Thursday, January 15, 2015

Beauty Awaits

I was driving across Kansas back to my wonderful home state of Colorado. I kept my usual routine that I typically go through on road trips: prayer, searching for a radio station in the middle of nowhere, and belting out songs with no shame to the point of losing my voice. Inside 100 miles away from home, I saw a sign that said, "Scenic Route to Denver Next Exit." I thought, "Why not?"

A few minutes after making the turn onto Highway 86, I realized something profound about what I had just done. I had a destination in mind, and a plan for my course of action. When suddenly, the opportunity to experience beauty presented itself. I hadn't taken any time to figure out what the time differential was going to be in choosing this new path; I just knew that, in my heart, I wanted my road to be more than just point A to point B and that's it.

Today, the desire for beauty not only altered my course on the road, it made me reconsider some very important decisions in my life. Many times, I find myself knowing that I want something, but then I start weighing the cost of what I will need to sacrifice in order to attain it. Of course, that leads to me talking myself out of the practical necessity of whatever that may be. "It's not really worth all the trouble." Well today I witnessed a breath-taking spectacle of rays of the setting sun powering through the clouds over the eastern plains of Colorado. In the end, I made it home knowing that the spontaneous decision to seek what is beautiful had become the highlight of my drive home.

Allow beauty to transform you. Let it alter the otherwise mundane routine of daily life. Search for it in all situations of life, and you will not be disappointed.

Monday, November 26, 2012

We Are All Called to Greatness

It has been a while since my last has been rather chaotic as I have been adjusting to my new position as a missionary with FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). I finally took time to write a relatively in-depth reflection on what has been happening in my life over the past few months. I apologize for the lack of photos on this one, but if one picture is worth a thousand words...I checked Word and there is over a thousand so that counts :)

There have been a few recurring themes popping up in my life lately. The main ones are: God calling me to greatness and leadership, and fear of failure. Huh? If you noticed the same thing I did, you realized that these two themes do not exactly promote one another.

For the longest time, even in the midst of leadership roles, I have fallen to believing that I was not good enough or worthy to hold such a position. I was always honored by the selection made by my peers, but the internal belief in my own heart that I am here for a purpose - to do something great for this world, and to lead and inspire other men to do something great as well - had never really taken a hold of me. Recent events are leading me to internalize this call to greatness more and more and...the fear of failure, while honestly still present, is beginning to lose its grasp.

First, having shared some of my leadership roles of the past with the community of men I live with now, one man in particular has reminded me that those roles don't just get handed out to anybody. The most significant was my term as President of my fraternity. Now, I will say here that I get really uncomfortable talking about myself because I never want to come off as arrogant or as building up my own ego. However, what I have come to realize is that this has caused me to downplay some of my achievements as routine. I don't think that I completely ignored my gifts, however, the fear of failure that I mentioned has been subconsciously impeding me from being fully aware of and embracing those gifts because that would mean I would have to take on the responsibility of using them which in turn would mean taking a risk of failing. The responsibility is not what scares me, rather, the idea that whatever I do won't be enough to get the job done. Here is where the reminders come into play. Others in the past have seen something in me that inspires them. Like I said, I don't want to "toot my own horn" but I do want to express true humility in recognizing the gifts that God has given me and using them to the best of my ability to glorify Him. I have an ability to inspire others. Having identified that, the next step is how will I utilize that gift for the betterment of the world of men around me?

Next, I have been recognizing more and more the heavy investment of my superiors in my team and, for the purpose of this note, in myself. They also see someone who is worth investing in. Otherwise, why would they bother with their precious time sharing experience and knowledge that would be better suited elsewhere? God has given me something that I have got to learn how to wield. The attacks on humanity are relentless: abortion, poverty, murder, sex trafficking, pornography, depression, physical ailments, war...the list goes on. I want to solve all of the problems of the world. Don't we all. But the fact of the matter is that the task is WAY too big for any one person on his/her own. And, as we are many parts, my strengths are not going to be best suited for some (most) of these issues. Sure, I could absolutely apply them in all of these areas of need, and good work would be accomplished. But I ask myself, "Where is the BEST use of my time and gifts"? That question is still in the air for further discernment. I digress. My superiors are teaching me many practical skills to succeed in wherever it is that that question leads me. Not only to play some small role, but to LEAD and INSPIRE others in a mission to change the world in some way.

This one is a little on the abstract side because anybody could have been watching the movie and heard the same lines from this scene. But I don't believe in coincidences because I think that every event has its purpose; whether we pay attention to more than its surface-level meaning or not is another thing. Anyway, I was channel surfing one night - with all of this "call to greatness," "leadership," "inspiration," and "fisher of men" business hot on my mind when I came across the Chronicles of Narnia. I never read the books. Saw one of the movies. I'm no crazed fan or anything, but for some reason, I stopped. All of the creatures were gathered around one man (I don't even actually know the character's name) as a great battle was coming upon them soon. They all looked to him. They said they would go to battle...if HE would lead them. Who is waiting for me to step up? Who will I lead?

Recognition of a call to greatness, for me and hopefully for all who hear that call, should not become a power-thirsty aspiration for vain glory. I know better than to be a prideful leader, although I am not na├»ve to the objective temptation to gloat when a leadership role is taken. Temptations will certainly arise to say, “Look at everything that I am doing.” No. Look at everything that GOD is doing through me by inspiring me and giving life to my gifts. Yes, I am acting on that inspiration and seeking those areas where I can serve, but none of it is possible without the Great Musician. Make me an instrument.

I don’t typically share stuff like this with people online or on paper. If I do write thoughts like this down, it is in my own personal journal and I might share it in conversation with a few close friends. This time, I’m not sure why, I was moved to include others in this thought process. As I am writing this out, it came to my mind that the purpose of my sharing this note with others is one in the same as the gift that I have come to recognize in myself. INSPIRE. My aim for including YOU is not to gloat about this newly discovered gift of mine; rather, it is to encourage YOU in your own call to greatness. Your unique gifts are waiting within you, waiting to be recognized, waiting to be utilized and put into action to do “something beautiful for God.” St. Catherine of Siena is said, “Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.” My prayer for all of you is that you can spread like a wildfire by allowing God to work in incredible ways through you; ways that you never even thought imaginable.

Glorify God in everything that you think, say, and do. Set the world on FIRE!!!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Message to Women

The other night, with the help of some good friends, we put on an event for the women of Rockhurst. The men who put this night together want to take a stand against the way that women are mistreated in our world. The turnout was good, about 15-20 girls who shared their insight on the issue. After some discussion, we then showed a video that a few of us put together. The video can be viewed at Six other men who also wanted to address the issue were willing to stand up at the front of the room with a promise:
"I am a man. I promise to respect and uphold the dignity of women. I promise to view women as people rather than objects. I will enter into respectful relationships with the women in my life, striving always to have their best interest at heart. Furthermore, I promise to be selfless in my relationships, seeking out opportunities to serve women and not my own selfish interests.
I will not allow women to believe the lies held by society. I will not allow women to disrespect themselves through language, dress, or action. I will not stand by quietly while other men disrespect women.
I will not let this promise stop with me. Through my words and actions, I will seek to inspire others to share in this promise, and to create a world in which women receive the proper dignity that they inherently deserve."

We then passed out these Dove chocolates while the song, "You're Amazing" by Bruno Mars played.
The beginnings were small, but my hope and prayer is that the conversation from that night carries into the lives of those present and they can share that with more and more people. Wildfires don't start out as wildfires. They start small and spread, putting flame to everything they touch. That is what I would love to see this turn into. The event was the smouldering sticks and leaves...
Ah, and here are four reasons why this message is so important to me:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reap What You Sow (or Knit)

Last week was my 22nd birthday. So many blessings came out of last week. I received the Hawk of the Year Award, was voted Greek god, and my fraternity won Greek Week. We got to celebrate at Winstead's afterwards. I got a couple of very special gifts from Colleen - a new "Justin Boots" hat, and a bottle for memories between the two of us over the past year and a half. This was undoubtedly the most cherished gift. Bottled memories that I will never forget.

I would like to share, however, about a gift that I received from Carolyn, from Sudexo. Flashback to first semester. Her brother had a stroke and so I told her that I would be praying for him and for her family. We spoke a few more times throughout the semester and she would update me on how he was doing. Carolyn, out of the great kindness of her heart, gave of her time and talent to give me a very special birthday gift. She knitted an entire blanket for me. I was extremely moved that she had spent so much time putting it together for me. She was so excited - she was telling me about it weeks before my birthday saying that she was making something for me. Now, not to say that I was ever expecting anything out of showing kindness to Carolyn to begin with - she was going through a struggle and I was happy to be there to comfort her whenever she needed - but this is a great lesson for me in how kindness pays off so greatly in the end. We reap what we sow sort of deal. I think that bad things still happen to good people, of this there is no doubt, but I also think that if we make the extra effort to help others in their times of need, someone WILL be there for us when we need it.

Carolyn, thank you so much for the blanket and your friendship. God bless.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Little Love Can Change It All

Entering into the final month of my senior year, I have been thinking a lot about what wisdom I would like to pass on to those behind me. I do not wish to share the wisdom because I think that it's better than what others have gained in their owns lives, in fact, I have learned a great deal from people who are younger than I am; however, simply going by numbers, with age comes life experience, with life experience comes wisdom. This wisdom is enhanced by reflection, something that I have become quite fond of over the past few years.

If I had to narrow my thoughts to share just one huge life lesson, it would be this: let my life serve as a witness to the love of Christ. I certainly will not claim perfection here. I want others to know that they are loved. Violence, depression, suicide, and other related issues are all effects that sprout from, I believe, the roots of people not feeling loved. I desire, in any small way that I can, to show people that there is SOMEONE who recognizes them and cares about their well-being. A little bit goes a long way. I know the difference that a small act of love makes in my life, and so I want my words and actions to provide that for others. And if they know that I can love them in some small way, I want people to know that that is but a glimpse of the love that Jesus has for them. If we all devoted half the time to this as we do to aimlessly complaining about everything that is wrong in the world, I wholeheartedly believe that we'd see a vast turnaround in the morale of the world. Small scale beginning with enormous potential.

Monday, April 2, 2012


This weekend was densely packed with great memories. Every spring, my fraternity has a formal; for the past three years, that has consisted of renting a bus and having a dinner/dance in downtown KC somewhere. Fun, but overdone. This year, we changed it up a little bit. We got out of town for the weekend and took a road trip to Stockton Lake a couple of hours away where we rented cabins for the weekend. It was such a perfect weekend.

Friday night, we all ate dinner together (about 60 people in one cabin with all the guys and dates) then a bunch of us went up to the lodge, some for the hot tub, some for the putting green. Colleen, Paul, Matt, and I stayed on the putting green for hours, making attempts at all the different holes. The next day, a few of us got up to watch the sunrise over the lake. Then, after a mid-morning nap and breakfast, we headed down to the beach.

Arguably the best surprise of the weekend was the pontoon boat. Initially it was going to cost each person about $10 to go for two hours, which would have been great, but Jay Cross, the manager of the cabins, was so excited to get his boat out on the water for the first time of the season that he took two groups each for two hours FOR FREE!!! He took us to a spot where we went cliff jumping too, which is always awesome. It was Colleen's first jump, so she and I jumped together. Side note, my first cliff jump, I stood at the top for about twenty minutes before I finally got up the courage...Colleen showed no signs of hesitation. So brave, so proud!
Evening came and we had a barbeque for dinner (Jay was invited as a thank you for his generosity). We had a dance party and watched the Final Four games in the so-called, "Man Cave" cabin.

To sum up the weekend, I'm just so blessed to have the opportunities to live life to the full. My final semester here at Rockhurst is jam-packed with so many cherished memories I can't even count. In short, AMDG.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Transition Looming

With six weeks left of classes and a half week of finals, reality is swiftly and surely setting in. Conversations about what I have come to learn over the past four years, how I have grown, and what the future has in store are becoming all the more prevalent.

While I will, without hesitation, admit to plenty of fears about the uncertainties which lie ahead, I am moving into the next chapter of life with full confidence that I'm going to be alright. Faith, family, and friends will be there for me through the inevitable challenges that will arise. Also, I know that the difficult times with be counteracted with just enough, if not an overwhelming amount of joyous memories that will undoubtedly keep me going.

I must constantly remind myself that even though I only have a short amount of time left here, I still have six weeks to make the most of my college experience. It's easy, especially during a time leading up to a big change, to think about how things are going to be different when the change comes about; the choice that I am trying to challenge myself to is to be consciously present in the here and now. Dwelling too much on the future (or the past for that matter) is dangerous because I have found that when I do that, I can't enjoy the moment. And then I miss it altogether.

I continue to grow and understand more and more. I think the most significant lesson that I have learned over the past four years is that, whether in the classroom or in life, I will always be learning. New experiences will present new challenges and new discoveries which will lead to increased wisdom.