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Catholicism, Intentional Living

How to Have a Great Lent

February 23, 2015

Admittedly, this post probably would have served you better if it came to you last week. But hey, better late than never! And for everyone out there who got their butts kicked by the first (half) week of Lent, this one’s coming just in time.

This is the busiest time of the year for me creating web content for FOCUS. We go a little Lent crazy, which is why we call our Lent content Lentsanity. Also, as Shaun T’s Insanity aims to get your body into shape, we try to get our souls into shape during Lent, and we’re here to help you do that.

1. Pick a Fast or Pius Practice

I know, Lent already started. If you want to start a Lenten practice now, go right ahead. Don’t worry about not having done it the first few days of Lent. Pick something and do it.

What to Do for Lent: 7 Reasonable Ideas
What Should I Do for Lent: Pope Francis’ 10 Tips 

2. Do What the Church Asks of You

There are a few things the Church asks us to do for Lent, mainly skip the meat on Fridays and fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. What exactly does the Church mean by fasting? And how do we remember to skip the meat? We gotcha covered:

Illustrated Guide to Lenten Fasting & Abstinence
FREE Lentsanity App with Reminders to Skip the Meat

www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b1i_e_VL3o

3. Pray

Praying is the most important thing you can do during Lent. Spend some time with God by praying with Scripture. If you don’t know how, I made this handy guide. You can even print it out as a little booklet!

Do the Lectio 3 Step: An Illustrated Guide to Praying with Scripture

 

We’ve got a lot of great stuff coming up for Lentsanity, so be sure to keep an eye out on focus.org/lentsanity to see it all as it’s published. Better yet, subscribe to Lentsanity email updates, and the best of our resources will be delivered straight to your inbox.

Have a great Lent! (And don’t get busted by the Meat Police!)

www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRv8sNa7ZzClS4XovoZPrqbEiT4omv6Er

Mission

Lentsanity!

March 4, 2014

Jonathan here. One of the projects I’ve been working on a lot lately with FOCUS has been Lentsanity, our campaign to help you make this Lent the best one yet. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a lot of the really fun aspects of the project, including:

Two of the first three blog posts of the campaign. Check them out!

An Illustrated Guide to Lenten Fasting & Abstinence

The 8 Types of Ashes You Might Get on Ash Wednesday

The Meat Police

I wrote the script and starred in this fun video.

phone with Lentsanity appThe Lentsanity App

I found an app company to work with, worked out all the details and kinks in creating and deploying our app, and now I’m updating it with content as Lentsanity rolls on. The best part of the app? It will pop up a notification before lunch and dinner on Fridays during Lent to remind you not to eat meat! (Make sure to say YES to push notifications, or you won’t get the reminders!)

It’s available for both iOS and Android. Download it today by searching for Lentsanity in your app store or by visiting focus.org/lentsanityapp from your smartphone.

Daily Dose

Each day of Lent (except Sundays) we’ll be posting a short reflection to facebook and to the app. I got to write the reflections on sacrifices. They’ll be published throughout Lent, so be sure to check those out as they come out.

Keep up to date with everything Lentsanity by liking FOCUS on facebook, following FOCUS on twitter, and by reading the FOCUS blog. We’re also collecting everything at focus.org/lentsanity and in the Lentsanity app.

Uncategorized

People Will Come

June 5, 2012

“People will come, Ray.”

 Terrance Mann’s “People Will Come” monologue. One of, if not the, best part of the movie. Although Mann is right–baseball is awesome–the monologue is so good, and stirs up a lot of emotion in a  lot of people, because the way he describes baseball addresses our internal longing for the good, the true, and the beautiful. You may think he’s speaking about baseball, but if you have “ears to hear,” he is actually speaking about the Kingdom of God.

If you haven’t seen the movie in a while (or God forbid, ever) here’s the clip. You can find a complete transcription here.

 Now, let’s talk about it, bit by bit, looking for Jesus:

Ray, people will come, Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway, not knowing for sure why they’re doing it.

When searching for the text of this speech, I typed “people will come” into Google. One of the results was Luke 13:29. The RSV reads: “And men will come from east and west, and from north and south, and sit at table in the kingdom of God.” Some translations even start with “People will come…” The point is simple, and the point is this: for nearly 2,000 years, people have come to Jesus. Sometimes they don’t quite know why when they start their journey home. Sometimes Jesus woos them slowly and even the most hardened atheist ends up loving Him. I know a guy who on his way to a party, walked past the Catholic Center on his campus, something deep inside of him told him to ditch his friends that night and go inside. We were hanging out when he walked in. We met, he joined my Bible study, and the next year, he joined the Church. And it all started when he “turned up the driveway, not knowing for sure why [he was] doing it.”

They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children,

Luke 18:15-17: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.'” There you have it, straight from the Savior’s mouth. We must have a child-like faith. We must trust God, be able to hold up our lives to our Heavenly Father like a child a broken toy to his earthly one saying, “It’s broke,” knowing that he has the power to fix it and the love to want to fix it if we ask.

longing for the past.

I think of a scene in Matthew 19 in which Jesus is asked about divorce. The people say “You say we can’t get divorced? Moses let us divorce our wives!” And Jesus replies that “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.” That’s the key. From the beginning it was not so. Okay. Then what was it like in the beginning? Before the Fall, man was in right relationship with God, creation, others, and himself. It doesn’t take too long to figure out it’s not like that anymore. We disobey God, wreck the earth, cheat others, and make choices that end up biting us in the end. But it wasn’t always like this. Jesus’ sacrifice, if we accept it and Him, can repair things between us and God, and that can radiate to the other three areas. Whether we know it explicitly or not, we know we are not made to live the way we are. Things are meant to be better. And they can be. They will be. However, things won’t be back the way they were until Jesus comes again and we’re in Heaven: the New Heavens and the New Earth.

“Of course, we won’t mind if you have a look around,” you’ll say. “It’s only twenty dollars per person.” They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.

The most important part here: for it is money they have and peace they lack. Despite studies that show they money really can’t buy happiness, we keep falling prey to wanting more stuff. And we can’t get they stuff unless we get more money. We never hear something saying “You know, once I got that million dollars, life got a lot sunnier. I had so much more meaning in my life.” We don’t hear it because it doesn’t happen. Too often we hear of people who have every thing they could want, all the money they could want, and they are desperately lonely. Terribly peaceless. Some of the most peaceful, joyful people I know are monks, brothers, and nuns who have given up everything, who personally own nothing. If we put our worth in something as insignificant as money, it only makes sense that we’ll eventually end up feeling worthless. We must ask ourselves: is it money I have and peace I lack?

And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, and sit in shirt-sleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes.

When we enter into the Kingdom of God, it will be on a perfect afternoon. The image of sitting where they say when they were children and cheered their heroes does something for me. Perhaps because I can remember however sentimentally, being a child, cheering for Ryne Sandberg, my hero. I guess I just love the image. Grown men and women taken back decades to when the world was–in their eyes–a better, nicer, simpler place. Whenever I hang out with kids I’m impressed by their energy, their ability to put their whole selves into something, to lose themselves in obstacle course races or pretending someone’s a zombie. Perhaps that’s the part of childlike faith we need to recapture: the ability, the willingness to give ourselves totally to something, except it won’t be something, it will be someone, God, and instead of playing around with imagination, we will worship in total holy reality.

And they’ll watch the game, and it’ll be as if they’d dipped themselves in magic waters.

“Dipped themselves in magic waters,” like Baptism, except Baptism isn’t magic. It’s a sacrament. The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “This sacrament is called Baptism, after the central rite by which it is carried out: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse”; the “plunge” into the water symbolizes the catechumen’s burial into Christ’s death, from which he rises up by resurrection with him, as “a new creature.” Apart from grace, how other than magic could such a thing be claimed possible? We enter into the life of grace, we give ourselves to Jesus, we get baptised, and we dip ourselves in grace-filled waters.

The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

Two of the last three excerpts of the speech are reiterations of two important ideas: child-like faith and the past. The memories, the realization of how it was “in the beginning,” will be so thick, we’ll have to brush it away from our faces. That’s how much love God has for us. The very air will be saturated with divine love. This is not wishful thinking, this is the reality of God. This love can be ours if we but accept it.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.

Mann is right. He might as well say, “The things of this world pass away, again and again. Faith is strong. God is constant.” But he didn’t. But, he didn’t have to, John already did. 1 John 2:17 says: “And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.” We can chase the things of this world, but they will never satisfy our deepest longings. Only Jesus can. Everything in this life changes, our relationships change: son, brother, husband, father, friend; our bodies change and eventually give out; jobs are lost; cars crash; loved ones die. The whole time, Jesus is with us, his love never-changing, only our receptiveness of it wavers, hopefully it grows.

This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again. Ohhhhhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

I hear him say: “This faith, this Church, is a part of our lives, Jonathan. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.” I think of Eden and my heart aches for what we have lost. I think of Jesus’ love and the promise of Heaven, and my hope is restored. We hear so often in our culture today that we modern men and women have learned so much, that we can move beyond the so-called restraints of religious thinking, the shackles of faith. Some may be tempted to think that God is dead and the Church is dying. Please. Jesus lives, and the Church is full of young Catholics who love Jesus and give their lives to him.

 

I also want to address the comments made by Mark, Ray’s Brother in Law, interruptions peppered throughout the “People Will Come” monologue.

Mark’s comments:

Ray, just sign the papers.

Ray, when the bank opens in the morning, they’ll foreclose.

You’re broke, Ray. You sell now or you lose everything.

Ray, you will lose everything. You will be evicted…C’mon, Ray.

And once Ray decides not to sell:

Ahhh, you’re crazy! Absolutely nuts!!

Mark is like the devil. He’s chirping in our ear that the Truth we experience is not real, that God will not keep his promises, that his way is the only viable option, that God does not, cannot, and will not work miracles. Sometimes that voice comes straight from the enemy. I think most times it comes from our culture or from ourselves. We must do all we can to not listen to him. God loves. God wins. God takes care of his children. Every time.

Uncategorized

I Will Possess Your Heart

April 12, 2012

I’m working on a talk about prayer for our New Student Leaders’ Retreat this weekend, and this song came to mind. I wrote a post about it a while ago for my old, now-defunct blog. I thought it’d be great to re-post here at truegoodandbeautiful.

I Will Possess Your Heart, one of the singles from Death Cab for Cutie’s album, Narrow Stairs, is a wonderful song. One of the new things I’ve done in my Bible studies over the years is listening to non-spiritual songs in a spiritual way. Looking for a holy message among everyday things. A lot of songs can be listened to as if it’s God speaking to us, or us speaking to God. It’s a wonderful exercise to go through as it helps us look for God everywhere. Love songs are pretty easy to use because our human love is but only a pale reflection of God perfect love. And guess where I found Him. That’s right. In this song! (It’s about love!) Here’s the video, along with the lyrics and a short discussion. Please be sure to add your two cents in the comments!

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsCV61zsdtA

Lyrics

How I wish you could see the potential
The potential of you and me
It’s like a book elegantly bound, but
In a language that you can’t read just yet

Chorus
You got to spend some time, love
You got to spend some time with me
And I know that you’ll find, love
I will possess your heart
You got to spend some time, love
You got to spend some time with me
And I know that you’ll find, love
I will possess your heart

There are days when, outside your window
I see my reflection as I slowly pass
And I long for this mirrored perspective
When we’ll be lovers, lovers at last

Chorus

You reject my advances and desperate pleas
I won’t let you let me down so easily
So easily

Longer chorus with last line repeating three times

Discussion

I find it interesting to listen to this song as if God is singing it to us at those times when we turn away from Him. Or He’s singing it to all the prodigal sons and daughters that have yet to come home. Let’s take a look at it from that perspective. I’ll discuss the verses first, and then the chorus.

How I wish you could see the potential / The potential of you and me
This line describes so well God’s longing for a personal relationship with each one of us. God wants to have an intimate relationship with everyone. He created us to love us.

It’s like a book elegantly bound, but
God continues to tell us how wonderful things will be if we take a step toward Him. He we say “yes” to Him. Our relationship with Him is beautiful, a work of art.

In a language that you can’t read just yet
But because we aren’t in the relationship with Him, because we haven’t/aren’t experiencing that personal relationship with Him, we can’t understand it. It might be nice when we see it in other people, but we don’t understand it. It doesn’t mean anything to us. Yet. It’s as if God is saying, “I want to be in this amazing relationship with you, but you don’t quite understand how wonderful it can be or why you’d want it. I’ll help you see why it’s so great, why you’ll desire it. You don’t know now, but you will.”

There are days when, outside your window / I see my reflection as I slowly pass
And I long for this mirrored perspective / When we’ll be lovers, lovers at last
As if He’s saying to us, “I swing by to see how you’re doing. When I’m there I slow down and watch for a bit. I am amazed by you. Mesmerized. I love you. And I hope for the day when you’ll look back at me. When you’ll come see how I’m doing. When you’ll get caught up in the love we’ll share between us. I long for that day. I await the day I’ll love you and you’ll love me right back.

God wants a relationship with each of us, but He can’t force it. He can’t help but love us, but He can’t make us return that love. In His infinite love, He gave us free will. We have the choice. We can accept His love and love Him back, or we can reject both Him and His love. The verse describes someone rejecting God’s love.

My advances and desperate pleas. As if God saying, “I’ve tried all sorts of ways to get you to love me. I’ve done so much. I’ve given you my Son. And still you reject me.

I won’t let you let me down so easily / So easily
He continues, “I’ll keep trying. I still love you. You can reject me all day, but I’ll still come back tomorrow and love you more. I love you.”

The chorus clues us into how we enter into that deeper relationship with the Lord. It gives us the instructions as to how to get to know our Heavenly Father:

You got to spend some time, love / You got to spend some time with me
We have to spend time with God. We need to pray! We might not want to spend time with God. We might not want that relationship. But the Lord wants it. He wants us. He just asks for a little bit of our time. You got to spend some time, love. We need to do this. It’s not “you should spend some time,” or “you should think about spending some time,” but “you got to.” We have to pray. We have to spend some time with our Creator. Prayer is how we can grow closer to the Lord!

And I know that you’ll find, love / I will possess your heart
If we pray, if we spend that time with God, we’ll grow to love Him. We’ll love Him more and more each day. He will possess our hearts. But first we have to know Him. We have to pray. We have to come to Him each day and talk. Spend some time with Him just like we would with any other friend. He asks us to give Him a little time, because He knows that we’ll want to give Him a little more time and a little more time. He knows we’ll love Him a little more and a little more.  We will come to know the Lord, and we will come to love Him, and we will give our hearts to Him. He will possess our hearts, but only if we take the first step and enter into prayer.

 

Love this song? Check out the album!