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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

Losing a Classmate

A couple weeks ago, I went to the funeral of a college classmate. Although I had not seen Midge, who died way too young, since graduating 35 years ago, I felt compelled to attend. Not a surprise, there I saw Mary Anne, Midge’s college roommate and lifelong best friend since grade school. My college roommate (Jim) and I had a connection with Midge and Mary Anne, in that we were all from Pittsburgh. We hadn’t known each other prior to college, nor did we see one another between semesters, but we had that common bond that connected us. Interesting how that happens.

Realizing that it’s 35 years ago and my memory isn’t what it used to be, I can’t remember ever seeing Midge separate from Mary Anne. They were inseparable….always together. And always, always SMILING AND LAUGHING. Reflecting on it, I can’t recall ever meeting two more joy filled people during that time in my life. What a great memory.

Fr. Tom, who was the Celebrant for Midge’s Funeral Mass, is Mary Anne’s brother, and as such has known Midge his entire life. During his homily/eulogy, he told stories of her life, always smiling and laughing, always bringing joy to other people. While he also used words like “love” and “courage”, he said his lasting memory of Midge would be “joy”. Independent of circumstance, she apparently never lost that joy during her 20-month battle with cancer.

Over the last 60 days, I lost two other friends who exuded pure joy. They are Fr. Jose Robles-Sanchez and Joy Rapp, two outstanding individuals I knew from our Steubenville Conference Ministry. Again, always smiling and like Midge, always concerned about the other person. Always bringing joy to others.

Being my age or younger, all three died way too young. If we believe what we say we believe (and I do), we know they’re in a much better place. Praise God!!! But what about us? What are we to do? What lessons do we take from losing such wonderful people…so young?

Here’s one of my lessons. We’ve all heard that love is a decision, not a feeling. In unpacking that, I think we can agree it is true. For me, I’d like to make joy a decision, not an emotion. Looking at Midge and Mary Anne, Fr. Jose and Joy as examples, I want to live in a place of joy, independent of substance or circumstance. I want to smile and laugh. I want to bring joy to others.

As evidenced on my website and the things I write about and speak on, I firmly believe that there is a Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment. I also believe that God made each of us uniquely, with special gifts, for a specific purpose. God made you for Greatness!! It’s in using those gifts and pursuing your God given purpose that you can experience joy (along with peace and fulfillment). There’s one more important factor. To experience true joy, again independent of substance or circumstance, you need to know the unconditional love of Jesus Christ (if you want more info on that, please reach out to me). May we all be so blessed!!!

As always, please contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, 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

Is Satan Real?

My wife (Cyndi) and I just watched the movie, Let Him Go, where Kevin Costner (George) and Diane Lane (Margaret) play parents to their son who dies in a horse accident. Their widowed daughter-in-law (Lorna) remarries to what turns out be an abusive husband. Prior to the new couple moving out of town without telling anyone, Margaret witnesses the abuse levied on her 3-yearold grandson (Jimmy) and her daughter-in-law.

Set in the early 1960s, the grandparents leave their Montana home for North Dakota to find their grandson. What they found was not only startling to them, but to the viewer (Cyndi and me included). Lorna’s new mother-in-law, Blanch, is an absolute “witch”. In fact, that word can’t begin to describe how evil this woman is. A more appropriate word would be Satan.

Blanch, incredibly controlling, had her grown sons under her spell, all complicit in her evil. Although dark, it’s a compelling movie, where good prevails over evil, where one sacrifices his life to save others, while stepping on the head of Satan. Sound familiar?

The next morning, I said to Cyndi in referencing the movie, “you know, there are truly evil people in this world”. It’s not difficult to identify them, i.e. ISIS fighters, numerous foreign dictators who oppress their people, even those in our country who commit violent and/or deviant crimes, especially to the young. As I’ve indicated in previous blogs, as Christians we believe that abortion is an intrinsic evil as well.

We can see Satan in the examples above. For those who don’t think about it, Satan is clearly active in our world. In last week’s post, I indicated that we are all beloved children of God. Although it can be difficult to understand, so are those who commit such atrocities. Given their free will, they’ve turned their back on God and choose evil instead. Related to heaven or hell, again God allows our free will to determine our ultimate destination.

Is Satan real to you?

Does your spirituality include consideration of the evil one? I never gave it much consideration prior to my conversion, but since there are times that I’ve felt under attack by Satan. And I certainly see the work of Satan in our world.

The above isn’t meant to scare you, but to identify the role of Satan in our lives. We know there is good and evil in our world. We also know that Jesus Christ was brutally crucified, enduring a torturous death, to conquer sin, to provide us with a path to salvation. He loves us that much. God the Father loves us that much, sacrificing His only begotten Son so that we can have the opportunity for eternal life.

Fear, anxiety, anger, violence, division, abuse (and many more) are the work of Satan. It’s only in knowing the unconditional love of Jesus Christ that:

  • The unimaginable is achievable
  • There can be Heaven here on earth
  • You can be on a distinct path to peace, joy, and fulfillment

As always, feel free to contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges, 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

Why Bother with this Christianity Stuff?

Why Bother with this Christianity Stuff?

Why bother with Christianity? Or Catholicism? The things taught to us by the Church or are in Scripture? Why trouble ourselves? All the rules and regulations, the things you must do and can’t do. The things you have to give up, to sacrifice, to maybe go to Heaven…why bother?

It would appear that much of the world isn’t buying into Christianity. A quick internet search indicates that:

  • Roughly 31% of the world’s population is Christian, (2.3 of 7.3 billion people), meaning almost 70% is not

  • Islam comes in #2 at 23%.

In the United States, our numbers have been decreasing rapidly, especially upon entrance into the 21st century, where a recent Gallup poll found that church membership fell 20 percent in the past two decades. These numbers are pre-COVID. Further, 1/4 of American adults now say their faith is “none”…the ratio is 1/3 among those under 30. Although Christianity isn’t what it used to be in the US, it’s far worse in Europe and Canada, where many Churches are looked at more as museums.

We live in a post-Christian world. To be sure, secularism is dominating our society. While far fewer people are into their faith, many are hostile towards it. The question is “why”. What wasn’t working. What has changed?

Photo by taryn fry from Pexels

Although not new, there seems to be more of a hyper-focus on the things that will supposedly make us happy….none of them rooted in Christianity. I refer to them as the 4 Ps…prominence (including power), possessions (including wealth and money), pleasure, and people (using them, not authentic friendship). Many of us pursue these things on an endless cycle. I like the visual of the hamster on the wheel in a glass cage:

  • You can’t make the wheel go any faster

  • You’re not sure if anyone…

    • Sees you on the wheel

    • Is on the wheel with you

    • Will catch you if you fall off the wheel

  • You’re watching the world go by around you

  • You’re exhausted, deflated, and frustrated

  • You’re overwhelmed

Not only are we overwhelmed, but we’re not happy…not most of us. We’re chasing, chasing, chasing, looking for something, anything, to fill the God sized hole in the center of our chests.

So to revisit our initial question, “why bother with this Christianity stuff”? The answer is simple. Our Christian faith, our belief in Jesus, is the ONLY source of true and long-lasting happiness that any of us will ever experience.

Never wanting to violate my 600-word cap on these blogs, suffice to say that I don’t have the space here to lay it all out. That said, most of the world, including significantly increasing numbers of us in the United States, just doesn’t get it. As it says in Scripture, “Jesus is the way”. As it turns out, He’s the only way.

How do I know? I experienced it firsthand. I spent my early adult life, into my mid-40s, chasing the 4 Ps. I was on the hamster wheel…exhausted, deflated, and frustrated. Not only was I overwhelmed, but I most certainly wasn’t happy.

Then something happened. I found Jesus in my life. I came to understand and internalize His unconditional love and forgiveness, learning that as such:

  • The unimaginable is achievable

  • There can be Heaven here on earth

  • There is a specific path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment

The 4 Ps didn’t cut it for me and they won’t cut it for you. It’s Jesus and our Christian faith, which is the only way you’ll find the happiness (peace, joy, and fulfillment) that you’ve so desperately been seeking.

As always, please contact me at Mark@MarkJosephMinsitries.com with questions, comments, concerns, challenges or prayer requests.

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

Mark Joseph