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The Two Lessons of Christmas

Christmas is coming fast…just four days away. Is your shopping done? Your party plans made? Do you know what Church service or Mass you’re going to? Are you going to get to see and do all that you want to?

In today’s blog, I thought I’d address what Christmas is and isn’t. Let’s do the latter first.

What Christmas Isn’t

Christmas isn’t just this commercial thing, where we’re hustling and bustling to buy things. It’s not just parties and celebrations, decorations, food, and drink. It’s not just light shows and concerts, nor caroling or drinking of eggnog.

And it’s not an opportunity to just use a different greeting, given the time of year, like Happy Holidays…

What Christmas Is

Instead, it’s where we can wish others a heartfelt Merry Christmas, knowing that Jesus and His love are at the center of it all. While Christmas can be those things above…as long as they’re wrapped in love, it is so much more.

More than anything, God is love. And the greatest love He could give us is His Son. As opposed to making a grand entrance, Jesus entered this world the same as we did. Unlike us, He was born of a Virgin, our Mother Mary, the first Disciple.

For His first 30 years, Jesus lived the life that we do. Different from his public ministry, He garnered little attention, instead being with His family, learning a trade, learning His faith, and working along-side His father….all I would suspect so He could minister more effectively to those He would meet, in addition to you and me.

Jesus entered into our humanity so that we could enter into His divinity. We celebrate on Christmas one of the truest examples of love in all of human history (the other being Jesus’ Crucifixion)…

  • We celebrate God’s love for His Son and Their love for us.
  • We also celebrate our love for one another.

Christmas is the time of year when love is truly in the air. There seems to be a compassion and generosity that don’t exist at other times of the year. People seem to be happier, friendlier. It is a time of joy, excitement, enthusiasm, and as we approach the new year, even expectation.

Although holidays, including Christmas, can be hard for some (we just lost my father this past October), December 25th, Christmas Day offers us hope in what can be this sometimes gloomy world. Christmas reminds me of John 3:16, where Jesus says that “God so loved the world, that He gave us His only begotten Son, so that all who believe in Him may not perish, but may have eternal life”. That’s the gift of Christmas.

  • Christmas is an example of God’s love.
  • Christmas is a time when we share that love.

God loves you more than you’ll ever know, no matter what you’ve ever done. More than anything, He wants you to live a life of Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment.

May you and your family have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

God Bless, Peace, Joy, Love,

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

When Life Gets Tough

My wife, kids, and grandkids are all healthy. So is my mother and mother-in-law, my brothers, and their families. We just celebrated Thanksgiving, all of us together, and it was a great blessing.  So what I’m talking about here has nothing to do with anyone being sick or dying. No relationship issues or financial crises. And while our country is “going to hell in a handbasket”, that’s not what the title of this blog is referring to either. 

I’m in a rut. Things are not fun at work. It’s nobody’s fault, but instead the realities of a post-COVID world, especially when you’re in the events business…which is the case for our conference ministry. And additional challenges compound things. I love where I work and its mission. I love my department and all its outstanding people. But currently it’s a grind. Add to that the discernment I’m going through related to my personal ministry, as noted a couple weeks ago.

Photo by Brett Jordan

I’m reminded that this too will pass. One of my teammates just stated that “it’s a season”. Among the dozens of quotes I remember from my Dad, one of my favorites is, “nothing is ever as good as it seems and nothing is ever as bad as it seems”. All of these resonate with me. So does the stuff I’m constantly preaching, although not always easy to apply (or see) when you’re in the middle of the storm. 

A friend asked me what I think the Lord is trying to show me (teach me) in the moment? He suggested that I take it to prayer. Ha!!…go figure. You’ve seen me write about the “attitude of gratitude”, indicating that everything happens for a reason:

  • For a greater good
  • For the opportunity to glorify God
  • To help us be our best

Not always easy to appreciate in the moment, I believe it to be absolutely true. As such, I need to ask what God is trying to show me? How is this experience going to help me in the long run? What skills is He wanting me to develop? What is the greater good? How will He be glorified through this experience?

I also talk about humility, understanding that it’s not us, but God working through us. There’s an old saying that is attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola, “pray as if everything depends on God, and work as if everything depends on you.” Many think the phrase captures the Ignatian spirit: turning it all over to God in prayer and then working tirelessly and urgently to do God’s work.

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Both of the above (gratitude and humility) relate to surrender…giving it all over to God and following His will for your life. As noted in previous blogs, my experience is that our willingness to surrender is dependent on trust…trusting our Lord, trusting is His absolute and unconditional love for us, knowing and internalizing that He put us on this earth for a specific purpose, with special and unique talents. Trusting that He wants the absolute best for us and knows (more than we know) what will make us happy. 

I refer to all of this as the Path to Peace…Surrender, Gratitude, Humility, and Love. Although I wrote a book and talk about it often, I still need reminded. Not new concepts, the best ways are prayer, the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist in the Mass and Confession, and fellowship. I need to double down on all three…which I’m doing. 

I don’t do this often, but please pray for me and my teammates during this time, as we try to rebuild our conference ministry. If you feel so called, please come and/or bring your kids. Steubenville Conferences are absolutely life changing and I’m not overstating that. 

I’ll pray for you during this Advent season. As we prepare for Baby Jesus, our Lord and Savior, let us recall our faith, in good times and bad, knowing how much God loves us…and always remembering what great things God wants for each and every one of us. 

As always, please email me at [email protected] with questions, concerns, comments, or prayer requests. 

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

Remember…God made you for Greatness!!!

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Three Signs of a Great Leader

Leadership, leadership, leadership…it’s all about leadership. It doesn’t matter the organization, whether it’s a company, Parish, family, university, a not for profit, a sports team at any level, or the government. To understand the success or failure of any organization, look to the leader.

I’ve had the privilege and responsibility of leading organizations for the last 30 years of my life (including my family). Although there are characteristics of behavior that we’re born with that lend themselves to leadership, I don’t believe in the concept of a “born leader”. Being a great leader takes study, experience, and maturity. A simple internet search will provide you with the characteristics of a good leader, a sampling of which follows:

  • You genuinely care about others’ success
  • You’re a good communicator
  • You know how to inspire
  • You have a clear leadership philosophy
  • You lead by example
  • You invest in people
  • You have a talent for spotting talent
  • You empower
  • You know how to give feedback that makes a difference
  • You take risks
  • You take accountability
  • You’re a strategic thinker
  • You’re good at conflict resolution
  • You can handle the big disasters
  • You create calm amid chaos
  • You inspire loyalty
  • You’re authentic
  • You celebrate wins
  • You remove barriers
  • You’re self-aware
  • I would agree that these 20 are all characteristics of a good leader, but I would suggest adding the following 3 for a leader to go from good to great:

    1. You love your teammates (different from #1 above)
    2. You are a champion of collaboration
    3. You view trust as critical

    Let’s look at each individually.

    Love Your Teammates

    It’s one thing to care for others’ success and another to be invested in those you work with professionally and personally. A favorite saying of mine is that “nobody cares what you know unless they know how much you care”. And caring for others isn’t just a matter of helping them be productive between the hours of 8AM and 5PM. Instead, the great leader invests in the whole person, helping him or her be the absolute best versions of themselves, regardless of whether they stay indefinitely or are likely to leave within months. It’s a love that’s irrespective of their role or tenure. It’s a love that’s expressed with action and verbalized.

    Champion of Collaboration

    Another favorite expression of mine is that “people don’t have to be agreed with, but they do need to be heard”. It’s true of all of us. Without contributing, without being heard, there’s no buy-in, no ownership of a new initiative.

    As a leader, I don’t view my responsibility as coming up with all the answers. In fact, I pride myself in rarely coming up with any of the answers, instead helping others develop the answers for themselves and their organizations. This approach corresponds to “loving your teammates”, from above, in that it’s the only way people are truly going to learn.

    Trust is Critical

    Trust is built on transparency and vulnerability, both of which needing to be exemplified by the leader. For an organization to thrive, it is imperative. Without it, there is dysfunction and disloyalty.

    If you’ve ever worked for an organization where there’s distrust, you know the negative impact it can have. In fact, it’s amazing, as I’ve experienced on more than one occasion, how the changing out of just one person, regardless of the level, can dramatically impact “trust” and therefore the performance and morale of the entire organization. Trust is critical and the leader sets the tone.

    Without question, the list of 20 from above is valid, but the good leader will become great only with a focus on love, collaboration, and trust. The fruit born out of these three characteristics will not only be a high performing team, but individuals who are fulfilled in their work and committed to their organization and its mission.

    As always, feel free to get back to me with questions, comments, or challenges at [email protected].

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

    Mark Joseph

    Categories
    Weekly Blog

    Thank God for Thanksgiving

    Thank God for Thanksgiving!!!

    I posted a similar blog 3 years ago…liking what I reviewed, I wanted to share again. It’s a good reminder.  

    As a country, we have so much to be grateful for, to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving 2022. We get to live in the United States of America, the greatest social and economic experiment in world history. There’s no place in the world that compares to our country. While others have great architecture and landscape, no one has our freedoms, those things held so dear by our Founders, that include the freedom of:

    • Religion
    • Speech
    • The Press
    • Assembly
    • Petition the government

    While race and gender inequality existed at the country’s founding, significant measures have been taken over the last 60+ years to dramatically improve the situation. Even with these historical challenges, we’re in a far better place than the rest of the world. Americans are a good people, a compassionate and generous people…statistically speaking, the most generous people in the world.  

    The economic opportunities in the United States are second to none. The story of our country is immigrants coming here and having financial success, finding a better life for themselves and their families. The same opportunities and experiences exist for American citizens. And as time progresses and innovation persists in this great country, more opportunities exist. 

    The United States of America is the leader of the world. That’s not by accident or just because we have the mite to make an impact…militarily and economically. It’s because we’re the role model for the world. We’re the best of the best and others want to emulate us.

    I write the above, knowing that we still have challenges in this country. The one closest to my heart, in addition to the pro-life movement, is solving for poverty. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to remove politics from the conversation, understanding what has and hasn’t worked over the last 60+ years, to lift families out of poverty.  

    In closing, I’d like to offer the following prayer for our country: 

    Dear Lord, thank you for all of our many blessings

    Here in the United States of America; 

    Help us to remember the freedoms you have provided us

    And the opportunities you have given us.

    Help us dear Lord, come together as a nation, eliminating the division. 

    Lord, let us feel Your unconditional love, not caring what others think, 

    But being all that you call us to be. Help us to see Christ in all and be Christ to all, 

    Living Your Will, helping others be the best version of themselves. 

    Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, we thank you for our great country; 

    We ask for your continued blessings on its citizens and all that travel here. 

    Amen!!! 

    As always, please contact me at [email protected] with questions, comments, concerns, challenges or prayer requests. 

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

    Mark Joseph