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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Emerging Problems in the Church

Two of the main things running through my mind today have to do with problems in the Church that I've encountered over the last couple days--one old and one new.

Christian (Dis)Unity: A week ago our RCIA candidates went through the "Rite of Election", the beginning of the last phase before being fully accepted into the Church. Their names were printed in the bulletin. A couple days later they all received letters in the mail from an anonymous writer. The strongly anti-catholic hate material (from a website) was preceeded with a hand written comment saying "I give this to you because I care". The website (linked here) detailed how obviously corrupt the Catholic Church and displayed a grotesquely ignorant view of a misunderstood Church. Highlighted in the "letter" were lines such as "The Catholic religion is the unrepentant sinners religion", "Catholicism eliminates faith", and "The PROBLEM is that most of the teachings of the Catholic religion are merely traditions, doctrines of devils, NOT found anywhere in the Bible." If you know any truth about Catholicism, you know none of these represent the Truth.

I encourage to read the website to see some of the filth that our Brothers and Sister in Christ publish about the Catholic Church... but only if you can think for yourself and keep a heart of love. There are so many things that break my heart in this website... refuting them would make this post too long.

The sad part is that, at a time when Christians need to stand together, many of us (Catholics included) only tear each other apart and damn each other to Hell...which any informed Christian would realize only GOD can do! This truly breaks my heart, and I can't help but feeling sorry for people so lead astray that they must resort to such methods.

The Growing Diversity of Catholicism in America

This week in our parish we've had a few families ripped apart by the Governments need to deport people. Children who are legal citizens are ripped from their parents and held in cells until they can be sent back to Mexico, where their parents have been sent to because, though they are productive members of society, they aren't "legal".

The problem is that the Church in America as a whole (at least from what I've experienced) has yet to realize how to properly integrate and minister to/with this culture. The Hispanic and Latino culture, being significantly more collective than the Anglo culture, is hard for many of us to understand. Should they be forced to learn our language, or should we learn theirs? Yes, in a few years they will be the majority, but the Catholic Church is basing the new liturgy off the prominence of the English language in the world. Should we have separate Spanish Masses, or should we encourage full integration into "our Church".

Obviously the key lies in balance, helping them to assimilate into the unique culture of the American Catholic Church while allowing them to keep their own Identity and make "our culture" even more beautiful. I obviously don't have all the answers, but I believe our current and future priests and ministers need to be taught how to live in this changing and diversifying culture.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Humility and Contrition

First Wednesday of Lent

Jon 3:1-10
51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19
Lk 11:29-32

"A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn."

In all that you do be humble and contrite
Let all that you fail to do be likewise
For this is the way of the Lord

The Subway Personality Profile

You can tell a lot about person by what and how they order at Subway. I'll use my experience today as an example.

I ordered my usual: a single toasted 12" black forest ham on Italian bread, with cheese, lettuce, and mayo with a combo (sun chips and a drink). I'll admit, I did switch it up a bit... I usually get white bread, non-toasted, and cheddar cheese (instead of the white American I did today). I ordered with "please and thank you" and with clear and decisive instructions, anticipating what they were going to ask. I payed with a check card.

Here's what my order tells about me:

The fact that I got my usual, but switched it up just bit shows that while I value consistency, tradition, and precedence, I also don't mind a little variety within the proper boundaries.

My choice of common sandwich with simple and traditional toppings points not only to the above values, but also to my need for simplicity and non-extravagance. It also shows that I'm slightly picky.

The fact that I got only a single 12" shows that I most likely eat/live alone, but that either I eat a lot, or that I save for later meals. It also shows that I can be frugal in that I made sure to get the cheap 12" and I'm eating for two meals. However, the fact that I got a combo shows that while I can be frugal, I don't mind spending a little more for the finer points in life. The sun chips and Gatorade also show that, at some level, I value eating healthy (I could have gotten a cookie and mountain dew after all!)

They way in which I ordered shows that 1) I have been to subway before, showing that I probably eat out relatively frequently, 2) I value politeness and can empathize with what it's like working behind a counter, and 3) I know what I want, I plan ahead, and know how to communicate that need. The way in which I payed shows that I value efficiency, am more "modern", and I don't feel carry cash (meaning I'm not involved in anything "shady" ;) ).

The lady ahead of me was probably in her 80's, ordered two "$5 foot longs" with all the toppings, was slow in making her decision, and didn't use please or thank you. She talked about what they "advertised" and didn't really know what she was doing. This tells me that she is frugal, is ordering for someone else (probably a younger person because she doesn't eat out much and doesn't go to "newer places" like subway), she may value politeness, but perhaps sees a distinction between those in front of the counter and those behind (and is kind of bossy), and she is not picky at all and believes that eating her vegetables is probably what got her to her ripe old age.

The most awkward part of this however, was post-order--she went to pay and was surprised that the total for two "$5 foot-longs" was $10.69 because, "They are advertise at exactly $5!". The cashier tried to explain tax... but the woman couldn't understand. After paying in cash... for which the woman scrounged around her purse for a couple minutes, she took her meal and a glass. I thought she was going to get water... but instead she took a full glass of Coke (which she hadn't paid for). The cashier purposely looked away and didn't say anything, so neither did I.

There's a lot of stuff you could infer from this, but this post is getting long and I'm sure you get the idea. I realize that judgements made in this method are just that--judgements--and are often unfounded and sometimes incorrect. However, in my experience (I eat subway frequently) there are general behaviors that people exhibit that I feel comfortable inferring certain personality traits from.

Feel free to leave an opinion!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Power of Words

First Tuesday of Lent

Is 55:10-11
34:4-5, 6-7, 16-17, 18-19
Mt 6:7-15

I actually wrote about this for the Lenten reflection last year. So I will just copy and paste.

In today's reading we find a two-fold meaning--that all things have purpose under God, and that words have power when used correctly. Just as God sends the rain and snow with a purpose, so does he send his Word. This word is both Christ and the words that He speaks. Jesus gives us a formula for prayer, and warns us against useless and futile "babble" meant only for show and with no love towards God.

How do these two ideas fit together? The image in Isaiah gives us a picture of words as fulfilling. The water and snow give life and allow the budding of plants, giving food and rich soil. Jesus likewise gives us fulfillment--He gives us new life through his death and resurrection, and sustains us with his body and blood. When praying we hear that God "gives us our daily bread", "forgives us our trespasses", and "delivers us from evil". We thus see that it is not words in general that have power, but words that come from the authority of God. One way in which this power can be manifested is in forgiveness. God gives us the power to say to one another, "I forgive you". These words are fulfilling to us, and their purpose is to recreate a bond of love.

In this time of Lent forgiveness is imperative. How can we not forgive a transgressor when Christ forgave through His most painful death and in spite of innocence? We are the biggest transgressors. In the act of forgiving we are released from the chains that keep us from our brothers an sisters and we bring ourselves closer in unity with Christ on the cross. It is in dying this way, free from those that hurt us, that we are able to rise again with Christ at Easter.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shepherding God's People

Feast of the Chair of St. Peter

1 Pt 5:1-4
23:1-3a, 4, 5, 6
Mt 16:13-19

Because today is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, we get a special opportunity to talk about being a shepherd. It may seem that being a shepherd is not essential to the meaning of Lent (and perhaps it isn't), but it is never a bad time to learn how to live how something that is essential to our call to discipleship.

It is in the first reading that we get an initial glimpse of what it means to be a shepherd, or in this case a "presbyter" as Peter is calling it. Though we are not all called to hold the office of presbyter, all of us, in some way, is called to be a shepherd, as we are all to do our to guide others to Christ. This after all, is not only our universal vocation to holiness, but also our specific vocation to bring others to Christ.

Peter says in this reading that one who leads should do so willingly, eagerly, and by example. Basically, if God is calling you to be a shepherd in some way... embrace it! This also has some resemblance to being a "servant leader" (leading by example), of which Christ was the primary example.

The Psalm is not only a Psalm of comfort, but one that shows us who the "chief shepherd" is. It is because Christ is the perfect shepherd that we do not fear evil, that our souls are refreshed, and why only goodness and kindness will follow us in the absolute sense. A good shepherd should provide their flock some of the same benefits. They should protect us from evil, help us receive spiritual nourishment, and lead us to do what is good and kind in all cases. Jesus is the true example of this.

Finally, in the Gospel we are told where such authority to become a shepherd is received--from Christ of course. It is by our realization that Jesus is God, and the confession of such, that we are given the authority to be disciples for Christ. Those who do not do such, do not have that authority--for you cannot give what you have not received.

Let us come to accept the call to shepherd God's people and live out our vocation to discipleship.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lenten Reflection--"Choosing Life"

Thursday after Ash Wednesday

Dt 30:15-20
Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 and 6
Lk 9:22-25

"Choose Life... that your descendants might live..."

This is the "sound-bite" of the readings that so succinctly captures the essence of what I want to talk about today, "choosing life", specifically life in the LORD. Lent is all about choosing live a life rooted in God so that not only we, but all of our progeny, have a chance at choosing eternal life. In other words, when we choose life in God, we help others to as well, especially our children, whom we possess so much influence over.

So how do you "choose life"? I believe the readings outline this perfectly, but the most beautifully simple statement comes in the first reading right after our "topic sentence"-- "by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." Basically, it all comes down to the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love!

Everyone's Favorite Virtues

The Theological Virtues are basically good habits that come directly from God, so why wouldn't they be our favorites?

Faith is the first Theological Virtue, that from which the other two sprout. It is simply the ability to believe, specifically in God and His. Without belief in God we cannot have life in Him. While this virtue is not explicitly stated in the readings today, it permeates the entire idea, as hope and love are not possible without this virtue. How do we believe? It can come in many facets, but is primarily as assent of the Intellect, the Will, and the Spirit. In some capacity we reason to believe, we choose to believe, and we desire to believe.

Hope-- Hope is the second Theological Virtue, stemming from our belief in God and leading towards love of Him. It is the virtue by which we trust in the promises which God has made to us. True Hope is certain, for the promises God made he will surely not break. The first reading states that we should "hold fast" to the Lord, which is a beautiful characterization of what hope should be... an anchor of sorts. The Psalm however is where this virtue is mostly discussed within the readings. Psalm 1 states "Blessed are those who hope in the Lord"--how perfectly this shows the result of Hope!

Love-- Love is the third Theological Virtue, blooming from the fruit of Faith and Hope. It is the Virtue by which we will the good of others, and when applied to God, encompasses obedience and worship. This is what the third reading deals with--how to love. Love deals primarily with Sacrifice, for to will the good of others, we sometimes must put aside our own needs. This is what Jesus meant when he told us to "Deny yourself and take up your cross", and that we must be willing to lose our life in order to save it--in other words, we must give it to God. Without sacrifice, we cannot love, and we cannot choose life... for it is our very faith and hope in God and His promises that allows us to endure such suffering.

The Challenge

This lent, let us Choose life--let us strive to live our the Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love as we sacrifice and do penance. For it is only through such virtue that Eternal Life is chosen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lenten Reflection--Ash Wednesday

This year I am going to attempt to post a daily reflection during Lent based on the readings of Mass that day.

Ash Wednesday:
Jl 2:12-18
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 12-13, 14 and 17
2 Cor 5:20—6:2
Mt 6:1-6, 16-18

When reading and reflecting on the above readings, the primary theme that comes to mind is having proper relationship with God and the effect of such in our lives. This is a wonderful theme to start off the season of Lent because it is supposed to be a time of repentance, re-turning towards God, and cultivating a better relationship with Him through various actions. Let us examine a few of the ways in which we can build proper relationship with God during this season of Lent.

The Heart
In the first reading the LORD says "return to me with your whole heart". While rather obvious, this seems to be something that many Christians take for granted--we are supposed to give God our WHOLE Heart! Not just half, not only the parts we are proud of--the whole thing. How do we do such a thing? Through "Fasting, Weeping, and Mourning". Wait... so we're supposed to deny ourselves and in a sense suffer, in order to return to God? Yes, what a concept... why would God want us to suffer? Because He loves us(how antithetical)! We are human, and often we return to God only when we suffer. Even if we rejoice in God with our joys, suffering still unites us to the Sacrifice of Christ and brings us closer to Him in meditation of His Passion. This is one concepts behind the idea of "Penance". So now that we know how to give our hearts to God in during Lent, what is the effect? He will "relent and give blessing". Basically, God rewards pure actions and a contrite heart... it's called Heaven. The Psalm also points to the necessity of "creating a clean heart" in receiving the Mercy of God. Finally, the Gospel speaks of going to your "inner room", which in one interpretation, means entering into your heart to speak to God. After all, if you've given it to him completely, He is sure to be there!

Fasting, Prayer, and Alms Giving
While its good to know that the heart is arguably the most important personal concern during Lent developmentally, how manage your heart is even more important to understand. Typically, the Catholic Church holds that the three primary practices of Lent are Fasting, Prayer, and Alms-giving.

Fasting--Also known as "abstaining" this is the practice of giving something up. While it typically applies to meat (which there are rather simple rules about), the Church encourages the faithful to give up something in addition (Pop, Facebook, Chocolate, etc.). The idea is that, by stripping away those things that ordinarily distract us from God, as well as causing us a bit of discomfort, we are more able to focus on God. Therefore, fasting in and of itself is useless unless paired with its goal--prayer and a change of behavior. This principle is blatantly supported in the first reading.

Prayer--The value of prayer is obvious--it's conversation with God and a necessity in fostering a love of Him. If done correctly, fasting should bring us into deeper prayer than we are used to. Especially appropriate for lent is the meditation on the various trials of Jesus (the Temptation, Crucifixion, Death of Lazarus, etc.), as these things are especially relevant to the Spirit of Lent. Again, the Gospel reading gives us some ideas about how we should pray.

Alms-giving--The least known practice of Lent, alms-giving should be the effect of fasting and prayer, as they aim to turn our heart towards God, ultimately resulting in "changed behavior". Typically, the practice is giving money to the poor. In reality however, I think Alms could apply to any of the Spiritual or Corporal works of Mercy. The concept of Alms is stated briefly in the Gospel (which also tells us how to give alms), but I believe it is also alluded to in the 2 Cor. reading when Paul calls us "brothers and sisters in Christ" and implores us to "work together to be reconciled to God".

Knowing now the Spirit of lent, let us cultivates our hearts, minds, and spirits through the sacred practices of Lent. In doing such practices we return to God, the effects of which are obviously enumerated not only in scripture, but in the very desires of our soul.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Religious Culture

I'm contemplating today about culture--specifically the difference in culture between Protestants and Catholics.

Side note: wouldn't you think that the term "protestant" would be a derogatory term... seeing as the whole basis of the name is that they "protested" which I guess I isn't an inherently bad thing... but still?

Anyway, I'm reading this book called "The Complete Guide to High Impact Youth Ministry" By Ron Luce, the guy who founded Teen Mania Ministries (most well known for their "Acquire the Fire" event). Anyway, this guy has a ton of huge ideas and encourages people to dream big, yada yada yada. He says there is really no excuse for a youth group to encompass an entire town or region, having up to 1,000 kids. Basically his goals and assertion that we should all have the same goals, makes me feel like crap.

I mean really... is this guy part of reality? He seems to think it's easy to get teens to Church. I wish I knew the kids he did... or maybe I just am not good at recruiting people. If that's the case, then, according to him, I'm not doing my job well.

And then I think, "well maybe he just doesn't know Catholic Culture". For all I know, protestant youth groups are busting at the seams just like he says... but I know very few Catholic Youth Groups with over 100 kids regularly participating.

Part of the problem is, I'm not sure how to define Catholic/Protestant Culture. I have some Ideas of course: Protestant culture seems almost more charismatic, more of a focus on the Holy Spirit, and in some way more "grassroots". I have more problems defining my own Catholic culture... but maybe that's usually the case with a culture that one is engrained in.

Either way, if you can enlighten me as to the nature of either culture, the reality of such a large following, or how to better get youth involved, please feel free to post. This may be a topic I will visit more once I have though more about it.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Alas, Fair Princess

Alas, fair princess to where hast thou fallen
To where have thou hidden thy gown
Where once there were dolls and ponies and princes
Now lies thy rusty old crown

And Alas, brave knight, to where hast thou ridden
Thy steed no place to be found
Shining armor once shown in the glorious sun
Now lies cast aside on the ground

Alas, dear dreams to where hast thou faded
Like a tide slips away from the shore
The dreams that didst once give life to thy hope
Are allowed no longer to soar

Alas, fair youth to where have thou flown
A bird taken flight barely seen
For success in the eyes of the world thou’st abated
What the purpose of youth truly means

Alas, innocence where hast thou been laid
What grave now houses thy grace
The victim of pain and all that is vain
Has caused you to flee from this place

Now in flies the darkness with crashing of waves
Lightning streaking the sky
And the gnashing and wailing of those long forgotten
The world fails to hear all their cries

The men on whose shoulders once we were standing
Have now been cut at the knees
The Id and the “I” now all that matters
Reality no longer believed

So come fair princess, brave knight, and my dreams
Once again with the virtues of youth
Cast out the darkness, this sign of our times
Show us the way to the truth

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

On the Busyness of a Generation

One thing I've noticed in my ministry and time with teens is how busy they are. One girl I know is in Show Choir, Speech, and the "One Act" this semester. All of her weekends are booked solid, she has practice for one thing or another every day after school until at least 5, does homework for her 3 AP courses until dinner, eats, and goes to bed.

When does a teen like this have time to practice their faith... almost as important, when does a teen like this have time to be teen, to foster good relationships, and take time for themselves?

But this is not just an isolated case--most of my youth suffer from the "overdrive syndrome". They do marching band, track, speech, basketball, play, show choir, dance, hockey... all of which take up at least three days a week after school, as well as most weekends.

Granted, I am a little biased; I would rather have them spend all their time at Church. But even so, I would not want them spending ALL they're time here... a kid needs time to be a kid.

What are the side effects of this? Well, people have trouble prioritizing and committing. Deadlines to my youth and parents seem to be relative. They never want to commit to anything unless they know what else will be going on at the time. They are always waiting for something better to come along. Also, because parents tend to put more of a focus on Athletic and Artistic achievement rather than spiritual achievement, our kids are not getting spiritually fed.

So who's to blame? Well, everyone. The parents are to blame for letting they're kids do so much (they should limit activities) and for instilling an extreme "need to succeed" attitude. The kids are at fault for not being able to prioritize, commit, and realize what they need in life. The Church is to blame to for not making Faith marketable to youth.

How do we fix this? We need to let our children know that they're worth is not based on how much they do, but on who they are in God. They need to know that silence, simplicity, and spirituality are the keys to a healthy and happy life. Finally, they need to be forced to make decisions and to ask themselves "what is most important in my life, and why?"

So concludes my rant for the day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Snow is Evil

I woke up this morning with an abject indifference to life in its current state. I feel like I've fallen into the daily grind, the proverbial rut, and my life has seemingly become devoid of meaning. I know this is only perception though... at least I pray it is. It means I will snap out of it soon.

I blame winter. Winter is lifeless.

I think I have mild Seasonal Affect Disorder. I really need winter to be over. It's so cold, and I'm really sensitive to it--my hand goes numb after a couple minutes outside. Every morning my car is covered with snow... it just won't stop snowing. Pound by pound, inch by inch, the sky just keeps dumping this cold, life stealing, crystal on me. Its suffocating me and closing me in. Snow can be beautiful... but I need to see some green, I need to see some life.

I got a new book idea at least... that's something.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Random Facts

I feel like I have so much going through my head and yet nothing to really say or write. So i'm just going to see where this post takes me. Perhaps I'll just start with listing some facts i've noticed about myself.

I'm a jealous person. I don't like it, but I find its really part of who I am.

I hate pity. Sometimes when people say "i'll pray for you", or "I'm so sorry", or some other attempt at consoling me I sometimes get angry. I sometimes wonder why that is.

I haven't gone to confession in months. I really need to go. I've been distant from God lately and I desire so strong to try, but without regular confession I find it very hard to stay strong in my faith.

That being said, I hate going to confession with my boss.

I really love cooking, but seldom have the motivation to do so.

I hate cleaning up after I cook.

I've been working more on my book, but I find it really hard to stay motivated.

I really want to go back to school.

I feel like I'm one massive contradiction--I'm organized yet spacey, a loner yet desire companionship, love to do nothing yet hate being lazy, a night owl but I go to bed early... is this normal?

I really wish I played piano and guitar more.

This has probably been enough of a post, and my mind is somewhat clearer.

Friday, February 5, 2010

On the Origin of Crabbykins

I think I am crabby today... it's not always easy for me to tell whether I am or not. I don't wake up in the morning and consciously say "I'm going to be crabby today". Rather, it's more as though I start noticing how little patience I have with people or situations, which in turn, makes me even more consciously crabby.

What's even more, sometimes I'm just content to allow myself to wallow in my crabbyness.

(Tangent: isn't it interesting that "wallow" is really just "allow" with a "w"--so we can't wallow unless we allow ourselves to. Also, the technical definition of wallow is "to take great joy in", but its almost always used in a negative connotation... interesting)

Anyway, what causes us to be crabby? Sure.. it can be tiredness, stress, emotional duress... but what is the actual cause? Is there something biological going on? What causes humans to have less patience? Maybe the question I'm really asking is what is the origin of patience/

Anyway, no answers today--i'm not much in a thinking mood.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

On Beds and Dream Land

I consistently have problems getting out of bed. Last night was the first time in months that I slept completely through the night without waking up at all. It was glorious, and thus I awoke without feeling tired. Nevertheless, I stayed in my bed and slept another hour... waking up frequently, tossing and turning, and not really getting anything out of it anyway. I actually ended up MORE tired than if I had just gotten up when my body told me to.

The thought has crossed my mind that i'm depressed. But I don't think not wanting to get out of bed should be the sole criteria for that--Overall I'm happy with my life and am still staying interested in things I love, etc. Rather, I really think I just like the physical comfort of my bed--the warm blanket rapped around my body, pillow under my head--it's like a warm, pleasing shelter on a cold, dead morning. How could I not blame myself for sleeping in that extra hour every morning and being "late" for work. Thankfully I have a flexible work schedule. Needless to say, I am in NO way a morning person.

I usually remember most of the dreams I have because I typically wake up after each of them. However, since I didn't wake up until I "woke up", I only remember my last dream. It was a dream I was married. Lame, right? It was only one of the most beautiful dreams I have ever had, and just reflecting on it still puts me in a good mood.

The joy of it was that it was a completely simple dream. I obviously loved the woman I was with, and she loved me. The joy was doing all the little romantic things for her--coming home and giving her a kiss, doing the dishes with her, having a nice romantic meal, sneaking up behind her, hugging her from behind, and giving her a kiss, cuddling in the backseat of a pick-up truck and looking at the stars. All things I look forward to with my future wife. What a way to start off the day!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Candle and the Flame

A man searching for God lived in a world of darkness. When he looked around the world he lived in, all he saw was sadness and the bad choices of humanity. But the man loved God, and truly wanted to find his presence in the world. The man looked all over but even he himself was dark, and though he loved God, he acted badly himself, adding to the darkness. But still the man was determined to find the light of God in the world.
One day while the man was out walking he saw a candle in the window of the home he was passing. Just like every other home on the street, it was dark. The man thought it was just an ordinary candle, nothing special, and though it gave just a bit of light to the world, the man didn’t think it anything special. So the man walked on, continuing his search for God’s presence.
On his walk the next day, the man decided to walk by the candle again. He spent a little more time looking at it, and realized that it was a rather beautiful candle, prettier than most, but to him still just a candle. He walked away for a second time, but the candle held a place in the back of his mind.
The man started to frequent the candle each and every day, and as he began to know the candle better and see it for what it really was, he began to fall in love with the candle. The candle was the most beautiful candle he had ever seen. Once he really began to look at it, he realized that it gave off more light than any candle he had ever seen. It seemed to brighten everything around it. He also noticed that the candle gave off more heat than he had ever felt come from a candle, it warmed his heart and everything around it, and made him happy once again. It made him see God’s presence in the darkness, and because of this, the man became more like God. Even more, the candle lit up and warmed the heart of the man, who took the spirit of the candle with him wherever he went. This helped him brighten the day of others he saw, because they started seeing God’s presence in the man.
Every day the man grew more and more in love with the candle, and every day he longed to take it home with him so he could be in its presence. However, the man soon realized that the candle was not meant to be his. Although the candle showed him the light of God more than any other candle he had seen, the candle was made to be somebody else’s. This greatly saddened the man, for all he wanted in life was to love the candle who so helped him love God.
Every day it got harder and harder for the man to come and look at the candle. The candle seemed to grow more beautiful and shined brighter every day, and the man only felt pain when he looked at it. Because of this, the man’s world soon turned to darkness yet again. He blamed God for putting in the world a candle that he so loved, and then not allowing him to be with it. Finally, one night, the man yelled at God and cried out with all the pain and tears that he kept inside.
God spoke to him. God told him that His presence in the world was not shown in just one candle, but in everybody who loved. He said that the man who loved the candle was now a sign of God for everyone in the world, because he finally realized what it was like to love like God. “I love you unconditionally”, he told the man, “and yet you don’t always love me back”. God told him that this made him sad, but he continues to love us all the same, even though the love may cause him pain. After listening to God, the man realized his pain was worth it because he could offer it up to God to make the candle burn even brighter for the next person to see.
The man realized that God let him love the candle so that he could learn to love everybody, even with the darkness. He realized that it was ok to love the candle even if the candle couldn’t love him back, because it was his very love for the candle that helped the candle burn so bright, and it was that same love that would make him burn bright as well.
The man then looked at his own heart, and saw a flame burning inside it. He realized then that beauty came from God burning deep within you. The reason the candle had been so beautiful was not only that it was a stunningly gorgeous candle, but because the candle had shown him God’s love like no one else in the world had.
Realizing this, the man set out into the darkness to help other people find God’s presence in the world. He would be God’s flame of love for anyone who needed it.

Being a Phlegmatic-Melancholic (PhMl)

This post begins my in-depth analysis of my personality using both the frequent personality test I have taken, and my own experience and introspection. The first paradigm I will use is the "Keirsey-Temperament Test". This is an ancient way of looking at personality based of the "Four Greek Temperaments" as is a function that primarily measures Behavior. The results I will be analyzing for my personality type are from this website ( which I have found to be the most concise, while still present quality and substantial information.

"Phlegmatic melancholics live for predictable results."

Heck yeah! PhMl's are a behavioral psychologists dream. We thrive on consistency and if something works once to our benefit, we will do it again and again to achieve the same results. I find this at work in my daily life by my daily routine--I get up, get ready, go to work, come home, eat supper, relax, read, go to bed. If that is altered in someway, I exhibit a certain level of anxiety--no matter how excited I am for the change.

"They focus on key processes, proven relationships, and reliable procedures" "They have a methodical, thorough, and dependable approach to what they do"

The key process statement is the crux of this section--PhMl's have a distinct canny at seeing the essential and most necessary part of any process. Because we are predominantly practical, we have the ability to strip away all the unnecessary crap and find the most practical and obvious solution to a problem. Our means of execution are mostly methodical (and sometimes slow), consisting of step-by-step processes that we are positive will work do to past experience, extensive research, or credible authority.

They don't mind change, but they like to be sure that the change is attainable and that the change will result in a desired improvement before they commit to anything.

Though sometimes resistant to it, we do not mind change--for we are practical and realize that change is often necessary. However, we do not like committing to something we are not sure will work (that's our melancholic need for perfection), and if we don't believe the change is necessary, likely to succeed, or not worth the work, we will not advocate for it.

Other Important things to note:
"They prefer being in charge of process controls".

This is one aspect that highlights the complexity and contradiction of the PhMl. We don't usually like to be in leadership positions (more on that later), but we do like to be in control. We typically think that, because we see the essence and necessity of most things, we know best how to go about it. We also sometimes have the mentality of "if you want something done right, do it yourself".

They pay attention to every detail.
This is pretty self-explanatory. We may not let you know we know... or may not realize ourselves, but we typically (if we are not cognitively strained at the moment) see everything, and store it for later in our mind.

* They dislike opposition, hostility, and adversity. This is probably one of the two main reasons we dislike leadership--we are inherent peacemakers and will typically fight tooth and nail to avoid conflicts. We often don't say everything that we think or want(especially to strangers and acquaintances) in fear that we might offend, anger, or inconvenience the other person. This can also prove a challenge in marriage and parenting, as we don't always tell our spouse what we want/need, and sometimes are the parent that is a little more lax on discipline in order to "spare their child's feelings".

They crave stability and clarity.
We've already covered the stability part. The clarity is important too. When given a task, the PhMl needs to have exact, detailed, and complete instructions in order to do the task. Because we fear failure and need to please those we serve, any ambivalence about what we are to do can cripple us from doing a job.

They are always tactful and measured.
A PhMl is nothing if not polite and tactful. This comes from our desire to please. However, because of our practicality and "essentiality" we also have a knack for being blunt when we need to. It's a fine line to tread. We seldom speak unless we have something to say, and we typically plan our actions and words before they are executed.

* They become reserved and indifferent when under pressure, both because they want to avoid hostility and because they want to avoid mistakes.
The second most important PhMl principle (only to that of consistency and predictability) is that we absolutely fear and abhor failure and mistakes. This is also the second reason we dislike leadership. If we fear that we cannot do something perfectly, we will procrastinate or not do. NEVER nag a phlegmatic, they will only sink deeper into indifference, and you will never get what you want.

For more information on personality profiles, check out my hub

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

On Thirst and Knowledge

For as long as I can remember I have longed to acquire knowledge. In my hirearchy of motivations it is second only to deep relationships. The Enneagram speaks to this fact--I consistently test as a "4" with a very strong "5" wing.

What is it that gives me my thirst and desire to know all things?

I have always held value in my intelligence. Perhaps my longing to acquire knowledge is to aid my ego and confidence in myself through that facet.

The pursuit of wisdom is the pursuit of God. Perhaps I realize that by journeying to know all things, I am thus journeying to know the ways of God.

Maybe i'm just interested in a lot of things and long to understand them.

Some questions are not answerable... perhaps this is one of them. Is it important to know why I want to know? Probably, so as to guard against vain or sinful pursuits. Most likely its a combination of all three explanations, and perhaps more I have not thought of. For now though, my mind has run out of ideas concerning this topic.

Monday, February 1, 2010

"What's My Motivation"

I have lately felt as though I am an exotic fish trapped in the fish bowl of a Gold Fish. This world I'm in right now just seems to small to contain me--my ambitions seem so much greater, and I feel as though i'm called to do greater things than just live in Marshall, MN. I don't mean this in an arrogant fashion, for all those who do God's will do great things, but lately I've felt as though my dreams cannot be contained.

I want to travel and see the world, I want to write books and perform music. I want to speak to crowds and teach. I want to foster deep relationships with all sorts of people. I want to learn a dozen languages and experience the culture of many people. It's not so much that I want to be great, or even do great things, but rather I want to live a great life.

I feel bad that my plans seem so grandiose, so superfluous, so... expensive, but I realize that these dreams come from a longing in my Soul. God has planted these desires in my heart for a reason, and I intend to find something that will enable me to live the life I dream of.

And so, for now, I work patiently in Marshall, asking, much like an actor, "what's my motivation?" Dreams change, and maybe mine will too (I know they already have in some aspects), but I have always felt called to do something great, and I intend to seek it out. Ironically, patience is the everlasting fuel of those who seek.

A New Start

I have resolved to start blogging again--perhaps every day if I can force myself to keep up the motivation. I do this as an attempt to reignite the flame of inspiration back into my life. Long has it been since I've felt the joy of a new idea coursing through my mind, like a being of its own longing to come to life.

I don't think my life, or my mind, are boring per se... I only think that perhaps I fail to properly to consider the beauty and depth of life, or to fully embrace the capacity of my human mind to delve into the truths of reality to the extent to which I should.

And so, for now at least, this will become the post-it note of my mind in an effort to force myself to exercise the God-given gift of reflection. It may be interesting, it may be dull. It may be complex and simple all at the same time. It may be perfunctory, deep, silly, sad... it may be a multitude of many a thing. But Hopefully the last thing it will be is empty.

This is my soul's search for meaning, and so I invite you dear reader, if a reader you may be, to journey with me if you feel yourself brave enough. And with that dear reader, "Once more into the breach, dear friends".