Monday, October 8, 2018

Simplify


“Over all these virtues put on love, which binds the rest together and makes them perfect.” Col. 3:14  Do I clothe myself with love over everything else, over whatever style is popular, over whatever way I may be seeking to define or distinguish myself?   

“Dad, you’re wearing one brown sock, one black?”  Does what I wear say something about me?  I’m colorblind. 
More shirts than dresser space, I set out to reduce and simplify.  How many shirts do I need?  Which do I consider donating?  Does what I wear signify who I am?  Am I too attached?

The first I pull: Komen Race for the Cure  Hope Strength Support Courage Community  
Words, reprinted in the languages of our international brothers and sisters, fill a pink heart.
My wife slept in this shirt following the most emotionally draining surgery in her life.
It was also the surgery that extended her life.  Tears give way to a smile.  I’m not big on pink, but my wife says I wear it well.  I keep it. 

I recalled wearing a suit on game days as a varsity athlete.  I stood taller, distinguished among my peers who did not compete.  When we traveled, hosts knew we were the guests, the athletes.  Coaches and teachers always reminded us we represented a larger group, our school, our community by our appearance.  Has my mindset changed? 
Former players quote from my favorite mantra I designed on a team shirt.  Failure is not an option.”  Losing a game or loss in life is not failure as long as one performs and bounces back with the best of who they are.  A Texan filled the back side.  We’ll fight ‘em until hell freezes over and then we’ll fight ‘em on the ice.” 
I keep the team memory and set the shirt aside for another to promote the mantra forward.

Am I willing to give away, sometimes to the point of discomfort?
keeping
HI life.  Celebrated 26 years of marriage while hiking with my family in Hawaii.  I’m HI on life!
Infinite # of math expressions splattered across fabric.  Creation’s mysteries coded in science.  I marvel in discoveries as they were, are now, and are yet to come.
Lone Wolf’s Midnight Howl.  ascend love paddle camp run ski swim live ride catch pedal climb walk board laugh see explore.  Color fading, but not my memory.  Ran beneath the stars.  I chewed dust as my 8 yr. old roadrunner cruised to victory in her first 5k!  She’s still running.  I’m still collecting memories.
giving away
Princeton Engineering. Gift from student.  Difficult to surrender.  We’ve become good friends.  I need to drop some pounds.  I once fit into this shirt.  Wore it in gratitude of teaching and friendship.  Perhaps, a dreamer will wear with a vision of possibilities.
Life is good.  Enjoy the ride.  Hoping someone will feel better along the journey.  I did.
Engineering w/o Borders.   Women in Engineering chocolate run.  Ran in support of former female students studying at Missouri Science & Technology.  How’d “chocolate” make their title?  I laugh in warmth and wonder.  They’re engineers now!
Forest Park XC Festival.  Sentimental favorite.  My daughter finished 2nd during her freshman year.  Doesn’t fit well.  Someone will wear it better than I.
Run for Congo-women for women international.  This was the first of three annual events in which my daughter then in middle school helped organize a fundraiser.  She’s grown in courage, compassion, and generosity.  I never medal, but I did in this one.  The medals hang with our picture I’d framed.  I don’t need three shirts.
Hope Square Blitz Build.  Two 17-student crews, two homes completed in two weeks.  Lots of nay-sayers, one amazing music video, another to be a Habitat billboard, two ecstatic families!     
discard
Johns Hopkins Biomedical Engineering.  Gift from students; one a surgeon, another a neural researcher, both of immigrant parents.  Worn holes into it.  Retired it.

Can clothes send a powerful message?
keeping
Labor of Love-Micah Project.  My colleague coaxed me to run 5k to support a Honduran orphanage for boys.  She lovingly adopted a Honduran son!
Breakfast Club MS Walk.  Awful disabling disease.  Wear friend’s ugly design for fundraising once a year honoring another wonderful friend battling the disease. 
Hope for Haiti.  Locally supported Haitian mission school.  Reminds me of my sister’s medical mission.  Lots of dedicated folks.
Be Bold  Be Fearless  Be More.  Race for the Cure.  Historically, my daughter’s favorite run.  We’d been running in memory of good friends long before my wife, her mother began her enduring battle with cancer.  Both my girls are bolder, more fearless than I.  God provided more.
giving away
Never Alone when you walk with God.  Backpacker on shirt a lot like me.  I’ve worn it in the backcountry often.  Let someone else know they are never alone.

Can I shed the life I’ve had to enter a new one?
keeping
Macklind Mile.  Set personal record.  Let me know my aging body can still get up and move!
Sublette Lumber & Supply.  My brother-in-law’s yard.  Where I am from is important to me.
High Magnetic Field-epinephrine.  Crystalline structure printed on tie.  Child miracle drug used to treat severe allergic reactions.  Wore while teaching biochemistry class. 
Gave several ties away.  Not much of a tie guy.
giving away
KU Basketball-Rock Chalk Jayhawks!  Alumni.  Formed lifetime friends.  National title.  Badgered by sibling families 100% K-State.  Harassed by Tiger fans locally.  Need to be Rock-loyal to wear this one. 
Parkway South Robotics 10010011110.  Donut Master  Now I know why they keep me around.  Trip to World Championships memorable and best yet!
Operation Clean Stream.  Clean stream junkie.  Incredible graphics.  Littered with Missouri fish species.  Gave to a friend who’s crazy about fishing. 

God hijacked my task!  While I thought, I was simplifying, He seeded the entire time with recollections of sacramental moments!  I wear what is important to me, what I love; memories, blessings, values, convictions, gifts, support.  I engage in an active lifestyle glimpsing the kingdom Jesus describes.  In shedding some clothes, I am not giving away my old self, but freeing myself to embrace who I am in the present.    

What sacramental moments are hidden in your dresser or closet?
“Over all these virtues put on love . . .” Wear the love well.  It is what binds us all together! 


Thursday, October 4, 2018

God Speaks on the Radio

God Speaks on the Radio

I’m certain God speaks to me.  I am also certain that I’m never quite sure exactly when He does.  Every time I think He is speaking to me, loud and clear, I begin to question whether I’m actually putting ideas into my own head.  How can I ever be certain?

I knew I was on schedule to write a blog post this week, so I kept my ears open to anything and everything God might be trying to tell me to write about.  After coming out of reconciliation recently, which arguably should be the time I am most predisposed to hear the Word of God, I started my car and Twisted Sister’s 1980’s rock anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” came blaring over the radio.  Hmm, what was God trying to tell me?  I wondered what secret faith-filled message was contained in Dee Snider’s familiar vocals.  There have been a number of former head-banging stars who have swapped party lifestyles for clean living and dedication to Christianity.  Could one of the most outrageous-looking hair-band leaders of the 80’s be one of those inspirational stories?

Maybe it was something else.  The popular song has been adopted as the inspirational anthem by school teachers, conservative politicians, and even Christian bands, with slightly modified lyrics in the latter instance.  On the other hand, there is a line in the song that says “We’ve got the right to choose it…”  Perhaps that was a dig at the Pro-Life position. 

Even though the lyrics are extremely tame by today’s standards, it was one of the major focuses in the 1985 federal hearings that brought about warning labels on music.  Those hearings were prompted by the Parents Music Resource Center, which was a committee spearheaded by Tipper Gore, among others.  Al Gore was one of the senators leading questioning.  Hmm, maybe I was supposed to be on the lookout against the Gores.  Maybe it had to do with censorship?  I have no idea what I was supposed to be getting out of all this. 

The next day I started my car and turned the radio to my next pre-set station.  Covenant Network Catholic Radio came on.  They were in the midst of a telethon to raise money for ongoing expenses and continued expansion of the network.  Because of Covenant Network, Catholic radio programming can be heard on stations across at least 5 states, and worldwide when listened online.

And so, I’m now absolutely certain…maybe 85 or 90%...that God spoke to me through Catholic radio, and wanted me to pass it along.  I can say with complete honesty, that Catholic radio has helped me to learn more about my faith and grow in my belief.  I encourage you to tune in.  I listen on AM 1460, but there are several FM & AM options that come in throughout different parts of the region.  Visit OurCatholicRadio.org to find out more info.  You can view a list of stations, listen online, or find out more about the history of Covenant Network.  I encourage you to click on the “About” section, where many of you will recognize a familiar face or two.

As we hear in 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, paraphrased, be sure to check out everything, and grab on to what is good.  For me, Catholic radio has been a great blessing.  If you don’t already listen, I encourage you to check it out, and if you find it to be good, grab onto it.  If you listen this week, you’ll hear what’s left of the telethon.  The volunteers taking part in the telethon make for some interesting radio, and you may hear a familiar voice now and then, but I also encourage you to check out their normal programming schedule.  Throughout each day, there is something for everyone, no matter where you find yourself in your current faith journey. 

Oh…and also loosely referenced in Thessalonians, you can throw out the first few paragraphs about Twisted Sister.  Sometimes we have to dig through the noise to find something good worth holding onto.  Sometimes we just have to change the station.


written by: Matt Buehrig

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Lead me not into temptation...

I remember when I suggested that this whole faith thing would be a lot easier if God could remove the temptation to sin in my life.  I heard a homily where the priest said, “Without battle, there cannot be victory.  So don’t pray for the battle to end.  It will never end.  Pray for the strength to do what is right in every situation, and thus enjoy the fruits of victory.”

So I guess it’s naive of me to hope that sin will somehow leave me alone. I should focus on what I do, not if, but when temptation comes.

I’m reminded of the story of Ulysses.  The sirens from the sea were these horrible monsters.  They would sing this beautiful song and entrance men to drive their boats into the rocks and eventually death.  Evil disguised as beauty, luring men to death.  Ok, this sounds like sin to me.  What is interesting is looking at three different approaches to dealing with this temptation.

  1.  Avoidance – Ulysses had his men put beeswax in their ears so they couldn’t hear anything.  Boom, no siren song, no temptation, no death.  Seems like a pretty effective approach.
  2.  Control – Ulysses was curious of the beauty, so he had his men strap him to the mast of the ship.  As he heard the sirens, he screamed and begged for his men to untie him so he could jump in the water.  Of course the men didn’t since they couldn’t hear him, and could clearly see the creatures over by those rocks were hideous and should be avoided. I understand Ulysses' game plan here.  He gets to experience the sensation of the act, even if it’s just a taste, without crossing the line.  This is an extremely dangerous way to handle temptation.  If an alcoholic asks to smell your drink, does that seem like a good idea?  You are still feeding the brokenness inside you, even if you use control to limit your response.  I never want to flirt with the illusion and seduction of sin.  That’s a recipe for trouble.
  3. True beauty – So there is a third choice here.  Jason and the Argonauts were also on a ship passing these sirens. He was traveling with Orpheus. Orpheus was an incredible singer and musician.   When the sirens started their enticing call as the ship was passing by, what Jason did was had Orpheus sing.  He played as loud and beautifully as he could, filling the boat and the men’s ears with his music.  It overpowered the calls of the sirens.  True beauty flooded that boat so much that the illusion of beauty never had a chance.

Another example of this third approach happened in Antioch many years ago.  Bishop Nonnus of Edessa was speaking to a group of bishops outside the basilica. While he was talking, Pelagia passed by, a prostitute scantily dressed with jewels.  She was stunning.  Bishop Nonnus stopped speaking and watched her intently as she passed by.  He noticed the others had all turned away and hid their eyes.  “Brothers, were you not pleased at her beauty?”  Nonnus insisted that her appearance had delighted him, but still, he wept for her. He was saddened that she was being used for lust, rather than revealing the image and likeness of God.  When Pelagia saw how the bishop looked at her she was caught of guard.  No man had ever looked at her with such purity.  She later pointed to that simply act of purity as the beginning of her conversion to Christ.  She is now a recognized saint in the church.

Sometimes we are called to simply avoid temptation.  Sometimes we know ourselves well enough that we need to put limits and controls on our behavior to keep from falling.  But each of us also has the third choice.  To seek out and fill ourselves up with what we are longing for in the first place.  The truly beautiful and good.  The genuine article.  No imitations.  And when we successfully do that, the battle’s victory shall be ours.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Comforts of Cultural Christianity

Happy St. Januarius day! Yes, you read that right. September 19 (and April 21) is the feast day of St. Januarius, a Saint we know little about. Legend states that he was thrown into an amphitheater full of bears who refused to mess with the incredible St. Januarius. So, instead he was beheaded and martyred for his faith. He chose a death in Christ rather than a life of comfort. Why this Saint’s day isn’t celebrated in January is beyond me.

Cultural Christianity sure has its comforts. The thoughts in my mind are being spun around the comforts of cultural Christianity and how many of my own experiences, situations, and events were lived out as a cultural Christian rather than one who was willing and ready to be challenged, criticized and made uncomfortable. I remember many times in my life where I heard others talk about my faith in a way that was grossly misleading and false. There have been times where my Faith, recently, has been attacked because of the failures of a few leaders in my Church. I know there have been times when I’ve chosen the comfort of silence in any situation rather than to speak up and suffer from ridicule or even the loss of friendships. I’d bet most of us can take a moment to think about pivotal moments we’ve chosen comfort over conflict. Or perhaps, we can spend a moment to pause and think of a time we chose to be challenged rather than seeking comfort?

“You are the Christ,” were words we recently heard at Mass. These words struck me like a clapper strikes a bowl. Peter was a man no different than you and me, reading this blog trying our best every day to follow Christ. We have our moments of denial, even two or three denials before we realize it. We have our moments of abandoning Christ at the cross to suffer for us while we seek comfort and safety. However, this specific moment in the Gospel, Peter caught a glimpse of true discipleship.

Discipleship 2,000 years ago had real dangers. To become a follower, one had to fulfill two conditions: give up all claims and be ready to die. Jesus meant releasing claims on conflicting personal relationships and be ready to undergo persecution. In other words, to become a Christian meant leaving one’s non-believing clan for the Christian community. Giving up family brought group ostracization and backlash, both on the family level and the neighborhood level. Depending upon the poor and lowly Christian community alone had its own dangers. Consider Acts 8:1-3:

1Now Saul was consenting to his execution. Persecution of the Church. On that day, there broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him. 3Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church; entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment.

I walked out of church on Sunday realizing that living out my Christian faith should have its challenges. I looked at my children and wondered what I was teaching them with my actions. When have I been criticized for my virtue, prayer life or faith practices? I shouldn’t live an outward faith life seeking this criticism, but one that proclaims “You are the Christ!” How can you and I proclaim this realization that Peter had this week, in spite of the dangers?

What I realize, for sure, is that this endeavor in faith will never be finished until I draw my last breath. This first quote, attributed to Joseph Ratzinger, starts the summary, while the second quote from  Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger ends it:


“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness!"

“Man was created for greatness—for God himself; he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched…”

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Our Church Has Cancer


Earlier this summer my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Surgery was invasive and scary as you would expect when dealing with the brain.  Following surgery, the healing process has involved all different kinds of therapy, drug regimens, rehab, and will continue for some time.  A month after the initial surgery, a serious infection had developed.  They tried medications and IV treatments, but to no avail.  They had to make a quick decision to go back in, identify the infection, and cut it out.  There may be more, they may have gotten it all, or perhaps there will be a reoccurrence.  The final outcome is not known for certain.

When there is an elephant in the room, it’s usually best to acknowledge the beast.  There is no hiding the fact that our church has a disease.  There was a cancer inside at some of the highest levels.  It appeared to have come to the forefront with the scandal of a few years ago.  At that time the disease was apparently identified and treated.  There was more underlying infection, however.  After a while, it came to light and we are in the midst of treatment for the currently diagnosed problem.  Where will things go from here?  The outcome is not known for certain.

Before my brother’s diagnosis, there were clues that things weren’t right.  Occasional confusion.  Sometimes statements that didn’t make sense.  Aggression and denial when confronted about the issues.  Different family members disagreed about what to do.  Some were in denial about any problems.  Others pushed to explore the issue extensively until we could get to the bottom of it.  Even after diagnosis and surgery, there were disagreements about how open to be with others.  My brother would obviously take quite some time to recover.  In the meantime, he wouldn’t be able to do the things that we might expect as normal.

It is obvious that something has been awry in our church for quite some time.  Some of the explanations haven’t seemed to make sense.  Different levels of leadership have taken different approaches in their dealings with the problems.  Even now, with most of the issues apparently out in the open, it still seems like there isn’t a consensus, and potentially even an attempt to not be as open as possible.

As my brother begins his road to recovery, we wonder when he will ever be back to 100%.  When he returns to ‘normal’, what will that normal be?  Will he ever be as he was? We question how long the tumor may have been impacting his thinking, words, or actions.  Was his previous normal, not even as it should have been?  No matter how long it takes, or what the final results are, isn’t he still my family?  No matter if any of his negative words or actions during his illness were caused by the tumor, or were truly his own will, does that make him any less my brother?  It is often difficult to be around him at this point.  Right after surgery, after the tumor was cut out, his brain obviously experienced trauma.  The simple fact of going to visit him, being a loyal family member, and showing my support, set me up for difficult conversations, stress, and long hours.  I suppose I could have easily avoided it all by simply walking away.

I don’t know if we are in the stage of recovery yet, or still trying to identify and work through various infections, but our church is in a rough state.  We can look back in recent or past history and probably note some instances where we were hurt.  We can look at the facts now, and realize that the recovery is going to be a large burden on us, even though we had no involvement in causing the disease.  In the end, the church is still THE church.  It is still truth.  It is still our path to salvation.  The Eucharist is still the Body of Jesus even if the consecration is performed by sinful hands.  In fact, I will guarantee the sacrifice of the mass is presented by unworthy, sinful men.  Does that make Jesus any less real?  When we get through this will we ever go back to ‘normal’?  What is that normal and do we even want to go back?  All I know for sure is that things are going to be difficult for the faithful, but I’m not going anywhere.

Pray for the church, and if you have a chance, pray for my brother.

Written by: Matt Buehrig             Inspired by: Greg