career advice

Career Advice For Your Spiritual Life

That’s an odd title, isn’t it? What does “career advice” have to do with one’s relationship with God? Quite a bit, as it turns out.

Carey Nieuwhof is a Protestant pastor who writes on a variety of topics: leadership, strategy and team building, and entrepreneurship, for example. He recently wrote a blog piece entitled, 25 Random Pieces of Advice for Leaders in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. While many of these things pertain to one’s job and career, they can also help us in our spiritual life.

For instance, Nieuwhof suggests: Study and practice faithfulness. Study your faith. You don’t have to get a Ph.D. in theology to be a holy person, but you do need to know your Faith. Read the lives of saints. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (not all at once.) Earnestly study the Bible. As for faithfulness, if you are married, you must remain faithful to your spouse in both thought and action. For those called to religious life, they have vows and a community to which they must remain faithful. All of us must be faithful to our baptismal promises.

Another bit of advice: Be generous when you have no money. Mother Teresa of Kolkata (who will be canonized on September 4 this year) told this story:

One night a man came to our house and told me, “There is a family with eight children. They have not eaten for days.”
I took some food with me and went. When I came to that family, I saw the faces of those little children disfigured by hunger. There was no sorrow or sadness in their faces, just the deep pain of hunger. I gave rice to the mother. She divided the rice in two, and went out, carrying half the rice. When she came back, I asked her, “Where did you go?” She gave me this simple answer, “To my neighbors; they are hungry also!” I was not surprised that she gave-poor people are really very generous. I was surprised that she knew they were hungry. As a rule, when we are suffering, we are so focused on ourselves, we have no time for others.

Being generous is more than just giving money to people. It is about being aware of the needs of others.

Next, Nieuwhof says: Wrestle down your pride. Pride is the father of all the mortal sins. St. John Chrysostom said, “[N]othing so alienates men from the loving kindness of God, and gives them over to the fire of the pit, as the tyranny of pride.” God endows all of us with gifts, and we must give Him the glory for those gifts.

Persevere through the dry season. If you have a strong prayer life, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a time when you feel distant from God. In the Catholic tradition, it is often referred to as the “dark night of the soul,” after the class spiritual writing of St. John of the Cross. For whatever reason, God allows this challenge. Be faithful. Hold fast to God’s promise, even if you don’t feel like doing so.

Nieuwhof also says leaders must be bold. Indeed! If we are to be faithful servants of God, we must be bold in our faith. Think of St. Peter, the man who ran away from Christ when he was most needed, denying he even knew him. That same man was transformed by the Holy Spirit to preach and teach boldly to hostile crowds. St. Joan of Arc boldly led an army because she knew that was what God was calling her to, even though the cost was her life. Bl. Miguel Pro led the Church in Mexico at a time when the government had virtually outlawed all Catholic actions, including the celebration of the Mass. Fr. Pro used disguises, escape paths and his wits to stay one step ahead of the law in order to bring the sacraments to the people He died in front of a firing squad, with his last words being: “Viva Christo Rey!” {“Long live Christ the King!) Yes, be bold. Be joyful, and be bold.

While perseverance in one’s career usually brings about financial gain, our faithfulness to God holds a better promise. St. Paul said it like this:  I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (2 Timothy 4:4-8)


Go Ahead And Throw A Party: Being A Hospitable Christian

Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels. (Heb. 13:2)

So you’ve scrubbed and polished, cooked for days, attacked every last dust bunny and made sure that even the basement looks presentable. You are ready for company.

You are also exhausted.

Many of us believe that our house has to be up to Martha Stewart-standards in order to have company. Some of us would never make a spontaneous invitation after church: “Come on over and have coffee! We haven’t see you in months.” We end up either rarely inviting people into our homes, or we are so exhausted by the preparations we cannot enjoy the presence of friends.

St. Benedict (c. 480-c. 547), despite the fact that he was a monk (most monks take a vow of silence), knew that hospitality was an important Christian attribute. He believed this so strongly that he made it a part of the Benedictine Rule, the “guide book” if you will, of the Benedictine orders.

Keep in mind that monasteries were often safe places for travelers to stop and rest. Lay people would also visit monasteries for spiritual guidance. Even though the monastery was “home” for monks and nuns, whose primary work was prayer, the monastery frequently had visitors. The Benedictine Rule was very clear about how visitors were to be treated. They were to “be welcomed and received as Christ.” No distinctions were to be made based on wealth or status. Guests were to be invited to share in the monastic life, a rhythm of prayer, work and service.

That’s all well and good for monks, you might say, but what about me? I’ve got a job and three messy kids and a dog that sheds, and I’m not that great a cook and have you see the dust in my house? How am I supposed to be hospitable?

Jack King, an Anglican priest in Tennessee, praises what he calls “scruffy hospitality.” Like so many of us, he and his wife would say, “You know, we should have so-and-so over,” but the list of things that needed to be cleaned, prepared and cooked for that to happen meant the invitation never gets extended.

[I]viting friends into our lives when we are only ‘excellent’ isn’t friendship. Sure, there are still times we like to go all out, spruce up the house and cook a huge, Jamie Oliver style meal. It can be fun and it’s enjoyable to do things well. But that standard of excellence is rarely possible with two children under the age of 3. Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.

King was so convicted about this idea, he preached a sermon on it:

Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together.

Don’t allow a to-do list disqualify you from an evening with people you’re called to love in friendship.

What we are dealing with here is pride. It is one of those oh-so-common-yet-deadly sins. We want people to be impressed. We set an impossible standard, because we don’t want to be embarrassed. Scruffy hospitality calls for a casserole, wine, music and a great big pot of humility.

Do not miss out on friendship and the making of memories because of pride. Invite folks in: into your home, into your heart and into the fellowship of Christ.

7 deadly sins

7 Deadly Sins: Poison For The Soul

If you were seated at a restaurant, given a menu, placed your order and then were told, “All the food here has poison in it,” would you say, “That’s fine. I’ve heard the steak here is excellent”? One would hope not. You’d likely grab your coat and run. Yet, every day, we choose poison for our souls.

Lust. Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Wrath.Envy. Pride. These, the Church teaches, are the sins that are poisonous, that will dull and eventually (if left unchecked and unconfessed) deaden our souls. While the list has been around since the 6th century, the sins themselves go back to the Garden of Eden, rooted in original sin. Fr. Stephen F. Torraco says this:

It is important to notice that five of the seven deadly sins latch onto a “part” or dimension of the soul called desire or eros, the home of the central emotion of love and the dimension of soul where we are usually “located” on a daily basis. In light of this fact, it is extremely easy to drift into sloth, envy, covetousness, gluttony, or lust.

Anger is the “cancerous growth” on the dimension of the soul called spiritedness or thumos, the home of the secondary emotions such fear. Vainglory or pride is the distortion of the dimension of the soul called mind or logos, the home of intellect and will.

We live in a world saturated by lust. That means we look at another human being merely as a sexual object. We are willing to, and we do, use others only for our sexual pleasure and nothing else. We forget that each and every person is made in God’s image and likeness and is therefore meant to be treated as both holy and wholly: a whole person, not merely there for our enticement and pleasure.

Have you ever seen an eating contest? Contestants seek to stuff down as many hot dogs or chicken wings or whatever within an allotted time. 50, 60, 70 hot dogs in mere minutes. While there is big money to be won at these events, it is sickening to watch so much food being consumed – not for the health of the body and enjoyment of the palate – but simply to consume huge amounts of food. Once we step over the line of health and enjoyment, we are headed to gluttony.

Oh, greed. Who hasn’t looked at another’s possession (a car, a watch, a house) and thought, “I NEED that. I HAVE to have that.” Who hasn’t gone shopping for one item at the mall and come home with fifteen? There is nothing wrong with working for something one desires, but when a person’s life begins to revolve around possessions, it’s greed.

Sloth. That’s that adorable little mammal that lies around in trees, right? Did you know that a sloth has fewer bones than any mammal? They move so slowly because they cannot move at any other speed! When we “stop moving,” when we stop getting our work done, when we neglect our duties, we have become slothful.

Wrath is anger on steroids. Righteous anger has its place (remember Jesus overturning the money changers tables in  the temple?) We should be angry about abortion, about prejudice, about abuse. It is when anger overcomes us and we become out of control, we seek revenge, that we are wrathful.

Envy is another sin that surrounds us, mostly because technology and social media allow us to peer into the lives of others that former generations could never imagine. We see celebrities who walk the red carpet every other day, it seems, dripping in jewels. Designer handbags costing thousands of dollars seem to be on the arm of half the moms at the PTA meeting. Our neighbor always has the latest model of that fancy sports car while we are stuck patching together the minivan year after year. Spending time wanting what others have, either things or their situations, is envy.

Pride can be a tough one to discern. We often have accomplishments of which we are proud: we finished a big work project and got kudos from the boss, or we finally managed to get a home project completed and it looks great.

Pride fools you into thinking that you’re the source of your own greatness.

Liking yourself isn’t sinful. In fact, it’s healthy and necessary, but when the self-perception no longer conforms to reality, and you begin to think that you’re more important than you actually are, the sin of pride is rearing its ugly head.

Pride is the key to all other sins, because after you believe that you’re more important than you actually are, you compensate for it when others don’t agree with your judgment. You rationalize your behavior and make excuses for lying, cheating, stealing, insulting, ignoring, and such, because no one understands you like you do. In your mind, you’re underestimated by the world.

Thankfully, our God is merciful and sins can be forgiven through the sacrament of reconciliation. However, we must work to prevent sinning in the first place. The virtues we cultivate in our lives help us do just that, and we will talk about those tomorrow.