The Cross and Conformity

I often do things backward. In my spiritual life, I was a Protestant first and a Catholic last. I was my own personal Counter-Reformation.

One April morning, Palm Sunday in 1976, my wife and I raised our hands in response to a pastor’s challenge to accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. That was how they did it in the church I’d attended for the first time that day. The pastor preached a sermon on some Biblical topic he deemed pertinent, offered up the opportunity to become a christian, and invited you to come forward. Yes, that’s right. On our first day in that church, Liz and I walked to the front, stood before the congregation, and repeated a prayer that was promised to change our lives.

Now, having embraced Catholicism, I see the “altar call” event differently. But, truth be told, that simple prayer did it’s job. From that day forward the two of us have walked a path that has immersed us deeply into the love of God. It changed our lives immediately and continues to do so daily.

That Tuesday, the pastor surprised us with a knock on our door. He wanted to follow up with us about our decision. He wanted to make sure we knew what we were doing and he wanted to give us a framework for our new lives as Christians. He told us about tithing! and he told us that Jesus had called each of us to take up our cross and follow him.

The carrying of our own cross was a topic this pastor, as well as other pastors in my life, revisited often. Mostly, it was an explanation for why Christians still suffered. You have cancer? That’s your cross to bear. Unemployed? Your cross to bear. Cranky mother-in-law? It was that cross again.

Somehow, it seemed to me to be too tidy an explanation. First, My life was pretty good. We always had enough money, no one had cancer, none of our children were in jail. My mother-in-law passed away before we met. All in all, our lives were perfect. I had no cross to bear. It took me years of Christianity to really bring the cross to bear issue into focus for my life. When I did, I wondered how those explanations could be true. Why would we carry our own crosses if Jesus had told us to cast all our burdens upon Him? seemed to me that carrying our cross must mean something else.

After going through RCIA and being received into the Church, I settled into a Jesuit serviced parish. And, not long after that, the carrying of my cross took on a clearer meaning.

I began to see that Jesus, through the Incarnation, placed Himself into total conformity with the Father. Everywhere He went, to everyone he spoke, he spoke the will and the words of the Father. He continued this conformity to the Father’s will right up until His death. His death on the cross. Jesus’ cross to bear, pictured by the wooden one, was His willingness to be conformed to the will of the Father. Ours, the, is to be conformed into the will of Jesus Christ.

That’s why the decisions we make are so important in our daily lives. They are our cross to bear. Can we look on immigrants with disdain? We cannot. To do so would put us in nonconformity with Jesus. Can we walk past the beggar? Can we call political candidates vile names? Can we hate someone based on the color of their skin? Their gender? Their sexual preference?  Can we label an entire religious group terrorists? Can we look the other way when we see someone being bullied?

Of course we can’t. We must respond in a way that conforms us into the will of Jesus. We must do it in a way that reflects the love of our Lord. We do that because we are the salt of the earth, the light upon a hill. We do it because it is our cross to bear.

Refugees, Regulations and Righteousness

Franklin Graham

“It’s not a biblical command for the country to let everyone in who wants to come, that’s not a Bible issue.We want to love people, we want to be kind to people, we want to be considerate, but we have a country and a country should have order and there are laws that relate to immigration and I think we should follow those laws. Because of the dangers we see today in this world, we need to be very careful.”

 

The world’s a little bit crazy right now. I’m really concerned by the level of hate and vitriol demonstrated by the Anti-Trump people. Theirs is a movement that was once identified by the #LoveTrumpsHate hashtag and now is known by #notmypresident. During the march in Washington we heard the marchers and spokespeople saying vile things about the President and wearing genitalia inspired hats and costumes while demanding respect. It’s a crowd that has come a long way from espousing love.

Meanwhile, the Trump people flood Facebook and Twitter with mean-spirited gloating about winning the election. There seems to be much more than political motivation for their gleefully nasty position. There seems to be much of it fueled by hate and anger, That side has felt held down by media and public opinion for so long that the unexpected Trump victory has them acting in ways that in no way are acceptable.

A quick scan of my blog will show that I, in no way, support Trump. I withhold that support on the basis of my understanding of Catholic teaching. At my parish I don’t recall hearing the name of any candidate mentioned during this election cycle. The priests were just very consistent in presenting Catholic social teaching from the Ambo each day and trusted the laypeople to an make enlightened choice. My parish is a Jesuit serviced parish and I  hear quite a bit about the Preferential Option for the Poor. It’s an easy position for me to accept.

We have some serious issues in this country, indeed, in the world. Watching the campaigns, it seemed to me that the Clinton people were totally fine with the way the world was going and felt no need to change anything. Trump  was the only candidate addressing the hot button issues of immigration and terrorism. Not in a way I could reconcile with my religious beliefs though. His solutions seem harsh and uncaring. Yet, the voting block that put him over the top was comprised of Christians. I’ve yet to be able to understand that.

Unlike Franklin Graham, I cannot separate these issues from my religious thinking. Graham said that the refugee problem wasn’t a Bible issue. But, I contend that every issue is a Bible issue. The Bible isn’t a compilation of lovely thoughts bound in a book on a shelf in our homes. It’s a comprehensive overview that compels us in a way that imitates the actions of Jesus Christ. Simply put, there is no secular world. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness therein. Everything belongs to God and he leaves His mark upon all creation. Every person is God’s, made in His image, and he marks each one with dignity.

So, let’s find a way to protect our borders. Let’s come up with a stern, sure response to terrorism. Government has both a right and duty to keep it’s citizens safe. But we must do it in a way that respects the God-given dignity of our neighbors. With either issue, we must find a way to achieve our goals without demonizing entire populations of people.

If we don’t do that, if we pass by our brethren without helping them, our religious convictions are like that of the Levite who left the traveller suffering by the side of the road. God didn’t call us to that kind of faith. He called us to a daily walk where we are kind to strangers, love our neighbor, help the poor and marginalized. We are called to an active faith where we work to realize a more equal distribution of God’s earthly gifts. And this must be the parameters within which we walk, because every issue is a Bible issue.

More than merely granting assent to our responsibility to share, we need to respond. Like Jesuits, we need to become contemplatives in action. Of our great Catholic faith, St. Basil the Great once said, “When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”

Asking the wrong question

Recently, at the Staten Island FuXion Leadership Academy, I was recruited to speak about success. It’s strange in a way, because I certainly was not the richest person in that room.

But, I didn’t shrink from speaking about it because I legitimately feel I know a thing or two about the topic. And one of those two things I know is that success is not measured by your bank account.

I planned to start by stealing a line from our friend Randy Gage. Randy is Direct Sales royalty. He’s in the Speaker’s Hall of Fame as well as the MLM hall of fame. And yet, as a FuXion leader, he’s eminently accessible to each FuXion entrepreneur. Success to Randy seems to be getting others to fully realize their personal potential. It’s helping others and leading this team that seems to genuinely float his boat.

The line I’m stealing is this: “If you ask the wrong question, the answer is irrelevant.” It’s a line that makes all the sense in the world. Think of it this way…if you buy the best car and head off in the wrong direction you will never get where you are headed. If you don’t fill the tank, you won’t get there. If you close your eyes really really tight and hope for the best, you’re still not getting to your destination because you are not headed the right way. If you ask the wrong question, the answer is irrelevant.

If Randy is right, the first part of success, the very first step in your achievement, is to ask the right questions. Ask the right questions about success. And ask the right questions about you. You have to define success. And you must define it in a way that means something special to you.

I used to work in the car business. I was a salesman, a “closer”, a finance manager and a desk guy. It’s a pretty stressful, competitive business. So competitive that the store I worked at was the dominant store on this island, selling more Fords than the total domestic sales output of all the other dealerships combined and it no longer exists! When they went out of business it was like the Yankees had stopped playing baseball. Shocking.

The car business is based upon 12 monthly campaigns a year. The first of each month started a new battle and the last day of the month brought it to a close. And the salesperson who did the best job got the recognition of a plaque. A plaque and a big paycheck. And, it was that way every month. Recognition and money, recognition and money.  But, embedded in the very design of the business was failure. Because next month, if you didn’t do it again, someone else got the plaque. Someone else got the recognition and money.

I learned something about myself there. And, along with that, I learned the definition of success. I learned to ask myself the right question. I learned, in that environment, that recognition and money didn’t do it for me. I needed something else. Not something more, just something different. I learned that I got my success from something else. I felt successful when I was able to make something out of nothing. My friend, my mentor in the business took the time to work it through with me. He could see that it was no big deal for me to get another plaque. He could see that it didn’t matter to me that I was given the best demo to drive. He knew I didn’t get worked up over the money. And he sat with me and talked about it until we both saw that it was making something out of nothing that made me successful. One minute I would be with a customer and there seemed to be no possibility of selling him a car. Then, magically, I’d say the right thing and suddenly we had a deal. I’d made something from nothing. I was a success.

So, what about you? Do you work in a job where success is measured by recognition and praise? Does someone have to notice you in order for you to move up? Do they need to see something special in you? Do they have to like you?  Ask yourself the right question about that. Are you okay with that? If you are, that’s okay. If you aren’t, that’s okay too.

Just be sure you’re asking the right questions and defining success for yourself.

If you want to be recognized, if success for you is someone saying you’re doing a good job, we have that here at FuXion. There’s an entire rank advancement system in place. It doesn’t involve approval from anyone else, though. You rank advance on merit. And more pay avenues open to you as you rank advance. You’ll get to walk across the stage and receive a special pin that tells everyone in the company what you’ve achieved. You may well be pinned by Randy himself.You will have gotten the recognition and the money.

If you get a different answer when you ask yourself to define success, we have something for you, too. You can work your own hours, be your own boss and make something from nothing.You can define your own parameters for what success is.  We have mentors and leaders but we don’t have bosses. I’m certainly not the one to boss my team around. But I’m there for whatever they need. If I don’t know it, I know someone who does.

And, that’s a beautiful thing about FuXion. We know someone who knows what we don’t know. For all of us, that’s Randy Gage, Erick Gamio Luca Melloni or Lily Rosales. They’re our core four. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when we have these four. They’ve been through it all. They’ve heard every objection and, more importantly, they’ve heard every excuse. You needn’t be a super smart direct marketing whiz to succeed in this business. You have people who are. All you need to do is model the behavior that we already know works You do what Randy does. You do what  Lily does. Modeling means success in this business.

A phrase I often hear from my son is “you still have to do the work”. He’s right of course. In FuXion, we have a great product. It’s ahead of the health trend. It has a ready made market. IT WORKS. And it’s pretty much cheaper than any so-called competitions. But, “you still have to do the work.”

What is the work? Not a lot! You have to buy enough personal product to have enough for sample giving. You need to drink the product in public. And, friends, you have to drink it from a bottle that says FuXion on it!  Please! No GNC shaker bottles! You need to be on the XTribe website and the XTribe weekly call. You need to share the videos every chance you get. “You still have to do the work.”

So, how about it? Are you ready to ask yourself the right question about what success means to you? Because, if you ask the wrong question, the answer is irrelevant.