The Gift of a Public Faith

“Authentic Christianity is meant for the world and will always be a challenge to the corruption of the world.” – Bishop Robert Barron

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The past few weeks I’ve heard and experienced a very clear message from several public figures in the Catholic world: Faith wasn’t meant to be privatized. Christianity is not a privatized religion. It must be shared publicly in order to fight the resistance of the world.

I think now, more than ever, it seems we need more public displays of Christianity.

Why?

Well, not only to fight off evil, which is a good enough reason of course. But more to dispel the myths of who Christians are and what they look like and how they act. To clear up the confusion! Because I gotta tell you, there are a LOT of confused people out there who have a warped idea of who an authentic Christian is.

Due to the rise of secularism and people identifying as being either non-religious or just plain old “spiritual,” a common assumption is that we are all just like the group of Westboro Baptists. I was astounded to hear this!  Not only is this completely FALSE but it’s also disgusting and hurtful to be associated with this very very small group of individuals. In doing research for my post today I actually went to their website just to confirm that this group has nothing good to say and I was right. Sadly, they are all very misguided. They preach hate. Plain and simple. It was sickening and most of all, discouraging.

I thought to myself, “This is what non-Christians think of us? That among the 30,000 different denominations of Christianity, we are all associated with these people who preach nothing but hate and make it their duty to protest funerals?”

Isn’t this even more of a reason to publicly express our faith and what we believe, in love and with compassion? It won’t do us much good to retreat to our cozy homes or stay inside our churches and just keep our faith to ourselves.

So it starts with us; with me and you.

But where to begin?

The smallest acts can go a long way

Something as simple as saying grace before every meal, even when you’re someplace like a fast food place or a restaurant can go a long way.  How? Well, because you are being SEEN. Others notice that kind of thing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said grace before eating a meal and have gotten just a simple smile from across the room from folks. Almost like a nod of approval or a just a simple gesture to show that they respect it. And it serves as a reminder to others that may have stopped practicing this ritual.

I read somewhere recently to always pray before eating a meal at a restaurant and make sure to pray before the waiter/waitress leaves the table after placing the order. That way, you take that moment to ask him/her if you can offer up any prayers for them, too!

It could be something like just bringing your Bible somewhere. Or the Magnificat or the Liturgy of the Hours. Plenty of people are nosy, I have found. They’ll strike up a conversation with you just about anywhere. (Unless it’s just a friendly Midwestern USA thing?)

Take for example, reading a book. Any place that’s public like a beach, or park or commuting on the bus or at the airport is a place where you find many people are reading while waiting for something. I’m always curious what people are reading so I have no problem just asking someone, “What book is that and is it any good?” Fr. Tom of the TOB Institute mentioned that he brought his Breviary with him on a fishing boat recently and it always gets the locals talking and asking him, “What’s that? Is that a Bible? You some kind of holy man or something?” It’s a great icebreaker.

I will give just one small example from my own life that I thought was interesting. It took place at the car dealership where I was getting my oil changed. Of all the places, I ended up evangelizing to the service guy!  He initiated the conversation by asking, “So is it Sister Michelle? I noticed that book in your car when I went to move it.” The book in question was called A Vowed Life that one of my dear friends loaned to me.

I laughed and said “Oh no, it’s most definitely not Sister Michelle.  But funny you should mention that because I’m actually discerning consecrated life, which is different than religious life.” So he proceeded to ask me all kinds of questions about that which was fantastic. Then I went to see my sales guy and he had heard from the service guy what we talked about and so then HE proceeded to ask me more questions about consecrated life and what that would look like, etc. So we had an awesome conversation about discerning one’s vocation. Both of these men had discerned married life so I explained how and why I discerned that married life is not my vocation and how I came to that conclusion. What a place to have this random encounter, at a car dealership of all places.

The point is that when out in public, and not just in the pew, we are being seen. We are being observed. Is our conduct in line with what our faith teaches us? Are our actions one of faith or one of what the culture tells us we should be doing? Are we going to let non-religious people stereotype us as “those hateful bigots?” Or are we going to stick up for what we believe while simultaneously preaching the love of Christ?

The public square is open. It’s up to us if we’re going to step into it and declare our faith to all who can hear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Confused To Choose – When Dieting Becomes a Heavy Burden

Happy July to all!  Thanks for all the positive feedback concerning my last post. Seems quite a few of you got some good information out of it, which is always nice to hear.

Since this month we celebrate our Independence in the States, I got to thinking about freedom and choices and how that relates to our health. That got me thinking, “What happens when we are bombarded by so many choices, that we actually become anxious and obsessed with eating and being healthy?” Technically, there is a medical term for the obsession of being healthy – Orthorexia. I don’t believe I know too many people who legitimately HAVE this condition, but I DO know there is plenty of misinformation out there to cause confusion and anxiety. So here’s some advice on how to lift that burden off your shoulders for good and just…live.

Let’s start with my favorite subject – FOOD.

What I typically hear from most people:

“What foods are good for me? I hear Paleo is the way to go, is that good? What about eggs? They’re “bad” for me, right? And how about vitamins, I hear thats a load of garbage, so I shouldn’t take those, right? And how often should I workout? And how much cardio is TOO much cardio and what if I overtrain? AHHHHH!!!”

Well, now you’ve completely turned yourself into a big ball of anxiety because you can’t figure out how to even get to Step #1.

Fact – We cannot survive without food. But we have the freedom to choose which foods to eat. And, better yet, we have the freedom to choose which ones we KNOW will literally weigh us down and pack on a few extra lbs, and those that will lift us up, make us feel better, make us lighter, and help sustain us.

The first step to freeing yourself from this way of thinking and obsessing? Trial and error. It’s more intuitive than anything.

The question becomes: “Who are you listening to?”

Are you listening to your friends or co-workers: “You probably shouldn’t be eating all of that. Aren’t you on a diet?”

Are you listening to some doctor on TV: “Take these Raspberry ketones, you’ll burn fat at lightning speed!”

Are you listening to people who enable you: “I can’t eat like you do…you eat some of the weirdest foods. You should live a little!! Here, have some cheesecake. Better yet, just give me the cheesecake, I’ll eat it for you.”

The first step is to listen to you. While we all have the ability to do our own research on what foods are the most nutritious or most healthy for us, it doesn’t take a Masters in Dietetics to tell us that slice of apple pie is probably not going to help you lose weight like that one apple will.  Somewhere along the way, we have become slightly obsessed with being super duper healthy and fit. And it got complicated. So if you”uncomplicate” things, that weight is slowly lifted off your shoulders over time.

(This is easier for people who do not have serious eating disorders/obesity/anorexia. That’s an entirely different issue that I’m not addressing here. This is advice for your average dieter.)

Let’s say you have an auto-immune disease or condition where you DO have to be constantly aware of what you eat. The person with the nut allergy is probably going to have an easier time listening to his/her own voice due to the fact that if they don’t, they could become seriously ill or die if they choose the wrong foods. I don’t have a food allergy but I do have an auto-immune disease (Ulcerative Colitis) which I have blogged about before.

I have had to decipher between the voices telling me that if I just did a Paleo diet, I could cure myself. I know they only have good intentions and the research could suggest that this is entirely possible. I gave in and tried to eat differently and avoid grains for awhile. I felt, for a while, that my freedom to eat the way I WANTED to, was taken away and now I had to adapt to this NEW way of eating.

But guess what? Nothing happened. My flare-up didn’t go away. And, even when it did go away with medication, and I ate grains/foods that supposedly would do me harm, I didn’t get sick. So, through trial and error, I came to the conclusion that I should have just listened to my own voice to start with. Something inside me told me that a simple diet wouldn’t cure something that I’ve had since I was 14 years old. It might work for SOME, but it didn’t for me. And that’s okay! I had the choice to try an alternative way of eating and I did.


What about fitness and getting in shape? How about that guilt trip we put ourselves through when we KNOW we have time to get to the gym and we SHOULD go but we just don’t WANT to?

How do you think advertising agencies stay in business? They put out those infomercials and billboards and commercials telling you, “You are not good enough, therefore, take this pill/drink this shake/wear this body wrap/buy this treadmill/join this gym and you will finally be good enough.” And the sad part is, many of us listen to those commercials and we believe those lies. This is how the confusion starts. And this is when people start to HATE their own bodies and HATE the process. No wonder they stay away from the gym!

Again, it comes down to who’s voice you’re listening to? If you have zero desire to get in shape, by all means, don’t waste my time or your time by coming to the gym and hogging a machine that I could be on. Seriously, don’t. (That’s my attempt at reverse psychology). I truly believe we all desire to be healthy. But the process of exercising CAN be burdensome.

I met someone recently who said he had a barrier preventing him from getting in shape. He stated he hated and dreaded exercise so much that he could NEVER love it. Therefore, he never did it. This was the wall he was trying to break down.

Well, Newsflash: Not a whole lot of people LOVE to exercise. Not a whole lot of people LOVE their job, but they go to get a paycheck and provide for their families. Not a lot of people LOVE to go to school but they go so they can learn and educate themselves so they can be a contributing member of society. You don’t HAVE to LOVE exercise to do it. But you should LOVE YOURSELF enough to do what is right for your health.

Ever heard that saying that goes something like: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” How about we stop obsessing about how often we’re going to the gym and just decide to GO. And then when we get there, just doing one thing well. Do one thing. Wouldn’t that be better than going to the gym and doing NO THING?

Examples of just one thing:

1. Recumbent bike/stationary bike for 10 minutes.

2. 10 push ups/15 sit ups/ 20 squats

3. Walking on the treadmill for half a mile

4. Taking one group fitness class

Seriously, this is probably the most basic of basics. Anyone, doesn’t matter who you are or what level you are at, can do any of these “one things.” Imagine if you did all 4 of those things in one day. Well damn, now you just went did a pretty good workout! Give yourself a pat on the back! Why? Because it’s better than no thing.

You should see the look on someones face when I tell them how simple this is. It’s like they just discovered the meaning of life. They feel relief because they can finally let go of all that was holding them back. All those voices telling them, “No you aren’t working out hard enough if you don’t feel like puking at the end of your workout!” “No, you should’t eat that, EVER!” “No, you can’t do that!”

So go ahead and start simplifying your food choices. Start simplifying your workouts. Listen to yourself, tune out the “other” voices. Let go of all that garbage weighing you down. And do one thing well. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how light you start feeling as that burden of all that was once heavy starts to fall off your shoulders.