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

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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.

 

They Belonged

These past two weeks I’ve been touring the state, taking photos of health care centers for the elderly (what we used to call nursing homes). I was hired to capture both the exteriors and interiors for marketing purposes, and to take a few photos of the staff and residents for social media.

Last Thursday, I stopped at a center in western Wisconsin. When I entered the building, the hallways were empty. Most of the residents were in the activity room finishing up a late afternoon game of bingo. The group of 80-somethings were all munching on cookies and drinking juice when I showed up with my camera. All eyes were on me, wondering why I was there and what I was doing.

As I said hello and introduced myself, a small, frail woman came up to me and asked if I would take her picture.

“Of course,” I replied. “ I sat her at a table, and lined up my shot to capture her thin smile.

Then I heard a buzz start to travel throughout the room. While at first a bit shy, one-by-one, all of the residents at the bingo game asked if I would also take their photo. I moved from table to table, meeting the various residents, then capturing the sometime smiling and sometimes stoic faces of these proud people.

As I lined up my last photo and focused my camera, it struck me what was going on. Here was a group of people who understand who they are. They understand where they live and why they live there.

Their lives have changed. They are no longer able to move around with swiftness and ease. It’s difficult for them to see, and even more difficult for them to hear. They’re watching their bodies slowly betray them.

Yet…they still want the world to see them. They want to have their image captured and to be recognized. They want to matter. They want to belong.

“Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me.” Psalm 71:9

For one simple moment, on one rainy Thursday afternoon, I had the privilege to capture the faces and the spirit of these wonderful men and women. And once again, they belonged.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

 

Jesus Wept

Yesterday I read a trivia question: What’s the shortest verse in the King James version of the Bible? Of course the answer is “Jesus wept.” Two simple, yet very powerful words. I’ve read those words hundreds of times, yet I’ve never truly embraced what they mean.

Jesus wept. His emotions were so strong that they overtook his body.

”Crying is a natural emotional response to certain feelings, usually sadness and hurt,” said Stephen Sideroff, PhD, a staff psychologist at Santa Monica–University of California Los Angeles & Orthopaedic Hospital. “People also cry under other circumstances or occasions. They are letting go of their guard, their defenses, tapping into a place deep inside themselves.”

I often have to remind myself that while Jesus is the Son of God, he was also human. His emotions were part of his everyday life. Just like you and me.

The verse “Jesus wept” is found in John, Chapter 11. As I read this chapter, I also read the chapter before and the chapter after. I imagined what Jesus was going through and the reasons behind His emotions.

  • In Chapter 10, Jesus is telling a gathering of people: “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” Strong words to express to a crowd. He has a great deal of responsibility.
  • In Chapter 12, it is the coming of Jesus’s Hour: “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out.” He knows that His death is coming soon.
  • Chapter 11 is the death of his friend Lazarus. While Jesus knows he will raise Lazarus from the dead, the emotion of the moment with Martha and Mary overtakes Him.

The human side of Jesus has a lot to experience in a very short period of time, He has a lot to digest. So what does he do? He lets Himself be human and He cries.

Then He immediately trusts that His Father will guide Him.

I always feel vulnerable when I cry. I feel like I’ve lost control. But in reality, it’s my body releasing the emotions that have built up inside of me for so long. The struggles, the pain, the anxiety…the unknown, they all come out in my tears.

Those are the moments when I am reminded to calm my body, close my eyes and pray one simple prayer, “Guide me, God.”

And He does.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

Love Never Fails

 

April and her grandma Jean were very close. In fact, April talked about Jean like she was talking about her best friend. Jean inspired April. She encouraged her. She challenged her. She supported her. Jean showed April what it meant to live a life of faith.

Last week Jean was visiting friends and felt a pain in her chest. Thirty minutes later, she was gone. It was a heart attack that came on sudden and strong.

In the blink of an eye, April’s world changed.

At the funeral, as people consoled April and wrapped their arms around her, one thought raced through April’s mind: “When was the last time I told my grandma that I loved her? When was the last time I actually said those words?” She was certain that her Grandma knew she loved her, but now all she wanted to do was tell her.

“If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal…If I have faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” -1 COR 13:1-2

Who do you love in your life? When was the last time you told them that you love them?

Don’t wait.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

The Power of Words

Susan stopped by the lunch room door. She could hear her co-workers talking in a hushed tone—the kind of tone used only when some juicy gossip was being exchanged. Her first reaction was to walk away and head back to her desk, but something made her stay. Her curiosity got the best of her. She was mesmerized by her co-workers words.

That is until she realized they were talking about her.

We have to admit it: most of engage in some sort of negative conversation at one time or another. If we examined all of our talk topics in a single day, I think we would be surprised at how much of it relies on disapproving reactions to people and situations.

Think about the power of words. Strong words have the ability to unite a crowd…or create a riot. They  can educate and inspire…or ridicule and humiliate. Strong words can create the foundation for our lives…or they can lead us down a path of destruction.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” -Luke 6:45

How are you choosing your words? Do you know the impact your words have on another person? Do your words reflect who you are and how you live your faith?

Think about how would you feel if you found out Susan was listening to what you said.

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.

 

I Believe

“I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.”

Do you ever wonder why we say the Nicene Creed every Sunday at Mass? Why is the Creed important?

The Nicene Creed was first formulated in AD 325 at the First Council of Nicaea, a council of Christian bishops who convened in Nicaea (a city which today is known as Iznik located in Turkey).

It was the first creed to obtain universal authority in the church, and it improved the language of the Apostles’ Creed by including more specific statements about the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit.

It was written as a declaration of our faith.

So often we find ourselves simply saying words at Mass and forgetting to truly appreciate the meaning of the words. The Nicene Creed gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on who we are, where we came from and where we want to go.

We repeat it every Sunday to remind us that we have made a decision to make the Creed the foundation of our lives. We say it together, united as one church.

  • I believe in the message of Christian faith.
  • I stand up for my faith, professing it proudly.
  • I pledge to live my faith every single day.

“Let the creed be like a mirror for you. Look at yourself in it to see whether you really believe all that you claim to believe. And rejoice every day in your faith.”-St. Augustine

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK

 

The Canvas of Life

My friend Joyce is a very talented painter. She focuses on abstracts and has the ability to combine unique colors and patterns in an emotional way on the canvas.

Her art is hard for me to explain. It’s really just a bunch of shapes and lines put together on a canvas. But Joyce is really good at what she does. She knows how to combine the right colors and right brush strokes and the right placement…and the right amount of love with each of her paintings.

Her secret is simple. Years ago she decided who she wanted to be as a painter. She thought about it long and hard, and even wrote down a mission statement for her work. She was clear and concise in her definition.

It was only after she had something that she felt truly passionate about did she actually begin her work. She couldn’t really “live her art” without knowing who she was as an artist.

This philosophy shows up in every piece she creates. It’s complex, it’s exciting, and its full of life.

Who are you as an “artist” of your faith? Do you have a philosophy for how you live your days? Are you passionate about your mission? Are you willing to work hard, every day, to accomplish your plans?

Do the results of your daily actions demonstrate who you are? Are you complex, exciting and full of life?

They say art imitates life, but sometimes we learn our best life lessons from art…and from the artists who create the work.

 

 

Dan Herda is an editor of theROCK.