Category Archives: Motivational

Lent’s Last Push

We are at the home stretch. The finish line is in sight.

This is not the time to slow down, this is the time to give it all you got.

As we push through this last few days of Lent, it is so easy for us to just sit back and focus on the upcoming Easter, rather then really hone in on the last few days of Lent. Something in us can see ahead to the celebration, so we almost start celebrating early, just because it’s so exciting.

Don’t do it! Persevere!

If we really want to get into the spirit of Easter, this is our chance to really make our Lent count. I know, it’s been a long road. We have fallen in our Lenten penances, we have let it slide a little too much, we have not prayed as much or the way we intended. I know this, and that is really okay, but let’s not let Lent end with a fizzle.

Let us let Lent end with the resurrection!

So go out and give all your extra cash to a food bank to help them pay for Easter brunch for the homeless. (Extra cash guys, not your mortgage or the Easter ham!) Get down on your knees and pray from dawn to dusk. Get back on those Lenten penances and add a couple more for this last week. Get that house sparkling clean.

You can do this, it’s only five more days. You can do anything for five days, right?

It may be in this life you may be called to be a martyr, but you probably won’t. This is your chance to martyr yourself, to humble yourself before Him who is the source of all humility.

As a last thought, I want you to imagine an Olympic race. You know when they get to the end, they give it everything they’ve got. They are pushing so hard they don’t have the energy to sweat. You practically expect the winner to just fall down at the end, completely spent, but that is never what actually happens.

Instead, they shout with joy and exhilaration, they run an extra lap in victory, and smile like the sun.

“For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Four Leaf Clovers

So a good portion of my family came from Scotland. Don’t get me wrong, I am as proud of my heritage as any man should be.

My last name though is an Irish one, and so I have also always felt an affinity with the Irish.

This doesn’t really mean much in practice. Yes, I like corned beef and cabbage, and I will have myself a green beer on St. Patrick’s day if offered one, but for the most part, it doesn’t really have anything to do with my regular day to day life.

I did however pick up a habit as a young man. I love looking for four leafed clovers.

It’s a silly little thing to do, but whenever I pass by a batch of clover, I cannot help but bend over and take a peek. I’ve been doing this for so long that it’s almost second nature. I have become very skilled at this over the years, and can spot one now without even squatting, often just at a glance. For kids, this is like a magic trick, and they are always amazed. You of course know there is no magic, just don’t tell them.

Now I get to tell you a secret. It actually is magic.

Of course it’s not the kind over magic with wands and long winded, nonsensical words, but it is magic nonetheless. My secret is rather simple.

I am very lucky.

Well, that was a lame secret wasn’t it. You were figuring that I would actually have some great way of finding them, and then I let you down, huh. I bet you think I am a real jerk.

No, No, you aren’t getting it. I really am lucky. But you misunderstand luck.

Luck is very rarely the same as chance. This is where people get mixed up. I am lucky at finding four leaf clovers, because I look for them. You don’t find them, because you do not look. Sometimes I do not see any and some times I do, but if I was not looking, they would never be there.

What I mean to say, is luck is most definitely magic, but it is the magic that comes from perseverance. The more you search, the more you find. You will never get lucky and find a nugget of gold if you do not look for one. That just doesn’t happen, you won’t even know what a nugget of gold looks like. You will walk right past it.

Take from that whatever you wish. If there is something you want to be lucky at, start looking for it.

Last note, there is a secret to finding four leaf clovers. If you see one, chances are there are five or more in the same plant, so look closer. Four leaf clovers come in bunches, they are rarely single.

So here is my treat, find the four leaf clover!

Rocking Chair

I just recently watched a Mel Gibson movie called “The Patriot”. It was your basic action movie complete with death and mayhem, but it was one of those movies that is designed to make you feel proud to be an American. I’m not generally a big action movie fan, but I’l admit, I like a little manly romp with swords and guns on occasion. For me to really be into it though, the focus has to be more on heroism and courage and less on blood and guts. All told, decent movie.

There was a small theme that ran through the movie about rocking chairs that really interested me though. You see, Mel’s character is trying to build a rocking chair, and he just can’t seem to get it right. Every time he gets it put together and goes to sit in it, it falls to pieces. This frustrates him to no end. Everywhere he goes, he keeps seeing these rocking chairs and he’s testing them out, studying them, trying to figure out where he is screwing it up. There is this great scene where he is about to parlay with the enemy general, and he doesn’t even notice him come into the room because he is too busy playing around with his rocking chair.

He has put in so much effort, but just can’t seem to get it right.

I had never noticed rocking chairs before this movie, but now I find myself amazed at how elegant they really are. They have to be able to hold the weight of a person from so many different angles, constantly in motion, and yet with just a few spindles to support this. It’s really some rather impressive engineering.

Alright, I’ll get to the point already.

Yes, hard work is necessary to make anything, but to truly make something beautiful, you have to put your heart in as well. Mel’s character is obsessed with making the perfect rocking chair. There is no question that he could put together a good functional chair, but he wants more. He is focused on it.

We see this throughout history as a defining trait of genius. Thomas Edison counted 3000 failures on his way to creating the light bulb. DaVinci would only sleep a few hours, spread out throughout the day so he could focus more time as an artist, architect, sculptor and inventor. They really get obsessed. They are going to figure it out at any personal cost.

Is there anything that you are obsessed about? Is there anything in your life that you truly give your complete focus to? Of course I want you to be a well rounded person, but is there anything you put your whole heart into?

Chaos Piano

This idea is not mine. In fact, I have no idea where I heard this. If anyone knows who it was that came up with this, please let me know, they deserve the credit. I have used this imagery for years, and will use it for many more.

Imagine for a moment that you have two twin girls. Who doesn’t want their children to be creative? Not you, that’s for sure, so being the taskmaster that you are, you make them both play piano for an hour a day, every day. Let’s be honest, they probably don’t want to be told what to do, but dangit, you are the parent, so they are just going to have to buck up and play. Pouty faces notwithstanding.

Here’s the deal though. To one, you give the ability to be completely creative. She doesn’t really need lessons, she can figure out what to do with her imagination. In the beginning, she gets mighty frustrated and just bangs on the keys, but at some point, out of boredom, she starts to make up a few little ditties. She experiments and generally resigns herself to sitting at the piano fooling around for an hour a day.

To the other, you give her a teacher. the teacher comes in, and it’s rule city. She hates rules, but you don’t care, she’s gonna learn the dang piano. There are rules about practicing scales, and chord progressions. There are rules about theory, and how long she has to spend each day studying. There so many rules, that in the beginning, it seems that all she is allowed to work on. Not only that, but she has to play the same dang song, over and over again until she gets it just right. It’s a real pain in the – you know where.

Fast forward 15 years. What do you think you will see?

You already know the answer of course. The child given complete freedom will most definitely have some interesting music, but maybe she figured out rhythm, maybe she didn’t. Maybe she didn’t like the black keys, so never bothered trying to use them. Creative? Maybe, but hardly accomplished.

In the meantime, lessons have blossomed into Beethoven. She can play Jazz, honky-tonk, country, and happy birthday when the need arises. Maybe she has even stretched out on her own, and is writing her own music. She has built on the mistakes and successes of her predecessors.

The point is simple. It is rules and structure that really allows us to be creative, not the opposite. Yes, at some point you have to be able to look beyond the rules, but not until you know why they are there on a gut level. Until the rules have true value and meaning, you haven’t really learned them. If you want to splash paint on a canvas, it may be art, but it’s not good art, and you know it. If you have studied art to mastery, splashing paint means something different entirely.

This holds true to all your life, be it work, play, or your personal relationships. It is the structure these lie within, and dealing with these structures that truly give you the ability to be creative. It is the structure, the rules, that really allow you to live your life in an open, vibrant way. To do otherwise is anarchy, and you have madness take over that would rival the worst apocalyptic film.

So the Church has rules. You bet it does. There is a structure that we have to work within to truly live our lives to the fullest. These rules and moral codes are not there to pin us down, but to lift us up. They are the very thing that allows us to reach towards our highest selves, until we no longer need the rules at all, because like the saints, we understand the meaning behind them.

Until then, think of the rules as a stake planted next to a vine. The vine might not always need the stake, but without it, the vine will lay on the ground to be trampled. That is not creative, and it does not help the vine reach towards the Son at all.

Ugggh Celery

I truly dislike celery. It’s really nasty stuff, all crunch and no taste. I hate how the stringy bits get caught in my teeth.

Every time I am at some party, they always have the little veggie platters out with the carrots and the bell peppers and the cute little radishes. I cringe when I see someone dip that zero carb stick of nastiness into a vat of ranch dressing or peanut butter. Eww.

Why not just reach for a carrot? They are so tasty, and they are crunchy too! Beautiful, bold color, perfect for dipping, you just can’t beat it. But celery? Gross.

There are a lot of people in my life that are a lot like celery. I just do not like them. I can’t help it. maybe it’s the way they laugh that hurts my ears, or some defect in their physical makeup that draws my attention in a way that I cannot avoid. There is this one woman who is a perfectly nice person, very helpful, very sweet. But she talks so dang loud. Really, really loud. I’m whispering, she’s yelling. It drives me crazy.

You know what, I don’t actually hate celery now that I really think about it. I love it when celery is in a soup for example. It gets all soft and yet retains it’s crispness. It soaks up all the flavors of all the vegetables and meats around it. Somehow, when you throw the celery into a pot with a bunch of different vegetables, the celery actually goes beyond palatable, and becomes good. It’s nearly miraculous.

I have found the same thing to be true with the celery people. (Did I just coin a phrase? Will “celery people” be our new code word?) Those same people that drive me crazy when I’m alone with them seem to fill out when brought into a diverse group of people. Their edges are worn down, the whining laughter is dulled by the noise, and the loud woman is finally talking at just the right volume. It’s nearly miraculous.

What I mean to say is, it’s okay not to like everyone you come in contact with. Yes you must love and respect them, but liking them is not mandatory. You may even find that the people who’s company you don’t enjoy are not so bad in the right situations, so seek them out there. You don’t have to take them out to coffee to be a friend to them.

So if you find celery, feel free to make soup.