Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Scandalous Christmas

Today I was listening to the radio and I heard a song with these lyrics that I can't get out of my head. (I got 5 bonus points for anyone who knows the song!)

"It's nothing less than SCANDALOUS, that Jesus took our place. " 

You know, I heard once that Christianity is the only religion that claims that their God came down from the Heavens and became a human. I think about that often - especially when I feel lonely. Because it tells you a lot about what kind of God He is. I've heard God described with many different words...but this was the first time I had heard Him described as "Scandalous." And I love it. 

For one, God's humility is so scandalous. When we think of how big He really is, it is absolutely scandalous that He humbled Himself so much that He became one of the creatures that He created. 

Imagine a baker, with all his baking talents, knowledge and creative abilities became the spoon that he mixed his batter with...because he wanted to know and feel and experience what it was like to be a spoon. How humble would that baker be to do such a thing!  

Becoming a spoon seems pointless, but really we are just like a spoon in God's hands. Anything we do is only because He created us with the ability to do it. God became a helpless baby because He wanted to know and feel and experience what it was like to be human. His love for us is so great and so scandalous that He gave up His life for us and became one of us to show us the way of love. Christmas is the most scandalous love story ever told. I'm starting to like this story. Being a holy  scandalous lover means 3 things:

3 ways to Love Scandalously this Christmas:

1. Take a risk 
Get to know this God who became a human. Take 5 minutes in prayer every day leading up to Christmas and see if this scandalous God has anything to tell you. Silence goes a long way in prayer. Listen to how He wants you to love others in your life and go for it!

2. Give until it hurts.
Giving doesn't just mean money. More often than not it means giving your time and full attention to someone. Put down your phone,  dig down deep and give more than you think your even capable. People need your heart, don't be afraid to share it.

3. Be courageous! 
Go above and beyond what you might normally do for someone else and watch what God will do. When you do something that takes courage it's exhilarating, even if you fail! Be real with somebody that you care about this Christmas. Life is too short to keep it in.

Monday, June 22, 2015

4 ways to avoid being a "human doing"

"Hey how are you? My name is Jim. What's your name?"


"So Teresa, What do you do?"

Maybe its just the analytical side of my brain taking over... but it totally bugs me every time I have a conversation with someone and the first thing that someone asks me is..."What do you do?"

*Disclaimer* Now, I get that its just small talk.  Don't take this blog as some type of passive aggressive way of saying I'm annoyed with you if you're guilty of asking others what they do. I hate passive aggressive and I also ask people this it all the time. Hello, I am a hypocrite. Nice to meet you.  End disclaimer.

I just think that it tells a lot about how we as a culture see the people around us. When we ask them what they do, not who they are. There's something wrong with that!

What if we started asking people who they are instead of asking them what they do? Imagine the conversation that could come out of that simple question. I think it could change the world. But I also think that we are afraid of changing the world, and thats why we just stick with what's familiar. We are afraid of the messiness of humanity, so we just revert back to "what do you do?" If we really asked someone who they were and what they're all about, we'd be committing to quite a long and possibly heart-wrenching conversation. And you know, in our busy lives, do we really have time to open up that conversation? After all we have a lot of stuff to do...

We live in a success driven world. But maybe success isn't about what we do, but who we encounter when we are doing those things. Not only that, but maybe its about how we treat those people when we do encounter them. How many times do we stop to just "be" with the people in our lives? If we live in a culture that is too busy to "be" with the ones we love, than we are becoming less of human beings and more of "human doings". 

We're all sons and daughters. Brothers and sisters. Friends and companions. On a journey.

I'm leaving for Spain in two weeks and I'm excited for these encounters. I'm going to make it a point to ask those that I meet, "Who are you?"  ¿Quien eres tĂș?  

4 ways to avoid being a "human doing"

1. Hang out with a baby.
I learned a lot about humanity by hanging out with my 3 month old nephew. Babies don't really do anything except for eat, sleep puke and poop with an occasional smile or burp. You wouldn't ask a baby what they do, and they really aren't defined by what they do. If you've ever made baby giggle, then you know they are worth a lot more than what they do. Appreciate the gift of life in and of itself by hanging out with a baby. 

This kid.

2. Make eye contact with people
They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. When you're walking down the street, make an effort to look into people's eyes. They might not even notice. And if they do, they might think you're crazy. But look in their eyes and do a little "wondering". Wonder about who they are, where they come from, and why they were put on earth. If you really want to be a human being and not a human doing, you have to start caring about other people. 

3. Ask the tough question(s).
Take a social risk and ask "who" are you? the next time you meet someone new. They'll immediately be thrown off, but maybe that's not such a bad thing. Maybe they've been waiting for someone to ask who they are for once. Deep down nobody really wants to be defined by what they do. Everyone wants to be fully known and loved for who they are.

4. Answer the tough question(s)... even if no one asks
The next time someone asks, "what do you do?" Answer with the defining qualities that make you, you! Por ejemplo. 

Normal conversationalist: Hi Teresa, what do you do?

You: "Hi (insert name of normal conversationalist)! Well I suppose do my best to encourage everyone, try to smile a lot and make people feel included. Normally its a struggle, but I really believe that everyone on earth deserves to be loved and cared for so, I do my best."

You: What are you all about?

Normal conversationalist: ... *long, uncomfortable silence*
Normal conversationalist: Wow. I didn't think anyone really cared. Which is probably because when I was 7 years old... *Continues to spill out entire heart and soul to you whether you like it or not*

You: *Just became a human being*

Friday, June 12, 2015

Be real it doesn't suck later.

I like real

I like real even when its messy

I like authenticity.

(Did that rhyme? Dang that sounded good. My mixtape's gonna drop next week.)

The bible says: "For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light." (Luke 8:17) ...And if it's all true, these could be the scariest words you've ever heard in your life.

Imagine one day out of nowhere, every single action, thought and desire that you've ever done, thought or really wanted went flashing up on all the jumbotrons in Times Square in NYC. Yep that means the good, the bad and the ugly too. Not only that but your name and face are plastered right up there next to your true self. What if who you really were was on display for all to see? No filters. No backspace or undo. Just you. (Ooh add that to the mixtape, I'm a rhyming fool today). Here goes nothin, on a good day I think it would look something like this...

Teresa M. Liguori
24 years old
Loves sugar more than many things in life.
Wishes she was in better shape than she is and looks in the mirror and doesn't like what she sees.
Can't not hit the snooze button. Ever. 
Addicted to technology.
Sometimes feels depressed and lonely.
Only posts positive things online because she doesn't want others to know she's not always happy.
Worries about her future on a daily basis.
Eats too many donuts and drinks to much coffee. (Probably. No - definitely - addicted to coffee).
Objectifies men often. 
Sometimes drinks too much.
Texts and drives.
Is often afraid to talk to people in new situations.
Thinks she knows it all.
Feels like she knows nothing.
Still has trouble forgiving others.
Fears that people she loves will leave or die too soon.
Gets annoyed when old ladies ask to sit with her in public situations - like right now.  (So random!)

Why did I just do that? Because if we are not real now, it's going to suck later. And I don't want it to suck later.  St. Augustine once wrote a whole book (The Confessions of St. Augustine) about how big of a sinner he was and all the dumb things he did too. Now, I'm not trying to make myself out to be some sort of Saint or anything like that, because believe me I could fill an entire book too. But here's the deal... so often we only portray the parts of us that are presentable and nice to look at, rather than who we really are, even when that's kind of ugly. But isn't being real kind of refreshing? I think so. 

If that bible passage above is all true, then one day every single thing about is going to be revealed for all to see. My theory is get it out now and deal with it before its too late. If pain and suffering really leads to joy, then why not go through a little pain now, be authentic, so that later on we won't get screwed? Besides, no one wants to know that we have it all together, people want to know that they're not the only one that's not perfect. Newsflash, nobody's perfect. Thanks Miley. (EW I just quoted Miley Cyrus. Sorry everyone. Just being real)

Here's the deal. There's no "3 steps to this" or "4 ways you know that" today. But one day Jesus is gonna come back and all of our sins are going to be revealed. Why? Because he's mean and looking to get us screwed? No because He deals in reality. First things first, Jesus is the realest  person who's ever walked the earth, and He's coming back to "judge the living and the dead." 

Judge. People are more offended by that word than by an F-bomb these days. Now, I don't believe anyone has any business judging anybody else, but when we call everything that makes us uncomfortable,  "judging", than we have an overly-sensitive culture that needs to toughen up a bit. (My opinion. Did you just judge me?) Human beings need to lay off the real judging, but God can judge all He wants because He only speaks truth. When and if we get to the pearly gates, and God says "you did this, this, this, this and this..." we are only going to be able to respond with "yes, Lord." We cannot lie to The Truth Himself. One day we're going to die and be face to face with this truth, like it or not. 

My challenge today to be practically human is to share this post and post your own "jumbotron" real self for all of Times Square to see. #berealchallenge

Be real now, so it doesn't suck later.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

4 Ways to know who you were "meant to be"

My friends became priests last weekend. And it was awesome. 

Literally. The best 5-day celebration of my life. To witness these young men heroically lay down their entire life for something that they would die for was an incredible experience. Actually, to see them lay down their life for something that I hope to have the courage to die for too could have been what made it so amazing. Either way, it gave me hope. It really made me think too. What is my calling in life?  What am I meant to lay down my life for? I realized that when you find your calling in life and you commit to it, you become fully alive. You become fully you. When you find out who you were "meant to be", you have the potential to change the world. I really think that these two men are going to do just that.

St. Catherine of Siena once said,
"If you are who you were meant to be, you will set the world on fire." 

Fr. Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Fr. Anthony Cusack and I before eating a whole lot of lobster on the beach.

Four ways to know who you were "meant to  be."

1. You know who you were meant to be when you know who you are.
Stop looking at other people's lives to figure out your own. The moment you let go of other people's expectations you'll find out who you really are. #youdoyou. If you don't know who you are, pray this "I AM will tell me who I am." (Who is "I am"? He created you. Exodus 3:14) He created you, and He totally knows who you are. Find who you are and you'll find who you're meant to be.

2. You know who you were meant to be when you know who you're not. 
If you really can't stop trying to be like other people (I get it, we all have an image to keep up), then go ahead and just embrace being someone else for a while.  This is the route most of us take first. But soon enough, it's going to catch up with you, you're going to be miserable and you're going to realize that its just not worth it to live up to others expectations. Find out who you're not, don't be that person,  and then you'll find who you're meant to be.
3. You know who you were meant to be when you know who or what you love the most.
Who would you die for? What would you die for? You were meant for whoever or whatever that is. If you feel like you would die for anyone, maybe your calling is something greater than the small family you've always imagined.  Maybe its not. Some would die for a person. Other might die for a mission. If you wouldn't die for any one or anything than you're just floating through life (Revelation 3:16). Find that passion and you'll find who you're meant to be.

4. You know who you were meant to be when you know what makes you most alive. 
What gets you out of bed in the morning? Not what wakes you up, but what motivates you to remove yourself from your comfort zone? More importantly, what keeps you up during the day and late into the night? What do you sacrifice sleep for, yet continue to feel energized by? Find what makes you alive and you'll find who you're meant to be.  (John 10:10)

If none of this works just set a chair on fire...that usually helps me.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Mountaintop Suffering

Five years ago I attempted to climb a 3,165 foot mountain. Five years ago, I also gave up before making it even close to the top, packed my bags and went home.Yesterday, I climbed that same mountain and I made it to the top in an hour and a half. When I finally reached the top and looked around and all I could think was “How did I do that?!”

I was overwhelmed by the contrast between my two experiences climbing this monster…I mean mountain. How could I have accomplished something that my “five-years-ago self” thought was impossible?

“Behold, I make all things new”, says the Lord.

I think back at the person that I was when I first attempted to climb this mountain. 
I look at the person that I am today. New. I am new. I am different. I am changed

Both attempts I wanted to quit. Both times I was challenged beyond what I thought I was capable of. But how I dealt with the challenge was what was made new. What was different. What was changed.

About two years ago I learned the most important lesson of my life. And if you’ve spent any amount of time with me recently you’ve probably heard this come out of my mouth at least once (#sorrynotsorry). This life-changing lesson is that pain and suffering leads to joy. The “old me” used to think that pain and suffering leads to…well actually I just ran the hell away from pain…so I guess I never really thought about what it leads to. But two years ago I was in a situation where I really couldn’t run from the pain and suffering anymore, and I had to deal with it head on. What I found was that enduring pain instead of running from it was actually way different than I expected. Instead of leaving me in despair and discomfort, it left me with a sense of accomplishment, freedom, fulfillment and joy. Without pain and suffering would have never experienced those mountaintop experiences. I think I'll call it "Mountaintop suffering."

Let’s face it. Our lives are full of really tough mountains to climb. We can either run from them, or conquer them. My gut in the “new me” is telling me to conquer them, and so far that gut hasn't failed me. So let’s do it!

The 3 steps to climb the mountain of suffering

1. Every time you want to give up, just take one more step. Then you’ll never give up.
There were about 856 times yesterday that even the new me was telling me to throw in the towel and give up. I kept thinking things like, “just take another break”, “no one will mind if you take your time”, “this is high enough, no need to go all the way, I’ll just meet everyone back at the bottom.” Don’t listen to these discouraging thoughts. Take another step, and always keep going. Especially when it hurts the most. The more it hurts, the greater the reward.

2.Never climb alone
We ran into this guy on the mountain yesterday who really seemed to know what he was doing when it came to climbing. He said that he climbs often, was in the military, and even takes the toughest routes to the top - for fun! After some small talk, we all continued climbing, he quickly moved way ahead of us but then about 20 minutes later…we found him sitting on a rock with a busted ankle. He was alone and stranded with a pretty bad injury. If he had gone with someone he probably wouldn’t have been in such a sucky situation because he would have been thinking about someone else's climb too. No matter how experienced we may be, when it comes to pain and suffering we can’t go through it alone. Know that you are not the only one struggling to climb your mountain. There is always someone out there going through what you're going through, you just have to rely on each other to get through. (Look up Matthew 28:20).

3. Enjoy the view!
You can’t enjoy the view unless you’ve made it to the top. Sure, you can get glimpses of it by creeping on others’ pictures of their mountaintop experiences…but it is SO much better when you experience it for yourself! You can look at others’ lives and envy their joy, peace, and exhilaration all you want. But nothing beats feeling that for yourself. Go for it. Make a move and bust through that pain my friends. Let me know how that works out for you. (Look up 1 Corinthians 10:13). God never gives you anything you can't handle. He's the one who created the mountain - He'll get you to the top. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

3 Steps to beat the hell out of the "Hokey Pokey" Culture

I read a strange sign on my way home from work yesterday that nearly caused me to drive off the road...well...actually that was Wendy's, but thats another story...#workingonselfcontrol #practicallyhuman #notthereyet. In any event, the sign read this:

"What if the hokey pokey really is what it's all about?" 

Why that was on a sign in front of a seafood restaurant is beyond me, but I have to be honest - it did make me think. For one, the hokey pokey simply isn't on the top of my list of "To Do's" like it used to be. But secondly it made me think about how we live in a world where "tolerance" is a greater virtue than "truth". Likewise, where not offending somebody has become more respected than having your own opinion on things. We live in a culture where relativism is not only praised but expected if you want to be considered "accepted" (whatever that means).

I learned a lot this year teaching Catholicism to 120 or so high schoolers, and one of the scariest things I realized was that a lot of them don't believe in any absolute truths.  Everything to them is "hokey pokey", if you will. They put their right foot in when its convenient and comfortable, but when they are challenged or uncomfortable they put their right foot out. I remember one day they 100% agreed with the Catholic Church's teaching that every single person in the world deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. But the next day when I said "what about Adolf Hitler or Randy, an unborn child of a woman who was raped?"...all of a sudden every single person except Adolf and Randy deserve to be treated with dignity? I call these people Hokey Pokers.

Let's shake it all about...
A Hokey Poker is uncomfortable confronting truth.
A Hokey Poker is afraid of suffering.

I believe that if a Hokey Poker gets to know Jesus Christ, the Truth, they will not be afraid of suffering anymore.

My intent that I was hinting at in my first blog post (you know, the one about being in Deep Poo...) is to give practical steps to live out Christian values in this crazy world we live in. I've had enough of these theories and ideas. I think what the world needs today is a concrete "How to be a follower of Christ".  Jesus Christ lived his life to the fullest and our goal is to get on his level. That's why we are only practically human, because with this whole original sin thing getting in our way, we just aren't there yet. Life can be a tough road, but a wise friend of mine once told me that the first 100 years are the hardest. The rest of the ride is a piece of cake, or two. We'll get there.

So what do we do about relativism and the Hokey Pokers?

3 Steps to beat the hell out of the "Hokey Pokey" Culture

1. Do the Hokey Pokey, turn yourself around, and get to know Jesus. 
If you don't know him, but you've already made a decision that you don't like him...that's an uninformed decision that will change your eternal destiny. I'd do more research because a lot is on the line if its all true. Start by reading the 4 Gospels and then let me know what you think of Jesus.

2. Decide to commit to following Jesus. Every day. 
You can commit just once, but I guarantee that you'll forget you ever made the commitment #lifeiscrazy #cantkeepup. Every day when you wake up, go ahead and hit that snooze button (#workingonselfcontrol) and for just 2 minutes before you doze back off to sleep tell God you love him and ask Him what He wants of you for that day. Just don't forget what He says when you do get up.

3.  Pray that you will have the courage to die for Jesus Christ, so when the time comes you will. #longtermgoals
This doesn't (necessarily) mean that you're going to physically be a martyr. But it does mean that you will be persecuted for your faith. Those Hokey Pokers are brutal! If you don't stand up for what you believe in, you are joining the dark... I mean...Hokey Pokey side. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

2 ways to know you're Practically Human

Have you ever wondered if you're doing this whole human thing right? If you can relate to either of these criteria below, then on a scale of 1 to're practically there.

1.) You often pretend to know what you were doing.
Let's be real. We are all just pretending we know how to be a human. No one really knows. Really, it's true. We are practically human, but always learning and growing. Hang in there humanity, the struggle is real. 

2.) You've been in deep poo.
Navigating life without a practical game plan is like drinking laxatives on a bus ride across the country. I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemy (more on that later). Without a game plan, you're in deep poo, my friend.

The good news is I never want you to be in deep poo, or any kind of poo for that matter (...fecal matter). I invite you to take this blog to heart, but don't take it too seriously...I'm only practically human you know.