Have you ever wondered what some of the crazy things we do look like to outsiders like our pets? The commercial below shows what a couple of cats might think as they watch the behavior at a Super Bowl party.
Every now and again it’s good to be able to laugh at ourselves and to realize that context is important.
As the cats observe the Super Bowl rituals (some of which are silly, some stupid, and some harmful) what they really lack is context. They don’t understand that people sometimes have fun by being goofy. They’re only cats; they don’t have intellects and cannot appreciate humor, friendly competition, or silliness.
On Fridays I like to feature a commercial or cartoon that is lighter fare, but there is still a point to be made.
Some people laugh at our Catholic rituals and traditions, mostly because they lack context and understanding. A commercial like this reminds us how important those are. Without them, many who criticize our faith show more about what they lack than what we do.
The commercial below imagines that God’s cell phone battery has run out of juice and He can no longer “watch” the earth. The result? Complete chaos!
Of course if God really were to stop watching or regarding His creation, the actual result would be much worse than chaos; it would be complete annihilation. Fortunately, the truth is that He will not stop watching us.
What is common, though, is for us to stop watching Him. The result? Complete moral chaos! Utter confusion! Welcome to the post-modern, secular West. God is the source of our truth, but many have stopped watching Him, and so have become confused about even the most basic moral and physical realities. It’s time to replace our batteries and reconnect with God.
Despite all our time-saving devices and other modern conveniences, stress is still widespread in this modern age. We always seem to be in a hurry and worried over one thing or another. There appear to be two main sources of this near-constant anxiety.
First, we hold to the illusion that we are in control. Though we can control a lot of little things, those things are based on others we cannot control such as whether people we are depending on will arrive on time, or whether there will be a hurricane, or even the next beat of our heart. Thinking we can control life makes us much more anxious when things don’t turn out the way we expect. Accepting that we are not in control of most things can bring a paradoxical sense of peace. We learn to trust God and depend more on Him and others. Letting go of perfectionism is another way to bring internal peace.
A second source of our stress is that we want too much. This consumer age promises us more and more, but never mentions the bill. The more we have, the more there is to be managed and maintained. “More!” comes with a price, and anxiety is part of that price. Learning to be satisfied with and grateful for what we have can be another source of peace.
In the commercial below, a stressed-out man is reminded by a co-worker that he does not have to tackle life alone; others can help.
I am surprised at how many people tell me that they cannot fall asleep without the television or radio on in the background. This is surely a sign of being overstimulated. Spiritually, it creates a condition wherein we can barely hear the still, small voice of God. In Kings, we read,
Elijah heard, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still, small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:11-13)
Samuel also heard the whisper of God in the night:
For the third time, the LORD called to Samuel. He got up, went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you have called me.” Then Eli realized that it was the LORD who was calling the boy. “Go and lie down,” he said to Samuel, “and if He calls you, say, ‘Speak, LORD, for Your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. Then the LORD came and stood there, calling as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel answered, “Speak, for Your servant is listening” (1 Sam 3:8-10).
The voice of the Lord can be lost in clamorous times. Many of us need to re-accustom ourselves to silence. We sometimes think to abstain from meat or wine, but do we ever consider abstaining from noise? Is not unplugging from the world for a time a sacrifice that might please God and bless us at the same time?
Psalm 74 says,
Arise, O God, and defend your cause!
Remember how the senseless revile you all the day.
Do not forget the clamor of your foes,
the daily, increasing uproar of your foes.
Yes, Lord, from clamorous discord and distracting noise deliver us. Help us to find increasing joy in periods of holy silence. Our enemy, the devil, shouts and drones on. Lead us, O Lord, to quieter places; let us hear Your voice.
This commercial shows various people being lulled to sleep by the droning background noise from their smartphones.
The video below shows a world gone mad, a world in which chaos and unpredictability have taken over. Watch it and see the cause to which the commercial ascribes the problem. But allow it to be an allegory of what happens when:
● we let God’s presence die in our hearts and minds, ● we let natural law die in our culture, and ● we let time-tested and ancient wisdom die in our times.
Yes, as the commercial says, only God knows what awful, bizarre, unexpected, hideous, and devastating things can happen when we let important things die. Don’t miss the allegory; its message is powerful. A lot of unexpected things happen when we cast off what has empowered us.
The commercial below depicts the common problem of feeling overwhelmed by the all of the need we see around us. There is so much neediness, yet we don’t have sufficient resources to help in every effort or to donate to every worthy cause.
The commercial rightly concludes that we can address this feeling by doing. In other words, while we cannot do everything, we can surely do something. What that “something” is requires discernment. What are my gifts? What are the needs I am best positioned to help with? What is my state in life (married or single, parent with young children or empty-nester, wealthy or poor)? What is my natural demeanor (patient, energetic, organized, creative)?
I don’t have all of the gifts; you don’t have all of the gifts; but together we have all of the gifts.
Sometimes the sense of being overwhelmed is God’s way of tapping us on the shoulder and asking us, “What do you have?” “Five loaves and two fish, but what good is that?” (see John 6:9). Jesus simply says that we should bring them, bring what we have. Even little things can mean a lot; they can make a big difference. Lots of little things add up to a lot.
Sometimes when you’re having a bad day, troubles multiply; I’m not sure why. Perhaps one distraction leads to another, one trip leads to successive stumbles, until we fall headlong. It’s said that trouble comes in threes, but sometimes they come in even longer sequences. The poor soul in the video below is having one of those really bad days. Some of the following psalms came to mind as I watched this painfully humorous video:
The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses O Lord. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you. May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you. Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. (Psalm 25:17-22)
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me. For troubles without number surround me; my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me. Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me. (Psalm 40:11-13)
Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once more. (Psalm 71:20-21)
I wonder if he could have avoided all of his troubles if he’d been at Mass on this Sunday morning instead of at home cooking breakfast. 😉
The video below is from a recent series of KFC commercials featuring the iconic Colonel Sanders as Colonel RoboCop. The commercial humorously demonstrates how a countdown or deadline can motivate people. As a writer, I frequently face deadlines and I know they certainly spur me get things done! With April 15th looming, most in the U.S. are increasingly motivated (if that’s the right word in this instance) to get their taxes finished.
However, all of these are earthly deadlines. Sadly, one of the most fundamental deadlines facing all of us is among the most ignored. It is a deadline in the most literal sense of the word: each of us will die one day. With few exceptions, the exact moment and manner of our death is unknown to us and outside our control.
What are we doing to get ready to meet God? Because we don’t know when we will die, it is easy to push it to the back of our mind—but it is an ever-present deadline, a possibility at every moment. Like a person with a life-threatening allergy who must always keep an emergency injection pen with him, each of us needs to stay in God’s grace at all times, for we know neither the day nor the hour (Mat 25:13).
In the commercial, the family is engrossed in a movie (featuring RoboCop, naturally). They ignore the intrusion by Colonel RoboCop until he begins counting down to zero. Don’t let this be a picture of your life with God, because you won’t get a countdown. Repent while it is still today; tomorrow is not promised.