From my youth, I have spent much time in wilderness areas. If you do not pay attention to where you are, you can easily get disoriented. Growing up, we jokingly said that we never got lost, we simply took longer getting back than we anticipated.

The most disoriented I have ever felt was a time in my late teens. I was deep in the forest and began tracking an elk. I tracked him for about an hour with my total focus on the ground. When I finally stopped and looked around, I had absolutely no idea where I was. Clouds blocked the sun and there were no mountains or landmarks to be seen in the dense forest. I confess there was an instant rush of anxiety through my entire body as I realized my total disorientation (notice I still cannot use the word “lost”).

Fortunately, I didn’t panic but calmed down and realized the only way out of my situation was to recall what I did know and track that elk backwards, the exact way I had come.

In our spiritual lives, it is easy for a person to get their focus on the “ground” (the world) and find ourselves disoriented. Somehow, we managed to take our focus off the things that keep us on the right path. When we finally look up, we find ourselves disoriented. We suddenly realize that for quite some time we have not been to church, or we have not been praying, or that we haven’t read a verse of Scripture. If fact, we have not been focused on our spiritual life at all. What should we do?

When that realization washes over you, don’t panic. Remember that you are not lost; you are just taking longer to get back to the right path. Start right where you are by asking the Lord for forgiveness and to help you get back on the right track. Make the decision to go to Church the next Sunday. Take a few minutes and read the Scriptures for the day. Ahhh… Already you are calming down and heading in the right direction.

It is important to understand that becoming disoriented once in a while is very much a part of our spiritual journey. It happens to almost everyone. You are not “lost”. It is simply taking a little longer to get back to where you ought to be.

Whom Will We Reflect Today?

On a recent hike, I took this photo of a small mountain and cloudy sky reflected in a lake. It is a beautiful scene, but if you look closely at the reflection, you would note that it is not a perfect reflection by any means. In fact, you might say, “Father, why did you use that photo? There are so many perfect reflection photos available and this one is far from perfect.”

I chose this imperfect reflection for a singular purpose. There was a slight breeze blowing across the lake that morning which caused that imperfection. A breeze will bring small ripples across the surface of the water and the image is slightly distorted.

In my efforts to “reflect” Christ in my life, the “breezes” of this world blow across my life and I fall short of perfection. When those breezes become winds and even storms of life, I can begin reflecting frustrations and anger. Yet when we make the attempt to “reflect” the Lord through our lives, it is beautiful, imperfect for sure, but beautiful none the less. So how do we reflect the Lord in our lives?

Consider this verse of Holy Scripture: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

In reality, there is only One Who is the LIGHT. Jesus said clearly: “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12) The only true light that can shine forth from us is the reflected light of Christ in our lives. Christ is in us and our light is the Light of Jesus shining through us. It is reflected in our actions, in our words, and even in our thoughts.

Reflecting the light of Christ in this way, takes effort. For me, it doesn’t just happen because I got up this morning. I may pray: “Lord let my thoughts be Your thoughts; let the words of my mouth be Your words; let my hands be Your hands.” A beautiful prayer to start the day. But those breezes will come and my thoughts may wander, my words may betray my pride, and my hands may become an “angry fist” while driving. Those failures reveal the imperfection of my reflection of Christ.

I may be distorting my reflection of Christ by my foolish pride, my anger, my fears…in fact, the “breezes” of this world may have distorted the reflection I had hoped to have throughout the day. Those breezes may be brought about by the movie I watched last night or the news I listened to this morning. In fact, there are so many potential breezes in my life that it is a wonder that I could ever actually reflect the light of my Lord. And yet, the Lord continues to call me to let His light shine through me and reflect Him to this world.

If those “breezes” become winds and a storm in your life, remember that our Lord calmed the winds and the storm. We can reflect Christ any time and any place by focusing on Him and not on the breezes, winds, or storms.

One summer, many years ago, I was working with 40 teenagers in a secular program. Before the summer began, I selected Matthew 5:16 as my goal for the summer. I began each day reciting this verse and continue repeating it to myself throughout the day. I learned to love each of those teens and gave myself to doing everything I could for them. I never preached at them; I just loved them. By summer’s end, 30 of them had committed their lives to the Lord. It taught me a lifelong lesson, that if we can stay focused on reflecting the light of the Lord through our lives, people will notice and God will be honored.

This week, I encourage you to start each day with that verse: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Be mindful of the breezes in your life and let that verse be your focus each day. Let’s see what takes place in your world.

What is Your Story?

Have you ever been out on a walk and seen some old giant rock or tree? On such occasions, I have often said something along the lines of: “Oh, if this rock could talk or this tree could talk, what a story it could tell.”

Take a close look at the photo of this tree. What story would this tree have to tell? It began with a seed rolling down the rock and falling in a crack. It found just enough soil to germinate. And thus began a life of enduring many trials. As it began to grow, heavy snows and freezing temperatures threaten its very life. As it became a sapling, it could look down on its brothers and sisters growing in plenty of soil and prospering in what seemed like a good life. Over the years, droughts would hit and the tree sent out its roots on top to the rocks hoping to find more water and soil, but there was none. Through all of these trials, the tree grew strong and lived many years. We couldn’t imagine how many lightning storms this tree survived over the years until finally a lightning strike ended its long life in the crack of a rock.

This was truly a unique tree with an incredible and unique story. Each of us has our own incredible and unique story; one that is ours alone. Unlike the tree, our story is still being written. The story we are living is as unique as each of us truly is. If you don’t think you are unique in all the world, just take a look at your fingers. Those swirls and lines that make up your fingerprints are yours and yours alone.

Your story is so very important. We live our story surrounded by others and yet no one really knows our whole story except for ONE, the Lord. He knows everything about us, even the number of hairs on our heads. He knows all the storms and droughts of life that we have gone through. He knows all the good stuff of our story and all of the not-so-good stuff of our story. Yet, in spite of all the wrong decisions and the bad things we may have done, He loves us and He has mercy on us.

Then, He calls us to go love and show mercy to the people we come across in life. They each have their own unique story that has made them just the way they are today. They may have endured storms that we can’t even imagine. They are unique in all this world just like you. May we be instruments of God’s love and mercy to those around us and in so doing, become a part of each other’s story.

The Christian Life is not a 100-yard Dash

Good day to you my brothers and sisters in Christ. Many Christians want to start using the Jesus Prayer in their lives. This is the prayer that uses the example from the story of the Pharisee and the Publican praying in the temple: The humility of the Publican is clear as he prays: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I normally ask them to start with 100 for the day (If they are really zealous, I would say try 100 in the morning and 100 at night). No more; no less, until you receive permission. After a week, there were some who reported doing 10,000 the previous day. Without exception, they would soon be doing zero. St. John Cassian addresses this issue head on:

“There is an old saying: ‘Excesses meet.’ Too much fasting and too much eating come to the same end. Keeping too long a vigil brings the same disastrous cost as sluggishness. Too much self-denial brings weakness and induces the same condition as carelessness.

Often, I have seen men who would not be snared by gluttony fall, nevertheless, through excessive fasting and tumble in weakness into the very urge which they had overcome. Unmeasured vigils and foolish denial of rest overcame those whom sleep could not overcome. Therefore, ‘fortified to right and to left in the armor of justice,’ as the apostle says (2 Cor. 6:7).

Life must be lived with due measure and, with discernment for a guide, the road must be traveled between the two kinds of excess so that in the end we may not allow ourselves to be diverted from the pathway of restraint which has been laid down for us nor fall through dangerous carelessness into the urgings of gluttony and self-indulgence.” (End quote)

The Christian life is meant to be one of moderation. There is so much danger in wanting to be a “Super-Christian” who fasts beyond belief and prays all night. Perhaps, like me, you have experienced the Superman “S” falling off your chest at some point. There is also so much danger in the opposite direction of being a “Lackadaisical-Christian” who never fasts or prays so very little. Sadly, the path of the “Super-Christian” often leads to one becoming a “Lackadaisical-Christian”.

The Christian life is not a hundred-yard dash. It is meant to be a life-long marathon. We should be strengthened slowly but surely so that our spiritual growth is steady.