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The Most Important Things Our Kids Need To Know

As parents, we love our kids. We have great hopes and dreams for them. It’s our desire that they have better lives than us, that somehow the lessons we’ve learned can help them. We may not always get it right…not showing our love the correct way, nor delivering a message as charitably as we could at times. But deep down, we love them unconditionally, for who they are as our sons and daughters.

Over the course of their first 20 or so years, it’s our job to not only love them, but to prepare them for life. What does that look like? What should they know?

The obvious things are the basic life skills, which are many and include everything from eating right, exercising, and getting enough sleep to how to fend for themselves, how to stay safe, spend wisely, and even save money. More complex things are how to choose a profession or a new job, or how to choose friends or a future spouse. There are also things like discipline, generosity, and integrity. The list is obviously much greater than the above. The things they need to know are many.

Having stated the above, what I’ve experienced as the most important things they need to know are:

  • The love of Jesus Christ
  • To be heavily engaged in our faith.

Cross Country Trip – Terrain Analogous to Life

This past week, I had the opportunity to drive from Pittsburgh, PA to San Diego, CA with my son, RJ, where he launches his career in ministry, having just graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville.

The 2,500-mile trip took us 4 days. The first 1,400 miles, over Interstate 70, all the way to Denver, was straight, flat, and green. There were really no bumps or curves, much like we would prefer life to be, which is often not the case.

West of Denver, still on I70, the roads wind and go up and down dramatically. The view is majestic, with the drive at points even being a challenge. Then comes Utah, along both I70 and I15, where the red rocks and mountainous terrain are equally as gorgeous. Like in life, there’s true beauty and important lessons in the peaks and valleys, in the twists and turns.

As nice as the ride was given the scenery, the real joy of the trip was the time spent with my son, talking about everything, including our faith. We covered all the ups and downs, the good and the bad…the life we shared that looked much more like I70 west of Denver as compared to the flat terrain east.

Why Faith is the Most Important Thing

Having both come to be deeply engaged in our faith in the same way, through tragedy, I’ve been blessed to be journeying alongside my son, learning and growing individually and together. We’ve both learned that it’s in knowing the love of Christ that changes everything, that all the answers to life are truly taught by the Church and are in the Bible.

In knowing God’s unconditional love, it’s apparent to both of us that He wants us to be happy. We know that God made each of us (including you) with a specific purpose in mind, with special gifts. We know that nothing happens by accident, that all is part of God’s grand plan. And we both know that our “yes” to the Lord brings us nothing less than great peace, joy, and fulfillment, even in the bad times (there will be bad times).

Although the other things RJ learned over his first 23 years were important, nothing can replace his faith in God as being so life changing. He’s learned that whether good or bad, up or down, he has God to love him and protect him. May God continue to bless my son and all of our children. May they all have the faith in our Lord to truly prosper in life.

Please share your thoughts with me at mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.

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

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Relationships… The Closer They Are, The More Challenging They Can Be

Relationships Can Be Tough

I don’t know about you, but the closer I am to someone, the more challenging the relationship can be. I’m not talking about the good times. They’re easy for everyone. I’m referring to times of conflict or potential disagreement, where you don’t believe the other person is considering or has made the right decision.

My theory is that we fear the risk of loss. We care for and depend on those closest to us, whether family or friends. We don’t want to hurt them. We don’t want to create disagreement or conflict because we don’t want to lose them. So out of fear of saying something wrong, we don’t say anything, or we don’t convey our true feelings, or what we say comes across the wrong way.

This has certainly been true in my life, whether it be with my brothers, close friends, our kids, and even my wife. If I’m truthful, I’ve not communicated what or how I should many times in my life. Because of expectations that are most often unspoken, things don’t always come out the right way. Because of the closeness, assumptions are made and feelings are easily hurt. There’s a tension that doesn’t exist when folks aren’t so close.

Things are Different When Relationships are More Distant

I’ve been working within organizations for 33 years. Over that period of time, I’ve experienced plenty of issues that require resolution. Ironically, most never really reach the level of conflict, which I attribute to addressing them proactively and professionally.

I often say that if I were the husband and father that I am the business manager and coach, my family would be a lot better off. That statement stems from my approach in those roles and has proved to really help me not only in the work world, but at home. What I’ve learned is:

  1. Don’t assume malice; instead understand that the other person has the best intentions and as such, isn’t trying to hurt you, others, or themselves
  2. Let them know how much you care early in the conversation
  3. Share with them your discomfort with the discussion. Related to this one and #2 above, you might say something like, “I care for you more than you know. I don’t want to hurt you, nor risk losing you. As a result, I’m nervous about the conversation I think we need to have. I really hope I can convey what I’m thinking with you understanding my heart”. Obviously make this your own.
  4. Don’t make assumptions. You wouldn’t with a stranger or coworker. You shouldn’t with someone close to you. You’ve probably heard, “to assume is to make an ass out of you (u) and me”.
  5. You can say anything as long as you say it softly. Although not absolutely true, it is pretty true. Tone is so important. Sharing is always better than telling and way better than scolding. Yelling is obviously unacceptable and unproductive.
  6. Truly listen for understanding. Don’t be so invested in JUST getting your points across, but listen to understand the other person and his/her struggles, objectives, and ideas.
  7. Don’t be overly invested in the outcome. We all have our own lives to live. We need to make decisions for ourselves, while others need to make their own decisions. We can try to charitably influence, but we shouldn’t own the outcome. We can’t be relying on others for our own peace and joy (topics for many future blogs)

Interestingly, at work I see it as my mission to help people solve their own problems. I help by asking questions as opposed to imposing my view, whereas I want to solve the problems of those closest to me. Or more specifically, I want them to solve their problems the way I want them solved. You see the distinction? The problem? The preferred way? I have, which is why I try to follow 1-7 today.

I sincerely hope the above helps you. I know that these things have helped me over the years. Please share your thoughts with me via email at mark@markjosephministries.com.

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

Mark Joseph

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Weekly Blog

Who are Your True Friends?

Who are your friends? Are they always there for you? Do they always have your best interests at heart? Are they truly your friends?

I believe that “friend” is one of the most overused words in the English language, especially in this day of social media. If you’re like me, you literally have 100s of acquaintances, but very few true friends.

What is a Friend?

  • Someone who you engage with on a regular basis
  • Who you are invested in and them in you

Have you surrounded yourself with people who meet this definition? Many people don’t. Instead they surround themselves with negative people, those who only pull them down and don’t lift them up.  

 

Only Surround Yourself with the Best

I’ve made a conscious decision in my life to only surround myself with those who truly care for me, those who love me and want to help me be a better me. There are only a few, including my wife. I refer to this as my “inner circle” and it has the following characteristics:

  1. Based on demonstrated behavior
  2. They are regularly there for me and me for them
  3. They support me in my endeavors
  4. They don’t beat me down, but love me

#4 doesn’t mean they agree with everything I do, but they tell me in a loving way, coaching and guiding me, without the negativity or sarcasm (subject for a future blog).

Everyone Else is in Your Outer Circle

Everyone else but those few are in my “outer circle”. Now you may think that doesn’t sound very Christian. Or you’re not sure how those in your immediate family or longtime friends could be in your outer circle. I’m here to tell you that they can. I’m not suggesting that you completely turn your back on them, but instead think of them as opportunities for ministry.

Everyone wants to be loved and everyone needs the love of Christ (whether they know it or not). You/we need to love everyone, but that doesn’t mean that you should count on everyone to love you and support you….

  • Some are incapable because of what they’re dealing with
  • Some won’t take the time
  • And there are some in this world who are just bad people.  
Love Makes for True Friendship

Matthew Kelly of Dynamic Catholic, one of my favorite authors and speakers, defines love as helping others become better versions of themselves. That’s the measure I suggest we all use. Are those in your life helping you be better, be your best? If so, they should be in your inner circle (by the way…you need to reciprocate their friendship). If not, it’s the outer circle where they should go, as a great opportunity for ministry.  

Be intentional with who you call “friend”. Pick wisely. Make sure they are worthy of your inner circle. Work and grow to be better together, loving one another the way Christ loves you.

Please share with me your comments and what you think about “inner circle” and “outer circle” at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com.

May God Bless you with Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!!

Mark Joseph


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Weekly Blog

Joy in the Midst of Overwhelming Challenges

Have you ever encountered people who are dealing with things that appear to be incredibly challenging and instead of being overwhelmed, they are joyful? It might be a disaster that they’re facing or the everyday drudgery of life. Regardless they always have smiles on their faces and in their hearts. You look at them and think to yourself, “I want some of that”.

I’ve certainly seen people like this in the U.S., but not nearly to the degree that I did during a recent experience I had in Haiti. I had the privilege of being on a mission trip with Life Teen, the largest Catholic youth ministry organization in the world. For a week, 16 of us from the U.S. lived on Life Teen’s Mission Base, in the Diocese of Anse-a- Veau et Miragoane.

Culture Shock

Having never gone camping in my life, the living conditions were tougher than anything that I had ever endured. Ten men slept in one room, with a concrete floor, and the occasional critter visiting. We slept with nets over us to protect us from mosquitos. We walked to another building to use the restroom, which was more like an outhouse. With no hot water, showers were very cold and very quick. We had electricity from 5-10PM daily, only because the base was fortunate enough to have a generator.

Here’s the thing, compared to how most Haitians live, we/I had nothing to complain about. Typical houses are incredibly small, maybe 2-3 rooms, with no plumbing (so no water supply, no showers, no toilets), no electricity, and no gas.

In Haiti, there is a total lack of infrastructure, the most glaring example of which is that there is no garbage collection. Something we take for granted in the U.S., no one picks up the trash and there’s nowhere to dispose of it, so it’s just everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

Then given that there’s no electricity or gas, everything is cooked using open flame, the fuel of which is Haitian made charcoal. That charcoal creates a smell in the country that you encounter immediately upon exiting the airport and doesn’t depart from you until you leave the country. The odor was so strong that it overpowered any smell of garbage.

The poverty is so dramatic that it is overwhelming. I was literally in shock the first three days I was in Haiti, pondering how we possibly allow our fellow man to live like this. I saw things that I had never seen before, things that I just can’t erase from my eyes.

Simple but Joyfull

So with all that as a backdrop, I’ve never encountered more joy filled people in my life. Everyone, and I mean everyone, had big smiles on their faces and were super, super friendly. In addition, you ought to see how the Haitians worship our Lord.

As most of us have experienced, Churches in the U.S. are rather lethargic, with very few singing. In contrast, not only do the Haitians sing at the top of their lungs, but also dance to worship music. They are both exuberant and very reverent. It is incredible to experience.

In the midst of the extreme, awful poverty that they live in, why do you think the above is the way it is? My guess is twofold:

  • The Haitians don’t have near the distractions that we do. Life is simple and to many of them life is good, even in the midst of what they face daily.
  • The Haitians know the love of the Lord, the peace of Christ, in a way that many of us in the U.S. don’t. As such, they know what’s really important. They have peace and they have joy.

We live in a culture in the U.S. that loves things and uses people. I think we could learn a lesson from the Haitians in that we are called to use things and love people. Maybe then we could experience their joy.

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

Mark Joseph

 

What do you think? Please share your comments with me at
mark@markjosephministries.com.

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