Performances of Love

It was February, 2016 and my friend Wanda was officially excited. She had just purchased tickets for her sister and her to see the Broadway production of Hamilton in New York. She had heard nothing but rave reviews for the musical, and she knew this would be a magical night.

For the next two months, Wanda had difficult containing her excitement. She was obsessed with the musical’s soundtrack, listening to it day and night. She made her hotel reservation, secured her flight and actually packed her bag for New York three weeks in advance. It was all she thought about.

The night finally arrived, and she felt a rush of adrenaline as she entered the Richard Rodgers Theatre. And then she began to hear the buzz. And she could feel the disappointment hanging in the air.

The creator and star of Hamilton, Lin-Manual Miranda was sick and would not be performing at that evening’s performance. An understudy was taking over. Miranda was the driving force behind the production, and Wanda felt her heart sink as she made her way to her seat.

The house lights dimmed and the music began. The play opened and the understudy appeared on stage and sang his first words: “My name is Alexander Hamilton.”

It was then that the unexpected happened. The audience burst into applause. The actors froze on stage for a good twenty seconds waiting for the cheers to die down. It truly was a magical moment.

The understudy was magnificent. Wanda and her sister left the theatre inspired. It was a night she would never forget.

Some two years later, I’m still thinking about Wanda’s magical night, this time as it relates to my faith. When Jesus was on Earth, he was literally a Superstar. He was the main attraction, the Man everyone came to see.

When he left our planet and returned to Heaven, he did something very simple: He entrusted all of us to be his understudies.

  • He asked us to study our roles and deliver performances of love.
  • He asked us to not only know our part, but to bring passion to the world and carry on His mission.
  • He asked us to deliver performances that inspire. Every day. With everyone.

In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus said: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

The audience is waiting, the lights are dimming. Are you ready?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

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What’s Your Super Power?

It’s Summer. That means lots of picnics, swimming and fireworks.

It also means going to the movies to watch a summer blockbuster. And what would a summer blockbuster be without Super Heroes.

Over the years we’ve seen the familiar names: Wonder Woman, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, and Spider Man, just to name a few. Each has a unique and incredible power. Each fights for justice throughout the world, and even the universe. Each is able to use their powers alongside other Super Heroes to form a super group.

Summer is also the perfect time to develop your own super power when it comes to your faith. Each of us has the ability to perfect these powers and fight for justice in our own worlds.

  • The Power of Prayer. Every faithful Super Hero knows that their power comes from a specific source. It’s important to connect with this source on a regular basis.
  • The Power of Forgiveness. Everyone on the planet deserves forgiveness. God is ready to forgive every moment of every day. Are you?
  • The Power of Compassion. All it takes is a little practice and a big heart.
  • The Power of Love. There is nothing stronger and more powerful than the power of love.

Don’t delay! Other Super Heroes are waiting for you to join their Super Hero Group.

Remember this simple phrase that was once told to Spider Man: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

Are you ready to conquer your world?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

The Heart Leaf Philodendron

Many years ago, when I moved into my first apartment, my father gave me a plant. He actually took leaves from a plant that hung in his living room and gave me a portion of it to re-plant at my new home.

What I soon discovered was this was no ordinary plant.

My dad had quite the green thumb—he could make anything grow. The original plant was a Heart Leaf Philodendron, a common house plant. It’s been used as an indoor plant since Victorian times, and it has the ability to grow very large.

He helped me re-plant my new leaves into a small planter, and just like that, I had an instant decoration for my home.

At first it was fun to watch the leaves begin to sprout and expand. Then, the plant exploded. The vines grew long, and I wrapped them around the tiny planter. I knew I would have to re-pot it soon.

My plant traveled with me as I moved over the years. No matter where I put it—living room, kitchen, dining room—it continued to grow. All I needed to do was water the soil, spray the leaves and make sure I gave it a little bit of love.

Then my father died.

He had a heart attack on a Friday morning, and for the first time in my life I came face-to-face with death. It hurt.

The plant now took on a special meaning. This was a connection with my dad, and I wanted it close to me. I wanted to see it, so I could think of him and what he meant to me. So I took it to work and put it in my office.

But, as much as I wanted it around me, I found myself getting preoccupied with projects, paperwork and life…and the plant was neglected.

After returning from a long weekend, I found it drooping, sagging, and brown. A lot of the leaves were dead.

How could I have done this? How could I have treated my dad’s plant this way?

I cut back the dead vines, and grabbed a bottle of water. I had to return to the beginning–a small plant ready to grow again.

And it slowly came back to life, resurrected.

And then it hit me. My dad was a man of great faith. He taught me how to love and honor God. He taught me how to embrace the Holy Spirit’s constant love. He taught me to how to walk with Jesus, through good times and bad.

He was still teaching me, even after he was gone.

Sometimes we all need to stop and cut back the bad vines. We need to water our soil and spray our leaves. We need learn once again how to give a little bit of love.

And we need to believe in the power of the resurrection.

This Heart Leaf Philodendron was no ordinary plant.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

Firsts

Recently, I got to spend some time with my friends, Sam, Claire and their one-year-old son Jason. From the moment the three of them walked into my house, it was very clear that Jason was going to be the center of attention.

He had just begun to walk, so we all took turns keeping an eye and a hand on him as he bounced around my dining room, kitchen and living room.

Jason was a bundle of curiosity and energy that night. He explored every inch of my house and investigated every item on a table or shelf. (Of course that included trying to put every object into his mouth.)

After a few hours, the night finally wore Jason down and his eyes grew heavy. Sam scooped him up and carried him to the bedroom to put on his pajamas.

“It’s amazing,” said Claire, turning to me with pride. “I love watching him explore every inch of his world. Everything is new to him. Everything is a first.” She brushed her hair from her face and smiled with pride. “He’s given me so much joy not just because I love him so much, but because he’s given me a new outlook on life.” I could see tears in her eyes.

This was something I never expected. I knew the joy of a new child. I knew the love that a parent feels every moment of every day. But I never thought about living with a fresh perspective.

What if we lived every moment of our life as if it were the first time we experienced this moment? How would our life change?

Think about experiencing a sunset or a windy day. Think about holding someone’s hand. Think about sharing a meal with family and friends.

Think about going to Mass. Think about receiving the body and blood of Christ. Think about praying the Our Father with hundreds of people, all joined as one.

Think about what it would be like to open our minds and let the moments of the day satisfy our hearts.

We could be filled with firsts. Over and over again.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

Instant Prayer

I recently noticed a habit that I have. I had just finished my grocery shopping and I made my way up to the checkout lane. There were two carts in front of me, and I knew I would have a few minutes of waiting.

I immediately put my hand in my pocket and pulled out my phone. I didn’t even think about, I just mindlessly reached for it.

I didn’t have a pressing email waiting for me. I wasn’t expecting an urgent text message. I simply wanted to flip through various apps and information to see what was going on.

And then I realized something frightening. Whenever I am in “waiting mode,” I reach for my phone.

  • When I’m waiting at a long, red traffic light, I reach for my phone.
  • When I’m waiting for a friend at a restaurant, I reach for my phone.
  • When I’m waiting in a doctor’s office, I reach for my phone.

It’s automatic. My hand simply goes to my phone.

Once I discovered this habit, I quickly made a decision. Instead of fighting my phone addiction, I decided to use it to my advantage.

Every time my fingers touch my phone, it’s a trigger for me to stop. I take a breath, I calm myself and I say an Instant Prayer.

  • At the grocery store: “God, I thank you for the food that you give me to eat. Help me to remember those that are hungry and in great need.”
  • At the red light: “God, you have blessed me with the ability to move about and see your world. Help me to remember those that have daily struggles.”
  • At the doctor’s office: “God, thank you for giving me the gift of life. Help me to live each day to its fullest.”

You get the idea.

An Instant Prayer is a quick acknowledgement of what God has given me in my life. It’s a way to appreciate his love every moment of every day. Even in the grocery checkout lane.

An Instant Prayer is always tied to the environment or the situation at hand. It is quick and direct. It’s heartfelt and powerful.

And sometimes, an Instant Prayer turns into a full blown prayer and I never actually pull my phone from my pocket.

And that’s okay with me.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

A Silly Goose

Four blocks from where I live, on the front porch of a red brick two-story house sits a silly, ceramic goose. She faces out toward the street, proudly greeting everyone who travels by.

This is no ordinary goose. This goose reflects the mood of the day. For example, if it’s a rainy day, the goose is wearing a yellow rain slicker and boots. If it’s July 4th, she is decorated in red, white and blue. When it’s summer, the goose is dressed ready for the beach, complete with sunglasses and bathing suit.

It’s no secret that the woman who lives at the red brick house has a passion for life. She could easily place the goose in a nearby flower bed or a under a large oak tree and let it become part of her overall lawn decor.

Instead, she chose to make the goose a symbol of her joy for life. Families out for a walk stop and point and smile at the goose. Dog walkers glance over to see the outfit of the day. It’s become a conversation starter in the neighborhood, and brought joy to many.

It takes a lot of planning and coordinating to keep the goose dressed appropriately. It takes true dedication.

It makes me think: Am I living my faith the same way this woman is living her life? Am I always sharing my passion with others?

  • Am I making people smile with my words and actions?
  • Am I planning and coordinating so that I can become the best version of myself?
  • Am I letting the world know that I love and honor God every moment of every day?

It may be a silly goose, but it’s a great symbol for us to embrace our lives and keep our faith on the front porch of our hearts, directly facing the world passing us by.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

The Man in Yellow

Several weeks ago I went to Miller Park to watch the Brewers play. I was fascinated by a man in a bright yellow t-shirt standing out in the right field seating area.

The man was very animated, jumping up and down, and motioning to the crowd around him to start “the wave.” After several attempts to get everyone coordinated, a small handful of people stood up and screamed.

Then it stopped.

But the man in yellow was determined. I could see his arms flailing about.

And then it happened.

The crowd suddenly came to life, and the wave began to take shape. It started in right field and made its way all the way to third base…before it fell apart.

The man in yellow was not to be denied.

This time the wave made it all the way to home plate before dissolving.

But he didn’t give up.

With one gigantic leap, he started again and the wave exploded from right field and immediately had traction. It traveled past third base, past home plate, and completely around the stadium.

And then it did it again. And again. Three times around the entire ballpark, 40,000 people happily participating.

The next time that you think the influence of one person doesn’t matter, think of the man in yellow.

The next time that you say, “What can I do, I’m only one person?”, think of the man in yellow.

The next time that you think you can’t make a difference in the world, ask the 40,000 people at Miller Park who it was that got them to stand as one.

“I alone cannot change the world. But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Theresa

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

Can You Walk on Water?

When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

He said, “Come.”

Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Can you walk on water? Have you tried? Like Peter, we all have doubts.

  • We are told “be not afraid,” yet we are still filled with fear.
  • We are told “do not let your heart be troubled,” yet our hearts are often filled with worry and anxiety.
  • We are told to “trust in the Lord with all your heart,” yet there are times when we try to figure out everything ourselves without asking God for guidance.

We all begin to sink. And then we cry out: “Lord, save me.”

“O you of little faith.”

Starting today, I’m going to practice walking on water. Every move I make on solid earth, I will imagine that I’m traveling atop a smooth, clear body of water.

I take one step after another.

I move safely from shore-to-shore.

All doubt and fear is removed from me.

I am filled with faith.

All because Jesus simply says, “Come.”

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

Together. With Love.

This week I met Michelle and Steve.

Michelle is an energetic and passionate woman who worked in the nursing field in Madison, Wisconsin for many years. She had a job and a home that she loved.

Then, one day, God called her.

Michelle’s mother was battling cancer an hour away in Milwaukee. And it was not going well. The treatments were taking a toll on her body, and she was struggling with day-to-day activities.

Michelle listened to what God was asking of her. It was time to leave the home and job that she loved, and it was time to move to Milwaukee to care for Mom.

God called, and Michelle listened.

“It’s never easy to watch anyone suffer, but it’s even more difficult when it’s your mother,” Michelle said. “But I am glad that I was there. It was a very spiritual experience. Both sad and uplifting as I watched her pass on.”

When Michelle lost Mom, she found Steve. Steve, equally as energetic and passionate, worked in the nursing field in Milwaukee. He met Michelle during her frequent hospital visits with Mom. Michelle and Steve knew they were meant for each other.

If it wasn’t for God’s call, she never would have met and fallen in love with Steve.

But then God called again.

Steve was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. It is the second most commonly diagnosed blood cancer after non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The cancer grows out of control quickly, crowding out the normal cells.

Steve has no family in the Milwaukee area.

“I don’t know where I would be right now without Michelle. She is literally keeping me alive with her support and assistance. She helps me manage my medication, takes me for treatment; she takes care of my every need.”

While they are optimistic, the future does not look good for Steve’s battle. They know their days together are numbered.

God continues to call them, inviting them to savor every moment of every day. And that’s what they’re doing. Together. With love.

Is God calling you today? Are you listening?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

Courage

My friend Sara recently left her job in Wisconsin and accepted a new position as the Director of Public Relations for an Ohio school district. When Sara told me about the job, she was bubbling with enthusiasm.

“I get to celebrate the students and showcase all of their hard work and talents. I get to recognize all of the great things this group accomplishes every single day.”

She rattled off her communication plans, including enhancing their social media presence and updating the school websites.

Sara couldn’t wait to get started.

Then on February 14, 2018, Nikolas Cruz walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and everything changed. While Stoneman Douglas High School is in Parkland, Florida, the effects were felt all the way to Ohio.

“We instantly had copy-cat threats at our high school,” Sara told me. “It was horrible. We expelled two students in a one week period. One said he was going to ‘burn the school down.’ The other said he was going to ‘shoot the school up.’”

They had other threats on a regular basis. While none of them were acted out—most claimed that they were just joking—the school executives took every threat seriously.

Sara’s job instantly changed. Her celebration of students was put on hold. She worked closely with the school’s superintendent and together they tried to stay one step ahead. But it wasn’t easy. The emotion of if all took its toll on Sara. Every day she would leave for home exhausted from stress.

So what did this school district do next?

They made a few phone calls. They held a lot of meetings. And they formed an alliance.

They reached out to a number of local churches for help. These churches would act as counselors. They would offer advice on how to communicate with the student population. They would suggest ideas on how to calm the fears.

In other words, this Ohio school district turned to God.

It’s not often that a public school system has the courage to embrace faith as a solution.

Sara still has a lot of work to do. She knows that the road ahead will be challenging. But she now knows she’s not traveling down this road alone.

The next time you’re experiencing a difficult situation, think of Sara and the Ohio school district. Remind yourself of who you are and what you believe.

Have the courage to simply say, “with God, all things are possible.”

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.