Friday, March 28, 2014

Hope Unseen - The Story of a Blind Man - Ukulele "I Can See Clearly Now."

Hope-Unseen



Captain Scotty Smiley, a Ranger and combat-diver qualified infantryman, was the Army’s first active-duty, blind officer and its first blind company commander. On April 6, 2005, he lost use of both eyes when a suicide car bomber blew himself up thirty meters in front of Scotty’s Stryker vehicle.

Blindness became Captain Scotty Smiley’s journey of supreme testing. As he lay helpless in the hospital, he resented the theft of his dreams—becoming a CEO, a Delta Force operator, or a four-star general. With his wife Tiffany’s love and the support of his family and friends, Scotty’s response became God’s transforming moment. The injury only intensified his indomitable spirit. Since the moment he jumped out of a hospital bed and forced his way through nurses and cords to take a simple shower, Captain Scotty Smiley has climbed Mount Rainier, won an ESPY as Best Outdoor Athlete, surfed, skydived, become a father, earned an MBA from Duke, taught leadership at West Point, commanded an army company, and won the MacArthur Leadership Award. Scotty and Tiffany Smiley have lived out a faith so real that it will inspire you to question your own doubts, push you to serve something bigger than yourself, and encourage you to cling to a Hope Unseen.



I worked out for forty minutes that day.  Then I walked back out into the chlorine-filled hallway and headed for the exit.  As I've already shared, somewhere along the sidewalk leading to the door of the blind center, my stick missed a mat.  Once I was off my known path, nothing could pull me back.  I had no way to regain my bearing.  For some reason - an act of rebellion, really - I stepped off the sidewalk, further disorienting myself.  The next thing I knew, I was lost in that scorching-hot parking lot.

I struggled for half an hour and then dropped into a lump on the ground and began to sob.  I had no idea who I was or where I was.  Was I even a lieutenant in the army?  I certainly wasn't a leader anymore.  I felt like I was in some warped social experiment.  My entire world had disappeared and been replaced with a joke.  I asked God to tell me how I was supposed to take care of my family if I couldn't even walk back from the gym.  I was tired of basket weaving and Tom's piano playing and being treated like a fool.  "God, what do You want from me?"


I resented the theft of my dreams - my hopes of becoming a fortune 500 CEO, or a Delta Force operator, or a four-star general.  Instead, I was a grown man who needed help walking across the street.  Coming out of West Point and Ranger School, I didn't exactly have my life planned out, but I had options.  And now I can't even walk back from the gym?  I wanted to scream, but all I could do was cry.  I was so incredibly helpless sitting there in that moment, hot, lost, and disabled.


What do you want from me, God?  Why am I even alive?


Oddly, almost instantaneously, I realized that I had never really commuted myself fully  to God's plans.  I'd had my dreams and my plans and my own selfish pride.  I had known God and believed in Him.  I had prayed and tried to love and serve others.  I had asked God to help me with my life's decisions.  But I had never fully depended on God or hoped completely in Him.  In some way, without realizing it, I had hoped in myself.  I had relied on myself, on my gifts, instincts, and natural abilities.  Those gifts and abilities had brought me a long way, all the way to the corner of Route Tampa and Route Porsche.  But they could take me no further.


I had lost my way a while back - my inability to navigate had nothing to do with my eyes and everything to do with my lack of focus on what our finite time on earth is all about.  I paused.   I stopped crying.  It occurred to me that if I was not capable of directing myself between two buildings - a left and then a mat and then a right - then what was I going to do with the big things?  "Scotty," God seemed to be saying to my heart, "humble yourself and depend on Me."  As I sat on that sidewalk I understood with clarity that hardships must occur for people to open up there eyes and see that they are really fools.  If that's not true for all people, then at least for me that was the case.


God continued to work on my heart.  "You are not this guy who can just do things on his own.  You never really were.  No one is."


I thought about Jesus.  God's own Son needed assistance at the toughest moments of His life.  When Jesus fell under the weight of the cross, a man came out from the crowd and carried it for Him.  Paul had Timothy.  Paul told the Philippians he could do all things, not by himself, but through Christ who strengthens.  The me who could see was used to climbing mountains and thanking God for coming along.  The me who could not see was totally dependent.  "You need to trust Me, Scotty."  I sensed God telling me "And you need to depend on others."


I can do all things.   There is nothing in the Bible that qualifies that statement, nothing that says I need eyes.  It says only that I need Christ.  It was a truth that my blindness was going to help me see. My confidence was being moved away from self- from my own ability to see and control - to a new hope, a hope unseen.



In the Gospel of John we hear of Jesus encounter with healing of the Man born blind.  


As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth.
His disciples asked him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents,
that he was born blind?”
Jesus answered,
“Neither he nor his parents sinned;
it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.


Why does God allow blindness?  Why does Jesus wish to heal and perform miracles?  "So that the works of God might be made visible through him."  

When Jesus heard that they had thrown him out,
he found him and said, Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
He answered and said,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus said to him,
“You have seen him,
the one speaking with you is he.”
He said,
“I do believe, Lord,” and he worshiped him.
Then Jesus said,
“I came into this world for judgment,
so that those who do not see might see,
and those who do see might become blind.”

Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this
and said to him, “Surely we are not also blind, are we?”
Jesus said to them,
“If you were blind, you would have no sin;
but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains.


We all have to admit first that we are blind.  Like Scotty Smiley "
The me who could not see was totally dependent.  "You need to trust Me, Scotty."  I sensed God telling me "And you need to depend on others." 

We are blind, but we do have a way to see.  We do have hope, we do have a light to guide us on our way.  And this is Jesus.  If we realize that we cannot rely on our own gifts, abilities, and instincts no matter how good they are.  The truth is we are completely lost, powerless, disabled, and blind.

May God continue to work on your heart so that you realize that 
"You are not this guy who can just do things on his own.  You never really were.  No one is."

We can only do all things through Christ who strengthens us. 

As Scotty realized, it seems "hardships must occur for people to open up there eyes and see that they are really fools.  If that's not true for all people, then at least for me that was the case. 


It's when we realize that we are blind that we begin to see.  It's when we realize that we are dependent on God an others that things become bright once more.  

This leads me to a song that you'll all be familiar with and as you listen to these words reflect on the reality that you have been baptized into this faith.  

If you can see clearly now... it is only because you believe in Him.                      "I Can See Clearly Now"


I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
Oh, yes I can make it now the pain is gone.
All of the bad feelings have disappeared.
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
(ooh...) Look all around, there's nothing but blue skies.
Look straight ahead, there's nothing but blue skies.
I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Here is that rainbow I've been praying for.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
It's going to be a bright (bright)
bright (bright) sunshiny day.
Yeah, hey, it's gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright)
sunshiny day.


                                                                               -Johnny Nash
During these next few days of this parish mission I'm going to help you to see by examining your life, by taking a look and noticing when you are being lead by Christ and when you are blind and walking in the darkness.   By the end of this mission you will have the tools and the resources and the experience of your eyes being opened up to Christ and allowing yourself to "see" and not be blind.  

I'm going to be offering you the chance to have your eyes opened, your blindness taken away, and your life lived in union with Christ.  

If you join me these next few days I can assure your future will be filled with bright, bright, bright sunshiny days.  


Read it Now!   or see his website 

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Behind Every Temptation is a Lie

Satan Devil Jesus temptation desert


Behind every temptation is a lie.  So Satan, we heard in the first reading in Genesis, Satan is the deceiver, he is a liar.  So everything you get out of Satan -- he's always consistent.  Everything that you get out of him is going to be a lie.  It's going to be some twist of the truth.  So Satan is also the tempter.  He's called the tempter.  So behind every temptation is a lie.  And that's what I want to help see how Jesus kind of illustrates this for us in the Gospel, help us see the temptation of the devil. 

Now, I got to the tell you, 2000 years ago Satan was tempting Jesus.  He's not real creative.  So 2000 years later he's still using the same kind of temptations, the same lies on us that he used on Jesus.  So if we can get behind that, if we can realize it, the temptation, behind every temptation is a lie, if we realize that, it's going to help us not to give in to temptations. 

I'm going to go through the three temptations.  The first deals with hunger, the second deals with our identity, and the third deals with our innate need to worship.  So, hunger, identity and worship.  

So the first temptation.  So Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights.  He's fasting.  He gets done with this time of fasting and penance, and he comes out of the desert.  And guess what?  He is hungry, okay. 

So we did a postinia last night, and I had 17 people from our parish, and they fasted on bread and water for 24 hours.  At the end of the meal, I came and knocked on all of their doors ‑‑ at the end of the time of silence, I knocked on all of their doors.  This is the first time I had ever seen it.  The men were there first.  The men were there first.  I said, "Why don't you go ahead and start the eating?"  The men ate their meal right away before the women even got there.  They were already on the seconds before the ladies got there.  They came in there hungry after fasting 24 hours on bread and water.   Now, imagine forty days and forty nights of that fasting, how hungry Jesus must have been.   So the first deals with hunger.       

The tempter approached Jesus and said, "If you are the son of God, command that these –“ what “-- stones become bread."  And Jesus says in reply, "It is written:  One does not live by bread alone, but from every word that comes forth from the mouth of God."  Okay.  That's what we live on.  So the lie is that we live on the bread of this earth.  The lie, really, is that we need to feed ourselves.  The lie is that when we are hungry we need to find something quick and fill that void.   That's the lie. 

The truth is man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.  So when we are hungry, who is the only one that can fulfill that hunger?  God. 
Do we often turn to God when we are hungry?  You know, that's the lie.  The temptation is you're hungry, you got to fill it.  You know, you're hungry, you better find something to fill that void.  I don't care if it's food; I don't care if it's sex; I don't care if it's pornography; I don't care if it's whatever it is.  You've got to fill it.  That's the lie.
What happens when we're hungry and we try to fill ourselves with something like that?  How do we feel?  Do we feel full?  We feel empty, right, because we’ve bought that lie.  We've taken that temptation of the devil and we’ve bought the lie.  And instead of finding ourselves full and satisfied, we realize that we're hungry and desolate.  And the only way that we can fill that void is by turning to God, right?  Man does not live by bread alone but by God.  So the first lie is about our hunger.  

The first lie is that you have to feed yourself and you’ve got to have something to fill that void.  It's a lie.  The truth is only God can fill the void.   

The second one is the devil took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapets.  So the parapet’s the highest part of the temple.  He said to him, If you are the son of God, throw yourself down.  For it is written:  When you throw yourself down, who is going to catch you?   Angels are going to come and catch you, right?  The devil tries to attempt him to try to throw himself down; the angels will attempt to catch you unless you dash your foot against the stone. 

He begins by saying, "If you are the son of God, throw yourself down."   What's the lie?  You're not the son of God.  The lie is you're not the son of God, and if you are the son of God, I need to see you throw yourself down off this temple and angels catch you; otherwise, you're not the son of God.  

What's the truth?  He is the son of God.  You know, so that's when he says, "Again, it is written:  You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test."  So what's the lie that the enemy tries to use for you?  The lie is you are not the son of God.  The lie is you are not a child of God.  The lie is you are not God's beloved son. 

What's the truth?  You are.  The truth is your identity.  When you were baptized, you were no longer you.  When you were baptized you became Christ.  You are the son and daughter of God.  That's the truth.  The enemy is going to try to tempt you and lie to you and say that's not really true.  Look at the life you're leading.  If you are, prove it.  It's a lie.  You are the son of God.  You are the daughter of God.  You are Christ living in the world today, and you have all the power that Christ did to overcome temptation.  That's the truth.  Don't believe the lie about your identity.  You are Christ. 

The third temptation deals with worship.  So we all have this innate need to worship.  And, you know, it's been written, and I think Bob Dylan did once, you're either going to worship God or you're going to worship something else.  We have a need to worship.  

So the enemy tries to play on this and lie about this.  So he says, the devil took him to a very high mountain, showed him all of the kingdoms in the world in all their magnificence, and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me."  

Now, do you think Satan would really give Jesus all of these kingdoms on the earth if he bowed and prostrated and worshipped him?  Would he do it?  No.  He's a liar.  He's a blatant liar.  First of all, does he have the ability to do this?  No.  Because who do all these kingdoms belong to, really?  God.  It's a lie.  It's a complete lie. 

So Jesus says, "Get away, Satan.  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve."   The modern‑day lie, you know, the lie that I think Satan is using like crazy on all of us today is this whole no ship of worshipping something other than God.  So, serving someone other than God or something other than God.  And today it's become work.  Today we worship our careers before God.  For you high school students, it has become very clearly sports.  You worship sports before God.  You bought the lie.  You know, you're willing to give up Sunday mass to go to a tournament or to something else.  You have bought the lie hook, line and sinker.  It's a lie.  Because we have this innate need to worship and if we're not worshipping God, we're worshipping someone or something else. 

And so the truth is, you know, as Jesus says, "Get away, Satan.  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve," that's the truth.  And so practically for us, that means that every Sunday, if we're not worshipping in mass, we have prostrated ourselves before Satan, and we're worshipping him in some other form, in some other lie we bought it.  If we're not spending time every day praying and talking to God, we've begun to worship some other idol.  You know, so that is the lie that he's telling us today, is that we need to bow down and worship him, and when we do he's going to give us everything that we want.  And it's a lie.  Because you can give yourself to your career, you can give yourself to your sports, you can give yourself to academics, you can give yourself to whatever you want, but in the end it can only be given to us through God.   So Satan is a liar, and the same lies that he told to Jesus he's telling us today.  

Remember, behind every temptation is a lie.   So hopefully you've made your Lenten resolutions.  And Ash Wednesday was a couple days ago.  How are you doing on those?  Has anyone given in to the temptation?  Just remember, behind every temptation is a lie.  So anytime you're tempted to give in to something you've resolved, there is a lie there.  Try to go over that with God.   Try to discern what the lie is, because when we realize it's a lie, it becomes far less tempting.  When we realize, first of all, our hunger cannot be satisfied by anything else but by God, it becomes a lot less tempting.  When we realize that we truly are Christ and that's our identity, it becomes a lot less tempting to have to try to prove it.  Finally, when we realize that we have a need to worship and it's a lie for us to ever worship anything else, that temptation loses its power. 

Always remember the devil is a liar.  He's consistently a liar.
 

And behind every temptation is a lie. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

What are you giving up for Lent?



Lent begins this wednesday with "Ash Wednesday."   Traditionally there are three practices that we do during Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving. 

Hopefully, as we begin Lent on Ash Wednesday you will already have resolutions.  I’m writing this just to get you thinking so that you are not scrambling at the last minute trying to come up with a resolution and forgetting to do it or doing something without a lot of thought or reflection. 

Check out an article of mine published in Our Sunday Visitor


Here are some practical ideas: 




Prayer:  

-As Christians we are called to “Pray Daily”.  If you do not spend some time every day in prayer than this could be your resolution.  Make a commitment to spend some time in prayer every day (5, 10, 15 minutes) come “Hell or High Water.” 
-If you need some help with ideas of how, when, and where to pray check out my link: 5 P’s of Prayer http://fathermichaeldenk.blogspot.com/p/5-ps-of-prayer.html
 


This site may give you some ideas too: http://oblatespring.com/oblatespring0651HomeShrines01.htmc



-If you don’t have a place to pray consider creating a place.  Set up a prayer table that you can display some of your sacramentals (Crucifix, Statues, Holy Cards, Rosary, Icon, Candles). 

See my favorites on the top right of my blog: "Prayer Tables" or click here to browse.  


Order it today and you’ll have it by “Ash Wednesday”.  You could also spend time building your own prayer table or take the quick way and go pick one up at Wal-Mart or Target.  Ask for Night Stands or End Tables.  Or look around your house and find a spare table that you could set up in a room to create a place to pray. 
When I was a child my father helped me build a bookshelf and I kept it in my closet.  Whenever I wanted to pray I would open up the closet doors and I had my own little shrine that I could kneel and pray before. 

You may also consider a Kneeler or what is known as a “Prie Dieu” 

Go to amazon and search Prie Dieu Kneeler

Or you can find some here: 

Church Supply Warehouse.  They are pretty expensive so you might want to just use a pillowJ 

I think the most difficult part of praying is having a place to go to.  If you have your “Go To” place to pray it is much more likely that you will end up praying.  90% of prayer is just being there. 
If you need some ideas of “What to Pray with” or “How to Pray” Check out the links on the Right Side of my Blog “Online Sacristy”  There are tons of ideas.  http://fathermichaeldenk.blogspot.com/

Also, Read your parish bulletin.  As each parish offers opportunities for prayer during lent including: Stations of the Cross, Penance Services, Parish Missions, and Lenten Days of Reflection. 




Fasting:


An essential part of lent is fasting.  Every Catholic should choose something to Fast or Abstain from.  For 40 days and 40 nights Jesus went to the Desert and fasted.  We are called especially to do this during the Season of Lent.  Try to pick something concrete to “Give up” or “Deny yourself” so as to gain freedom in being able to give yourself more fully to God and allow Jesus to give Himself to you in the emptiness that you may experience from Fasting. 
Here’s some good resources for learning more about fasting: 




Almsgiving:

My absolute favorite program for Lent is Catholic Relief Services “Operation Rice Bowl.”  Most parishes and schools have them.  If yours doesn't you can order them free here: Crs.org
Get a rice bowl for yourself and give them to others that you may know.  It is a great way of Almsgiving because not only will it give you practical, thoughtful and creative ways to do it, but it will also help you be connected with the poor that you are collecting for.  It is both educational and profoundly spiritual. 

And now, "There's an app for that!"  Download it here.  


My hope is that you will spend some time exploring ideas now so that when Ash Wednesday comes you can make a heartfelt resolution and keep it all throughout Lent.