“If you want something done right, do it yourself.”

Although a tad overused and basically a cliché, there’s something very truthful about this bit of advice. No one else can get it done exactly the way we want, so why leave it up to others when we are able to do it ourselves? We’re just going to be disappointed.

And if all we’re focused on is a “thing,” a task to be completed, then I think it would be a great motto for life. But is it ever just about the task?

No task is ever separated from relationships; no thing to be done without people doing them. As much as we would like to do everything ourselves, we simply can’t, and really, shouldn’t want to. Doing something ourselves is efficient, yes. It gets a job done and we’re happy. But that’s all it does: it gets a job done. When we do everything ourselves, no one else learns that they can also do it themselves. No one else ever learns that they are capable and responsible and important. Nothing is ever accomplished except for that one job.

What if we had a different approach? What if, rather than “do it yourself,” we tried “do it together”? Sure, each task might be a little more laborious. It might have more conflict and not get done exactly how we want it to. But look what else might happen: others will feel a part of something, share the load, and be able to pass on the skills to the next job. When we do things together, a mission can live beyond us.

For me, this is advice that we greatly need in our Church. Even though we know we should do things together in ministry, even though we’re told to love one another and it’s about the person and not the task, sometimes we can fall into this model, even at Church. Sometimes we try to do everything ourselves, failing to train the next person, to include others, to take the time to make it about “us” rather than the task at hand.

This lent, we are called to go on mission, together. We are called to truly be Church, to look beyond the task right in front of us and see what is really important: the people doing the task. He could have gotten a lot more done if it were about the task. He could have done it all himself and completed it just the way he wanted. Instead, Jesus sent his disciples out of on mission, and never alone. There was something more at work in the mission than just the “work.” Jesus was building something beyond himself, and so must we. As much as we love a “do it yourself” attitude, what our Church truly needs—what we truly need—is a “do it together” attitude.

If you’re interested in more reflections like this, you can purchase my book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God on Franciscan Media: https://goo.gl/6xXV13

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Often spoken at the beginning of prayers, this passage from Matthew’s Gospel reminds us that our God is truly with us. Emmanuel he is called. More than a sentiment, more than wishful thinking, when we gather for prayer, God is truly with us.

But how? And why?

Often, I think we imagine this passage as a designation of the criteria necessary for Jesus to show up, as if he were saying, “I’ll be there if you get a few people together.” Once the requisite number is gathered, then Jesus will also come. But what if he meant something else by this? What if what he was trying to tell us was that, since Christ dwells in us and gives us life, when we gather together Christ is with us simply by virtue of us being together? In other words, since together we form the body of Christ, then when we gather, for any reason, Christ is with us in one another.

I think this is a critically important part of our faith. As much as we might see a transcendent experience with God in silent prayer or liturgical action, a direct encounter with God in Godself from on high, we must never forget that God is also present to us in the immanent. We experience God when we sit down for dinner, when we encounter a stranger, when we fight with our spouse, when we work with colleagues, and even when we shed a tear with a friend. When two or three are gathered, no matter the circumstance or purpose, Christ is with us.

What an amazing joy! When believing in a God that is neither visible nor physical, when we often find transcendent experiences of God far and few between, knowing that God is still among us is critical to maintaining our faith. In fact, some might even say it is essential to finding it in the first place. As much as we use words like relationship, sacrifice, love, devotion, patience, and forgiveness in reference to God, how could we ever use them in reference to God in any meaningful way had we not experienced and lived these words in our earthly relationships?

For me, it’s a reminder that God is present to us always—not just in our prayer, and maybe not even initially in our prayer—but rather through every encounter we have each and every day. It is our relationships with our friends and family, how we treat the people around us and show them love, that we find the very understanding of these concepts in the first place to know how to relate to God.

This Lent, we are called to share our lives with others. We are called to be in relationship, to give love, to offer sacrifice, to be patient, and to build community—not because we need new friends or something to do—but because it is in our being together that we make God present in the world and show the world what the love of God truly means.

At long last, I am happy to announce that Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God is available for purchase “wherever books are sold” (I’m still not entirely sure what that means…) Until the end of today, you can get a kindle version for only $.99 on Amazon.com (returning to $9.99 tomorrow) or you can order a paperback version from Franciscanmedia.org.

But let’s say you don’t want to buy the book, you just want to read the book. And let’s say, on top of that, you want your copy signed, not just some random one off the rack. Well, besides being really demanding (just kidding!) you’re also in luck! I’m giving FIFTY free copies away this week. All you have to do is enter the contest by clicking here. The website will randomly select fifty people Saturday evening, and I plan to have them shipped out by Monday or Tuesday of next week. Unfortunately, because of the high cost of international shipping, I have had to limit the contest to residents of the United States (sorry Canadians… the video says you’re included but I had to change that after filming!)

Best of luck to everyone!

Also, if you get a book yourself and want to share, use the hashtag #CalledtheBook with a picture of your self holding the book or a favorite quote to connect with other readers! I’d love to see where the book ends up and what people think!

 

You know what they say: “You can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket.” It seems fairly obvious, right? How could one ever expect to win without actually entering the contest; how could one expect to succeed without even trying?

And yet, that is what so many of us expect when it comes to our faith. Feeling distant from God and disconnected from a faith community, I hear many people complain that their faith just isn’t very strong. When I ask what they’ve tried or what they’re struggling with, many simply reply “nothing.” Well… that might be your first problem.

Just as you can’t win the lottery without buying a ticket, you can’t improve your prayer life by not praying.

Like anything else, faith and prayer do not come naturally and we’re not necessarily good at it at first. It takes practice and hard work and patience. But most of all—maybe first of all—it takes showing up. As much as faith is a gift of God and as much as we cannot control how God will respond to us, we absolutely can control how openly and readily we show up to God.

Because really, God is always showing up to us. When we’re comfortably and content, God is there. When we’re proud and arrogant, God is there. When we’re lonely and tired, God is there. God is always there, showing up to us, waiting for us to show up to him.

This Lent, make why not show up to God a bit more? Why not make your prayer one of fidelity, a steadfast commitment to spend time with God no matter what is going on in our lives? It may not sound like much, but sometimes it’s the simplest things that we forget that can make the biggest difference.

If you’re interested in buying my new book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God, I just found out yesterday that it has left the printer and is ready to be purchased! You can click here to find it on Franciscan Media’s website.

Called to Discern

“What are you going to do with your life?” For many, there is no more important (or stress-inducing) question in all of the world, which is why I put them front and center as the opening words of my new book Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God. Since the way we answer the big questions of life—what career you’re going to pursue, who you’re going to marry, where you’re going to live—has the power to shape everything about our lives, definitively answering these questions, as quickly and thoroughly as we can, would seem to be the very goal of life itself. As agonizing as it may be to pass through a period of unknowing, to wait for God to help us figure everything out, we know that once we answer those questions everything will get easier.

But does it? And is that all we think of discernment?

In my experience, discerning the will of God in our lives and figuring out what I’m “going to do with my life” is not something that can ever be fully answered. As soon as I answered what I thought to be the biggest question of my life—should I join the friars or get married—I found myself faced with new questions. And then new questions. And then new questions again. While I may have figured out my “place” in life, I have by no means figured out how I’m going to actually live it. With each day comes a new challenge, a new opportunity, and a new way of relating to God than before.

For me, discerning the will of God is not a matter of answering a question and moving on, it is a way of life that dictates everything we do. Because here’s the thing: As important as these questions may be to us in our world today, I don’t think they matter at all to God. Sure, God wants us to be happy and fulfilled, and to the extent that our careers, family, and living situation does that is important to God. But in the ultimate sense I don’t think God could care less if we choose to be an accountant or a firefighter, whether we marry Susie or Maria, or whether we live in Cincinnati or San Antonio. What God cares about most is not how we answer the big questions, it’s how we answer the most basic of questions: how am I going to be a disciple of Christ today? That is our calling. That is what God wants from us. And that is what we must discern.

This Lent, take a moment each day to discern this most basic of questions. Realize that the truly most important question in life—how we’re going to live as children of God and disciples of Christ—is not something that can be answered and moved on from but is something that must be taken up each and every day anew. Focus your discernment on that question and see if the bigger questions don’t just figure themselves out.

If you’d like to preorder my new book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God, click here.