Three Things – 10/14/2022

1. Painting with a New Palette – In August, someone sent me a YouTube video in which Bishop Robert Barron is interviewing actor Shia Labeouf regarding his conversion to Catholicism. This followed his preparation for playing St Padre Pio in a film on the great saint’s life. Admittedly, I hadn’t really been tracking with Shia’s life developments in recent years, but after learning a little bit, it’s safe to say he’s not been in a great place.

With his life in pieces due to some very bad choices, he was offered what he thought was a career lifeline in the role of Pio. Not being Catholic, he moved to a monastery to live with Franciscan monks, initially living in his truck, to learn about the faith, the order of mass, and all the other aspects requires to play the great saint.

In a recent reflection on his time with the monks, Shia noted their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. But what I found interesting was his perspective that with those vows in place, the monks had access to a freedom that you or I (not being members of a religious order) might not. He described the monks as ‘painting with a different palette’ and noted how joyful they were despite ‘missing out’ on material wealth or sex.

It made me think of all the times I have blamed my problems on lacking something, when in fact it might be that that I have too much. It’s been something I’ve been thinking a lot about over the last couple of weeks.

2. The Freedom of Discipline – I recently finished Jocko Willink’s book, Extreme Ownership, which he co-authored with fellow former Navy SEAL Leif Babin. The book is about leadership lessons learned from SEAL training and deployment in Iraq. While I enjoyed the stories of the battles they found themselves in and the strategies used to complete their missions, I found it interesting how many of the principles overlap with a journey in faith.

A often heard critique of organized religion is that it is restrictive. There are too many rules that stop us from being free to do as we please.

The last chapter in Extreme Ownership is called ‘Discipline Equals Freedom’. Whether in the approach to searching a building or having the resolve to get up early every morning in order to study or train, discipline is credited as the difference between good and exceptional SEALs.

When I reflect on my own life, I have often kicked off big plans because of motivation only to see them fizzle out. Motivation is a feeling and feelings fade. Committing to disciplines, even small ones, is what builds over time. Whether that is working out in a gym or dedicating daily time for prayer, journaling, or reading, the principle applies.

3. Who is Manning Your Post? I’ve cut back, but not that long ago I went through a phase when I frequently ate Subway sandwiches for lunch. I always use less napkins than they provide, so a surplus of Subway napkins built up in cupboard in my office. This came in handy as I would occasionally have someone come and visit me that was dealing with something big and emotions came up. As someone who struggled with handling these types of situations, my Subway napkins were a great tension breaker, as I would share that I did not have any tissues, so a napkin would have to suffice. I thought this was a clever trick.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a book called Man Your Post: Learn to Lead like St. Joseph, by Duane and Carrie Duant. The question of manning your post is one I first encountered in a Morgan Snyder podcast earlier this year. The episode is focused on repairing the sacred/secular divide, but an example that comes up is the same scenario I describe above – helping people in the workplace who are experiencing challenging situations beyond their job. When difficult moments arise with another person, whether it is your spouse or child, or someone you barely know who happens to be in a bad spot, you might be their lifeline in that moment.

Put differently, the Father might have a specific plan for you or I in those moments. As tempting as it is to take the exit ramp and make a napkin joke, we never know the impact we might have by stepping into the arena and facing the challenge.

Until Next Time,

– Sean

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