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Courage is Easy to See….If You Pay Attention

If you’re like me, when you think of courage, the images that come to mind include soldiers going into battle, a police officer rescuing a hostage, firemen pulling people from a burning building, or someone saving a victim from an attacker. These examples and similar ones are what get all of the press coverage. In those stories, whether identifying with the victim or the “hero”, we get a glimpse of “courage”.

Examples of Courage in Everyday Life

The truth is that we have examples of courage all around us, that are far less dramatic than the above. The story I want to share here is very close to home, relating to my wife’s father, who not only showed great courage, but dignity.

When I met Rodney, my father-in-law, then in his 70s, he was still cutting hair in his barber shop of 50+ years, managed his rental properties, golfed and bowled regularly, hunted, raised cows, took care of his 15-acre country property, and spent tons of time with his best friend (my mother-in-law), his daughter (my wife), and the broader family. Rodney was a friend’s friend. Everyone knew him and everyone loved him. 

Lou Gehrig’s Disease

Having experienced tragedy previously in his life, including being thrown from a speeding car as a teenager, breaking his back, and being the lone survivor, Rodney was diagnosed with ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. For those not familiar, ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Early symptoms of ALS include:

  • Tripping and falling
  • Weakness in the hands, legs, feet, or ankles
  • Slurred speech or trouble swallowing
  • Muscle cramps and twitching 

As the disease advances and nerve cells are destroyed, the muscles progressively weaken. This eventually affects overall mobility, chewing, swallowing, speaking, and breathing. With no cure, life expectancy is typically no more than 5 years after diagnosis.

Never Complaining

So as to prolong his retirement, he used rubber bands to help him hold the clippers in his hand while cutting hair. He eventually had to stop working, which was preceded by no longer hunting, golfing, or bowling. He went from a cane to a walker, followed by a scooter and then a powered wheelchair. Over time, he couldn’t do anything for himself. He went from living a healthy, active, vibrant life to realizing that he was dying a slow death.  

From the very beginning of this chapter in his life, Rodney never complained. Never. Not only did he never complain, but he took on every new endeavor (and there were many) without hesitation. From giving up work and all his hobbies, to no longer driving, to being in a wheelchair, and ultimately having his every need taken care of, he did it all with what I view as absolute courage.

No Fear

According to Dictionary.com, courage is the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, or pain without fear. I saw in Rodney a courage that was quiet and calm. He encountered great difficulty, but never feared it. Although ALS patients don’t experience physical pain, the emotional stress is a big issue, but not ever as expressed by Rodney.

He never feared the next thing. He never feared death. In fact, he embraced the journey, showing all of us what a life of courage looks like.

Path to Peace

My father-in-law, ever so courageous and dignified (in a world that so needs it), lived at a place of surrender to God’s will, ever so grateful for the life he lived. He was an incredibly humble man, one who loved all who he encountered. I define these four things as the path to peace. While suffering from the disease that ultimately took his life, he did a wonderful job of exemplifying each. 

Who are the courageous people in your life, not the ones who perform external heroic acts (which shouldn’t be minimized), but live lives with courage, dignity, and faith? I bet you have them. I assure you that you can learn from them.

Please send me your comments at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.

May God Bless you on your Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!! 

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

What Are You Afraid Of?

We all have fears. What are yours’? Have you ever thought about the source of your fears? Or what they’ve prevented you from doing?

I experienced fear for a long time. It was a constant for me, negatively impacting my daily life, my work, my relationships, and even my health, both physically and emotionally.

Living in fear impedes progress in our lives. It stops us from trying new things or taking healthy risks. Self-development requires us to stretch ourselves, to go outside of our comfort zones. It requires risk. We can’t improve the way we’re called to, we can’t grow, we can’t live truly fulfilling lives if we are always in a state of fear.

I’ve learned that if we can name our fears honestly, we can at least begin to overcome them. Here is a list of some of the most common causes of fear. Which seem most applicable to you in your life right now?

Rejection: Everyone wants to belong, to feel loved and accepted. Nobody wants to be rejected.  It is very unhealthy when we value ourselves only through the acknowledgement and acceptance of others. This fear leads us to conform to the way we think others want us to behave, rather than sticking to what we know to be right.

Ridicule: No one wants to be criticized, much less made fun of or laughed at. People want to be respected and acknowledged for what they do and who they are. Ridicule makes us feel stripped of our dignity. Obsessive fear of ridicule can cause us to turn inward, isolate ourselves, and refuse to try new things.

Confrontation: Very few people enjoy confrontation with others, but some are so crippled by the fear of it that they never confront issues. This can lead to a lot of misery, broken relationships, and lost opportunities, because real problems that could be worked through if talked about are never addressed.

Loneliness: Although there are many who have no problem with “alone time,” no one wants to be alone all the time. We’re not built to go through life alone. The fear that no one will love us or stand by us is a very real one for many, and it can be very isolating. It can also keep us from being true to ourselves (our beliefs, values, and desires) because we don’t want to lose the people in our lives.

The unknown: Most people love a certain level of predictability. While we like some excitement in our lives, we resist change. Fear of the unknown relates to loss of control, things becoming unpredictable, and change itself. We fear it because we don’t know what to expect, and we don’t understand how it will impact us. Fearing the unknown keeps us from going out of our comfort zones to become all we’re meant to be.

Failure: No one likes to fail because of what we think failure says about us, i.e. that we’re not good enough or not talented enough. Fear of failure causes us to shut down, to refuse to risk because we don’t want to go through the embarrassment of failing or feeling like we’ve let other people down.  

I would suggest that failure is the thing most of us fear above all else. Why are we afraid to fail?

I think we fear failure because we fear what others will think of us if we fail. We fear that if we aren’t successful in their eyes, then they won’t love us. Diving even more deeply, we fear that if we fail, it proves that we aren’t worth loving at all. This fear keeps us from trying new things, from discovering joy in unexpected places, and from becoming our best selves.

How have you conquered your fears? Let us know your thought at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.

God Bless you on your journey to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph
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Weekly Blog

Happy Wife, Happy Life

Many of us don’t make our marriages a priority. Our attention goes to our kids, their needs and activities. We focus on our careers, forcing us to spend lots of time on work. Then there are additional things outside the home like entertainment and various activities, including participating in not-for-profit initiatives. Much of this is often to the exclusion of our spouses.

It’s all part of the busyness of life. It’s not intentional or done with malice, but instead it just happens.

Culture of Me

Add to the above what has become so prevalent in our society, the culture of “me”, i.e. “me, myself, and I”. So many have lost the “other” focus in their lives. Instead it’s about our self-gratification and pleasure.

There was a time when all of the above applied to me. As such, the idea of “happy wife, happy life” used to drive me crazy. Buying into the things of the world, the phrase seemed absolutely ridiculous. What about me? What about my needs, my happiness? Why was it all about her happiness? And why did the responsibility lie with me?

That Was Then and This is Now

Well, as they say, that was then and this is now. Having experienced conversion and now being very active in my faith, my priorities are much different. I now understand that my relationship with my wife is second only in importance to my relationship with Jesus Christ. With that, for those who choose marriage there are a few truths that we need to live by:

  • Jesus has to be at the center of our marriages
  • Our number one priority needs to be helping one another get to Heaven
  • The better each of us is doing individually (spiritually and emotionally), the better our marriages will be

Die to Self and Serve the Other

In Ephesians 5:25, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Husbands love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her”. To be honest, before being so engaged in my faith, I wasn’t aware of the concept of sacrificial love, at least not as related to my wife (sad to say).

Jesus died on the Cross for us. Paul is telling us that we have to be willing to do the same for our wives….not just in a “heroic jump in front of the bus” kind of way, but in everyday life. We are to die to self and serve our wives, putting her first, as Jesus did the Church.

The More I Give, the More I Receive

Here’s the dirty little secret. The better I treat my wife, the more I do for her, the more I affirm and love her, the better she treats me and loves me. My intent isn’t “tit for tat”. I don’t think it can work that way. But interestingly, the more I give, the more I receive.

In my men’s group last week, I commented that when my relationship is right with my wife, I feel like I can take on the world, that nothing can stop me. The great news is that I get to create that reality every single day by truly loving the most important person in the world to me.

Love and Respect

In Ephesians 5:33, Paul says, “let each one of you (husband) love his wife as himself; and let the wife see that she respects the husband”.

Here’s the dirty little secret for wives, men feel loved when they’re respected. You show your husband respect and he’ll run through block walls for you. If you don’t believe the Apostle Paul or me, I’d point you to Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and his book, “Love and Respect” (loveandrespect.com).

And while I’m promoting marriage gurus, my wife and I have really gotten a lot out of Mark Gungor (markgungor.com), who has a great program called “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage”.

As it turns out, “happy wife, happy life” applies as much to wives as it does husbands, there’s just no good word that rhymes with “husband”.
Let me know what you think at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.

God Bless you on your journey to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

What It Means to Love Your Neighbor

Most of us have neighbors. Some of those neighbors are friends, others are acquaintances, and some we never talk to. We know what “neighbor” feels like. Yet when we hear about our neighbors in a scriptural context, we often think differently. When Jesus says in Matthew 22:39, “love your neighbor as yourself”, our minds often go to far off people and places, i.e. mission trips and making donations.

That’s not what Jesus meant.

Not that those things are bad. I went on a mission trip once to Haiti, that was life changing. Giving money is also a good thing, in fact we’re called to do so. The point here is that many of us could trip over those in our lives who need our help, instead providing for others elsewhere.

I used to be guilty of this. I used to think that stroking checks was enough. It was like I compartmentalized my life. I’d go to Mass, periodically donating my time and talents, but never integrating my “Church” life into my everyday life. That’s changed now. Praise God!!!

I have a friend named Ennie Hickman, who is the President of Adore Ministries. In Houston and at other places throughout the country, Adore serves the poor and marginalized. They do this in many ways, including and especially being good neighbors. Ennie and his wife, Cana, for years have been hosting neighborhood dinners, sharing the love of Christ with more than 100 neighbors at their house each week. Yes, Cana is going straight to Heaven.

Ennie, who is also a national speaker, states the following, “when Jesus said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, did you know that he meant our real neighbors, not someone theoretical, metaphorical, or in a far-off land? He meant our neighbor neighbors, our next store neighbors, those we see every day in the grocery store or the post office. We are to love those closest to us first”.

How are you loving those in your house? In your neighborhood? Those closest to you on a daily basis? Those in your extended family? Maybe an older, lonely relative? Did you know that 50% of those in nursing homes go the entire year without seeing a single visitor?

We have so many opportunities, far and near, to minister to others, to love others…..to love our neighbors as ourselves.

Pope Francis reminds us that we all need to get our hands dirty, helping the poor and the marginalized. You don’t have to be in ministry to do ministry. There are so many opportunities to show the love of Christ to those around us, starting with our neighbors.

So much of America and this world loves things and uses people. We are called to use things and love people. Let’s start with our neighbor neighbors, as Ennie would remind us.

Please comment to me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.

May God Bless you on your journey to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph