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The Ten Invitations


Thou Shalt NOT…

As a youth minister, I can tell you that nothing is quite as tough as teaching the Ten Commandments.  A lot of the youth have it about half-memorized, and because of that they think they know it all.  It’s a bunch of rules on stones, an old guy came down the mountain telling us what we couldn’t do, they made a really long really old really over-dramatic movie about it, blah blah blah.  These teens have stopped caring about it ages ago.



It’s tough to overcome such a mountain of preconceived notions.  I find that I have to start basically from ground zero, totally rebuilding and reframing how we approach it.  I have one particular re-framing that I’m a big fan of. I can’t remember where I heard it, but someone said that the Ten Commandments were not so much a list of “Thou Shalt Nots” as much as guidelines that free you to live a life of real joy and real peace.  Kind of like a fence along the edge of a cliff–it enables you to run and play without tumbling off the edge.


The Ten Invitations

With that in mind, I decided to go through the Ten Commandments and rewrite them.    In place of commands from God, I’ve written them as invitations from God our Father.  In them I hope to convey God’s calling to us to be his children, and to rest in His Love for us.


Thou shall…

  1. Rest in my love, my father’s love for you, my child.  I overflow with love, pride, admiration, adoration of everything you are. Don’t settle for lies.  Don’t settle for anything that will love you less.
  2. In your time of darkness, in your time of need, cry out my name.  Be like Peter, who, when the storm raged around him, cried out my name.  I am here to save you, to comfort you, to guide you, if you but call my name.
  3. Rest, truly rest.  Oh my child, you work so hard.  You labor, and distract yourself, and overwhelm yourself with tasks.  Lay your burden down. One day a week, just be with me. Just be yourself.  Just rest.
  4. Take joy in your family.  Call your mom, make her smile.  Share a cigar on the back porch with your father.  Listen to them, their wisdom, their lessons learned.  And if your parents have hurt you, have abandoned you, have ripped apart the beautiful fabric of the family, I give you the divine power of forgiveness.  Don’t let them break your spirit anymore.
  5. Fight for those beautiful moments of life.  Clutch your dear friend around her shoulder when she’s struggling with mental anguish.  Clutch that ultrasound picture in your hands, and let the tears of awe overcome your fears.  Clutch her wrinkled, fragile, trembling fingers, and give her comfort that her she won’t spend her last days alone.
  6. Hold your spouse so close to you when he or she comes home today.  Buy him something superfluous just because.  Send her a text about a way that she’s changed your life.  Forgive him for that thing he said. Talk to her about that one resentment you held for years.  Work daily towards resolution, communion, his smile, her laugh.
  7. Trust in me.  “Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?”  Work hard, plan, but above all, trust. You have all that I have given you, all you need.
  8. Be set free.  You lie to protect yourself and others, you lie to seem more interesting, you lie for gain.  But you enslave yourself. Your forge chains around you. Break the chains of all the things you aren’t.  Set your true self free.
  9. Pursue my perfect plan for you.  I have a plan for you, a Vocation, that will lead you to my own heart.  It will be the completion of your joy. Take joy that others have found their path to my heart, and wait for your own path.
  10. Be happy, be content, give thanks, joy in your blessings.  Why waste your time being sad?  Do good work for those things that you want, but every day take the time to truly enjoy everything you have.
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The Danger of Being “Fine”

“I’m fine.”

“Just great!”

“Doing well, thanks.”

No matter how we’re actually feeling or doing, it’s generally considered a matter of American etiquette to put on a cheery face and respond nicely to anybody and everybody we meet who asks the quintessential question of politeness: “How are you?” Even in the face of grief, loss, injury or suffering, you’ll hear folks attempting to respond to the question with as much positivity as they can muster.  It’s almost reflexive.

Have the flu or broke your arm? “Oh, I’m doing OK, really!” 

Just had a 24-hour labor ending in a C-section or finished a round of chemo? “Oh, I’m just a little tired. I’m sure I’ll be on my feet in no time!”

Someone you love passed away? Going through a divorce? “Oh, I’m ‘getting there’ one day at a time!”

While societal customs insist we put on our bravest, happiest attitude for everything from the casual encounter on the street to the concerned inquiry from a friend, are we really doing ourselves any favors by defaulting to “fine?”

 In this Washington Post article from last July, pediatrician Dr. Smita Malhotra talks about shifting her outlook on defaulting to a happy face after she realized she was lying to her young daughter about her feelings.  She comments that, as a physician, she can clearly see the damage that forced positivity has on mental health:

“By constantly telling children to “turn that frown upside down,” our society sends them the message that being sad is almost unnatural. That it is something that needs to be fixed immediately … In my work as a physician I have seen increasing numbers of children and young adults being put on antidepressants. In many cases, these drugs are needed … But sometimes, they are used as a way to avoid dealing with sadness.”

Dr. Malhotra goes on to explain how mindfulness and honesty about one’s own emotions is a healthier choice that leads to greater resilience, more empathy for others and a realization that we do not have to be defined by our feelings.  Her column comes from a secular and medical viewpoint, but her words also have great value for those of us who live the Christian life. What she’s talking about is actually directly related to one of the Ten Commandments. Number Eight, specifically.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Before you go feeling panicked you’ve got one more reason to head to the confessional, let’s put the brakes on for a moment.

It’s not a mortal sin to let “I’m just fine,” slip out of your mouth when someone asks you how you’re feeling.  And it’s not immoral to want to protect others from your own suffering, or keep your personal problems private, or put on a happy face, or make the best out of any bad situation.  The Catechism summarizes the Eighth Commandment as “forbid[ding] misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others.”  It defines a lie as “speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.”  It also makes clear that intention and circumstances often define the gravity of a fib, and that we’re never bound to reveal information to someone who has “no right to know it.”

But it’s also not being needy, or too negative, or a “complainer” to be politely open and honest with anyone, even a stranger, who asks what’s going on in your life.  In fact, this approach has a lot of spiritual benefits to recommend it.

Displaying our mental, physical and spiritual wounds to those who inquire about them grows us in humility and truthfulness.  It makes us vulnerable like Christ was vulnerable, but it also allows others the chance to be Christ by ministering to our needs.  It opens up channels of trust by allowing others in our lives to see our true selves, and it helps us all dispel the widespread and anti-Christian societal illusion that the only people worth associating with are the ones who “have it all together.”

So the next time you’re having a bad day and someone asks you how you are, pause a moment and considering answering more honestly.

“I’m struggling a little today.”

“Oh, my heart hurts over the things going on in the world.”

“I’m working on feeling positive this morning, but I’m not there yet.”

“Not so well. Actually, could you help me with this?”

You might feel needy and awkward, but you might also find God’s comfort and love hiding in an unexpected place. 

And that is just fine.


DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}


MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

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A Chaste Woman’s Hero: Jane Eyre


** spoiler alert ** If you haven’t read it and think you might, don’t read this review! This truly great book is filled with suspense and surprises.

I rarely read a book more than once, but Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte has captured my attention repeatedly since I first encountered it years ago.

The book jacket claims that “Charlotte Bronte poured her contempt for the stifling conventions society imposed upon a woman’s right to emotional and sexual fulfillment.”

On one hand, I can see how this “frank revelation of female character” may have been shocking or particularly well-developed for the time. The romantic male characters in Bronte novels are far from ideal or societally acceptable in the classic sense.

In actuality, this novel is far from a feminist treatise, unless one defines feminism as upholding Christian chastity in the spirit of Proverbs 31 and Matthew 5:30.

In this novel, Edward Rochester is the desire of Jane Eyre. He is an ugly, older man with a bombastic character and a whole lot of baggage. In fact, he has a psychotic wife locked up in his house, a secret he has kept from almost everyone, even Jane. Yet, they fall deeply in love; a love which is well-developed in the story and quite pleasant to read.

Finally, he asks her to marry him and, with their vows imminent, someone speaks up during the ceremony to oppose the match. The truth comes out about the wife and, in spite of her intense feelings of affection for him, Jane makes the decision to leave Edward completely. He is exceedingly repentant, and by the time you hear his story, you don’t feel nearly as bad for him as you want to. But she runs away and does not look back. The reader sees her deep love and her compassion for him and his situation but also sees that there is a finality about her actions; a refreshing sense of totality in her willingness to abandon her desires for the sake of her conscience and her knowledge of the Ten Commandments.

All seems lost, and I assumed Jane was going to end up with an austere, brilliant, and handsome missionary and minister who proposes to her and invites her to go to India with him.

She can’t leave, however, until she resolves once and for all to learn what has happened to her true love. Is this regret or remorse for turning away? The reader senses it is purely love. It turns out Edward’s house has been burned down by the disturbed wife who died in the fire. He has been blinded and left even uglier than before, and now that she is free to marry him, they marry and live a contented life together.

How this book can be touted as a feminist masterpiece in the modern-day, cultural sense of the word is beyond me. I found it to be an incredible spiritual treatise, and Jane and Edward’s spiritual journeys are palpable and poignant.

When Jane leaves Edward, refusing to give in to the temptation of living with a married man, she trusts God entirely to care for her. Where she ends up is ultimately prosperous, both materially and emotionally. She gets reconnected with family she didn’t know she had, and part of the very communication that led to her initial tragedy of the called-off wedding turns into the very thing that prospers her. When she does meet Edward again, she gives herself wholly to his service. She feels free to love him completely and serve him in his infirmities, which ultimately lessen as he regains some of his vision.

Edward, on the other hand, travels through the fire, getting terribly humbled. Only when he completely gives himself to God does he have a second chance to find happiness, and this time, on the terms of the Christian faith which is the foundation of the story. These characters face extreme trials while staying true to Christian ideals.

The underlying message of this book is that God’s rules are liberating and lead to a very unexpected joy. Not very feminist in the modern-day sense of the word!

If you haven’t read Jane Eyre yet, you should. You may find her, as I have, a strong and fitting companion for the Christian journey.


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Idolatry and You! Part 1

If you’ve been Catholic for longer than 2 minutes, the chances are decent that you’ve been accused of idolatry. Idolatry being, of course, a pretty big deal. It’s the first of the Big Ten, and that is the important, but oft brushed-aside commandment that we will be tackling. This topic is so huge and multi-faceted that I really felt than in order to do it the justice it deserves, today’s post will be the first in a three-part series organized thusly:

  1. What is idolatry, and why is it a big deal?
  2. Non-Catholic Christian objections to Catholic praxis and why
  3. How to respond to #2

Hopefully, at the end of this series, we will all have a catechetical refresher on idolatry, a deeper understanding of the position/mindset of our separated brethren, and a renewed defense of our faith (apologetically speaking), so that we can better lift non-Catholic Christians up in prayer and evagelize more effectively. Therefore, without further ado, let us tackle point #1:

What is idolatry, and why is it a big deal?

Amidst the many instructions and commandments that God gave to Israel after their deliverance from Egypt, the first of them are a few biggies that we all know as The Ten Commandments. And, the first of these first commandments is one that’s easy to check off of our lists and say, “Oh yeah, got this one in the bag.” I am of the persuasion that this first of the first commandments is super important because, well, it’s the first thing God says to the Israelites:

Exodus 20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

(For our purposes, we will address verses 4-6 in the coming two posts, so remember them!)

As far as having “no other gods” before God, that part seems pretty easy, right? Pretty straightforward? I mean, none of us are out there worshiping trees, I’d assume. But this is so important not to brush aside. The Catechism has a lot to say about idolatry, but one pertinent paragraph says:

2113 Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. It remains a constant temptation to faith. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc. Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Many martyrs died for not adoring “the Beast” refusing even to simulate such worship. Idolatry rejects the unique Lordship of God; it is therefore incompatible with communion with God.

You see that the object of idolatry does not necessarily have to be a person. It could be your free time, your career, money, power… anything that you give more importance or honor to than God. In the words of Mark Shea:

People with a cartoonish view of idolatry often tend to talk as though idol worship is something stoopid heads just get up one morning and start doing out of a perverse desire to prostrate themselves before a rock or something.

But, in fact, idolatry is typically born out of the deep love of something that is genuinely good and great. It is the best things in the world that become idols, not the worst. Nobody idolizes the band that opened for the Beatles (whoever they were). People idolize the Beatles, because they were really good. Nobody idolizes the mediocre ball player, the second-rate artist, or the guy who lost the race to be the first from New York to Paris. They idolized DiMaggio, Leonardo, and Lindbergh.

For just this reason, one of the tricky things about the Christian Faith is that we must always be on guard, not against loving creatures per se, but against loving them more than we love God. Keep God as your first and greatest love and you are free to love creatures (especially human beings) as much as you like. But get those loves out of order and, no matter how worthy the creature, you are an idolator.

As the Catechism also says, idolatry “rejects the unique Lordship of God”, and this is an important aspect to keep in mind as well. Jesus said:

Luke 6:46 “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?”

As Christians, we know that obedience to God is required- God’s Lordship over us is unique in that there is no one else who holds a position over us that is anything like it. Your boss may ask you to stay late one night, but his lordship over you is nothing like God asking you to love Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. You may ask your children to clean their rooms, but your parental lordship over them is not like the Lordship that our Father has over us, when Christ’s words to St. Peter echo back to us through the ages: “Do you love Me more than these?”

Put someone else’s requirements for you over God’s, and it is idolatry. Outright rejection of His Lordship is idolatry because it elevates- to the pinnacle of importance- oneself.

This is why the Catechism says with absolute truthfulness that idolatry remains a constant temptation to faith. It’s something we all must be mindful of, because none of us are immune to idolatry. And, although Catholics are often on the receiving end of idolatry accusations- idolatry isn’t a Catholic problem… it’s a personal problem. One that all who profess Christianity must be ever vigilant against.

So what about statues? What about praying to saints? What about kissing icons? Where does this leave us with Mary? All questions that will be answered in the coming posts! Stay tuned!