Maximizing Prayer

Have you ever had a difficult decision to make, and found yourself praying, “Lord, you decide. Just tell me, and I’ll do it!”?  I know I have.

In his podcast on “Four helpful rules for discernment,” Fr. Mike Schmitz points out that sometimes (not every time, but sometimes,) we ask God what His Will is, for the simple reason that we don’t want to make the decision.

It might seem really godly of us to do whatever the Father wills – but sometimes it’s an excuse for us not taking responsibility for our own choices. Continue Reading

Taking the Hint

I once had a job offer that I was fairly excited about. It was the kind of thing I enjoyed doing and the employer seemed to think I would be an excellent fit. The only difficulty was the calendar: I needed to be assured that the school schedule they followed would work for me. We went back and forth with negotiations, and they were eager to accommodate my requests.

When the final phone call for formal acceptance arrived, I found myself with an uneasy feeling. With [what seemed to be] no reason whatsoever, I said no to the job.

I didn’t have any other prospects, I wasn’t dreaming of doing something else – I just found myself unable to say yes to the thing I [thought I] wanted.

It didn’t seem like a very rational decision at the time, but it worked out because my life took a turn in a different direction soon after.

How did I know to do that? I certainly didn’t plan to turn down the position: I didn’t even know I was going to, until the very last minute! Was it the Holy Spirit nudging me? Was it some kind of foresight I didn’t know I had? Was it my gut, telling me that something was “off”, even though I couldn’t say what? Continue Reading

Unexpected Change

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Simcha Fisher wrote a great piece recently, reflecting on how a diagnosis of diabetes in their family has changed the way she thinks about food – but not just food. The whole notion of how one way of thinking might be just fine in one particular set of circumstances, but not in another, made her question how freely she remains open to change in her spiritual life.

“There is one constant: We must know, love, and serve God. But the specifics are surprisingly subjective. What God wants from me, to keep my soul nourished, is not necessarily what He wants from you.”

“This is a familiar lesson. Maybe we’re comfortable with the idea that we are one body with many members, and that diverse vocations are a feature, not a bug. But are we aware that our own vocations may be good and useful and pleasing to God for a while — and then may abruptly change? That the thing that used to nourish me yesterday might suddenly become the last thing I need?”

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Do We Always Need to “Build Character”?

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I had surprising conversation with a friend recently. She asked me about life consulting, and I was telling her how I might advise a mother who is overwhelmed with family duties but wanting to pursue a hobby to get some help with things she didn’t love (laundry, cooking, etc.) in order to have a bit more time for what she did love – (painting, music, etc.).

My friend, a mother of grown children, burst out: “but that’s not character building!”

I quickly replied that leaving her family and running away to Argentina was not character building, but devoting 5 fewer hours a week to a household chore could hardly be seen as a life of vice. After some thought, she agreed.

This conversation left me thinking. As Christians, we are raised to believe (rightly) in the importance of character. We are taught to practice virtue – including the virtue of perseverance in tasks we may not like. Self-sacrifice and self-control form the basis of a life of service.

But sometimes it seems like Christians feel that they always ought to choose the more difficult task, because “building character” is so important. So is there no room for doing what comes easily to us?

How do we walk the line between doing what is easy because we love it and/or it comes naturally to us, and doing what is difficult because it builds our character? Continue Reading