Your Relationship with God

When you have a relationship with a person, do you say you know about that person, or do you say you know that person? Of course you say you know that person. My guess is that we all would say we know about Oprah Winfrey, but I doubt any of us would say we have a relationship with Oprah Winfrey simply because we don’t actually know her. To know someone, we have to interact with him or her. Therefore, if we really want to know God, we have to interact with Him.  Otherwise, all we will be able to say is that we know about Him.

So interactions typically imply a relationship, but all relationships are not equal. The depth of a relationship does not necessarily depend on how long we’ve known a person. I believe it depends more on the impact relationship has on our life, and the extent to which we rely on this relationship on a regular basis. Therefore, to have a deep and meaningful relationship with God, we need to build a relationship where our interactions with Him are relevant and frequent.

Let’s draw on what we know about relationships with other human beings. Think about someone whom you regularly rely on and who has tremendous impact on your life.  Maybe it’s your spouse, a sibling, a parent, or a friend.  Now, think about what your relationship with this person look likes. You probably create opportunities to be with this person, frequently communicate with this person, seek this person's advice, really listen to him or her, and are influenced by what this person says.

That’s not an exhaustive list, but I think it helps to paint a picture of what a deep and meaningful relationship with another human being looks like. Now, let's run through the list of characteristics one more time, but this time, rather than thinking about one of your relationships with another human being, think about your relationship with God. Do you create opportunities to be with God, frequently communicate with Him, seek His advice, really listen to Him, and allow yourself to be influenced by what He says? Let me take this one step further. Do you have this kind of relationship with God every day? 

You don't need a theology degree to develop your relationship with God (or to help others develop their relationship with Him). All you have to do is look at what makes human relationships successful and apply these ideas to building your relationship with God. Simple!

photo credit: Idea Go at

Building an Ark in 2015?

God asked Noah to build an ark – might he be asking you to do the same?  Not an ark to save the world from an impending flood!  But an ark to preserve some important things that may be slipping away in your marriage, family, among your friends or in your workplace.

Ron Rolheiser, who I have interviewed many times for Everyday Faith, says the story of Noah’s Ark might be recast this way:


Every so often there comes a time in history when there is so little vision, faith, idealism, decency, and charity left on this planet that there is a real danger that the world itself will sink, will drown, and revert to a chaos that will kill everything that's precious. But one person, despite all that is going on around him or her, will keep his or her eyes on what's higher, keep faith intact, protect life, and refuse to compromise charity and decency.  Eventually the earth will drown in chaos, but because of this one person's vision, idealism, faith, decency, and charity, a pocket of life, that still contains all that is precious, will be preserved and given a new chance to grow. 

Noah's Ark is a boat of faith, vision, idealism, decency, and charity. These virtues give us the capacity to float above the chaos that drowns things. Moreover, our decency, charity, faith, and vision contain within themselves all that's precious and that needs to be protected and given a continued chance for life.


Are there any situations in your life that are sinking, drowning in chaos, or simply losing what once made them special, uplifting or remarkable?  If so, God tells us through the story of Noah’s Ark that one person can make a difference by restoring the virtues of faith, vision, idealism, decency, and charity that form the bedrock of all that is good.  Noah didn’t build his ark in a day, and neither will you.   But with hard work, perseverance and God’s help, you too can build an ark that consists of all the virtues needed in your life and the lives of those around you.

Photo Credit: Flickr: Eloquent Light

Challenges That Transform

None of us want to have problems in life.  That’s just simple human nature.  We don’t want to experience health problems, relationship difficulties, or financial insecurity, nor do we want to learn our kids are doing things they shouldn’t.  We all want to sail through life with as few challenges as possible.  There is nothing wrong with desiring a journey with few bumps, but as we all know, that’s just not the way life goes for most of us.  That is a given. What isn’t a given is our willingness to acknowledge our bumps -- to ourselves and to others.

Not only do we not want problems, but when we have them, many of us tend to deny them!  Some of us deny our problems because it is our way of coping and surviving.   But denial of our problems denies us the opportunity to grow spiritually.  The peace of avoidance and denial is not true peace. Richard Rohr, a well-known and respected spiritual writer and speaker, says spirituality in its best sense is what we do with our pain.  Spirituality is about transformation.  And when we don’t seek transformation from our pain, we simply end up transmitting it.  We transmit it to others, and we pass on the opportunity for growth that God is putting in front of us.

So how do we ensure that the problems we face in life transform us?  By truly trusting God.  Not trusting Him to solve or eliminate our problems, but trusting Him to give us the grace to hold our troubles, accept them and navigate our way through them.

When we face painful or difficult situations and deliberately, consciously and sincerely place them God’s hands, we feel much more peace than we ever thought possible.  And the situations eventually resolve themselves in ways that may not be what we ideally hoped for, but that in hindsight reveal value far beyond what we could have initially imagined.

photo credit: Mike Mozart, Potholes



A Marriage Blessing


My husband and I recently celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary on the beautiful island of Kauai.  While attending St. Raphael’s Church, the pastor asked if anyone was celebrating a wedding anniversary.  We said we were, and he called us to the front of the church and gave us the most beautiful blessing.  I think it is a great reminder of what we should strive for in marriage:

Almighty and ever living God, continue to bless this couple and help them grow in truth that marriage is not merely living for each other but joining hands to serve you.  May they have a great spiritual purpose in life.  May they not expect perfection in each other, for perfection belongs only to you.  May they minimize each other’s weaknesses and be swift to praise and magnify each other’s strengths.  May they always see each other through love’s kind and patient eyes.

May God bless your lives together.  May you have enough tears to keep you tender, enough hurts to keep you human, enough failures to keep you tightly clutching God’s hand, and enough blessings to affirm that you are indeed God’s children.  May you never take each other for granted but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, “Out of this entire world, you have chosen me.”

May your life together be such that at the end of life you will be found then as now – still hand in hand, still thanking God for each other, still faithful servants of our Heavenly Father – until at last one shall lay the other into the arms of God.  



Reluctant or Committed?

The vast majority of Americans consider themselves to be people of faith.  But a fair amount of these people would likely describe themselves as reluctant rather than committed people of faith.

A reluctant person of faith may be the type of person who consciously chooses to stand back from their faith and not get too involved.  Perhaps because they:

  • Are waiting for a more visible commitment on their behalf from God
  • Have felt that God wasn't there for them at key times in their lives
  • Are the type of person who needs foolproof evidence before they commit themselves to something

Some people are reluctant by default.  They haven’t made a conscious decision to hold back, but they are too busy to dive below the surface of their faith.  Perhaps they have been on the surface so long they don’t know how to get below the surface or, if they did, they wouldn’t know what to do once they got there.

And finally, some people of faith want to move from the category of reluctant to committed, but they feel stuck.  They see and know people in that committed category, and it looks appealing, but the perceived gap between reluctant and committed seems much too wide to close.

There are many reasons why a person of lukewarm faith should want to develop and grow their faith, but one reason alone should be sufficient to convince a reluctant person to do so.  That one reason is that the life of a person who is reluctant in their faith is inevitably more difficult than the life of a person who is committed to their faith.

Why?  Not because a reluctant person has more challenges or difficulties in their lives.  I don’t believe the degree of commitment a person has to their faith has any bearing whatsoever on how much difficulty they will face.  But I am certain that a person reluctant in their faith experiences more turmoil and despair.  You see, one of the greatest gifts our faith gives us is internal peace, regardless of how difficult the circumstances around us become.  A committed faith grounds us and gives us the assurance that God is in charge and that He will give us (and everyone around us) everything we need to persevere in life, no matter how difficult or challenging our lives may be.  That gift of wisdom, hope and internal peace is a gift that anyone and everyone can appreciate and benefit from, and should motivate even the most reluctant among us to grow deeper in our faith.

Photo Source: Roger Selverstone

Partnership With God

We need God, but how often do we think of God needing us?  After all, many people would say God is God, and therefore He does not NEED anything.

Of course God can do anything, but how often does he exercise His will in this way?  None of us know the answer to that question, but there is one thing we do know: God gave each of us free will.  Therefore, if I pray for something that involves the cooperation, consent, or action of another person, I should realize that more often than not, God is not going to step in and hand me the very thing I am praying for.  If He did, He would be infringing on the free will of the person whose cooperation, consent or action I need in order for my prayer to be answered.

So am I on my own?  Is God just going to sit back and let the chips fall where they may?  I don’t think so.  But this is where God’s need for us comes in to play.  God needs each of us to use the gifts we were given to help Him accomplish His work here on earth.  So maybe there is something I can do to influence the person whose cooperation, consent or action I need.  Or, maybe there is something you can do to influence that person.  But who is that person? And what is it that I need from him?

Partnership with God 4 people.png

It is not necessary for you to know who he is or what I need from him. All you need to do is bring your outlook, your example, and your way of seeing things to everyone God puts in your life. Trust that God puts people in your life and on your path for a reason. 

Essentially, you are in partnership with God.   God depends on you.  He depends on your ingenuity and cooperation to help Him accomplish all that needs to be done.

photo credits: Meanest Indian and YanivG via photopin cc

Filling Your Joy Tank (with Char Vance)

Too many people live with a sense of chronic joylessness. Chronic joylessness occurs when our minds are filled with irritation, frustration, worry, fear, lack of purpose and/or a sense that life isn’t fair. We tend to be too busy to see the joy in the everyday moments of our lives, or we assume we have to create these moments by scheduling events that we think will create the feeling of joy. It’s hard to chase joy in our lives – often the harder we try, the more elusive joy seems to become.

But does joy really need to be elusive?  Part of the reason it feels so elusive is because we don’t recognize an important rule about joy, which is:  joy cannot be found, and joy cannot be created.  Joy always comes as a by-product of something else.  What is the something else that can create the by-product called joy?

Char Vance

Char Vance

Joy is the by-product of acting like God acts.  We act like God when we are selfless without resentment, when we give without counting the cost, and when we give from our sustenance rather than from our excess.  As Ron Rolheiser says, “When we do big-hearted things, we get to feel big-hearted; when we act petty, we get to feel petty.”

Char Vance, television producer and comedienne, knows the difference between living a joyful versus joyless life.  Char knows how to live life joyfully, even when circumstances seem to be crumbling around her:

Who doesn’t want to feel more joy in their lives?  The good news is, we don’t need circumstances to unfold in a particular way.  All we need to do is begin to act like God.  Today.  Right now. There are probably a dozen things we could each do, right now, right in this moment, to act like God.  That means a feeling of chronic joylessness can be turned into chronic joy.  What then, are we waiting for?


Service: Responsibility or Privilege? (with Lou Nanni)

We all feel called to serve in some way.  But what does service entail? Does it mean working in a soup kitchen? Participating in a mission trip to a third world country? Visiting a hospital?

It can.  But service can be much more basic than that.  It includes the inevitable daily opportunities to assist, console and, yes, even be tolerant of people who are in our lives every day.

But is it enough to simply assist, console or tolerate those who come in and out of our daily lives?  I don’t think so.  Our mindset matters as well.  What if we feel bitter or used in the process of serving?

When we serve, we are fulfilling a request from God.  And when fulfilling a request by God, God fills us with joy, peace and meaning.  If in serving others we feel burdened, taken advantage of, or unappreciated – those emotions leave no room in our hearts for the gifts God wants to give us. 

The challenge is to not feel burdened or resentful.  How do you keep those feelings at bay?  Lou Nanni, VP of the University of Notre Dame, has some insight on this question.  Lou's commitment to service is beyond impressive, from serving the poor in South America, to starting a homeless center in South Bend, Indiana, to bringing a heart of service to almost every situation.  Listen to his advice about viewing service as a privilege rather than a responsibility:

Try starting each day with the idea that opportunities to serve are privileges.  With this mindset, you will likely focus more on serving rather than being served or appreciated. This in turn will leave plenty of room for God to then fill you with the joy and meaning that we all are ultimately seeking. 

Let Your Life Speak (with Parker Palmer)

No two individuals have the same DNA, so DNA is often used to confirm a person’s identity.  But there is another way to distinguish individuals from each other.  This technique does not occur in a scientific laboratory, but rather in the laboratory called your soul.


A laboratory is a place where knowledge is pondered, assumptions are tested and learning takes place.  Those are exactly the kinds of activities you must pursue deep in your soul so you can identify the unique package God placed within you: a distinct combination of strengths, limitations and passions, that once you understand, will reveal the specific work God needs you to do.

When you do not do this work within your soul, you remain ignorant of the path God created for you.  Not knowing this path, you cannot follow it, and therefore short-change yourself as well as everyone God has placed around you, including your family, friends, co-workers, and casual acquaintances.  Some of these people are in your life for long periods of time and some pass through rather quickly, yet all were intended to benefit from your life, your path, and your vocation.

The other thing that becomes clear when you understand what distinguishes you as an individual is what you shouldn’t do.  Many people have a hard time saying ‘no’ if the cause seems worthy.  But an inability to say ‘no’ can mean you don’t have enough time and energy to do the work God intended you to do.  It can also lead to burnout.

Parker Palmer, author and educator, shared his thoughts on the importance of knowing who you are when we discussed his book Let Your Life Speak:

You have a God-given nature.   You need to discover and respond to that nature rather than responding to all the external pressures and demands that want to steer you in a different direction.  Listen to that voice deep within, and then follow what you hear.

Can One Person Heal a Relationship? Very possibly yes.

Let’s start with this basic understanding: God is all about love, and love happens through relationships.  So the best way we can live our faith is by loving those around us.

Broken Relationship.png

In theory, that sounds great.  In reality though, we all have relationships that at times are dominated by feelings of resentment, bitterness, frustration, anger or impatience.  If one of your relationships – perhaps with your spouse, child, parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, coworker – is suffering from this lack of love (and I don’t mean that you don’t love this person, it’s just that the interactions are not exactly loving), can you heal that relationship, even without any effort put forth by the other person?

Possibly yes.

Of course there is no guarantee. But if you make the decision to only bring acts of generosity, kindness, understanding and forgiveness to the relationship, and (this is key) expect nothing in return, you may be able to kick-start the relationship out of it’s negative holding pattern.

Listen to Rick Gaillardetz, author, theology professor, husband and dad, describe how this may look in a marriage:

It’s not about conceding your ground, or convincing someone of something.  It’s just about making the decision that every interaction on your part will be made out of love.

There is a good chance your actions will pull the relationship to a higher level.  At a minimum, you will be living your faith and pulling yourself to a higher level.  And that will feel good.


How to Trust God? Practice, according to Tony Dungy

Trusting God can be a lot easier said than done -- it's not something you can just call up on a moment's notice!  How does it happen? Through practice according to former Super Bowl champion coach Tony Dungy.  

How does Tony Dungy know this you may be wondering?  Well, Tony Dungy had to trust God with what most people would consider to be the worst situation imaginable -- when in 2005, his 18 year old son Jamie took his own life. Tony Dungy was able to truly trust God when this awful event occurred because he had a lot of practice trusting God prior to Jamie's death.

Tony Dungy and his son Jamie

Tony Dungy and his son Jamie

Most people know Tony Dungy for leading the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl Championship in 2007 -- and being the first African American head coach to do so.  He has since retired from coaching and is now a studio analyst on NBC's popular Sunday Night Football show.  A successful career by almost all accounts.  

But what many people may forget is that Tony Dungy experienced quite a bit of career adversity as well. For example, he was:

  • Not drafted following a record-setting college football career.
  • Cut or traded by three teams during his brief four year NFL playing career.
  • Let go from several assistant coaching positions.
  • Fired as head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
  • Prematurely eliminated from the playoffs several times.
Tony Dungy believes trusting God requires practice.

Tony Dungy believes trusting God requires practice.

In an interview with Coach Dungy, he told me the reason he was able to trust God when Jamie died was because he had learned to trust God through all the relatively smaller setbacks he had experienced earlier.

Following is an excerpt from my interview with Coach Dungy where he talks about how he learned to trust God and how you can tell how much trust you actually have::

Perhaps we should all take a page out of Tony Dungy's playbook:  practice trusting God with our relatively smaller setbacks.  We will then be prepared to trust Him when faced with life's really difficult challenges.


Inside Versus Outside (with Richard Rohr)

No doubt we have all used the actions of others as a standard for judging ourselves. We begin as children, blurting out the shortcomings of our siblings to garner mom and dad’s favor, and we evolve into more subtle adults, silently gauging other’s actions when our own self-worth needs a boost.

But God’s view is not limited to behavior.  Instead, He can focus like a laser beam right into our souls. In other words, He knows what we are thinking regardless of what we are saying or doing!

Does that mean we should ensure our outer actions always match our inner motives?  Of course not! We are human; our internal thoughts are not always pure and altruistic.  For example, just because we feel resentful doesn't mean we should act resentful.  It’s often a good idea to act big-hearted and good-natured even when we don’t feel big-hearted and good-natured. 

Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr

But it’s not wise to assume God is pleased as long as our actions look good. God knows we aren’t perfect, but He wants us to face our internal flaws and work on overcoming them.  He wants to see progress in our souls, and there can be no progress without an honest examination of our inner thoughts and a subsequent effort to do better.

Richard Rohr, prolific writer, speaker, and founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, says that although it is uncomfortable to face our shortcomings, there are risks if we ignore them:

We all have one or more detrimental tendencies, which could include an inclination to be impatient, quick to anger, defensive, controlling, unforgiving, jealous – you get the idea.  Eliminating these seemingly inherent characteristics is a tall order, but frequent and sincere acknowledgment, even if just to ourselves, will go a long way toward diffusing them.  And diffusion is definitely progress. 

Virtue: The Key to Happiness and Success (with Matthew Kelly)

Most people, if asked what they want out of life, or what they want for their children, would probably say “to be happy” or “to be successful.”  But what does being happy or successful entail?

Matthew Kelly

Matthew Kelly

Matthew Kelly, an internationally acclaimed speaker, bestselling author, and business consultant, has an answer to that question.  He believes that the key to happiness and success is virtue.

Virtue is not something we are born with, it is something we work hard to acquire. And if we are a parent, we should work tirelessly to develop virtue in our children.  It’s a job that never ends -- and when raising teenagers, the push back can be exhausting. But it’s a job we should be working on every single day of our children’s lives. 

A person with virtue has a good and moral character.  He or she acts out of principles and values rather than bending to impulses or desires. A list of virtues may include honesty, courage, respect, kindness, humility and self-control. 

How do these characteristics lead to happiness? It’s really quite simple: life is about relationships, and when we have good relationships -- in our families, with our friends, with our colleagues – we are happy.  The same holds true for our children.  As Matthew Kelly says, “At the heart of a relationship we find one immutable and universal truth: two virtuous people will always have a better relationship than two who lack virtue.

 Listen to Matthew Kelly make his case:

Convinced yet?  If so, pick a virtue that you want to strengthen, or that you want to strengthen in your kids, and then find at least one opportunity everyday to put that virtue into practice.