Don’t get too comfortable

“If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” – C. S. Lewis
If I look for truth, I may find comfort – but I may not. Life is not about being comfortable. It’s about pressing forward out of my comfort zone. It’s about getting up everyday and accepting whatever challenge I am faced with, staying faithful to the truth and searching for the meaning and value in the suffering I endure.
The Christian life is not the secret to success, but the shortcut to sainthood. It is not here to cure your pain so much as to keep you from wasting it.
We are obsessed with getting rid of pain. That’s often a good thing, but it’s not the most important thing. What’s more important is the soul that is forged in the fire of that pain. In this fire, we discover the truth about who we are.
We are reminded that we are small and weak and in need of help. That we have limits and are in need of a Limitless One. This is the truth. Too much comfort puts us in danger of forgetting it.
You weren’t made for this world, so don’t get too comfortable.



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10 Habits for Healthy Information Consumption

Matt Warner has some great stuff on living a radical, manly life for God:

10 Habits for Healthy Information Consumption

It’s never been more important for us to take control of the info we consume on a daily basis. Every piece of information we encounter throughout our day – whether we like it or not – changes who we are.

If we are to become who we are made to be, we must be deliberate about consuming the information that will shape us into such!

I have a long way to go. It’s a difficult process requiring courageous choices, but it’s worth it. Here are 10 things we are doing in our family to encourage healthy info consumption:

1. Get rid of cable TV.

I’m not quite saying throw the TV out the window. But no cable TV. Everything about cable TV is designed to hook and reel you in. Don’t take the bait. Instead, buy TV shows and movies individually (like on iTunes) when you want to watch them. Or you can always go out and watch them somewhere else (sports bar, friends house, etc.).

That way you’ll end up only watching things that are really worth watching, and nothing else. You’ll probably end up saving money in the end, too (we do).

2. Go ad-free radio.

Another great benefit of buying your TV/movies individually, rather than using cable TV, is that it removes a lot of ads from your life. In addition to that, spend <$10/month for ad-free Spotify or Pandora radio and you can listen to anything you want anywhere you go, with no ads! It’s worth it.

Every time you succumb to using a “free” service (that is supported by ads) you are selling a little piece of the formation of your soul. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

3. Use an RSS reader to follow your blogs/news online.

Many blogs and news sources let you read full articles straight from an online reader (and often with no ads) via RSS. It helps you consume just the content you like while avoiding the sidebars and teasers that litter most websites (which are all designed to suck you in further). Note: Most news sites will make you click over to their website from their RSS feed to read their full story. But you can at least read a little bit before deciding if it’s worth your time to do so and exposing yourself to the rest of their site. If you’re looking for an RSS reader, I recommend Feedly.

4. Sometimes quitting is good.

If you start watching a movie or TV show and it’s not amazing from the beginning, quit. Don’t mindlessly watch the rest of it. There are too many better things to consume. If you start a book/article and it’s not amazing from the beginning, quit. There are too many amazing things to read.

5. Turn off push notifications.

On your computer, on your phone, on your tablet. Check your email/Facebook/etc. when *you* decide it’s time to do so. If something is that urgent, somebody will call or text you. Otherwise, don’t risk it stealing the focus from what you set out to do today. It can wait for the proper time. It’s a great lesson in patience, too.

6. Put down your phone.

It’s practical to carry it with you when you go out, but when you get home or to work, put it across the room. Focus on whatever you are doing and don’t allow bad habits (of checking your phone every 3 minutes) to consume every idle moment of your day.

7. Be not afraid of missing out.

It’s okay if you don’t know the latest gossip, news or reality TV show ending. I promise. Try a month without it and you’ll see that the world is still spinning and that your life is probably better off, too!

Additionally, with so much great information at our fingertips on various topics, it’s easy to become information gluttons. Consume what you can, but let the rest go. If your expectation is to know everything there is to know about something, you will be chronically dissatisfied and stressed. The profound brain things inside your head will constantly hurt. By all means, enthusiastically pursue learning about your passions, but be content to consume an amount that fits well within the limits of the day God gave you.

8. Plan healthy things.

When you diet, it’s not enough to just avoid the junk food. You also need to plan healthy meals to take its place. If you only remove the junk info, you’ll find yourself just falling into new bad habits. When we are tired and idle, it’s easy to end up indiscriminately consuming whatever most easily pops in front of us (i.e. web surfing, channel surfing, DVR digging, gossip, etc.). Plan healthy activities to fill this void.

Play, listen and dance to great music. Sing songs together. Make something. Read a book. Tell stories to each other. Pray. Plan to watch a worthwhile movie together. Go outside. Play a sport. Go for a walk. The list is endless. Make a list of 10 things you’d like to do more of. I guarantee that consuming more mindless information, surfing the internet, watching more TV and listening to advertisements will not be on the list. Plan healthy things into your day.

9. Keep your social media in check.

Social media has found a unique place in our lives. But remember that such tools (especially if they are “free”) are not primarily designed to be what is best for you and your most important relationships. They are designed to keep you on their site for as long as possible by feeding your itchy clicky finger and your fear of missing out. Don’t be afraid to cut some cords or set some hard limits with how you use it. It’s powerful stuff, but don’t let it keep you from greater things.

10. Schedule silence.

You need silence, a complete break from the constant noise. If you don’t schedule silence into your day and then protect it, it won’t happen. Bonus: board up the windows, disconnect the electricity and block all wireless transmission. Guard your silence like a treasure. Flee to it. Cling to it as life. Schedule it in and make it a priority. Start with just a few minutes and try to build it up to an hour each day.

God is whispering to you there. Listen.

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A family is little world created by love

A favorite quote of mine:

A family is a little world created by love.

In a world where we can often think that we don’t belong anywhere, we know that we belong to each other, in communion with each other. Family is not merely by blood even though in the Eucharist we literally yet mysteriously receive membership into the Holy Family with Jesus and Mary:

  • the Eucharist literally is a piece of Jesus’s loving heart
  • the blood of Mary is in Jesus

We don’t have to feel abandoned, nor do we have to feel like orphans because we have Jesus and Mary as our advocates. They are our spiritual parents; real parents as God has intended.

CATECHISM#2205: “The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ. Daily prayer and the reading of the Word of God strengthen it in charity. The Christian family has an evangelizing and missionary task.”

At the time of this writing, I have not yet posted much about Theology of the body, but if you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to learn more.

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Beauty necessary to restore culture

Beauty must play a central role in our efforts for evangelization and cultural renewal, because it is a gift from God to lead us to him, Bishop James D. Conley said in an address at a recent apologetics conference.

“Our New Evangelization must work to make truth beautiful. By means both ancient and new, we must make use of beauty – to infuse Western culture, once more, with the spirit of the Gospel,” the Bishop of Lincoln said Sept. 28 in his keynote address at the Catholic Answers National Apologetics Conference in San Diego.

“By means of earthly beauty, we can help our contemporaries discover the truth of the Gospel. Then, they may come to know the eternal beauty of God.”

Bishop Conley told CNA on Oct. 1 that his decision to focus on beauty and culture at an apologetics conference was well-received, and that Catholic Answer’s development director, Christopher Check, “thought it was a real sort of game-changer,” because apologetics efforts can often be rejected by those with a relativistic mindset, who are not even open to entering into a standard apologetics discussion.

But to lead with beauty “opens (others) up to consider the argument” in a way they might not otherwise, the bishop reflected.

Bishop Conley opened the address by sharing a story of his first session of spiritual direction when he entered seminary. Spiritual direction typically involves a detailed discussion with a priest.

When he arrived for his first meeting, the priest, Fr. Anton Morganroth, who had fled Nazi Germany, was playing a Mozart sonata, and proceeded to finish it.

“After a few moments of silence, eager to get started,” Bishop Conley shared, “I broke the silence and said: ‘so are we going to have spiritual direction, father?’ Fr. Morganroth turned and stared right through me and said: ‘son, zat was your spiritual direction, you can go now.’”

This example of being caught up in beauty is a demonstration of how the transcendental can open minds and hearts to “the realities of the spiritual life,” the bishop said.

He emphasized that evangelization is concerned not only with individuals, but with transformation of culture as well.

“We’re starting to get a sense of our cultural mission,” Bishop Conley said. “Catholics are working to recover our traditions, and to build community … to foster a way of life that is true, good, and beautiful.”

He added that faith “is meant to be the basis of culture,” and explained how he was converted to the Catholic Church through the Integrated Humanities Program run by professor John Senior at the University of Kansas, which exposed students to the beauty of Christian culture.

This experience of beauty, he said, allowed him to be open to the great philosophers and theologians of the past, rather than assuming “that truth was found in the dictates of popular culture.”

“Senior was not an evangelist, in the traditional sense of the word: he did not preach from a pulpit, or write works of apologetics. His goal in the classroom was not to convert us, but to open our minds to truth, wherever it might be found. And he did that primarily through the imagination.”

Despite not being a traditional evangelist, the bishop said, Senior “was a remarkably gifted evangelist,” and through his sharing of the beauty of historic Catholic culture, hundreds of University of Kansas students became Catholic in the 1970s.

Their conversion “was not the result of proselytism in the classroom nor was it engaging in apologetics,” Bishop Conley said. “It occurred because we became lovers of beauty, and thus, seekers of truth. Beauty gave us ‘eyes to see’ and ‘ears to hear,’ when we encountered the Gospel and the Christian tradition.”

Senior and his colleagues “knew that students had to encounter beauty, and have their hearts and imaginations captured first by beauty, before they could pursue truth and goodness in a serious and worthy manner,” the bishop explained.

He observed that in the midst of intellectual and moral confusion, beauty can break through to hardened hearts, and that “every instance of real beauty points beyond itself” to God, who “invested this world with many forms of captivating beauty, so that created things would lead us to contemplate the transcendent glory of the Creator.”

While God “speaks to our souls through intellectual truth and moral goodness” in addition to beauty, “these forms of communication have become problematic. Many people, especially in modern Western culture, are too intellectually and morally confused to receive such a message.”

Because of this confusion, beauty may be the transcendental which “can get through, where other forms of divine communication may not,” the bishop taught.

“When we begin with beauty, this can then lead to a desire to want to know the truth of the thing that is drawing us, a desire to participate in it. And then the truth can inspire us to do the good, to strive after virtue.”

Bishop Conley said that “clearly, beauty has a major role to play in the New Evangelization” and enumerated three ways in which this can be done: through liturgy; appreciation of historic Christian culture; and openness to beauty in all its forms.

He called beauty in liturgy the “most essential” point, noting that “worship … is the basis of Christian culture” and pointing to examples of great converts who were struck by the solemn rites and extraordinary chants of the Catholic Church.

The bishop’s second recommendation was to become familiar with the beauty of historic Christian culture, such as Gregorian chant, in order to help others who appreciate it to understand the Christian beauty that inspired it.

Finally, he invited Catholics to “open our own minds to beauty, in all its manifestations” in both nature and culture, which will help us to understand beauty as “an earthly reflection of God’s glory.”

Concluding, Bishop Conley quoted famous Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky, who wrote in “The Idiot” that “beauty will save the world.”

“It will,” the bishop added. “When it points to God’s enduring love.”

“There are many souls to rescue, and a vast cultural wasteland to restore. Both tasks will require fluency in God’s language of beauty,” he said.

“To speak this language, we must first begin to listen. And to listen, we must have silence in our lives. I pray that God will open our eyes and ears to beauty, and help us use it in the service of the Truth.”



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