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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

Serving Others Serves Us 

Not a surprise, we are called to serve others. We can point to numerous places in Scripture. A couple examples:

  • John 15:17, Jesus said, “This I command you; that you love one another”. 
  • Matthew 25:44, where it says, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?” Then He shall respond to them by saying: “Amen I say to you, whenever you did not do it to one of these least, neither did you do it to Me”.

We need to see Christ in all and be Christ to all. You’re hard pressed to meet anyone who serves those in need who doesn’t feel strongly that they’re being ministered to more than those they’re serving.  

I read once that if we decided to, that the United States in of itself, could solve for world hunger. I’ve been challenged on that in saying it during speaking engagements. I believe it to be true based on the source, but regardless, here’s the question.  What are we doing, you and I, to solve for hunger our in our neighborhoods?

The types of hunger could include: 

  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Emotional 
  • Spiritual

There are so many opportunities to serve. Did you know that more than 50% of those in nursing homes are never visited? That’s pre-COVID stat. What do you think it is now? Our mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends. So many people are broken. Our kids, our neighbors…people seeking the love of Christ, whether they know it or not. 

There are so many opportunities to show the love of Christ to others. We live in a culture that loves things and uses people. We are called to use things and love people. 

 

Seeing the Face of Christ in Others 

Just before COVID, I went on my first mission trip to Haiti. Being good friends with the President of Life Teen, an organization that serves close to 2,000 Parishes and their youth ministry programs, about 20 of us stayed at Life Teen’s mission base. 

I have trouble sleeping when I’m in my bed and in my house. I’m not an outdoorsman…never camped in my life. In Haiti, I was among 12 other guys, with netted beds to keep the mosquitoes off us. On a concrete floor, critters were scampering back and forth…not sure what they were.  

The cold showers were very cold. The food, although interesting and tasted ok most of the time, I ate little of because of the conditions I saw it being prepared in. 

We did work on the mission base and out in the community. I experienced poverty that I had never witnessed before. People live in deplorable conditions, with no electricity or running water. With no means of disposal, garbage was everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Everyplace we went, there was a stench that I never experienced before. Roads were almost unnavigable. No paving. Huge potholes every so many feet, and parts of roads washed away. 

My primary take-aways:

  • It’s incomprehensible that there’s so much poverty in our backyard…no more than 2-hour flight from the US
  • I’ve never seen so many people smile so much. The Haitian people, poorer than poor, living in huts, with no running water or electricity, are joy-filled people. It’s amazing. It’s incredible to see. 
  • I came home convicted that I needed to start serving those in need in some capacity. 

I’ve allowed COVID to get in the way. Given what I saw and given where I am on my faith journey, I need to do this…working with those in need. I have failed to date, which I’m not proud of. My wife and I have talked about it. We need to do it. Please pray for us. 

I hope in reading this you’ll consider doing the same….seeing Christ in others. 

As always, please email me at Mark@MarkJosephMinistries.com 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

What’s Really Meaningful? 

What do you read to inspire you? Or listen to? What inspires you? I love reading books about our faith and leadership, my favorite topics. I’m on the email distribution lists of my favorite authors. One of them, a great inspiration, is John O’Leary. A burn victim as a youth, John has mastered making lemonade out of lemons. You can find John’s books (great reads), blogs, and other products at https://johnolearyinspires.com

In his September 20th email, John told a story about a young girl he met at a burn camp for children. This courageous girl was burned years earlier, sustaining injuries similar to his, and had lost the fingers on her right hand. Because of that, she wore an oversized sweatshirt at camp to cover the scars on her arm and hide the extent of her injuries. John explains further below.

You don’t have to be a child to know sometimes it feels safer to simply hide scars.

At camp that day, I shared with the kids what I went through as a child and the gifts that came from it. I reminded them of the beauty of scars, the resiliency they possess, and ultimately, that they are being prepared for something bigger and better than they can currently fathom.

Afterwards, this beautiful girl approached in her sweatshirt. She stood in front of me, took a deep breath, then exhaled as she rolled up her sleeves for the first time that week. She then proudly lifted her scarred arm and hand.

You don’t have to be a child to know sometimes it’s liberating to honestly reveal your scars and embrace who you really are.

As we hugged goodbye at the end of that meeting, I told her we weren’t done being friends and the next time I was in her part of the state we were hanging out.

That’s how a few weeks later, at a little restaurant off the interstate, I had the pleasure of reconnecting with this brave girl. Her grandfather sat nearby as we visited about her experiences, what she had endured, the struggles she faced in recovery, the concerns she felt moving forward and the dreams she still had for her life. In other words, we had an awesome visit!

That interaction, with that young girl, reminded me it’s seldom in the massive events and huge gatherings where we change the world. It’s the regular moments, in unexpected spaces, with ordinary people that the best of our work and lives is revealed.

Too often, we race to what we thought was the real work, but it’s seldom found in the big stuff – the big trip, the big project, the big win. No, the best and most meaningful aspects of our lives are discovered in the seemingly ordinary experiences, tender moments of grace, and ordinary human interactions with others throughout the day.

If you want to read John’s post in total, you can read it in full here.

Not only does John’s story speak to the Great Commandments…love God and love others, but it’s the only Path to Peace, Joy, and Fulfillment!!

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

God Bless and remember…God made you for GREATNESS!!!

Mark Joseph 

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Weekly Blog

What’s Your Favorite Prayer?

Last week’s blog was titled, “The Gift of Our Faith”. To realize and maximize that gift, we need to be in relationship with God our Father and Jesus Christ His Son, while calling on the Holy Spirit, who lives within each of us. Prayer is critical to that relationship, in its many forms. 

Do you have a favorite prayer or prayers? How is it that you pray? Rote prayer, reading and praying through Scripture, meditative or contemplative prayer? The Catholic Church offers many prayers for us, including the Mass, Rosary, and Divine Mercy Chaplet. A simple internet search will take you to an exhaustive list of Catholic prayers. 

Yet most people I know, including those actively engaged in our faith, will tell you that they struggle with prayer. I do too. Why is that? I assume your experience is the same as mine…that is that anything you get really good at takes work. It takes dedicated effort. God wants nothing more than us to be in relationship with Him. Given the free will He has provided us, God leaves it up to us. Just like our earthly relationships, where we have challenges, we’re challenged in prayer. Keep at it. It’s what God desires and it’s good for us…just ask anyone who prays regularly. 

My favorite prayers are the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, long form of the Serenity Prayer, and a prayer I wrote in 2009, which I call Thank you God; Thank you Jesus!!! For each, I say them incredibly slowly, praying through and hanging on every word. They are my “go to” prayers. I say them daily without fail. 

In reviewing all the blogs I’ve posted over the last 3 ½ years, I’ve done others on prayer, whether it be different types, processes, methods, etc. I hesitated to do so again here, but my wife reminded me that redundancy is good…and that we can all be reminded more about prayer. 

Believe me, I’m far from perfect at prayer. I struggle with it. But the reality is that the more I pray, the more peace I have. The more “right” direction I have to my life. The sin of pride, which I’m a pro at, is less of an issue. So is envy and the many others. I’m a better person when I pray more. 

The mistake people make with prayer is the same mistake many make in other aspects of their lives…”they bite off more than they can chew”. They start too fast, expecting too much. Like with anything else, the more we know about our faith (about prayer), the more we find there is to learn. It is not a race, but a journey. Take it slowly. Five minutes a day to start. Reading a little bit of Scripture and then reflecting on it. Saying a couple rote prayers. Sitting in silence with our Lord, listening for His voice in your life.  

I hope this blog prompted you to think (and pray). Maybe you’re a prayer warrior and the above doesn’t apply. If so, maybe you can share some of these ideas with others. Or maybe it does, and you can add to whatever you’re doing.  If you’d like a special copy on my prayer (noted above), please let us know. In addition, should you desire, we can provide you with a tool we created called, “Simple Process for Prayer”. 

As always, please 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