God and Backseat Drivers


Psychologists tell us that backseat drivers, folks who find it necessary to give unnecessary, unwanted advice in the car and elsewhere, are really just expressing their own insecurities, lack of faith in others,  or reaction to feeling powerless.  Many of us have been the victims of such people, both in the car and in life, and it is no understatement to say that such people can be irritating, annoying, and even dangerous.

The expression “backseat driver” of course, has expanded beyond the automobile to include people who obsessively mistrust, find it necessary to control or judge, or think that they have all the right answers.  Consequently, such people tend to feel that the one in perceived control of the situation, be it a driver, manager, or other, does not always know what he or she is doing.

The question is, are we God’s backseat drivers?   Do we poke our nose in God’s Will, questioning where He is taking us and why?

A Little Faith Goes a Long Way

We can talk a good talk about trusting God with our affairs, problems, and concerns, but the proof is in the pudding, not the meddling.  First, we need to humbly and sincerely ask God to help us.  Second, we need to follow that request for help with true trust that God knows what He is doing in our lives. Lastly, we need to respectfully and obediently step out of the way and let Him do the driving.

Too many times, we pray asking for our way at our time, and write off the prayer as unanswered if we do not get our way.  Absurd as it seems, how many times do we micromanage the Manager of the Universe?  It is a contradiction to pray the Our Father asking God to follow our instructions, guidelines, and preferences to the tee.

Locus of Control

Locus of control is a psychological concept referring to where people feel that the control in their lives is found.   This society promotes an internal locus of control, wherein folks feel empowered to guide their lives, as the sign of a healthy, responsible, and ultimately successful person.  Conversely, this society paints having an external locus of control as being a weak, irresponsible, rationalizing loser who plays the role of victim all the time. Where society has this locus of control thing wrong is in how locus is used.

While it is true that using an external locus of control to play the victim, avoid responsibility, and blame everybody else for one’s issues is wrong and destructive, it is also true that using an internal locus of control to bully, manipulate, intimidate, judge, and project our insecurities on others can be just as harmful.  Thus, how one uses an internal or external locus of control is more important than merely having one or the other. Using either one for selfish reasons is wrong, and using either one to bring glory to and obey God as well as love others is right.

Proactive vs. Reactive

Proactive people make things happen, and reactive people wait for things to happen to them.  Needless to say, proactive types are normally associated with an internal locus of control and, conversely, reactive types are commonly viewed as tending to have an external locus of control.

Most of the time, being proactive is better than being reactive. However, there are times when we should step back, process what is happening, and then react to that, as opposed to just blindly jumping into every situation  swinging like some crazed, self-perceived super hero.

Once again, society oversimplifies the relationship between locus of control and being proactive or reactive.   It assumes that having an internal locus of control is akin to being proactive and, conversely, that having an external locus of control parallels with being reactive. While this may often be true, it is not always so and, beyond that, the good and bad of all of this is not so clear cut either.

Our Way and Sin

If you think about it, sin is really selfishly doing things our way regardless of what we should know that God wants.  Claiming that we think God wants this or that, based purely on our own subjective, biased agenda, is playing make-believe morality.  Likewise, pretending that we do not know what God wants, without making a concerted, sincere, and legitimate effort to discern that Will, is purposeful moral fraud.

The Key and Bridge

The key to all of this is to be purposeful in seeking and trying to actualize God’s Will as found in Scripture, Christ’s example and teachings,  and our own constantly developing conscience.  Once we are trying to function within that Divine Will, we must remain purposeful in carrying it through while becoming reactive in allowing God to speak to and through us.

God does not want us to be babbling moral idiots, spewing excuses or fawning mindless, oblivious adorations we do not feel. Neither does He want us to be insolent backseat drivers, bullying and questioning everything that happens in our lives like irritated accountants counting pegs or measuring perceived wins and losses on some ledger. Sincere prayer,  honest reflection, and purposeful meditation and study often help us to balance the purpose, reaction, and locus of control in our lives.

Conclusion

Each of us is riding a life taxi to our ultimate destination.  We can either ask God to achieve His Will through our proactive efforts and reactive trust, or we can rant and rave about where our taxi should be going and why. Ultimately, we must each ask ourselves how much we trust the Divine Driver of our life taxi and how sincerely we accept and want Him to take us home…His way.

 

 

 

2016  Gabriel Garnica

Advertisements

“Lent” is a Good Name for This Time of Year


We are told that the word “Lent” is from Anglo-Saxon roots and means Spring. However, in an ironic way, the word “Lent” is perfectly suited to what this period before Easter is all about.

In addition to the known meaning as the 40 days before Easter wherein we fast, pray, and give up pleasures in remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice, the word “lent” happens to also be the transitive verb form of  the verb “lend” which is to give something with the understanding that it is to be returned at some future date, perhaps with interest. This second meaning is very ironic to me because, if we think about it, everything we are, have, and will ever be is lent to us by God with the understanding that we are to make some use of it during our lives to bring greater glory to Him.

Our earthly materialism is mere absurdity given the eternal reality that, not only is whatever we have here on earth very temporary and cannot be “taken with us” after we die but, also, even its temporary use here on earth has the very strict requirement, if it is to be properly used, of being used to serve and bring greater glory to the wonderful God Who gives us everything, and to Whom we owe everything in return.

Taken in this context, our lives, our possessions, our children, all of our blessings, our health, our money, and everything we have or are, for that matter, are temporarily handed to us as an experiment to see what we do with all of these blessings. Our first responsibility, or mission, if you will, is to discern and discover what each of these blessings are. Our second responsibility, it follows, is to maximize these blessings to the fullest in the  service of the greater glory of God Almighty. It is thus that our third responsibility, then, is realized, which is to give these blessings back to God with interest. What is that interest? Perhaps it is the added enhancement of having been used for God’s purpose beyond its mere existence.

Just as Ash Wednesday reminds us to repent, and that we will all eventually return to dust, so too the entire context of the word “Lent” should remind us that every hair on our head and every moment of our lives has been “lent” to us by God, with the clear understanding that we are to do something very unique with those blessings beyond the selfish use for self-comfort and benefit. This is why materialism and possessiveness are such absurd, foolish traits.  Everything we are and have belongs to God, and it is our responsibility to return as much of what we own and are to  God with some return on His investment, or else have to answer why we failed to uphold that responsibility as children of God.

Notice, as stated before, that “lent” is considered a transitive verb. Now,, the word “transitive” itself means being characterized by transition and having a direct object. Well, should  not this earth be nothing but a transition to us, a temporary holding post on our journey back home to Heaven?  Likewise, should the Word of God and the example of Christ be our direct objects, that which all we do aims to?

So, you see, the word “Lent” means more than a coming spring. For true Catholics and likewise fervent Christians, the word “lent” reminds us that we came to this earth naked and poor and we will leave it that way as well since, after all, wealth comes from people and circumstances of this earth, and has no special connection of influence with Heaven.

Ultimately, we each have a duty to bring others to Christ through example and word, which means that we are merely temporary stewards awaiting a rich reward in Heaven while adding interest, compounded spiritually, to everything we do, everyone we help, and everything we are, as long as God is involved.

Copyright, 2014  Gabriel Garnica,  All Rights Reserved.

This Love Triangle is Good For Your Marriage


My wife and I participate in our local parish Pre-Cana program helping to prepare couples for marriage, and we find this opportunity to be a great blessing to us as individuals and as a married couple. I find it particularly inspiring that Christ’s first reported miracle occurred during a marriage ceremony, for we truly need miracles to help those about to embark on this sacred mission in a society which threatens its very existence.

Normally, the phrase “Love Triangle” conjures images of infidelity, deception, and corruption of the very essence of what Christian marriage should be all about.  After all, aren’t we talking about committing ourselves to one other person, through richer and poorer, in sickness and health, till death do us part? Given that promise, how can one then be in love with another person while committed to someone in Christian marriage?

The answer is simple. That Other One, to Whom we must be committed, even as we are committed to a spouse in Christian marriage is, of course, Christ. In order for our marriage to be truly blessed by the Lord, we must invite Him to every facet of that union, and trust completely in Him within that union as well. Rather than making decisions with our own personal and individual agendas in mind, or even with the combined agendas of  husband and wife in mind, we must include Christ in our discussions, deliberations, and decisions as well.

The media often portrays a married couple about to make love as turning all images of Christ away, indicating that it is somehow disconcerting or uncomfortable to express physical love to a spouse with Christ overhead.  While I am not suggesting that people make love surrounded by religious statues or pictures, neither am I indicating that we should make so diligent an effort to push Christ out of our love life.  The truth be told, being surrounded by one hundred statues and religious pictures means  nothing if the hearts, minds, and souls of those about to  make love do not embrace the Presence of Christ in their marriage in all areas and on all levels.

The married couple should pray together as often as is feasible. They should ask God to bless their marriage and family whenever possible.  They should teach their children to easily see God as a loving Partner in their young lives as well.  If a Christian marriage is a symbol of God’s love for us, then it follows that God’s love and Presence must be embodied in any Christian marriage, not  just in words or symbols, but in the very depth and essence of what that marriage is about.

Like it or not, the wine in all marriages can run out as it did  in Cana. The struggles, hardships, and obstacles of life can certainly impede the spiritual progress of any union. We may often find ourselves “running on empty” in coping with the everyday difficulties which face all marriages, not to mention Christian ones.  This is why we must invite Christ into our marriages, not just as an invited, temporary Guest but, more importantly, as a permanent Presence, a Source of Love rejuvenation which all marriages must have in order to survive our society’s present moral winter.

Copyright, 2014,  Gabriel Garnica.  All Rights Reserved.

God is All About Re-Gifting


As secular society brushes off Christmas for another year, Catholics know very well that Christmas never truly ends because, at the end of the day, giving never ends.  You see, secular society has Christmas all wrong and, in fact, has it upside down, as it has so many things that truly matter.  For secular society, Christmas is all about getting gifts or finding the gift that will make us look good.  Sure, people often get excited about finding the right gift, and that is certainly better than being simply obsessed with getting gifts, as some are. However, this focus is still far more superficial and fleeting than it should be.  We have all heard that “it is better to give than to receive” and with good reason. The road to sanctity and holiness is paved with unselfish humility lined with unconditional love and service.   The saints certainly provide us with scores of examples of unselfish giving with love, and that is certainly a part of the Christmas we should embrace.

As noted above, most of secular society’s concern with Christmas is figuring out ways to make a buck off people’s desire to give or get the perfect gift.  Even more sadly, the remaining focus is on figuring out ways to make a buck off people’s dissatisfaction with the gifts they did get.  The mantra seems to be “pay us to be the perfect giver” and “pay us to turn  bad gifts into good ones”.   There is nothing inherently wrong with returning gifts we cannot use or prefer to exchange for something else. The problem lies when we focus too much on gifting as some sort of equal exchange or, perhaps worse, some sort of investment on achieving more of what we want.

In our society and media, re-gifting, or having someone give a gift they have received as a gift to someone else,  is often mocked as a cheap way of turning those gifts into bargains.  We often see how TV characters are deeply offended upon discovering that some gift they gave has been re-gifted. The greatest joke, of course, is when we receive our original gift back from an oblivious or forgetful recipient.  This is supposed to be  deep gash or insult demonstrating ingratitude, rejection, and who knows what other evils.

This is not, however, God’s take on gifting.  He wants us to re-git as much as possible, spreading what He has blessed us with to as many other folks as we can.  Recall how the servants who re-invested and spread the talents received were praised while the servant who merely hid his talent was criticized and lost what he was given.  God does not want us to hide our gifts for ourselves, for that defeats the original purpose and potential of the gift in the first place.  No, on the contrary, God calls us to use our gifts to serve others and bring glory to Him.  In a sense, he who re-gifts God’s gifts is doing God’s work and following Christ’s example to a tee.  Think about the gifts God has given you, and about the ways you can use those gifts to change lives for the better.  If you do, you will surely be celebrating Christmas, and giving, all year round.

Gabriel Garnica   Copyright 2014,  all rights reserved.

The Ten Ironies of Holiness…..Part Three of Three


After too long a break, we complete our discussion of the Ten Ironies of Holiness with the final three ironies.

8.   The More We focus on God and unite as children of God, the more we will have to divide ourselves away from those toxic to our mission.    

Many people argue and fervently believe that God is all about, only about, unity.  They fashion the road to God as some merry hug-fest whereby everyone holds hands and marches into paradise.  These people see the solution to our problems as unity.  If we could only be more united, we would have less problems.  Unfortunately, life, and our road to holiness, is not like the American Civil War where one side promoted a wrong and the other side opposed it and there was a war to grind these two opposing forces together through bloodshed.  Contrary to the unity buffs, all problems are not solved by merely “uniting” everyone or promoting that opposing sides must find a compromise, a common ground, or “find the light”.

Yes, there are problems and situations out there where unity is the answer, where people are called to work together to work things out.  Many marriages that end in divorce might have been saved if the two sides just worked at working together, at saving their injured relationship.  Often that effort is warranted or motivated by a common cause, such as sparing the children untold suffering.  Whatever the motivation or rationale, there are times when working together to make things work is not only a good idea but practically a responsibility.

However, there are other times when working together to come together is actually a bad thing.  Suppose a woman married to a violent abuser has a chance to break free from her abuse but, opts, in the name of unity, to stay with this abuser.  What if one has a business partner who is unethical and robs the business, or is incompetent and is bringing the business down.   What if a widow with three daughters meets a new man and discovers that he is trying to sexually abuse one of  her daughters.  Should she stay with this fiend in the interest of unity?  Lastly, suppose that one’s child has a friend who is drawing one’s child away from wholesome and positive activities toward unwholesome and negative conduct.  Should one’s child stay with that bad example, out of some misguided notion that maintaining unity is some saintly thing to do?

Obviously, in all of the above situations, unity is unity with a toxic situation or person that will only draw us away from God, away from our mission to serve God, and away from our salvation.  Remember that God Almighty will divide on Judgment Day.  Whether we accept it or not, we  have a choice between being the wheat and the chaff, and then we have a choice about whether or not we want to embrace the wheat, or the chaff.  The ultimate secret to serving Christ, then, may well be the ability to be compassionate, serving, generous, forgiving, and open to those who stray without letting ourselves accept, embrace, condone, much less support their positions which may be inconsistent with who we are and what we should be about.

9.      The more we fail, struggle, and fall, the less we will fail, struggle, and fall.

This world is obsessed with avoiding suffering, pain, and failure.  We cringe at the sight or thought of anyone suffering.  Is this cringe out of compassion, or is it out of pity?    Better still, are our tears and fears the fruits of our broken dreams, hopes, aspiration, perceptions, and/or delusions?  Do we cry for how struggles and obstacles impact us, or for how these things impact others?  A simple glance at the lives of most, if not all, saints, reveals that they each struggled mightily over many different issues.   In fact, one may rightly conclude, when looking at the saints, that being close to God is being close to suffering, and that would be true.  We have each been given crosses to bear, and how we bear them will often show how close we are to the One Who has borne the most.  The more we suffer and fail here, the less we will suffer there, because we will have maximized our potential and while using our struggles as fodder for graces.

10.    Holiness is about embracing discomfort and rejecting comfort.

A lack of suffering anda measure of  comfort  are the front lines of the battle against the devil.  It is there where evil finds the most ready, willing, and able souls poised to throw their lot with the most fearful  creature they have ever experienced.  Saints like Francis, Clare, Don Bosco, and Philip Neri faced extreme obstacles head-on, with their heads held high, believing in the power of God to transform their struggles into graces.  When we are too comfortable, we tend to forget God because, whether we admit it or not, we start fashioning ourselves the answer to all questions.  On  the other hand, struggles build character, and make us recall our roots.

Copyright, 2013  Gabriel Garnica

See Him Everywhere


 

Contrast helps us to find our way.  If the image above was of simply all white or all black, we would see nothing.  Likewise, uniformity gives greater clarity and meaning than sporadic contrast. If the above image was simply patches of 20 different colors, we would see something between a rainbow and the random finger paints of a toddler. We have all heard the expression that life is not always black and white, which is true. However, where everything is, in fact, black and white, as above, what do we see?  Do we still see random, meaningless, accidental patterns?  Do we still see the infantile pokes of a child?  Ultimately, is the meaning of what we see in our lives limited to the here and now, with a blurry journey to nowhere ahead of us?

The first step to finding Christ is to love Him so much that He is constantly in your mind. If you love Him that much, you will want to please Him as best you can, and you will detest displeasing Him.  If you love Him that much, you will measure what you do by how you serve Him doing what you do. You will see your life meaning as only having meaning in the context of Him, of His words, of His example.  If you love Him that much, the difficulties of following Him, of living this temporary life that we have been given in this very flawed earth surrounded by a very definitely flawed society led by a twisted authority, will melt away. Yes, you will surely suffer, f ind discomfort, frustration, even desperation but, in the context of Christ, these will seem much less significant.  Taken in purely earthly terms, it would be as if I gave you the choice to have someone hit your finger with a hammer hard for nothing or for one million dollars.  In both cases,  you would feel the pain, and fear the damage to  your hand but, in the second case, you would be much less bothered and much more willing to take the hit in return for the prize.  Well, Christ is infinitely more valuable than one million dollars, and has a truly eternal benefit in contrast to the purely limited and temporal value of the million dollars, so we should be ready, willing, and able to take any hits this world gives us for being with Him eternally.

Once we love Him above all else, then we will trust Him above all else.  Trust means believing that He will be there for us when we need Him, and that whatever happens to us happens, if we are following His example and Word, for a greater purpose.  Obviously, if we suffer due to our own sins and faults, then what happens to us is simply a consequence of our actions.  So, to repeat.  If we love and follow Christ, we can trust and believe that He will be there for us, regardless of what happens, and that He will lead us home.  If we ignore, neglect, or reject Christ, we will only be trusting and believing in ourselves, which will not bode well for us when things get rough.

Ultimately, if we love Christ and trust in Him, we will see Him in all things, and in all people.  If we see Him in some aspect of our lives but ignore or reject Him, we do so at our own peril, and will be judged more harshly than if we had never seen Him at all.  Our job, then,  is to see Him everywhere and help others do so as well.

The above image is fairly well known, apparently circulating around the world in the middle of the last century. As the story goes, a Chinese photographer  was riding home one day through the snow. According to the story, his soul was deeply troubled. He felt strangely compelled to take a photograph of the melting snow forming pools of water and revealing here and there the black earth. Curious to know the outcome of the incident, he developed the film at once upon returning to his home. Out from the black and white areas of the snow scene, a face appeared, full of tenderness and love–the face of Jesus Christ. He became a Christian as a result of the experience.

Like the Chinese photographer, we must live our lives so that we will always be compelled to see Our Master in all we do, all we say, and all those we come in contact with.  It will not always be easy, or pleasant, but it will be the path to paradise.  Look closely at the above image, and see Christ as the Chinese photographer did. Then, make sure that you frame that image in your heart, mind, and soul for the rest of your life and beyond.

Copyright, 2013   Gabriel Garnica

Catholics and Christians Must Be Warriors Today, Not Worriers


          

 

Catholics and Christians in general certainly have a lot to be worried about in these times.  Threats abound from a society, culture, media, and leadership that treats Christianity like an annoying mental illness which often irritates any non-Christian in the vicinity of any follower of Christ.  We have been called terrorists by people who seem terrified to call real terrorists by that name.  We have been called hateful by those who epitomize hate.  We are labeled as dangerous by folks whose views pose a danger to our world, nation, society, culture, future, and every existence.  It is easy to be a follower of Christ on Easter Sunday.  It is still manageable to be a follower of Christ on Christmas where, despite the increasingly brazen and arrogant attacks on the true reason for the season, one at least finds a significant part of society celebrating along.  Being a Christian, a Catholic, on Good Friday, however, is another ball of wax.  That is the day we remember how hated Christ was by the powerful, the political and even spiritual leaders of the day.  Being a true follower of Christ is not about dancing behind Him as He enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday surrounded by apparently adoring throngs.  No, we earn our stripes as Christians on Holy Thursday night and Good Friday, if we proudly admit we are His loyal followers, yell in His defense among the vicious mob demanding His death, follow Him as He obeys His Father’s Will below a heavy cross on a rocky path,  and kneel below His cross, begging forgiveness for not appreciating His ultimate sacrifice with our loyal obedience.

These times call for warriors like Joan of Arc and Sir Thomas More, who used deeds and words to defend God’s Word and Will and Christ’s teaching and example, willingly giving up comforts and prestige to serve He who Alone should be our reason, our answer, our path, and our purpose.

Let us not worry in this task and mission, for worry is born of a lack of faith and fills its space very conveniently to choke our very beliefs and resolve, no matter how steadfast initially, into weak, diluted compromise, appeasement, and even betrayal of our Faith.  As Christians we are not called to become mere spectators to this battle, content to let others fight for the cause.  Neither, however, are we called to become mindless, oblivious, ravenous wolves defending without discretion,  speaking without sincerity, and preaching without purpose. No, we must work to fight as Our Lord fought, with conviction and fairness,  courage and temperance and, above all, with a firm grasp of Our God’s Word, Our Lord’s example, and our talents and gifts to use as weapons in the struggle.

Do not worry, for worry is born of doubt, and doubt is born of a lack of faith, and a lack of faith is the offspring of fear and denial.  Use your time more wisely by focusing on the end promised rather than the present perceived.  Following Our Lord is playing without pause because one knows that, regardless of the twists and turns of the fame, the final score will favor those who wear Our God’s uniform.  Measure the value of all by how well such things will bring you closer to God.   If we follow these ideals, we will truly be warriors, not worriers, for our faith.

Copyright, 2012  Gabriel Garnica