I could! As I ascended, I saw the Tilma, and I was absolutely entranced. I stumbled off the escalator and found a place to stand and look from a distance, and time stopped for me.

God gives us signs in many ways, it is up to us to stop and listen. To say I was busy at the moment was an understatement, I had 50 teens wondering around a busy shrine in the middle of Mexico City! I had no reason to stop. I had no knowledge of what I was looking at.

I have no idea how long I stayed there, but it was until I was bumped by a chaperone. The chaperone was weary of the crowds and wanted to start collecting the kids. I came back to reality and agreed. I knew two new things though. I needed a rosary, and I needed to learn about this Tilma. So on the way out I bought a rosary, and if it were the modern age, I would have gotten on the web and found out what this Our Lady of Guadalupe was about…but it was the dark ages, that would have to wait till I was back in the states.

What then did this have to do with my conversion to the Catholic Church 18 years later? The rosary. I have no idea where that rosary I bought in Mexico ended up, but my knowledge of the peace it brought never left me after that day. That encounter with our Blessed Mother would cause me to not only begin devotion to her, but started my learning of Mary. Questions like “why ever blessed?” “Why ever virgin”? “Why the rosary”? “Why the devotion”? Over the years, as I learned the answers to those questions, I became more and more Catholic. But what is more, I became closer with Christ. Mary brought me to her Son, and this might raise a question, I was already a pastor, was I not already close to Christ? All through life we come closer and move further in proximity to Christ. At times we can be right at His feet and not be listening to what He is trying to tell us. We can and should from time to time concentrate on coming close to Jesus, times such as retreats or times rich in prayer for us can help us in this. The interesting thing about Mary is that in devotion to her, she takes us by the hand and takes us close to her son, and this almost always brings us to the Catholic Church.

Regardless of your background or knowledge base, if you open your heart and allow the answers to your questions you might have about Mary enter in; she will bring you to her Son, and to His Church. How amazed I was when I heard other converts say that Mary brought them to Catholicism; I was far from the only one she lead home.

Fr Scott