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113 Get to Work

May 26, 2020

We are all living in a dark time right now. Wouldn’t it be great to fast-forward to the point where we can look back on the blessings that this time will bring? Wouldn’t that make it easier to deal with all the challenges this pandemic has brought into our lives? Well, for people of faith, we are already there. In this episode of By Your Life, we talk about how we are called to share our faith and be a blessing to others.

Ascension of the Lord – May 24, 2020

Happy Easter, a blessed Memorial Day, and welcome to the one hundred and thirteenth episode of By Your Life. I’m Lisa Huetteman and I know that you have a hundred different things you could be doing right now, so I thank you for choosing By Your Life.

My goal is to inspire, empower, support, challenge, and encourage you to connect Sunday, with Monday-Friday, in a secular business world. It’s my desire to help you live our Catholic faith in the marketplace. I hope to offer you practical ways to go forth and glorify the Lord by your life.

Big dreams

In this edition, we’ll reflect on the readings for the Ascension of the Lord. In the first reading from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, before Jesus was taken up, the disciples asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) This question implies that their belief in Jesus as the Christ meant they expected him to be a political leader who would restore self-rule to Israel. Because that hadn’t happened before he died, they wondered if this was the time?

They still didn’t get it. After being with him for three years, eating and drinking with him, learning from him, and participating in his ministry, they still thought the Messiah’s purpose was to win political freedom from Rome. How disappointed they must have been when “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9) Their hopes for the restoration of Israel were crushed. The Messiah had come and was now gone and not only was Rome still occupying Israel, they feared persecution from the Jews who had Jesus killed. They must have been devastated.

Shattered dreams

We all have experienced similar disappointments or periods of darkness when what we planned for is taken from us and we realize what we hoped for will never be. As I was reflecting on this, I thought about Shawn Munn. Shawn is the President of Logos Imaging, a provider of portable digital x-ray solutions, and I wrote an article about him for TwoTen Magazine.

As a teen, Shawn was gifted academically and on track to become valedictorian of his high school class. He was also an athlete who played football, basketball and, just to “be a little lazy,” picked up golf. His identity was wrapped up in sports, and he thought he was headed for success.

But that wasn’t God’s plan. God had dreams for Shawn and to fulfill them he needed to give him a nudge. The summer before his senior year in high school when he was working at a grain elevator during the wheat harvest, his foot slipped into the grain auger and severed his arm above the elbow and his leg just above the knee.

At 17 years old, not only were Shawn’s dreams shattered, his personal identity was gone. Gone were his dreams of walking into Memorial Stadium as a Nebraska Cornhusker. Gone was the hope of finding a woman who could love him. For five years—five years of darkness—there was no joy in his life.  Lost in the forest of his pain, he believed he was destined to live a life he didn’t want—the life of an amputee. As he described it, “I lived in total selfishness and self-pity.”

In hindsight, Shawn recognized that the success he was seeking and was taken from him was on a path to self-destruction. In a moment, God gave him a gentle nudge and it was all taken away. He said, “I don’t know how God uses tragedy in his economy, but at that moment in time, the very hand of God reached in and grabbed me.”

It took over five years for Shawn to accept God’s grace, but through the testimony of Christian athletes and the woman who would become his wife of 25 years, Shawn was rescued from his dark place and as a result, he has gone on to share Christ through his own testimony.

New and improved dreams

Were his dreams really shattered? Not really. Shawn is still an athlete. He’s a competitive golfer with a 12 handicap. Shawn said, “The average person can’t imagine how difficult it is to swing a golf club with one arm.” Laughing, he added, “Try doing it with one leg!” He also met a woman who not only could love him but became his wife and mother of his three children. And, he’s a successful business owner who is a witness to God’s love at home and at work. When I asked if he wished God’s plan for him could have been a little less painful, Shawn emphatically answered “No! Looking back, that day is the single biggest event of my life leading up to my salvation.  It was a transformational event that I would never take away. Nothing would be worth going back and having the life I had before.”

We know from Scripture that the disciples’ dreams weren’t shattered, and neither did they go back to the life they had before. They received “the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4) and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:4) Nothing, not even their lives, was more important to them than spreading the news of salvation through Jesus Christ. Accepting this gift changed their lives just as it changed Shawn Munn’s life. It didn’t mean they no longer had trials. It didn’t mean they didn’t suffer again because they surely did. It just meant they were able to persevere through the dark times with the help of the Holy Spirit because they were confident in the hope of their salvation.

Hindsight is 20/20

We are all living in a dark time right now. Wouldn’t it be great to fast-forward to the point where we can look back on the blessings that this time will bring? Wouldn’t that make it easier to deal with all the challenges this pandemic has brought into our lives? Well, for people of faith, we are already there. We know that all things work for good for those who love God. (Rom 8:28) We may not recognize the blessings at the moment, but we live in joy despite the hardship because we have hope.

Wouldn’t it be great to fast-forward to the point where we can look back on the blessings this pandemic will bring?Click to Tweet

This isn’t true for everyone. Some people will not be blessed by this pandemic. Instead, as Shawn Munn did for the first five years after his accident, they will choose selfishness and self-pity over living the joy that comes from knowing and trusting God. We all know people like this, so what are we to do?

The meaning of the Ascension

When writing about the Ascension in his book Vibrant Paradoxes, Bishop Robert Barron says, “The Ascension is Jesus’ journey not to another place but to another dimension. But this dimension to which he has gone is not alien to us. It is instead a source of inspiration, power, and direction. And this is why the angels who appear to the disciples just after Jesus’ departure say, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’ (Acts 1:11) What they are hinting at, none to subtly, is this: under the influence of Jesus’ spirit, get to work! Do all you can to foster the marriage of heaven and earth. Get on with the mission of the Church.”

Under the influence of Jesus’ spirit, get to work! Do all you can to foster the marriage of heaven and earth. ~ Bishop Robert Barron @bishopbarronClick to Tweet

Get to work

You may be unemployed or underemployed right now, but we all have a job to do. As Christian disciples, we are called to be [Jesus’] witnesses… to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Shawn Munn’s story wouldn’t have turned out as it did if it weren’t for the people in his life whose witnesses gave him hope. Most of us have people we can point to who did the same for us. Their lives were a witness to the joy that comes from Jesus Christ, and because they shared the cause of that joy, we are now able to live in that joy and to pass it on.

I have a friend, a former colleague, who I keep in contact with and we get together from time to time. She has had her share of suffering as we all do…health issues, loss of a loved one, financial difficulties in a tight economy. But a scan of her Facebook page will reveal a constant stream of posts criticizing others. There is the exceptional post of something in her garden or a new recipe she tried, but 98% of it is sarcastic, vile, and often vulgar attacks on someone or something. I have another friend who is dealing with the exact same health, loss, and financial struggles, but her life radiates joy. The difference is she believes in Jesus Christ and because she has hope in him, she passes it on.

You may wonder why I haven’t “unfriended” my negative friend. It is because I feel sorry for her and I hope that I might be a witness to her. I believe that I have been called to do that. Not just in the general sense like we are all called to be Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth, but I was literally called to help this person. In fact, my phone rang a couple of years ago, and it was her. She hadn’t meant to dial my number, and my name and the person she wanted to call are not next to each other in her contact list, so it wasn’t just an accidental click. She dialed the other person and my phone rang. God knew she needed to talk to me, and he was calling me to be his witness.

Answering the call

Because of that call, I made an effort to be present to her. She was going through a very difficult personal loss and that was a very tough time in her life. Throughout the next year, I continued to call her, reach out, meet her for lunch, and see how she was doing. She took a new job where she was helping other people and the joy that brought to her was noticeable. But then, she quit that job and over the past year has fallen into a negative pit. Every time I read one of her posts, I pray for her. She has no joy and I know the only way out is Jesus. Now that the lockdown is relaxing a bit, I’ve been thinking I need to call her, get take-out, and have lunch with her. This week’s readings confirmed this for me.

Who is God calling you to be a witness to? You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth, just next door.Click to Tweet

How about you? Who is the person that God is calling you to be a witness to? You don’t have to go to the ends of the earth, just next door. Sharing Jesus with someone is not about winning a religious argument, it is about passing on the hope and the joy that you have in him and winning a soul. Pray about that person and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. That is what I will be doing for my friend.

This week, as we prepare for Pentecost, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to inspire us, strengthen us, and direct us to be Jesus’ witness to that one person God is calling us to.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you will renew the face of the earth.

Lord, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit help us to relish what is right and always rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

May God bless you abundantly with his grace this week and may you glorify the Lord by your life.

If you liked this episode, spread the word. You know what to do, forward, share, or click to post. Also, check out the Resources page where you can find a link to the books and other resources mentioned in this and other episodes of By Your Life. I’m always interested in what you think, so give me some feedback by leaving a comment.

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