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Relationships

6 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:6, (NRSVACE)

In the past several weeks I have been busy contemplating, discerning, and meditating on the direction our Lord will have me go. Many awesome things have happened to me over the last decade at Ascension Catholic School, namely the honor to teach such beautifully inquisitive children who are so much apart of all I have so labored for, for so long of a time. Now that I am transitioning away from Ascension School – (something that is not by my choice),  I find it to be very interesting that it seems the farther I am pushed away from the school the closer I am drawn to Ascension Church;  of which I am a parishioner and lay preacher, and now have been offered to become a Eucharistic Minister as well, one more thing with pleasure and pride I will be contemplating, discerning, and meditating on. So this Sunday this is what I came up with;

REAL RELATIONSHIPS!

Relationships are like a flower, if you water them they will grow, and/or if you ignore them they will die. The same is true of the relationship we all have with our Father in heaven, trust in Him you will prosper, ignore Him you will not. I can honestly say with a clear conscience that I treated my children of Ascension like a delicate flower, pushing them to succeed, to learn Technology, English Language Arts, History, Science, Social Studies, Religion, and yes, Ethics. I taught them from the heart, with love, with respect, and with everything I have. I gave them all I have and more. I created and planned how to bring thoughtful and meaningful lessons which gave substance to their lives. For my ten years there I worked hard every day and answered the call every time I was needed by the Administration, Staff, Parents, and Church Community.  I looked at my job, not as a job but a mission – vocation, and I love everything about it. I write these things because my last day was the best but saddest day for my students ranging in grade level from 2nd – 6th who showed me how much they also love and respect me in their tearful goodbyes. I’m not good with goodbyes and I’m not good with handling tears from children. I was also shown a great amount of love from their parents who also were sad and deeply moved, from their handshakes to their vows of support I know I have been supported by them. I know what it is like to be supported and I also know what it is like not to be supported.

I will not lie to you, my brothers and sisters, I am being very candid with my words here today, I am being very direct with my thoughts and feelings because my little children were truly hurting and the more I tried to make the day about them, they fought back and wanted it to also be about me too. This is what real relationships are about and it was voiced perfectly by the one child who I did not think would ever say it. “This day is about you too Mr. Stark!”  Emotions ran high and I urged them all to remember all that I did for them and go out into the world and be amazing to others. When it was said and done I was told by my God Mother,  “That it’s not an easy thing to leave but it is a process of mourning for both you and the children.” When she said that to me I was truly surprised how true it is. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I will be mourning for a while and so will they – all my precious children of Ascension. But again, my brothers and sisters that is what real relationships are when separation happens, there will be mourning.  I will greatly miss them and I know they will greatly miss me as well. What follows hopefully will be yet another opportunity to serve God’s people, meet them where they are and honor them as God has so honored me.

*The rest of this post is dedicated to the topic of leadership because that is what we all eventually become if we follow God if we listen to His divine words and if we discern what we are being directed to do. I chose this topic because it is at the heart of all my decisions I had made over the course of my life and good leaders build true relationships that are honored and cherished.

RELATIONSHIPS BUILT BY TRUE LEADERS

I recently found this book from one of my favorite Christian Writers and Pastors, Dr. John C. Maxwell who wrote, “How Successful People Lead“.  In it, he describes five levels of leadership;

  • Level 1 – Position: “It’s a Great Place to Visit, but You Wouldn’t Want to Live There.
  • Level 2 – Permission: “You Can’t Lead People until You Like People.
  • Level 3 – Production: “Making Things Happen Separates Real Leaders from Wannabes.
  • Level 4 – People Development: “Helping Individuals Leaders Grow Extends Your Influence and Impact.
  • Level 5 –  The Pinnacle: “The Highest Leadership Accomplishment Is Development Other Leaders to Level 4.

Maxwell writes, “In all my years that I’ve taught leadership, there has been one lecture that I have been asked to give more often than any other – from West Point to Microsoft headquarters and in countries all around the world. Why is it so popular? That lecture explains how successful people lead and provides a game plan for learning how to become a leader. It’s titled “The 5 Levels of Leadership,” and it has been used to train leaders in companies of every size and configuration, from small business to Fortune 100 companies. It has been used to help nonprofit organizations understand how to lead volunteers. And taught in more than 120 countries around the world. The concept is tested and proven. It also instructs people in the use of several tried -and-true techniques that will help them become successful at leadership. Looking at leadership as a series of levels that can be gained through targeted actions has many benefits.” Maxwell, (2013)

He clearly outlines in this small simple book the levels of Leadership and as I read it I smiled because I could see my own growth in each level and where I think I am…. But he takes these levels and puts them in sharp focus. “Level 1 – Position: People follow you because they have to.” Maxwell, p.5.  I know people in leadership that have been in leadership for a long time and have never passed this level. They lead out of fear! They lead out of making threats! They lead out of their own insecurities! In short, these people should not be leaders… they should be put in a nice office in the corner of the company they work for that has no contact with anyone else ever! I feel sorry for these types of leaders because they are so afraid of failure they take needless chances and lie about the reasons they made the decisions they did rather than, to be honest about the whole mess in the first place. People like this say they are Christians but their actions say otherwise. Level one leaders are, “Positional leadership is based on the rights granted by position and title. There is nothing wrong with having a leadership position. Everything is wrong with using position to get people to follow you. Position is a poor substitute for influence.” Maxwell, p.5.

As the Director of Technology, I have seen it all with the Principals I have served, five in total. I have always had problems with the ones who think they know more about technology than me… again, there is nothing wrong with having some knowledge of a subject, everything wrong with saying you are the expert when you’re not. I once told one of these principals that money, position, popularity, and/or power is not what drives me. What drives me is the children I serve, because I am here for them not you. What I didn’t say was that I love God above all, He drives me, He alone tells me what I need to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who I am there for. God is centered in my life and I promised Him many years ago that I would follow Him, go where he told to, and help His people on their level, meeting them where they are! Had this principal looked at the community which she served like that we might have been able to do great things together, but instead this principle took pleasure in the power bestowed upon them and it was evident in what they said, how they said it, what they did and how they did it. I had also years before told this same principle that serving this community of parents is 90% perception in that how they see you. What I did not say or explain is that when I say, “see you”, what I really meant comes from an African tribes definition of these two words minus the first of three words put together, as explained best by Africaknows.com,

“The Zulu greeting, ‘Sawubona’ means ‘I see you’ and the response ‘Ngikhona’ means ‘I am here’. I love the depth of meaning that African languages carry.  Inherent in the Zulu greeting and in the grateful response, is the sense that until you saw me, I didn’t exist. By recognizing me, you brought me into existence. A Zulu folk saying clarifies this, ‘Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu’, meaning ‘A person is a person because of other people.'”

Challenge Question: “What would this world be like if we all respected each other on this level?”

3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” ~ Philippians 2:3, (NRSVACE)

Maxwell’s levels graduate in depth, for instance, “Level 2 – Permission: ‘People follow you because they want to.‘” p.7. In this level, you have built trust with those you manage. Leadership on this level are not about preserving their own position instead they are most concerned with understanding their employees, volunteers, and/or subordinates. They take an interest in all of their people’s lives, which includes those employees they don’t like. Isn’t this what Jesus preached about? Nothing is done from selfish ambition covered up with conceit! Leadership is a selfless position, one that every leader must emulate the example of our savior, the Good Shepard, our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Maxwell’s level three is how I felt for a long time until I had the honor to attend the CMAST/LMU TL Program. “Level 3 – Production: ‘People follow you because of what you have done for the organization‘”.  Under my God Mothers leadership, things got done, morale improved, badly needed funds came into our school, turnover went done dramatically, and our school had momentum. We made a good team, one that moved the school forward! It wasn’t about her or me or any single stakeholder rather we all worked for the success this included, teachers, office staff, parents, and administration! Our school was happy and healthy! But once I had completed the CMAST program I saw the shift in how some people looked at me, how parents began to treat me, see they all saw my efforts in leadership as Maxwell’s Level 4, “People Development: ‘People follow you because of what you have done for them.'” p.9. As a teacher leader I developed other teachers to be leaders, I supported them and their ideas in more of direct way. I began supporting parents in ways I never thought I could, all of which was a connection which grew and gained momentum through offering classes they needed that would in the end help them help their children. See their perception of me was that of a leader who cares about them and their children’s future success, the select teachers felt the same way. I shifted into a leader who changed lives, touched hearts, build a lifelong respect that will be remembered despite the actions of those of my colleagues who are trying to whip all that goodness away. I lead with God, with relationships that hopefully will last a lifetime, again, emulating Jesus Christ.

Challenge Question: “What would this world be like if every leader had an honest to God open door policy?”

31 “He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’” ~ Matthew 13:31-32, (NRSVACE)

I like to think I have sowed a mustard seed within my children of Ascension and when they grow they will be the strongest and greatest people. So much so that other people will want to follow them because of what they, (my tiny children), have done for them. With God’s blessings, all my children and that of their parents I pray will mourn and overcome, build and love, I pray they become beautiful human beings that do good always. Remember the words of wisdom our Lord Jesus Christ has said, meditate on them, and then discern your own path as I have done.

Amen!!! Alleluiah!

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Ways to Communicate

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The First Gift Given Freely

55 “The Lord says, ‘All you who are thirsty, come and drink. Those of you who do not have money, come, buy and eat! Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost.'” ~ Isaiah 55:1

The Lord God does not need our money, He does not require us to repay Him for all that He has done for in truth there is no way that we ever could with earthly goods. From the goodness of His divine heart God created us from the dust of the earth, He feed us; gave us food and drink freely and without cost.  Thus, in every measure God gave to us life and allowed us to make our own choices freely independently with free will. In this He gave to all mankind dominion over the earth to take freely our food and drink to sustain our earthly bodies. All this was done outside of our power and monetary abilities and no matter how much we as people think we are great there in truth is nothing more great than our one true God, the giver of life, and the only true nourishment of the spirit.

The Second Gift Given Freely

30 “God gives such beauty to everything that grows in the fields, even though it is here today and thrown into a fire tomorrow. He will surely do even more for you! Why do you have such little faith?” ~ Matthew 6:30

The Lord God created everything in your sight, everything in your hearing, everything you eat and drink, and everything you use for shelter. Yet when you walk into the far-off places still untouched from the hand of man you can see His truest work the beauty in nature. God created every tree, every flower, every blade of grass and every creature giving to them exactly what they need and dressing up in such magnificent colors that would put any work of mans to shame. Yet our loving God did the same for us and in His eye we are called His most magnificent masterpiece. For God dressed us up in His image and His likeness giving us intelligence and the ability to have faith. The second most important gift from God we all receive from birth is hope and the ability to believe in Him who has created all thinks no matter how long it lasts, it comes from His divine hand.

The Third Gift Given Freely

9 “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” ~ Luke 11:9

God gives to us our hearts desires, look at King David who was given strength to slay the giant Goliath, his son Solomon who asked God for wisdom in saying, You have shown great kindness to David my father and have made me king in his place. Now, Lord God, let your promise to my father David be confirmed, for you have made me king over a people who are as numerous as the dust of the earth. 10 Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?”  in 2 Chronicles 1:8-10. From the mouth of God Solomon was given what He asked for and many thinks more that he did not ask for, all given to him freely by our loving and gracious God. Therefore from Jesus Christ’s own lips was this gift also extended to every human on earth, thus the third gift was the ability to speak directly to our one and only God. For it is His divine desire to speak directly to us from His eternal throne in Heaven. God so desires a relationship that consists of much more than one way communication, for our God gives us a voice and an audience with Him alone to ask of Him our hearts desires and to come to Him humbled asking for forgiveness. For this gift of a voice and an audience is our greatest gift for this is our direct line to the divine, our safety net when we are in raging waters, and our comfort when we pray.

The Fourth Gift Given Freely

34 “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.” ~ Luke 23:34

The Son of Man could have never applied to God the Father had it not been for the very forgiving nature of God Himself. Evidence of God’s forgiveness is everywhere in every book of the Bible to every word in Christ’s plea for those who nailed Him to the cross. God is so ready to forgive and restore our sinful ways and touch our harden hearts with His divine love. God knows all the pain we endure for Him and so it was within His divine will to give us the ultimate path to salvation through His only son Jesus Christ. In the last hour when Jesus breathed His last forgiveness was no longer in the hands men, but rather given freely to every human being on earth by God through Jesus Christ sacrifice. No longer was the burnt offerings acceptable for the sins of man was placed on the blood of the most High. Forgiveness is yours for the asking, as every action God has made is to bring you closer to Him, to mold you into the most-perfect version of you through His divine forgiveness. If any proof was needed then we only have to look at one sentence Jesus uttered while he was riving in agony when asked by a murder for forgiveness,  42 “Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43 Jesus answered him, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.'” ~ Luke 23:42-43.

The Fifth Gift Given Freely

12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” ~ Acts 4:12

The Lord God gave the gift of Salvation, through His only son Jesus Christ. In truth nothing else needs to be written, nothing more said, for no one could ever out do this gift from God, no other work is greater than this. God send Jesus from Heaven to fulfill something no man could ever do on his own and that was to wash away our own sins. God saw our desperation, our separation and filth, He saw the state of abuse in both the Laws of Moses and in the Laws of God and washed us clean. God in one single act saved all of humanity from ourselves and He did so out of love. For it was this message being so important and great out weighed all other divine messages and thus it was commanded of us to spread it throughout the world that we are saved through His only son Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. For the message and gift of salvation as we wait for His return is to be said as found in Titus, 13 “while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people who are his very own, eager to do what is good. 15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” ~ Titus 2:13-15.

The Sixth Gift Given Freely

10 “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

The Lord they God freely gives to all people His divine protection from the evils that which we could never properly conceive. The Lord thy God has stretched out His hand as a shield to protect us from all manner of sin and vile things. God has shielded us from our enemies who are both present and not yet present, from those who have threatened us in the past and in the future for goodness and holiness shall reign under the Lord for ever and ever. Put on the armor of God for He freely gives us this most magnificent protection and if we truly believe in Him we will be under His shield which nothing can penetrate. This is the sixth gift of God we can realize in our persona walk with Him, and it is one of the most precious as again it comes from God alone.

 

The Seventh Gift Given Freely

54 “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’  55 ‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:54-58

In death Jesus Christ was raised from the grave in a perfect resurrection body. His is what ours shall become, from death we shall rise and become more like God. Therefore, the sixth gift will be that of renewed life in God, a life with God, and a the reward promised through salvation.  In this way we are given the hope of life ever after. The hope of walking with God the Eternal Father, the maker of all things for nothing is impossible for God.

Amen,

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Relationship Truths

16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” ~ John 15:16.

Relationships are tricky and in some regard takes a lot of hard work to maintain. In light of this it is always amazes me to how awesome God is and how hard he works to maintain a relationship with His people. The greatest of these efforts on behalf of God was the act of sending His only son to our sinful and selfish world with only one goal in mind, that of salvation out of grace.  The love of God is so enormous so astonishingly perfect that His desire has always been to pull us closer to Him, protect us from evil with His most beautiful love and His most forgiving nature that always extends to us His most-perfect grace.  I know in many of my past posts I have written about how much God loves us, how awesome His grace is, and as many times as I write it I still find it hard to imagine how this – God’s perfect love – could ever truly be real, but I know it is. I know because God chose us and despite our sinful nature He continues to be present in our everyday lives. 

4 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Each relationship we have should be modeled after the relationship God wants to have with us. Every relationship no matter the type will have four main elements in common that if explored will enrich our own lives and help bring us closer to God the Father. The first of these four elements is obvious, for it is love. For in everything we do there must be traces of love in it. The best place to begin looking for traces in our love is by examining how we fight with each other, how we argue with each other, how we disagree with each other. For it is easy in those moments of great heated emotion to say things that would completely damage the person to whom we are fighting with. It is all to easy to bring up painful events or to never let a topic go, even to be judgmental for the sole purpose of winning the argument. I have seen in some people how they plot and plan to create events that they can later use against the person to whom they are constantly fighting against and in that example those who would plot to bring another person down and to purposefully destroy the relationship certainly does not know that their own fruit has already fallen and is rotten to the core where it lays. For in every argument, disagreement, fight, we need to show our love for God by being graceful and kind, by showing restraint, by being purposeful with each word, by using our body language to show inclusion and not rejection.  For who are we to reject another person or to point out their sins when we have plenty enough sins of our own to contend with. For I tell you now my brothers and sisters that God is the final judge, His is the final word, His will is the final objective.  So, instead of dealing with our anger as children, let us be mature and deal with each other out of love by demonstrating restraint with our words and actions and in this manner we demonstrate love for others and for God.  Another excellent place to examine our own love for others is in what we do for others without them asking for it. I call this random acts of kindness, and in this we should always practice giving to others things they would not expect or think they would receive from you.  It doesn’t have to be big or be purchased from a store, rather it could be something as simple as a smile, a hug, a handshake, saying hello, asking the other person if they need help with something, or it could be listening to them when they need you to just listen. In fact the name of this blog is Listening Faithfully because I make it my practice to take time out for God to just listen to His voice, read His words, tune into His will. In practicing this it’s not to hard then to do the same for others whom you claim you love. For love in it’s purest form listens, it is kind, it builds, it is forgiving, and it is the most powerful emotion we experience in this life and in the life after this one for it is of God for God is love. 

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” ~ Matthew 6:9-13 

The second element comes with love for if you love and know God’s perfect love then you will naturally desire forgiveness and will naturally forgive others.  In this desire words like suspicion, motives, and mistrust falls away to a child-like love, unselfish, and pure.  Your forgiveness will grow to include all wrongs done against you no matter how painful no matter the person or people who were involved.  True forgiveness comes from the heart, it comes from the deep desire to not harp, but rather move past the harmful or hurtful event. In this we must surely focus our attentions on the idea that when we forgive it is more for ourselves, rather than the wellbeing of others.  In addition to this point I must forewarn you my brothers and sisters that not everyone will ask or want your forgiveness. Again in those moments it is better to purify your heart, do not take stock in the unwillingness of others rather the purity found in the act of forgiving and knowing that God will help you to reach this point.  Those who are locked into the cycle of not forgiving and or not accepting or wanting others to forgive them generally have a hardened heart and thus, they are not rather cannot be open to this most gracious act you would bestow, and thus once again they are blind to the idea that their fruit has fallen and is rotten to the core upon the ground where it landed. Let this not be your fruit, for God wants all fruits to be good and lasting.  

15 “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” ~1 Peter 2:15-17  

Relationships cannot be forged if respect is not present, nor can there be a real relationship if fake respect is given. In this there was a fraud of the heart and in that you have not only defrauded yourself, the other person, but also God, the one who made you. Therefore, in all your relationships treat them with the respect you would like to receive and rejoice in the grace which follows. For it is God’s will for every man, women, and child ought to revere the works of the Lord, to respect every human being without prejudice, and to celebrate the whole of natures bounties as one work, and accepting all these things as the singular work of God; thus, in the denial of these truths is the same as renouncing God Himself. Again, to show respect is also demonstrating love, it is demonstrating forgiveness,  it is demonstrating the Godly lifestyle we all are called to by Our Lord Jesus.  Remember that God though is merciful he is also the one whom we are always answerable too, in this respect God first, yourself second, and mankind third, but the division between them is so slight not even the finest hair can be pushed in between.  This is where the work becomes harder because there will be times when your respect for a person will begin to erode because of things they may have done in the past. In these moments love takes over, your forgiveness becomes anointed, and then your respect renewed, but it takes time and it takes the love you gain from knowing God first.

37 “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.” ~Matthew 22:37-38

Commitment is God’s legacy, one that he graciously gave to all of us, a promise that he has kept from the word words spoken that created Adam to the last word which will wipe away humanity within the rapture.  For if nothing else God is committed to saving every last person that he can and His message has always been a faith message of salvation. So too should our words in our relationships resemble the words of God in that they are never-changing and reflect true commitment in every thing we do. Words made into action is the strongest testimony others could ever give on our behalf once we have passed away. Those words we all should aspire to be words of love, fond remembrance, and of true commitment. For in all relationships if you are committed to them will build you up, make you stronger, and will be blest by God. It is through this commitment in others will love be able to take root, when we make mistakes our loved ones will forgive us, and when we are renewed find a higher level of respect. Commitment is the one element most people seek and few of us every really find because it take work to maintain. Hence coming full circle we find the root of Gods commitment with us. Again there is no greater advocate, no greater protector, no greater savior, no greater love, and no greater devotion than that which we receive from God. In that fact if we make others feel this way in our relationships then surely goodness will follow you all the days of your life.

Amen,

If you enjoyed “Relationships pt. 3 – Relationship Modeled After Christ”, I invite you to stay in contact with me through the following ways and please do not forget to rate this posting below.

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 Special Note

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 As we head towards the season of Thanksgiving it is important to take note of all that we have to be thankful for. Like the disciples who learned all things are possible through the love and compassion of God so to can we the many sons and daughters of Christ make miracles happen for those who are in need and thus in our own way feed the multitude. I urge you to support inner city children through the gift of education by clicking the following link.

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The Walk We Take

33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:33

In last weeks post,  “Relationship – Where We Begin”, I attempt to illustrate how the foundations are poured that will affect us for the rest of our “religious life” and in our “earthly relationships”.  If at a young age we teach to our children by example the best kind of relationships our children will then begin to make the connection of how real relationships work and relate these examples to our Holy Father in Heaven.  In this parents, schools, and churches is where our children’s lives are most impacted from the time they are born to the time they are about 18. Their personal walk with God by this point has been laid-out for them, but after age 18 their walk becomes their own. So, it is a test of our teachings and our abilities to mold our children correctly that begin to either bear fruit or not by this pivotal age.  The walk we take is either a good one or a bad one, it is largely determined by the foundations we received as children, but it also is greatly impacted by the company we choose to keep. Good people who honor each other can be spoiled by one bad persons lack of morality because we are all not walking at the same degree of committment to God. Therefore, some of us tetter while others walk tall. That is why in our most weak of convictions we need to seek out the Christian Community that best builds us up. Children who are not exposed to this vulnerability often tend to walk away from the church and from God with the intent to experience the world on their own, in the way they choose, and in this mind-set they often are lead astray and are overcome by the world. For without a strong conviction in God they are open to the experiences that corrupt good character. According to Drew Dyck a staff writer from Christianity  Today who wrote an article called, “The Leavers: Young Doubters Exit the Church”, that stated, “There has been a corresponding drop in church involvement. According to Rainer Research, approximately 70 percent of American youth drop out of church between the age of 18 and 22. The Barna Group estimates that 80 percent of those reared in the church will be “disengaged” by the time they are 29.” ~ Dyck (Nov. 2010)

The Right Relationships

20 “Walk with the wise and become wise,  for a companion of fools suffers harm.” ~ Proverbs 13:20

A priest came to my school when I was new into the Catholic Schools as a teacher with this perplexing problem; “How can we keep more people in the church?”  The teachers in the room suggested stuff like cater better to the community by holding different masses in the languages of the community. One suggested that our parents need to be Catholic from the start i.e. all our children would then be Catholic and the numbers would be better for retention. Still another teacher who did not like any of the suggests said, “The Church needs to be more accepting to people from other denominations and other faiths.” I sat back and thought, (as a Baptist), ‘that God does not discriminate so why should there be any discrimination among His many churches?’ This idea became something that bothered me for many years after that first conversation with that priest. I after changing my views many times, debating this question with many different people from many different Christian upbringings have sorta settled upon this on core idea. It’s not about retention as much as it is about our morality, what we do, think, feel, when we are alone in our personal lives. It is about our beliefs in both humanity and in the eternal forces which guide or shape our lives from cradle to the grave.  It is about the accepted statuesque that is constantly shifting and changing. For religion to grow man must have-buy in, but for there to be belief in God, we must first know God, view His never-changing word and actions. We must understand that the right model for man is the model God has already demonstrated over two-thousand years ago. If we teach what we believe and do it daily and it is based in the word of God then our children when they ask the proverbial, “WHY” then our answers will be aligned with Gods answers to those questions that others had asked in biblical times. Because the word of God is never-changing the answer will be the same for our children’s children and so on as it was intended by God. The gift we then give to our children is an ever lasting relationship with our creator without blemish, stain, or misconceptions. The relationship with God allows all of our other earthly relationships to grow, and thus our wisdom grows with others who are like-minded and the fools of the world will be left to toil alone and condemned alone.  Therefore, our walk with God would begin at birth and remain with God throughout our entire lives.

Amen

If you enjoyed “Relationships – Where We Stray”, I invite you to stay in contact with me through the following ways and please do not forget to rate this posting below.

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 Special Note

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 As we head towards the season of Thanksgiving it is important to take note of all that we have to be thankful for. Like the disciples who learned all things are possible through the love and compassion of God so to can we the many sons and daughters of Christ make miracles happen for those who are in need and thus in our own way feed the multitude. I urge you to support inner city children through the gift of education by clicking the following link.

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The Beginning of Any Relationship

18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” ~1 John 4:18

Take a deep look into your heart, think about all the relationships you have ever been in. What was your first relationship? Was it with your parents, grandparents, were you adopted, did you have any brothers or sisters whom you became very attached too as a child? Did you have a favorite teacher who you wished would be your teacher for life? Who was that person that you could say that what you had was real? I ask this because the answer for me was God. Yes I loved my parents, my siblings, my grandparents, and I will never forget my 3rd grade teacher Miss Rice who broke not just my heart but all the boys in the class when she got married. I fondly remember we all got together and refused to call her by her married name. My point is that all the relationships I had in my life as a young boy was not real. What do I mean by that? I mean the relationships where not forever relationships. Remember what Jesus said about things of this earth: everything shall wither and die, everything on earth shall pass away, nothing here is forever and that includes your relationships.

19 “We love because he first loved us. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” ~ 1 John 4:19-20

Relationships start with love, every relationship in our lives always begins with fearless, open, non-judgmental love. Think about the new born babies and how they lay in anyone’s arms. Think about how their heart is absolutely pure, this is the closest we will ever come to experiencing  perfect pure love. They only cry for two reasons, when they are hungry and when they are in need of a proper changing. But God in his infinite wisdom also hot wired us to crave love, so babies tend to grow and be healthier when they are touched, held, and when they have two parents that supply this love. “Sarah Tufano, a nationally certified massage therapist, certified educator of infant massage and owner of Massage Therapy of Boston in Boston, Massachusetts, notes that infant and preemie touch and massage are “a powerful means of teaching children, from day one, that they are loved and deserving of love.” ~ Budzienski, Jaime (The Effect of Touch With Preemies: The power of touch helps preemies to thrive). We love because God first loved us, our spirit comes from God, therefore our first relationship is with God.

21 “And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” ~ 1 John 4:21

As a professional educator in an urban inner city school I see on a daily bases children who are not and have never been told they are loved. Ruffly  20% of the children in my school crave hugs,  and when I give them these hugs they hold on for dear life. I am blessed to work in a Catholic School because I can tell them all that I love them and that I want only the best for them. In many instances these children focus better, work harder, try to excel once they know I am there for them. In my humble opinion that is what is wrong with our schools and our society at large. Our children are not being given the attention they need to grow and be successful. Parents instead give them electronics and call this love, they sent them on their way to play and entertain themselves and in the end because our children crave love they grow up not understanding what love is nor what a real relationship should be. A good example of this is when my older students say to me when I assign homework, “What do I get for doing this work?” Because some of the older kids have younger brothers and sisters this mentality  rubs off on them. Some of my younger students say to their teachers, “What do I get for cleaning my mess? Are we going to get a prize?” Because they are not taught about love they also do not have respect: respect for themselves, nor others, because again their parents and our society has accepted this norm and we as a nation cannot fall in love with God let alone with each other. We see in our early lives that love equals fear, fear of being punished for something our children will never understand nor will be taught if it first does not come form their parents, the educational system, and from our churches. This is the beginning we have as children when it comes to relationships and love in the 21st century. How can we possibly love one another if we don’t begin practicing with our families, with our parents, and with God.

Today’s Challenge: Parents – write a letter to your children telling them that you love them. Children – write a letter to both of parents telling them how much you love them and are grateful for all the things they do for you. Everyone – write a letter to God telling him how much you love Him and need Him in your life. Ask Him for His divine mercy and everlasting love.

Amen

If you enjoyed “Relationships – Where We Begin”, I invite you to stay in contact with me through the following ways and please do not forget to rate this posting below.

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Email: listeningfaithfullyblog@gmail.com

Facebook: CLICK HERE

____________________________________________________

 Special Note

_______________________________

 As we head towards the season of Thanksgiving it is important to take note of all that we have to be thankful for. Like the disciples who learned all things are possible through the love and compassion of God so to can we the many sons and daughters of Christ make miracles happen for those who are in need and thus in our own way feed the multitude. I urge you to support inner city children through the gift of education by clicking the following link.

Support the Boy’s & Girl’s Tech Team

 Click Here for more details and to show your support.

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This week I wanted to cover an element of the mission God has handed down to all of us, his children. A mission, so profound, that it is impossible to really understand, to truly appreciate, every aspect or even the tiniest single element in this wonderful blessing we call God’s plan. As a child I remember asking my parents when we’re going to grandma’s? How soon are we going to be at the cabin? How much further until we arrive? What is the plan? I remember my mother sighing as she replied, “If I had a dollar for every time you asked me that today I would be a rich woman.” I can imagine God feels the same way every time we ask, “When Lord? When are you coming back?”

The fact is God has a plan. His plan is so complete, so perfect that none of us could ever make it any better. I laugh every time I hear someone say in church; “Just tell me Lord, what’s the plan.”

I have never heard him tell those who have asked the plan…the full plan. I will go on the record and say I never will. Why should God tell us, his children the plan? How many times have you told your own children the full plan? I have never told my daughter the full plan of the day’s events. I have never told any of my students the complete plan for the semester. Why would I and give up all the fun pop quizzes? But never the less it does not stop my students, and my daughter from asking, nor does it stop us from asking God of what he intends to do next. A really good passage on this very fact can be found in Mark chapter 13, verses 32-33:

32 “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.”

In this passage Jesus spelled it out with his warning to be alert. Each day is a gift, each moment is not promised, make every second on this earth count. Trust in the fact that God has a plan, as Jesus had to also trust his father had a plan for him. In fact all the disciples trusted in the fact that Jesus had a plan, and even though some of them could not accept his plan, they obeyed him even still. The beautiful thing about is that Jesus, like God, never said to stop asking of what the plan was, like our parents would once they got tired of us asking.

Mathew Chapter 7, verses 7-8:

7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The fact is God has a plan for every single person who has ever lived, and those who will ever live on this earth. His plan is so inclusive it includes the angels, the devil, and the entire universe. His plan was set into motion before time began. God’s plan is so sovereign, everlasting, unchangeable, and unbreakable, that it includes all things. His plan encompasses when and where we live, go, act, and it anticipates our sins and our good deeds. God has left nothing to chance, but rather it is his will, both the good and the bad. He is constantly testing us, just as he had his own son Jesus in the garden the night he was betrayed, in Luke chapter 22, verse 42:

42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

God was so generous in his plan he allowed for forgiveness, as Jesus states by showing his disciples how they should pray in Mathew 6, verse 9-13:

9 “In this manner, therefore, pray; Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day your daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”

In conclusion, Gods plan is above all merciful, one filled with never ending joy and love. God has his plan for your life, and mine. He works his miracles through us on a daily basis, and if we look hard enough we can see his greatest plan in action, that of the new born baby, who breathes for the very first time. As is with life so is it just as miraculous as when we breathe our last at death. His plan has meaning, it gives us purpose, and it fills our lives with hope.

Amen

 

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In continuing my reflection from last week; of how to have a relationship with God the father, I wanted to describe to you the biblical beginning and the kind of relationship God wanted to have with us. In that I will cover the topic of relationships in a very broad sense, and illustrate this through the story of Adam and Eve.

As I had stated last week, relationships are extremely interesting, especially when we break them down to their most basic parts. Adam and Eve wanted everything we do; the difference is they had a direct relationship with God. They had a front row set in the World Series final game, free of charge. Instead of going to that final game, they gave their tickets away, but more about that later. For right now, God from the beginning wanted to have a personal relationship with you, and with all mankind. He had wanted from the start to talk with use, look us in the eye, love us unconditionally, and teach us all the wonderful things life is about. God created us in his image, and loved us beyond anything we could ever comprehend. His love is so absolute; we need nothing else. We are made to love him, serve him, and give glory to him. In that our relationship with God is complete, we are complete, and God is complete.

7And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis Chapter 2:7).

15Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis Chapter 2:15-17).

God at this point had given Adam everything; there was nothing else he needed. The tree God told Adam to stay away from was a tree that was filled with knowledge we as human beings did not need to have. It would have been a wonderful thing indeed had God had the chance to teach Adam directly the mysteries of that tree. This would have taken time, as Adam was a lot like our children, who we do not give away all the mysteries at once, but little over time as they grow and mature. Adam was truly blessed, because his relationship with our creator was a direct one. There was nothing separating him from God, and God from Adam. This was the type of relationship God intended us to have with him, a deep, personal, relationship.

18And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis Chapter 2:18).

In this God created Eve, not to be subservient, but equal to Adam, helping Adam to maintain all that God had given them. So the relationship Adam and Eve were supposed to have had is exactly what God wants from all of us today. He wants men and women to be equal helping each other, loving each other, respecting each other, in order that we all can maintain all the blessings God has bestowed to us in our everyday lives. In that we are complete, God is complete. With that stated, I find it funny how we have taken this first lesson in relationships and have so distorted it. We as human beings found a way to make it alright to make other races, genders, faiths, and just about every other differences we have in this world and justify our cruelty in making others subservient. Justifying it as if that is what God had intended all along. Biblically speaking we are complete, because we make the effort to help, love, honor, and cherish the blessing God has bestowed. We are complete, because we have given the glory back where it belongs, back to the source, back to God.

22Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man he made into women, and he brought her to the man. 23And Adam said,“This is the bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; She shall be called women, because she was taken out of man.” 24Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis Chapter 2:22-24; 22).

It cannot be ignored that the most sacred of all words in the bible, is also unmistakably linked to the kind of relationship God had wanted from us, and for us. The word marriage is first introduced in Genesis Chapter 2:24, it is a word that can be found in many of the other books in the bible, and is always defined as a special relationship between a man and a woman. This is a fact. I do not point this out to disqualify anyone else, but rather to define the right kind of relationship which God had intended.

“And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis Chapter 2:25; 25)

This denotes the underlying fact that the experience Adam and Eve had was one without shame, without devastating lies, absent of worry, and of any kind of discord. God gave them the food they were to eat, the land in which to live, and the companionship to make their lives full of happiness, and filled with love. Their relationship was one overflowing with the unconditional love of God. With this I make the argument that God still wants this for us today. God initiated this relationship between himself and of all mankind by simply creating us in his own image. His love was so profoundly endless, and selfless, he allowed us to be and to have a close relationship with him. Our God is a loving, and caring God, and we are blessed that he is who he is, and is in this for the long haul.

As I reflect on this passage of the bible I cannot help but wonder how much more heaven is, than the paradise he had made for Adam and Eve. How much more love, and happiness there is in heaven. I also cannot help but wonder why people allow themselves to be taken up in the things of this world, and ignore the blessings that God has given to them. The fact is the wants of God have not changed; rather it is us who have changed. The relationship we have with God the father is a deep, personal, giving, and sharing relationship. He desires it, seeks it out, and rewards us if we return his love with our participation in that relationship. He set the stage for us to have a human relationship between husbands and wives, one that is equally rewarding.

I end this reflection with the question; if God loved us this much, what more could we ever possible need, or want?

Amen

May peace be with you all the days of your life? If you have been moved by this blog I invite you to leave a comment.

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