Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Parish Priest: Father Michael McGivney


You may be familiar with the inspirational life of Father Michael McGivney, in so many ways following the pattern of his beloved Savior, living just some 30 plus years but having more impact than many who live twice as long. He was the champion of hard-working families, recognizing they were the backbone of society. He saw suffering first hand and personally stood up for families broken by the loss of a wage earner. He knew that he could not personally help them all and made it his mission to establish a fraternal organization that could provide support for their fellow man and his family. But did you know that in addition to the vital protection against the financial impact of loss of life, he was a champion of benefits in the event of sickness and made vital decisions regarding the foundation of The Knights of Columbus based on this conviction?

In a circular letter published in 1882, Father McGivney outlined three grades of death benefits ($500,$1000, and $1500) as well as the "Sick Benefit Deposit" from which a member in good standing may draw a weekly $5 (maximum) benefit for thirteen weeks, with any amount thereafter, if sickness continues, being regulated by the member's local Council.  In fact, prior to resolving to create an original organization, Father McGivney examined the efficacy of simply opening a chapter of an existing organization. However, when examining the Catholic  Benefit League for example, Father McGivney objected to the fact  that they did not have sufficient sickness benefits. He knew the devastating impact of the loss of life as well as the loss of an ability to earn an income.  He knew it so well because the church was the only place for these souls to turn when such devastation visited them. And as Parish Priest, Father McGivney was on the "front lines" for the church.

The question Knights agents must ask members is "what would you do for income if you were sick or hurt and could not work?"  If the ready answer is not "I would rely on my income protection benefits" we actually know the alternate answer. We know what happens because as a country we have the statistics to prove what happens next. You will go bankrupt and your house will be foreclosed. Over half of foreclosures are due to medical problems and the leading cause of bankruptcy in this country is health-related issues.  What happens next is that your client will be forced to move in with a relative or friend. Ask them to think about who that is going to be. Ask them if their relative or friend knows they are coming and knows they are a part of the member's current financial plan. Next, humbly request that they make all of that "Plan B" and make some basic income protection "Plan A".

Sure, it's a sales pitch - but it's so much more. It's really a responsibility. 1 in 4 of those entering the workforce today will experience a medically-related absence from work lasting greater than three months during their working years. One in Four. In the end, it's your client's decision as to whether they will protect themselves and their family against this very real risk, but it is your obligation to make them aware that this valuable protection is available. Father McGivney worked tirelessly to make this protection a reality for Catholics in America. All you have to do is ask the question.  Thank you for your service to the organization.  We are all the beneficiaries of your hard work on "the front lines"

Friday, July 15, 2016

Do Pokémon Exist?

Pokémon?  "Give me a break" you'll say. "They're not real, it's a make believe kids computer game."  

Ok, but if they are not real, why was the park near my house full of kids looking for them? Because it's a computer game?  Why can't they just stay at home alone in their parents' basements and look for Pokémon?  I'll tell you why, it's because the Pokémon are out in the real world at locations identified through GPS. 

Here's where you say "yeah, but they're not really there. I can go to the park right now that is supposedly full of Pokémon and find nothing". So, because you can't see them means they're not real?  What about the wind?  Is the wind real?  You can't see it, only the effects of it. As I ran through the park on this particularly humid, 90 degree Georgia evening, the light breeze provided welcome refreshment. I could see the trees swaying and their leaves moving. I could see the birds soaring above in the gusty flowing currents it created.  I think we can all agree that the wind is real.  

How about the common cold, is that real?  We can certainly see and feel the effects of it. But most of us can't see it, because it's a group of submicroscopic infective agents. You need a special lens to see it. Which brings us back to those kids, walking through the park with their phones in hand, finding Pokémon. Given the fist-bumping and high-fiving, I'd say they were seeing them. Did I see them?  Well, I saw the effects of them, that's for sure.  I didn't look through my phone lens, but I didn't need to. I was quite sure they were all around me.  

But unlike the common cold, these "unseen" organisms were having a good impact on their hosts.  There were more kids out in the park than I had ever seen on a day with no scheduled sporting events. Aren't we always telling them to get out of the basement, go for a walk, and breath in the air of the outside world?  I'd say these very real Pokémon have had a more positive impact on the world than a lot of people I know. You GO, Pokémon.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

11 Seconds

A benchmark marathon goal time is to finish in under four hours.  60 minutes per hour and 60 seconds per minute adds up to 14,400 seconds in a four hour marathon.  In the 2012 Atlanta Marathon, I finished in 14,389 seconds.  So, I accomplished my goal by less than a margin of how long it took you to read those first two sentences.

Such a small difference.  Think of all of things that happen over the course of four hours in any given day, let alone along the course of chilly, hilly marathon.  I think about having stopped quickly to greet my wife and daughter at mile 16 while I dropped off my hat, gloves and a used water bottle.  I think about the moments I paused to stretch due to an injury between miles 18 and 20.  Mostly, I think about that last, long hill towards the finish line and the few people I passed who were walking while I convinced myself to keep running, even though everything inside me was insisting otherwise.  I was the last person to cross the finish line with a net time less than four hours.  But I made it.

11 seconds.  Such a small but important margin for me that day.  But isn't it the little things in life that become some of the most defining moments?  Here’s a few things you can do in 11 seconds or less:
·         Stop and say “thank you” for a kind word or gesture
·         Hold the door for someone
·         Let that guy cut in front of you in traffic (who knows where he’s going – maybe it really is important)
·         Reach in your pocket and take out what’s there and drop it in the bucket next to the lady ringing the bell
·         Tell someone “good job” or “well done” for something they did that you noticed
·         Pray for someone
·         Add an item of your own to this list...then do it.
·       Ask yourself "what would an extraordinary person do?"  



Monday, December 17, 2012

Eternal Eyes

Bad things happen to good people and it never seems to make much sense.  This is true in many cases because they can only be understood by looking at them with your eyes toward eternity. For in the world's timing and wisdom, this cannot be understood. It's not fair. It's not right. Someone so full of life cannot possibly be taken from us. It is as if we have been startled awake from the dream of a bright future to the reality of today. But I tell you that for all the thoughts and hopes and dreams of what this young soul would have accomplished in this world...God has far greater plans.

We don't know what those plans are as we sit here today. But we can know several things beyond a shadow of a doubt. First, God tells us how he cares for children in Matthew chapter 19: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  So we know that they are safe with God for all eternity. Second, we know that we can see them again.  God promises in the 4th chapter of 1st Thessalonians that those who believe that Jesus died and rose again will one day join those that have passed before us and we will have a grand reunion together with them and our Lord. 


But what about today? What do we do with our grief? What do we do about this loss that we feel?  I tell you this pain is for nothing if we do not take action. And what action is that?  If you have never accepted the free gift of redemption through Jesus Christ, then you can do that today. It must be clear to you that none of us can know the day our life on earth will end. Don't delay any longer.  How great the news will be in heaven today when they hear that even one was added to the number of those who have the hope of eternal life with God because of the life of the one who was lost to us.  Will you be that one?  Will the angels rejoice in heaven today in your name? 


And if you already trust in Christ as your savior, is there a friend, a relative that you know who does not know that great and glorious truth?  If there is, how much greater would be the pain you feel if this day comes for them and you never shared that truth with them that you hold so dear?  Why not pay tribute to the lives of those lost and think of at least one person you know and make a promise right now in your heart to share your faith with them.

This young life is not done having an impact on this world; not nearly. But that continued impact is now up to you. Let's look at life with eyes toward eternity. Let's magnify the life of the one we’ve lost.


“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16


Sunday, November 4, 2012

ENDURE

I knew the 2012 ATL marathon course was going to be hilly. I had been cautioned by several veterans of the race and had driven a portion of the course to get a feel for it. In my training I had run a lot of hills to prepare and felt my conditioning was where it needed to be on race day.

Indeed, despite the rise and fall of the course, I felt strong at mile 16 when I spied my beautiful wife and daughter in Piedmont Park cheering me on. I stopped briefly to discard the hat and gloves I had shoved in my pockets shortly after the chilly start at Atlantic Station. I took a quick stretch, touching my hands to the pavement, and soldiered on, gulping down some carb-rich GU as I continued.

I had been fairly conservative, running comfortably enough to ensure I'd have sufficient energy to push through to the end and felt like I was on track for a 3:45 or 3:50 finish, well ahead of my sub-4 hour goal. Then came mile marker 18 and a twinge of pain along my right knee.

I moved off to the side and stretched out a bit more, noting that some of my leg muscles were much more taxed than I had realized. Confident I had averted injury, I pressed on. Within a 1/4 mile, however, the pain returned along my knee and shot up into my hip. I sort of "limp-ran" for a bit and reminded myself that pain and function are separate from one another. It wasn't long before function joined pain and knocked me to the side of the road again for more stretching as I simply could not go on.

 I must have looked pretty bad because one of the course volunteers asked me if I needed a medic. I assured her (and myself) I was OK and started on again. This start-and-stop went on until mile 20 where I somehow found a combination of a steady pace and a firm grip on a water bottle that allowed me to keep going without letting the pain sideline me again.

The timers at each mile marker showed me I was slipping back precariously close to my sub-4-hour goal and the 3:55 pace group passing me at mile 24 confirmed it. After a very long last uphill climb I rounded a corner and finally saw mile marker 26. Passing that, I pushed with all I had left and did what felt like sprinting, but probably looked like limping, through to the finish line. The time I saw on the clock was 4:00:59.

I knew that my official time did not start until I crossed over the start line and hoped it had been at least a minute later than the official time. For better or worse, despite my "B" group starting position assignment, I had actually started near the back of the "C" group. Sure enough, when my official time was posted, I had snuck in at 3:59:49. Just 11 seconds to spare!

I realize that people endure much more important and serious obstacles than I did in meeting my race-time goal. But I've never had a clearer picture of the fulfillment of one of God's promises than I did that day. There were many times I was tempted to stop and give up. I prayed to God to take away the pain and allow me to run as I had trained to do. And while the pain did not disappear, it subsided just enough for me not only to endure and continue on, but to achieve my goal.

1 Corinthians 10:13 "No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it."

I'm so thankful for a God who never goes back on a promise. My success in this race, and anything I do, is a testament not to my endurance, but His faithfulness.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Mom

Ruth Taylor Loftus left this world on January 17, 2011. She left just as peacefully as she lived, surrounded by her family. Here are the words that were read at the service to celebrate her life and commemorate her passing:

When searching for what to say about Mom, these verses from Proverbs 31 came to mind that seem to fit just perfectly:

"A good woman is hard to find,
and worth far more than diamonds.
Her husband trusts her without reserve,
and never has reason to regret it.
Never spiteful, she treats him generously
all her life long.

She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast
for her family and organizing her day.

She senses the worth of her work,
is in no hurry to call it quits for the day.
She's skilled in the crafts of home and hearth,
diligent in homemaking.
She's quick to assist anyone in need,
and reaches out to help the poor.
She doesn't worry about her family when it snows;
their winter clothes are all mended and ready to wear.

She always faces tomorrow with a smile.

When she speaks she has something worthwhile to say,
and she always says it kindly.
She keeps an eye on everyone in her household,
and keeps them all busy and productive.
Her children respect and bless her;
her husband joins in with words of praise."

Mom was a wonderful mother and an adoring grammy and great-grammy. Better than just raising children, she along with dad raised a family. Mom loved seeing everyone together and I’m sure is pleased to see us all here now – not because we are here to honor her life, but just because we are all together with each other. Thank you for joining with us to celebrate her life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The First Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss is a popular show, now in its second season on CBS. It premiered following the Super Bowl to a record 38.7 million viewers and continues in its popularity. I think the draw is seeing the privileged CEO's getting down and dirty working "in the trenches" with the employees that make their companies run on a day to day basis. The boss invariably returns to corporate headquarters with a new appreciation for the hard work that their employees are putting in day in and day out. In the end, the boss extends a new opportunity or outright gift to the employees.

This show is new to television, however the concept was started long, long ago by another undercover boss described in the bible. 1Peter 5-8: "Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion."

Jesus could have stayed in the glory and perfection of heaven, but instead he came to earth to live just like us so that he could know us...and eventually pay the eternal price for us. He didn't take an easy path either. Rather than putting himself in the place of the privileged class, he was born to poverty and raised to earn his way as a carpenter. He endured as much or more of the earthly troubles and temptations that any of us will ever face. So he can identify with all of us.

The best news of all is that not only did Jesus live like us and then give his life for us - he rose from the dead and led the way for us to heaven! (Matthew 28:6 "He is not here, he has risen, just as he said." That's right - he's back at corporate headquarters.

Christ wanted to know us and he gave up all of his privileges to do it. In the end, he also offers us a new opportunity...a gift. Romans 6:23 says "...the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." Have you accepted the gift? Maybe its time.