A Long Look in the Eye

Holy Week Series: Part III

We have a phrase in our house: shifty eyes. This usually comes up when one of our kids mentions someone who has gotten into trouble at school. “He’s got the shifty eyes,” I’ll typically say. Someone with shifty eyes is hiding something and doesn’t want to give you the opportunity to look them in the eye. As their eyes keep darting around, they keep you at arm’s length. It’s safer for them.

The eyes don’t lie. 

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 26, Judas betrays Jesus at the Last Supper. If there was ever someone with shifty eyes, it was Judas. Jesus, in docility to the Father, accepts the betrayal. Imagine how much this must have hurt. Imagine the long look in the eyes that took place at the Last Supper. If I was there, I probably would have reached for the wine.

Was it a glance or an awkward “eye lock” of 10-20 seconds? Whatever the case, we can learn from this. To whatever degree you are able, give Jesus your eyes. Instead of betrayal, let your glance be one of love. Give Jesus your silence today. Even if you can only close your eyes for two minutes, give him that. 

Holy WeekMike StPierre
True Discipleship Involves Others

Holy Week Series: Part II

In today’s Gospel reading from John 13, we are reminded of Jesus’ interactions with Judas. Reclining at table, within the context of a meal, Jesus instructs Judas (thought to be Jesus’ friend) to be quick. Jesus knew what was about to happen. In a painful, almost intimate moment, he looks Judas in the eye and sends him on his way.

Jesus knew that discipleship is a messy process. Some get it. Others do not. He realized that his role was to invite all, even if it meant suffering the pain of betrayal. 

We have a similar invitation- invite those you know to follow Jesus. Your neighbors, coworkers, those on the internet, etc. Some won’t get it. Some will be offended. 

Nonetheless, the call is still ours to follow Christ and involve others in the process. 

Holy WeekMike StPierre
How to Find Quiet When Your Home is Full of Noise

Holy Week Series, Part I

For Christians, Holy Week is the most focused time of the year. I’ve heard this since I was a kid. The problem, if we can call it one, is that life still churns around us while we try to find solace in a seemingly ordinary week. 

But, as is often the case, we know that it is not ordinary

I’m wondering today about something quite simple- how do we find quiet underneath the noise? Underneath the churn, how do we walk differently during Holy Week?  I write these words from my basement. It’s morning and my teenagers are upstairs prepping their breakfast. They talk about the rain the night before while the coffee maker comes to life.

Noise. Beautiful noise. The ordinary sounds of a busy family. The churn. The dog rambles up the stairs, leaving me to my words. 

How do you find quiet when your home is full of noise? What you don’t do is eliminate the noise, unless of course you are a monk. That’s not the call for most of us. Rather, it’s about appreciating the facts around you and inviting the Lord into the churn. 

I get to listen to the sound of teenagers rustling around before their school day. I get to write in my journal. I get to consider how Holy Week is the most profound invitation of the year.  

Try inviting the Lord into the noise of your life this week. I suspect you’ll find him waiting for you there. 

How the Bible Can Anchor Your Prayer Life
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This post is not to try and convince you that the Bible is important. You and I already know that. Rather, I’ll try to remind us of its gentle power within our daily prayer lives.

As a Catholic, I am often surrounded by other believers who don’t actually read their Bibles on a regular basis. This sounds judgy, I know. Still, I know enough Catholics for enough time to acknowledge an ugly truth- most don’t read their Bibles. Many are still strong disciples of Christ but simply haven’t made Scripture a core component of their daily lives.

While this genuinely makes me sad, the reasons are similar to why most Christians (writ-large) don’t have a daily prayer time:

No one ever taught us how to do it, resulting in…

  • a lack of confidence to try…

  • and a sense of private shame that we don’t read our Bibles more often.

Like saving for retirement or personal finances, Bible reading can fall into the same murky category of our lives. I’d like to challenge that and invite each of us to begin anew.

Scripture helps diminish the distance between God and us because we can become part of the story.
— Dr. Robert Wicks

The Bible, as the sacred text of all Christians, is like an anchor of our faith. It provides a rudder to help us navigate life’s challenges. It informs our decisions and reminds us that we are loved. As Dr. Robert Wicks said in Everyday Simplicity, “Scripture helps diminish the distance between God and us because we can become part of the story.”

This story is one of God loving all people to the point of sending his very son, Jesus. As Christopher West says, the entirety of salvation history is summed up this way, “God wants to marry us.” The Bible not only reminds us of this truth but gives a backstage pass to God’s plan to woo us and be in relationship with us.

Ok I’m convinced! The Bible is important. You probably feel the same way.

But, as is always the $5M question, how do I get familiar with my Bible and then incorporate it into my daily prayer life? Here are some very simple things that you can do to get familiar (again) with your Bible:

  1. Find your Bible and spend two minutes with it. Don’t have one? Go over to Amazon and buy one. Find one that you enjoy holding- not too big, not too small, etc.

  2. Choose to read either the daily Mass readings or start with one particular book. Catholics are familiar with a liturgical calendar and if you read the daily readings, you’ll cover the entire Bible in about three years.

  3. Make a decision that you’ll read your Bible every day. Just choose a small section, a paragraph or two and make progress that way.

  4. Use a technique called Lectio Divina. For a primer, check this out.

  5. Over time, let your daily Bible reading become a spiritual anchor for your day. You’ll eventually feel as if something is missing if you go a day without reading your Bible- that’s the goal!

Eventually, you’ll find that your daily Bible reading will become a reference point. It will stay with you during the day and then, when you least expect it, the Lord will pull it out of you, holding up a key idea or phrase for you to savor.


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The Power of Being Specific When You Pray
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Science has affirmed what we already knew- gratitude is good for you. It cuts down on your stress and connects you with other people. “Practicing” gratitude, or listing 3-5 things each day for which you are thankful, is a healthy way to ensure that you are in touch with all that God is doing in your life.

I wonder though if, at times, we are too vague in our acts of gratitude.

Think of the last time you had a moment of prayer before a Thanksgiving meal. No doubt the things said were honest (“I’m thankful for our home”…”I’m thankful for my family”, etc.) but what if we infused our thanksgiving with more specificity?

Being specific with God does a number of things:

  1. It pushes the savor button all the more, turning over and over the bits of God’s goodness that we might otherwise miss.

  2. It accompanies a healthy examination of conscience.

  3. It cultivates resilience.

  4. It reminds us that God is doing so much more than we typically appreciate.

Henri Nouwen once said, “I am deeply convince that the necessity of prayer, and to pray unceasingly, is not as much based on our desire for God as on God’s desire for us. It is God’s passionate pursuit of us that calls us to prayer.” Specific gratitude is a gentle response to God’s pursuit of us. It’s a way of saying, “I see you God. I’m noticing you Lord.”

So how do you do this? It’s quite simple. Be as specific as you can be when you pray. Tell God how much you appreciate the smallest of things- a soothing nap, a person’s wide smile, a conversation that brightened your day.


Quick Win: How to be More Resilient

 
 

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Five Things You Can Do For Lent (and why they matter a whole lot!)
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Ash Wednesday begins on March 6, 2019 and for millions of people around the world, this means something- action. All of us want to put our faith into action and Lent is the perfect time to do this.


People will begin a 40 day sprint towards Easter and will either give things up - a sort of sacrifice- and also try out new things. It’s also a wonderful time for humility, a time to acknowledge that our prayer lives are rarely what they ought to be. As St. Josemaria Escriva said, “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ you can be sure you’ve already begun.”


I figured it would be interesting to connect five actions you can take during Lent to my upcoming book, The Five Habits of Prayerful People. I wrote The Five Habits in order to provide a virtual toolbox of strategies for prayer. It’s designed for the busy person in mind.

Before we link the book with Lenten action, let’s remind ourselves why Lent matters in the first place. Lent comes from an old word meaning “lengthen”- as the days get longer, the sunlight returns and we inch ever closer to Easter. Since Easter is all about Jesus triumph over the cross through his resurrection, Christians have, for thousands of years, practiced a sort of “retreat” during Lent. This looks like, not surprisingly, a series of actions designed to help us get ready for Easter. 


Lent is a fitting time for self-denial.
— Pope Francis

If you “do Lent right”, you’re more likely to enter into the deeper mysteries of the season and as a result, draw closer to Jesus. As Pope Francis said, “Lent is a fitting time for self-denial; we would do well to ask ourselves what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty. Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt."

The problem of course is that we get distracted, tired or bored during Lent. The things we resolve to give up can become a distant memory if we’re not laser-focused on the task at hand.

Ok, let’s now match a strategy with each of the Five Habits:

  1. Habit of Passion and Pursuit >> Begin to enjoy five minutes of pure silence each day. Start with one minute each day for a week. Each week, add a minute to your silence. Invite God into the stillness.

  2. Habit of Presence >> Look people in the eye. When you are in public and in passing or when you are one-on-one with someone… work to give them your full attention.

  3. Habit of Preparation and Planning >> Choose the tools you’ll use during your morning quiet time. This will likely be a Bible and journal. Besides that, what else speaks to you? An icon? A crucifix? Identify and group the tools you’ll use. Place them somewhere that you’ll have your daily quiet time.

  4. Habit of Persistence and Perseverance>> Install a quote that inspires you in a place you’ll see it. This might be a quote from a saint or a Bible quote. Put the quote inside your journal or Bible. Or, have the quote framed and placed in a spot where you’ll see it often.

  5. Habit of Pondering>> Take one day off from technology each week. This is the single most powerful strategy I’ve used in the last five years. Step back from your phone and give God one day a week to break through the noise of digital stimulation.

These strategies really work. More significantly, they matter a whole lot. They contribute to a more prayerful life and collectively will help you to slow down. When we slow down, we are more present and it’s much easier to find God in everyday life. 


Quick Win: Learn the One Phrase that Will Transform Your Prayer


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