Spiritual Investments

 

Recently, I had a discussion with Dave, my financial advisor. He wanted to update me on investments, as well as guide me in making decisions on what to do with the money I have been saving. He says this every time, but he knows it’s worth repeating: “Our ultimate goal is to get you ready for retirement.”

When I first met Dave and he discussed us working together, he mentioned three points of importance:

  1. You need a plan. If you don’t have a financial plan, you will never be prepared for retirement.
  2. While the short term is important, it’s really all about looking at the long term picture. Don’t be afraid of mistakes and failures. You will win in the long run.
  3. You need to be persistent. Your money needs to keep growing. You can’t borrow against it or use it for an emergency with plans to pay it back. (You never will.)

While many of us have financial plans for our future, we don’t always talk about our spiritual investments.

  1. You need a plan. Living a life of faith just doesn’t happen. You need to invest in the power of doing good. Everything starts with a good intention. The secret is to discover how to put your intention into action.
  2. While the short term is important, it’s really all about looking at the long term picture. Living a life of faith takes energy. As humans, we get selfish. We get crabby. We often forget about taking care of each other. If we stick with our plan, the long term picture only gets stronger.
  3. You need to be persistent. Living a life of faith is not a part-time-Sunday-morning-when-I-feel-like-it type of job. It’s a life choice. Who do you want to be? What’s your plan? How are you going to stick with it every single day of your life?

I trust Dave to guide me with my money. I trust God to guide me in my faith. And I know both will be earning interest and paying high dividends.

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Joy

They arrived one minute before the Mass began and sat in the row in front of me. Mom took off her long, tan coat, then removed the baby from the carrier. She gently picked up the small child and immediately snuggled him to her chest.

In a moment, Dad arrived. He took off his coat and immediately grabbed his son. Mom watched with pride.

Together they sang and prayed and took turns holding the newest member of their family. Neither Mom nor Dad could stop smiling.

When parents welcome a new child into their lives, everything changes. All of their thoughts, emotions, and actions are focused on the baby. They would do anything for their child. Anything. They love their child with all their heart and all their soul.

On that Sunday morning, when I watched Mom and Dad in the row in front of me, it wasn’t simply happiness I saw on their faces. I saw pure joy in their hearts.

It’s the kind of joy we all want in our lives.

This Christmas, we have a chance to experience this joy. It starts with two simple questions.

Are we prepared to welcome Jesus into our lives? Are we ready to let Him guide our thoughts, emotions, and actions?

Reach down, pick up the Christ child, and snuggle Him to your chest.

Love Him with all your heart and all your soul.

Then share Him with the world around you.

Be prepared, because everything changes. You too, will be smiling from ear-to-ear. And you too will feel the joy in your heart.

Merry Christmas.

You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch

 

When Dr. Seuss was 53 years old, he was fed up. The children’s book author and illustrator was tired of the noise, the constant activity, and the busy-ness that was attached to Christmas. His desire was that people would celebrate the joy and peacefulness of the season without all the hoopla detracting from it.

So he did what any great writer does. He wrote a story about it. How the Grinch Stole Christmas has become a classic, spanning over five decades.

It’s funny that in today’s world we think of the Grinch as an awful and mean creature. We forget that he actually transformed his attitude about Christmas. He saw the Whos in Whoville celebrating together, even without the gifts and food. He discovered that it was about being together and sharing this special day with each other.

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps, means a little bit more.

And what happened then? Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.”

How is your Advent going? Are you caught up in the gifts, food, and busy-ness? Are you finding yourself getting anxious about the things to do and people on your shopping list?

What is your focus as we approach Christmas Day? Are you finding time to pray, reflect and give thanks for the miracle of Christmas? Are you setting aside time to be fully present with those you love and those you meet?

How big is your heart this Christmas season?

Impossible

How would you like to prepare a meal for 4,000 people?

Many of us have cooked Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners with tables full of people. It’s takes planning and coordination. And it takes a bit luck to make sure everything is ready to eat at the exact same time.

But making a meal for 4,000 people? I think most of us would say one simple word: “Impossible.”

In today’s Gospel, we read how Jesus and his disciples went up to a mountain near the Sea of Galilee. The crowd that was following Him had been with Him for three days, and Jesus knew he needed to get them something to eat. But when He made the suggestion for a dinner break, the disciples responded with their own version of “impossible.”

“Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” 

Needless to say there were no nearby grocery stores and the ability to call for take-out wouldn’t be invented for a few thousand years.

But of course we know how this story ends. We’re all familiar with the loaves and fishes and the extra baskets of scraps.

How quick are you to say something is impossible in your life? How often do you reject an idea or a thought simply because you don’t think you’re able to follow through on it? We often find ourselves rejecting our abilities and talents, or questioning our place in the world. “I’m not good enough. I can’t do it.”

The Feeding of the 4000 is a lesson for us all. It’s a simple reminder that we can easily turn the word “Impossible” into two words: “I’m possible.”

All we need to do is repeat one simple sentence: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”-Philippians 4:13

Preparing Our Hearts

In 1978, Dr. Amar Bose was flying from the US to Switzerland, when he was given a pair of headphones by the airline staff to listen to music. The problem was, the plane was so loud that he could barely hear the music.

So what did he do? He did what any great sound engineer would do. He began sketching plans for the first pair of noise cancelling headphones.

In 2018, every electronics company in the world offers some form of noise cancelling headphones. And with good reason. There is a lot of noise out there.

Here we are today, at the beginning of the holiday season. Advent is here, and we’re thinking of ways that we can prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

The problem is, there is a lot of noise out there: holiday parties, shopping, Christmas cards, work events, more shopping…our minds are filled with December noise.

So what can we do? How can we cancel out the noise? It’s actually very simple. We each have our own noise cancelling device: it’s called prayer.

Matthew Kelly says it best: “In the classroom of silence, we discover who we are and the Father’s love for us.”

This Advent, make an appointment each day for five minutes. Find a corner of your house…or the front seat of your car…or anywhere that you can get away. Put on your noise cancelling headphones (either literally or figuratively), and talk to God. Ask Him to quiet your brain, to relax your breathing, and calm the world around you.

And then begin the preparations to have Jesus reborn in your heart once again.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

A Grateful Heart

 

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,

for his steadfast love endures forever!”

– Psalm 107:1

I’ve become very good at asking God for things. My prayers are filled with requests for a variety of areas of my life.

But what about gratitude? Do I always tell God how much I appreciate what He does for me?

Beginning this Thanksgiving, I am taking on a daily challenge: I want to develop a grateful heart.

The challenge will be simple:

  1. Every single day I will find a quiet moment and choose one thing for which I’m grateful.
  2. I will then use that moment to say a short prayer and thank God.
  3. The challenge is this: I want each day to have a unique focus of gratitude with no duplication. I’ll keep a small notebook to keep track of things.

I’m hoping the result will be a new habit—my way of consistently discovering things that I value in life. I want God to know that I appreciate everything He does for me every single day.

By Thanksgiving 2019, I hope to have a list of 365 things I’m grateful for. And I will have developed a grateful heart.

Won’t you join me?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

Holding Hands

There is a couple who live a few houses east of me who go for a long walk every single morning. Rain or shine, snow or sleet, they make their way past my house and disappear several blocks away.

What’s interesting about this couple is that they walk the entire distance of their journey holding hands.

When I saw them the other morning, I started thinking about hand holding.

  • We can’t wait to hold a newborn’s hand; in fact we love it when they wrap their tiny fingers around ours.
  • If you ever spend time on a school playground, you will see grade school girls all playing together, often holding hands.
  • When we first start dating, we can’t get enough hand holding. In fact, it’s odd when you see a very young couple not holding hands.
  • We hold hands at our wedding to profess our vows and exchange rings.
  • And then…we stop. As we climb the ladder of age, we simply stop holding hands.
  • That is, until we encounter someone very sick and close to death. We once again reach out and gently wrap our fingers around theirs.

God is reaching out to us every single day, asking us to hold his hand. Come, follow me. Let me lead you. Do you reach back? Do you happily wrap your fingers around His?

Are you extending your hand to others?

Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we are all on this journey together. Wouldn’t it be nice to hold someone’s hand along the way?

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

Built Solid and Strong

 

It was a black Brimnes wardrobe with 3 doors. It had a mirror mounted in the front and lots of shelves inside for storage. I was so excited to make my purchase at Ikea, deliver it to my house and prepare to put the entire wardrobe together.

I opened the box, laid out all of the pieces and began the assembly process. Not too bad, I thought. I can look at the final photo and figure everything out. I mean, how tough could it be to put together?

Yeah, right. It took me three minutes to get confused. Was “A” a left side panel or right? Which screws was I supposed to use for the top? Did I attach the shelves first or last?

I knew I was in over my head and reached for the instructions.

That made me think about how I assemble the days of my life. Am I simply laying out all my pieces and randomly trying to put things together? Do I know my priorities ? Do I know the steps I should follow to get things accomplished?

If only life came with instructions.

Ah…but they do. God has given us two simple instructions:

  1. Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.
  2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

That’s it. The instructions are clear and easy to understand…IF we take the time to read them. So often we think we can do everything on our own. I don’t need God’s help. I can figure this out on my own. I have all the answers.

But there always comes a moment when we realize that our lives are made up of lots of screws and lots of shelves, each with different uses.

If we take the time to ask for help and follow God’s instructions, there is no doubt that our lives will be built solid and strong.

 

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

Every Minute of Every Day

I could tell that something was wrong with my friend Shawn.

His handshake didn’t have the usual firmness. He was having a hard time maintaining eye contact. His voice was a bit softer and a lot sadder.

“I relapsed,” he finally said, looking down at his feet. “A few months ago.”

There was a pause as Shawn thought about what his next words would be. In that pause, I thought about how hard Shawn had worked to stop drinking. He moved to Wisconsin to go to rehab. He started a new job. He developed routines and habits that could help him grow as a person.

“It wasn’t that I got weak,” Shawn said. “I actually felt strong. Like I could handle one drink for a celebration. But I couldn’t.”

I didn’t know what to say, so I simply put my hand on his shoulder. Shawn smiled. “It’s not just a daily struggle, it’s an hourly struggle. It’s something I battle every single minute of every single day.”

We stand in silence for a few moments, each thinking of the right words to say next. I know that Shawn is a man of faith. I know that he trusts that God guides him. But sometimes he needs reassuring that he is on the right path.

“I’m praying for you, Shawn. Not as often as I should, but I am praying for you.”

“I know,” he responds. “People don’t realize how powerful their prayers are. They mean the world to me. I can feel them surround me and guide me. They also don’t realize that a word of encouragement can make the difference between staying sober and blacking out for two days.”

Think about the Shawns in your life. They may not be alcoholics, but they may be suffering. Have you let them know you’re praying for them? Have you let them know you support them? Have you let them know you care?

You never know when one simple sentence could be the difference in someone’s life.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

The Intern

Next week I’m going to introduce you to Sandra. Sandra will be your new personal intern.

Sandra is going to be with you for the next three months, and she’s going to learn
everything she can from you on how to live a life of faith. She’ll watch what you do, she’ll listen to what you say, and she’ll see how you interact with the people you encounter throughout the day.

While most of the activity you will have with Sandra will be day-to-day living, I’d like you to start the first day with a simple, straight-forward conversation. I’d like you to tell Sandra about the three most important things you do to demonstrate to the world that you are a Christian. Keep it simple. Start taking notes now.

After that, it’s all about you—what you do, what you say and how you live.

I know that having a personal intern is a great responsibility, but so is being a Christian. You never really have a “day off.” You never have a chance to have a “cheat day.” You need to be your best, 525,600 minutes each year.

Good luck. We wouldn’t have selected you if we didn’t think you were up to the challenge. Sandra has a lot to learn.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.