The Christian life… on ice!

The Christian life… on ice!

I’m an avid figure-skater, but not a very skilled one. I really took to skating while I was in Canada, because, let’s be honest: your outdoor exercise options are rather limited in a place that is frozen nine months a year. But I relished the challenge, the exhilaration, the grace, and, well… lots of falling down and the occasional trip to the frontier emergency room to stitch up the damage done by surgically-sharp new blades and a poorly-executed one-foot spin (“I think your finger is still attached, because it looks like the ligament is only partially severed.”—actual verbatim physician quote). It’s plenty enjoyable to skate around on the outdoor rink somebody made by hosing down the frozen ground in the park, of course, but when I returned to the US last year, I decided to be a little more intentional about it. I signed up for some figure-skating lessons at the local rink. And after a year of figure skating, I’ve noticed that learning to ice-skate and pursuing the Christian vocation have a lot in common. To be fair, they both involve hard falls and sharp edges, and tough lessons in humility (those 14-year-olds make it look so easy). But it’s a little more than that. Skating, as well as the Christian life, starts with limiting one’s own freedom. Ice has certain immutable properties, and figure skates are designed accordingly. If you respect the fact that your elegant, thin blades are meant to go forwards and backwards on a curve, they work beautifully. But if you fight the physics of their design, well, you simply aren’t going to win....
Living More Abundantly

Living More Abundantly

It may be different now, but the chapel of the Newman Center at GWU when I was a student was in pretty rough shape. The floor creaked, the AC/heat was unreliable at best, and it had the general run-down, jerry-rigged feel of the room that was built over a retro-fitted garage in an old campus townhouse that urgently needed renovation. Its general decorative theme skewed heavily to 1970s “youth ministry,” with tacky multi-colored stained glass panels covering the windows behind the altar. They had Gospel quotations on them, only one of which I remember: “I have come that you may live more abundantly.”[1] The first time I visited the chapel, I remember looking at that verse and thinking, “That’s what I want.” When I began coming to the Newman Center as a sophomore in college, I was pretty unsure of my faith. I’d been baptized and confirmed as a Catholic, but faith was never an active part of my life. I didn’t know about the Real Presence, I thought most of the moral teachings couldn’t possibly be applied in modern life, and I didn’t want to be seen as one of those religious people. But I was inexplicably drawn to Catholicism—enough to cagily sneak over to the Newman Center’s free Tuesday night dinners without telling my friends where I was going, to sit for a few minutes in the chapel praying that no one would recognize me, and to tell myself that I was just there for the social events, not for any of that God stuff, which I was of course only doing out of politeness before nipping...
The Art of Listening

The Art of Listening

  “Listen carefully, my son, to the master’s instructions, and attend to them with the ear of your heart.” ~The Rule of Saint Benedict   I am guilty.  This morning at Mass, like every morning at Mass, I caught myself drifting off during the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  After a lifetime of practice, I’ve learned the cues and responses.  I’ve learned them so well that Mass requires even less attention than the daily commute. I can’t count the number of times I’ve sat behind the wheel, staring off into space at a stoplight, and was startled by the idea that I have no memory of even making it out of the house that morning or any of the steps in-between.  I check the backseat for forgotten children.  Empty.  Already dropped them off at school.  Was that today?  What time is it? In my brief study of the subject, I have come to understand that there are two kinds of listening.  The first is to understand, the second is reactive.  What difference exists between the two? Listening to understand means to take in the full content of the speaker in the proper context, and without adding or inferring anything which the speaker did not intend.  Listening to understand requires humility, patience, the ability to keep your mouth closed until the speaker has fully conveyed his message. To listen for the sake of reacting is an act of pride.  It destroys humility and robs the speaker of the ability to convey his message fully and in the proper context.  It displays in the listener a degree of impatience and a desire for...
Fatherhood: In it to win it

Fatherhood: In it to win it

I was listening to Houston talk radio personality, Michael Berry, the other day, and he said something which really struck me.  While I didn’t hear the question posed by the caller, I did listen to hear Berry’s response.  Berry explained how his career change from from attorney to real estate agent caused him a great deal of embarrassment.  In his mind, morphing from the glamorous to the seemingly mundane caused him great anxiety because of what the world defined as valuable and important. A not insignificant amount of time had passed and Berry was struggling to succeed in real estate.  One day, a friend of his broke down and told Berry that Berry’s friends are always looking for homes, but none of them had any idea that Berry was in real estate.  His friend explained that if Berry quit worrying about what other people thought that he would be far more successful.  Upon heeding his friend’s advice, Berry became an overnight success. What struck me was more of an affirmation of what I have been attempting to practice.  Fatherhood presents the perfect opportunity to practice such humility.  In my brief 2.5 years as a daddy, I have reminded myself to throw my pride to the wind for the sake of the happiness of my children.  Recently, the opportunity has presented itself for me to be a stay-at-home daddy.  Whether grocery shopping, playing at the park, or taking the chillins to story time, opportunities to practice humility abound.  The best thing to do is dive in head first. The natural inclination to balk when your daughter tells you to “turn...
The Humility of Guardian Angels

The Humility of Guardian Angels

Our post-Christian society doesn’t have much interest in God these days (at least an orthodox One), and arguably even less interest in angels: those beings who, like God, are pure spirit but, like us, are created. Even in modern Christian America, the emphasis seems to be more on the Boss than on His managers (or, more accurately, His messengers). It’s certainly clear that to dismiss the topic of angels would require you to dismiss much Biblical evidence. I’m tempted to do a Micah-Murphy-inspired Top Ten list of favorite angelic appearances in the Bible, but maybe another time. (Okay, just one: the oddest appearance would have to be when an angel shows up to wrestle with Jacob in Gen. 32:25. I think the original Hebrew can be translated as either “arm-wrestle” or “thumb-wrestle.” Which makes Over the Top a modern-day parable.) Angels abound in the Old and New Testaments, so there is no reason to believe that God is done using them in modern times. This isn’t a treatise on angelology though; I just want to focus on one aspect of angels that I think deserves emulation. We take it for granted that we each have a guardian angel. When we have a close call in traffic, when tragedy narrowly averts us, whenever we feel, well, guarded, then we thank God for our guardian angel. So I can be grateful knowing there is an angel watching over me; but ever wonder what it must be like from the angel’s perspective? Start with just the ontology of the situation; a being with vastly superior intellect, power, and control over its will...