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To start off, my name is Chris Tasler. I am a first-year missionary here at Baylor, hailing from the northern lands of Iowa. I pursued my undergraduate degree at Benedictine College in Atchison, KS. There I received my diploma in Mechanical Engineering.

​The reason I’m a FOCUS missionary can probably be traced back to a particular evening my sophomore year of college. It was a quote I remember reading which said, “Few people are willing to step up to be a leader. That’s why it’s so valuable.” I prayed to God that night that He’d make me into a leader. Something shot into my heart to desire this. I had always shied away from positions of leadership, of responsibility, of people looking to me for guidance because I was afraid to fail. For some reason now though, I wanted it. Even though I was still as useless as a limp fish out of water, I trusted God would build me up into who I needed and desired to be.

​So I began taking on projects in the engineering club and accepting the roles such as being the president of the club. Tears of frustration would come now and again. But with every month that passed I could look back and see how God had held me up. So I knew He was with me now and We’d get through this next month alright. And what’s more crazy is that I knew He had been there with me, listening to my prayer that night and said, “I’ll do it.” Towards the end of the my fifth year at college I began going around the Kansas area helping to host retreats for students in middle school and high school, giving talks. It was an incredible experience and loved it! But of course it was nerve-wracking too.

​This and much more I’ve taken with me into FOCUS. It’s another step in answering my prayer years ago. But what’s amazing is that I get the opportunity to bring other men along with me. I get to build them up and train them into being leaders themselves so they can, in turn, lead many others to Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus was doing the whole time in the Gospels! He was training the Apostles to be leaders for His Church once He was gone and no longer physically present.

​May God’s grace rest upon you!

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Last semester I left off with telling you how I came to know the person of Jesus Christ.  Now I’d like to tell you the second part of my conversion story; how I met Christ’s Bride.

It all started with Baptism.  The non-denominational church where I had become a member taught infant baptism was not legitimate. (One must have professed faith in Christ before baptism.)  On the other hand, my mother insisted that my infant baptism was legitimate and I could not renounce my Catholic faith and get “re-baptized”.  It was then I realized it was impossible for both sides to be right; one of them had to be wrong.  That was a tough call: is my mother, who has raised me and loves me unconditionally, wrong, or my friends, who introduced me to Jesus and have helped me grow so much, wrong?

While this put me in a very difficult position, it was beautiful because it drove me to seek Truth.  I did many things to try to make my decision. I prayed. I researched the Bible. I read commentaries.  I spoke with priests. I sought advice from friends.  I listened to talks.  All of that was helpful, but it wasn’t until I met Jesus in the Eucharist that my heart changed.

I remember talking with a friend about whether or not one can be saved by faith alone.  (That is a whole other topic; see James 2:24 for a short answer.)  Out of nowhere he said, “Jessica, you can’t be Catholic.  They believe that a piece of bread is Jesus!”  At the time I had no idea why, but I knew that was going to be a pivotal moment.  I also had no idea why, but I knew that he was wrong.

Some time later I was listening to Scott Hahn’s conversion story.  He was talking about how we must eat Jesus’ flesh and drink His blood to have everlasting life.  I thought, “Yeah, that is all great, but if only it was in the Bible somewhere, then Catholics would have a leg to stand on.”  About 10 seconds later, Dr. Hahn quoted what he was reading…from the Bible! (See John 6:22-71)  I couldn’t believe it; there was Scriptural evidence for the Eucharist.

As I took that passage back to my Protestant friends, we struggled with the idea of personal interpretation.  After all, who was to say Jesus wasn’t speaking symbolically?

Here is where the teaching authority of the Church comes in to play.  In his book, Where Is That in the Bible, Patrick Madrid gives the following phrase as an example: “I never said you stole money.”  Depending on which word you give emphasis, the sentence has drastically different meanings.  For instance, “I never said you stole money.” vs “I never said you stole money.”  The question then, is how do we know we have the correct interpretation of Scripture.  Thankfully the Catholic Church has been around since Jesus and the Apostles. The interpretation and Tradition have been passed down so we know what Jesus meant when he spoke 2,000 years ago. The Church has consistently taught that Jesus was speaking literally in this instance.

Additionally, given the context of Jesus speaking so dramatically and not correcting any of the disciples who left because they believed he was speaking literally, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to believe that He was speaking figuratively.  In 110 AD, St Ignatius of Antioch said, “I have no taste for corruptible food nor for the pleasures of this life. I desire the bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David; and for drink I desire his blood, which is love incorruptible” (Letter to the Romans 7:3 [A.D. 110]).

Lastly, one of the biggest difficulties I had in coming back to the Catholic Church was that I had grown so much in my faith and relationship with Jesus at a non-denominational church while my faith growing up in Catholicism was lukewarm at best, and I hardly knew any Catholics who had a loving, personal relationship with Christ, let alone a desire to evangelize.  My perspective was altered greatly when I began to meet Catholics who were in love with Jesus.

If you are at all curious or questioning anything about Catholicism, I strongly encourage you to find a Catholic who is in love with Jesus and His Church, and seek answers to your questions.  I promise, we exist!  🙂

Be Jesus, not a Pharisee.

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What would Jesus do? A phrase many know but one that few actually enact. With the anniversary of Roe V. Wade this past week and the controversial event at The Grammy’s , it seems like tensions rise up faster than you can say “God Bless You” these days.  Arguments on social media, campus, and even the workplace can take a toll on our souls since it is stressful when we focus too much on “trying to win” or being able to “fight their points.” All of these topics have taken away from the actual truth of what being Christian means.

One of the students I mentor and I had the fortunate experience to spend 30 minutes with a girl who was protesting the pro-life messages that Baylor placed on campus this past week. While conversing with her, alongside a couple of other students who later showed up and joined us, she made the same points that I’m sure we have all heard in favor of abortion. As much as I gave her my points of view against it, the biggest question I had for her was “Why?” That simple question caused her to open up about her past and we got to know who she was a little better. As she kept trying to explain her opinion, a woman who was apparently  Christian came up to us scolding her and saying her opinion was dumb, killing babies was wrong and she should know better than to do that on a Christian campus. This hurt my heart so much. And to make it worse, the girl didn’t even argue back, (she did mumble some cuss words under her breath) she just stayed seated on the grass in peaceful protest. The woman walked away so fast and left us in shock. I was Christian like her, and I even felt personally attacked.

We then proceeded to have a conversation about Christians, which caused me to break down into tears once I had to leave her. It made me realize, it isn’t about whether or not that girl’s opinion is wrong and the woman’s is right, it’s about the souls of all the parties involved. We’ve heard the arguments and yes, we have the absolute Truth in Christ, but if we act the same way this woman did, we aren’t going to communicate that truth effectively. How can that even be considered “Christ-like?”

If Jesus were to have spoken to that girl He would’ve looked into her eyes, loved her for who she was, empathized with her and not condemned her for her opinion. He would’ve embraced her soul and treated her with compassion. Then I realized, that’s exactly how we approached her. We went up to talk to her and really get to know her and why she thought it was ok, not to fight her and change her mind (although I still really wish I could have and I still pray for her).

This is my short point for today, as we encounter people who disagree with us and have misconstrued views on certain issues, we can’t force it upon them or make them feel scorned. That’s exactly why they have those views in the first place, because no one has actually shown them a caring approach. They feel like they have to fight their way to be heard and understood. Unfortunately many of them have had a bad encounter with a Christian and the Church so why not go and break those stereotypes that others have of Christians and actually show them who Jesus is. Show them His love, not your anger. Show them His patience, not your frustration. Love them for their souls, not their actions. Let’s give them an opportunity to say “One time I did meet a nice Catholic” and hopefully they’ll remember that encounter for the rest of their life. Spread the Gospel, it never comes back empty-handed.

Prayer: Do You Take It for Granted?

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“I’ll be praying for you!” or “Oh, I’ve been praying for you!” How often do we hear something like this from our friends and family and usually just brush it off? Have you ever really taken the time to ponder the magnitude of those phrases?

Prayer is simple. It’s a conversation with God as an act of love that unites us with Him, but it’s definitely not one of the easiest things a person can do! I mean how easy is it to actually make time in a super busy schedule and talk to someone who isn’t physically there? And on top of that, talk to Him about another person? I don’t know about you but I personally still struggle with the desire to pray for others because I know I can still be pretty selfish at times.

Prayer requires dedication. It requires persistence and endurance especially in continuing a conversation with someone who doesn’t talk back in the same way we’re used to as humans. He speaks in the silence of our hearts but we all know silence can be excruciating too if we’re not comfortable with it (and most of us aren’t comfortable with it yet.)

It takes time and humility in order to put others needs before your own and urgently lift them up to God before praying for yourself. It isn’t to be taken lightly. Our planner and our thoughts in the chapel can still get in the way of our prayer for others and it can get frustrating (which also leads us to want to give up and just ignore praying altogether, but that’s a blog post for another day.)

Every time someone prepares themselves to pray for you they are making a long-distance call that is going to cost a bit but is so worth it because they’re having a beautiful conversation with someone they love about a person they love (you)! It’s like telling your grandma about your siblings! Don’t take it for granted! It’s actually one of the best gifts someone can give you because it means they care for you enough to fit you into their life and ask God to send His graces to you. (I’m even starting to ask for prayers more than for other things, like money or presents, because they’re actually better and I feel more loved through them!)

Oh and if you’ve been on the other side of that phrase, saying that you’re praying for others but actually haven’t been, then I challenge you to reflect on the power of the words you’re actually saying and work on strengthening your prayers for them. Don’t just say it and never do it, it’s not nice to say you’ll give a gift and then never do. Give them the fullness of that gift and love them!

Prayer is awesome guys!

His Love,
Ana

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I vividly remember a distinct turning point in my life. After moving nearly every 3-4 years and having to constantly rebuild myself after being torn apart from friendships, I decided I was going to do whatever it took to be popular in high school. I knew that in order to do that I had to remove God from my life. That was a risk I was willing to take.

From there, I got what I was hoping would happen. My friends thought I was hilarious when I was drunk and I became a part of all the inside jokes instead of sitting awkwardly at the lunch table trying to figure out what was so funny. For some reason; however, I still wasn’t happy. My relationships began to fall apart. My family couldn’t wait for me to graduate and leave home; my friendships were based on the current drama and gossip; my romantic relationships were focused on what happiness we could get from the other person. Essentially I was looking for someone to tell me that I was special and loved, but I turned away from the one person who desperately wanted to love and forgive me perfectly: Jesus Christ.

When I went to college, Jesus was waiting for me. The first person I met after saying good-bye to my mom was a woman named Mallory. She worked for a non-denominational church on campus. We became friends and she invited me to do a Bible study with her and some other women. I still remember the first time I was hit with the Gospel. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) After hearing that, I spent some time counting the costs of giving my life back to Jesus and rebuilding that relationship with Him. There was a lot I had to give up to embrace the cross. This was hard because I wanted to make myself worthy before coming back to Him, but that was impossible. I needed Christ to help me overcome the very struggles that were separating me from Him. In the end I decided to simply give Jesus a chance. Nothing I was doing was proving to be very satisfying, and here was Jesus, promising me abundant life. I texted Mallory, “Jessica has been dethroned.” For me that illustrated that I was giving God control of my life, asking Him to lead me.

Some things in my life changed quickly. The Holy Spirit instantly removed the thought that I had to drink to make friends and have people like me. What a grace! Other areas of conversion were a much longer process. As I mentioned, Mallory worked for a non-denominational church, and while I am so thankful that she introduced me to the person of Jesus Christ, I had also slipped away from the Catholic Church. That was a long, hard road Home, but that is a story for another blog-post. …stay tuned!

In the end, there was no way for me to keep the joy, life and love that I had received from Jesus to myself. I simply had to join His mission of sharing that very love with others, and that is the driving force of why I am serving as a full-time missionary here at Baylor.

“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”
​​​​​​​-Jesus

Fulfillment in God vs. Fulfillment in humans

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On a scale of 1-10 where would you place your relationships with others? I guess that’s more of a rhetorical question since I can’t hear your answers past this computer screen! And it may also vary with each person in your life. Your family members may probably be closer to the 10 side, whereas your lab partner could be at a 1 or 2.

So, where is Jesus on that scale? Where would you place Him? And have you even thought, “Where would He place me? Have I let Him get to know me?” WHOA! Hadn’t thought of that side of the scale, huh? But it’s true. And well, aside from the fact that God DOES know you better than you know yourself, have you really let Him in to your heart?

Finding a balance on that scale can be tricky, especially when everyone else is so physically present and God, on the other hand, can be a little more difficult to see or hear. But there is nothing stopping you from making Him real, only you. I would say the first step to get Him higher on that scale is to want to want Him there. It may be tough to get rid of other relationships that you may be placing above Him but starting off by saying I want to have the desire to want Him in my life is a huge step! You are choosing to acknowledge Him instead of ignoring Him and His place.

After that, you may also have to realize that unfortunately, some of those other relationships won’t ever come close to the fulfillment that God will give. Think of it this way, there is nothing stopping you from going out to HEB, buying a tub of icing and eating all of it on the ride home. You’ll have automatic pleasure and joy at the immense deliciousness it gives you but what happens after you eat it? The pleasure is gone and all you’re left with is a huge stomach ache and a hate for yourself and all the calories you just consumed. It was easily accessible, provided rapid happiness but leaves you with nothing but shame.

Exercise is a little different and this is coming from someone who still has yet to acquire a love for physical activity! Exercise is harder to do. You have to drive somewhere, get dressed in appropriate attire, find your headphones and a right playlist, warm-up, and then to top it all off you have to shower afterwards! It’s so time consuming and kind of a pain to even want to do it! But once you go for a run or lift some weights, you feel amazing after. Who can say that after a workout they felt like they just wasted so much time and they’re body didn’t benefit from it? NO ONE! It’s a little harder to do and requires a little more effort but it’s definitely worth it.

Some relationships are icing but Jesus is always exercise. Growing closer to Him takes time, effort, and sometimes a little pain but it’s so satisfying when you have Him in your life. Sad to say, there are a lot of relationships out there for us who are higher on our scale but can leave us with that emptiness after a couple of minutes of joy.

Find your fulfillment in God first. Humans are finite and will never be able to compare to the infinite love God has for you. Plus once you do that, it’s funny how every other relationship will fall into the right place too. J God bless! Happy Baylor Homecoming!
-Credits to Catholic author and speaker, Matthew Kelly.

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What’s up everyone! I’m Adam Bremerkamp, one of the four FOCUS missionaries at Baylor. It has been great working with the students here the last couple months. I am excited to see what God has in store for this campus and how he will transform the lives of Baylor students. I wanted to take this opportunity to share a bit of my story.

My faith journey was relatively normal growing up, at least for someone born in the Midwest. I was raised Catholic. It gets interesting after I moved away to college to the University of Tulsa. I found myself very quickly getting distracted by many of the exciting tales of college life. My lifestyle almost immediately changed, but without me even paying attention to the drastic changes. I came to college with the intention of getting involved with the Catholic center on campus. I wanted to grow in my faith. But even to my surprise I told myself, “I’ll go to church next week, I just need to sleep in today.” As each week went by, it became normal to me to skip church on Sunday.

I joined a fraternity my first semester in college. I joined for good enough reasons. It sounded fun to hang out with a group of guys, to live with them. I slowly got caught up in the party scene. Unfortunately, what started as casually having a beer every once in a while, turned into excessive drinking by the end of the semester. I was always looking forward to the next party. But this fraternity which encouraged my drinking habits also ended up being the same thing that would change my life for the better. There were two sophomores when I was a freshman that were pursuing Christ whole-heartedly. They started talking to me about my faith. They invited me to a retreat over Christmas break. I was very resistant to go on the retreat, but somehow I ended up there.

Thankfully, this retreat allowed me to step away from the distractions long enough for me to realize the path I was heading down. After this retreat I promised myself that I would never live that double life again. I began pursuing my faith. With the help of David, one of the sophomores in my fraternity, I learned the importance of a personal relationship with Christ. I started praying regularly and reading the Bible, which I had never done before. With David there personally showing me the way, I was no longer going through the motions. I was no longer just going to church or on retreats just because others were. But I finally learned how to know Christ, to make Him a friend and companion rather than a far off God. Throughout the next couple years, David continued to help me to grow deeper in my relationship with Christ and showed me how to share my faith.

Now, as I spend my time at Baylor, I can only hope to be a David for these students; to help them navigate the waters through their time in college; to help them discover Christ in his fullness.

(Editor’s note: Normally Brock will post on the first Friday’s of the month but due to technical difficulties on our part his October post is happening today.)

 

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Hello there! My name is Brock Martin and I a first year FOCUS missionary here at Baylor University. My journey here has been anything but “typical.” I was a pretty “typical” college student who found my identity in getting girls and having as much fun as I could at as many parties as I could. So how and why have I decided to turn down jobs and grad school to spend the next few years reaching out to college students?

Going back to high school, sports were always my idol, and that kept me out of a lot of trouble. However, once I got to college, I found out how much fun alcohol, girls, and drugs could actually be. In my head, I knew it was probably wrong, but who cared? I was in college, and this was my one and only shot at having fun with no consequences! The habits I built up actually made it impossible for God to touch any aspect of my life, and to be honest, I thought it was liberating and awesome.

My sophomore year of college, I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, and while I was over there I realized something that has stuck with and will stick with me for the rest of my life. And that simply is this: all of that stuff is actually NORMAL to enjoy. But the “Christian life” isn’t actually about saying “no” to all fun and pleasure. The reality of it is that God actually created you and I for a relationship WITH HIM and while all the things that are shoved down our throats as “fun,” “liberating,” or “expected,” actually bring a small amount of pleasure and happiness, letting Him into your heart and allowing Him to transform your life can bring so much more! What’s even more interesting is that this relationship didn’t take a miracle or some crazy vision of Mary or a saint. God was able to break through my “walls” only because I made some friends who were willing to love and chill with me regardless of who I was or the stuff I did on Friday nights. It was in and through those relationships that I realized these guys had a kind of joy that I craved, and was actually at the heart of why I did anything in life.

In the end, we can choose to look at God as rule giver if we want, or we can make the decision to try to see him as a loving Father who is always trying to call us into a deeper friendship with himself. This relationship will only bring us an unbelievable amount of joy and fulfillment and if anything, I hope my story motivates you to share your faith more in your friendships, because you never know how many “Brock’s” are in your life with God just waiting for you to have the confidence to share your faith, giving him the chance to work around their walls.

PEACE!

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We had a great day helping the Class of 2021 #move2BU! Looking forward to meeting more of you tomorrow! St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us. Our new FOCUS team for the upcoming year. Keep all our Bears serving with @focuscatholic in your prayers while they continue their training.
pc: @briannacasias Happy Father's Day to our dear spiritual father, Fr. Daniel! We are so blessed!