God’s Rules or God Rules?

Posted on February 9, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

No RulesI saw a slogan once for an Internet start-up: “There is one rule; there are no rules.” In fact, when I searched for this slogan again online, I was surprised at all of the variations on the “no rules” sentiment.

Apparently, even Justin Bieber has a documented quote: “I want my world to be fun. No parents, no rules, no nothing. Like, no one can stop me. No one can stop me.” Wow. My own kids seldom read my reflections. If they are reading this one, DON’T GET ANY IDEAS!

Of course, a society without laws or rules will not exist for very long. The laws of a society are there to protect us from perhaps our greatest enemy: ourselves. We can’t just do whatever we feel like. We will eventually hurt others or ourselves.

The laws of God and His Church have the same effect. Sinful and imperfect people need parameters. Christians who choose sin or their own will over God’s commandments not only break the relationship they have with their God, but they hurt others and diminish the Body of Christ.

A stewardship way of life asks of us to live in a certain manner. We sometimes think that our cultivation of gifts and giving them back with increase to God is for God’s sake. God’s commands do not benefit God, for God is complete and perfect without need for increase. But this way of life is for the benefit of His creation.

There is no power struggle here between a God of rules and his children. The cross bears witness to that. Instead, God’s “rules’ prevent us from destroying ourselves and give us a path so we may flourish. Whether you are an ordinary Joe or an ordinary Bieber, following God’s commands will lead to the real satisfaction in this gift of life.

How to Speed Up Your Website

Posted on February 7, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

How Can I Speed Up My Website?Nearly half of people who use the Internet expect a website to load in less than two seconds. Within four seconds, 25% of your website viewers will leave if it doesn’t.

This means, if your website take four or more seconds to load, and there are one hundred people visiting your website, you will lose twenty-five of them. That doesn’t seem like a huge number, but the ones willing to wait the extra time are most likely your existing parishioners, so you just missed out on twenty-five new parishioners.

Here are two things you can do to decrease the amount of time it takes for your website to load, images and all. Best part is, you don’t have to be tech savvy to make these changes.

Optimize your images for Web use

How to Optimize Your ImagesOptimize? That’s a big word. Let’s simplify it. Every file you place on your website is made of megabytes. The Internet reads information in megabytes per second. The goal is to make your image so small that it only uses a tiny fraction of the megabytes that will load in 1-2 seconds.

To do that, save your images in the exact dimensions you will need it to be at a resolution of 72 pixels, or dots, per inch (ppi or dpi).

Each program, app, and software has a different way of doing exactly that. Here are some articles to help you in the program you use:

If you don’t see your program listed here, type “Save for web in [the name of your program]” in the search box on the Internet.

Website CleanupClean up your home page

Just like the images, each bit of information is made up of megabytes. Plus, if you throw too much information at a new visitor on your website, you are going to overload them and scare them away.

In short, remove unnecessary information and shorten long sections to small excerpts.

The Path of Our Choices

Posted on February 7, 2017 by - Connect! Sunday Reflection

For Sunday, February 12, 2017, 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time

We have all had the experience of telling what we thought was a harmless white lie. It may have been to spare another person’s feelings or simply to avoid an uncomfortable conversation. Later on, however, it turned out that we had to tell other lies to cover our tracks or that others discovered the truth on their own. As a result, feelings were hurt or a friendship was damaged. What we thought was a harmless lie ended up causing us needless anguish.

On the other hand, we have also had the experience of doing a good deed. We may have given someone a hand with a project or listened to a friend’s problems. At the time, it seemed like a small gesture. Then, months and sometimes years later, that person reminded us of our good deed and told us how much it meant. What we thought was a trivial act of kindness turned out to touch someone profoundly. (more…)

Angels Among Us

Posted on February 3, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews instructs us to “Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect hospitality, for through it some have unknowingly entertained angels.”

Recently I read a news story about the actor Matthew McConaughey whose car broke down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I took interest since I was raised in that wonderful state.

Ward's Restaurant - Hattiesburg, MSWhile he was stranded on the road, a man whose brother owned a tow truck stopped to help out. The truck soon arrived and took the car to a shop to have it fixed. While waiting, the man took McConaughey for a burger at Ward’s Restaurant.

McConaughey couldn’t believe the hospitality – the people of Hattiesburg were kind and the burger was great. He exclaimed in the story that he might retire in Hattiesburg because nothing like this would happen in Los Angeles! And, surprisingly, no one who met him that day knew who he was.

Matthew McConaughy AngelI retweeted the story proud of my home state and was reminded of today’s passage from Hebrews. McConaughey may not be an angel (though my wife surely thinks he is), but it was a great story of hospitality from The Hospitality State.

I was disappointed to find out later that I had been hoodwinked by a fake news site. Since I know many people like that from Mississippi, it was easy to believe. And Ward’s is a real place.

Nonetheless, we are called as Christians to be just like the imagined Good Samaritans from Hattiesburg. Those travelers on the road to Emmaus brought a stranger into their home, one who seemed to be wholly unaware of what had been going on in Jerusalem, and He turned out to be the Lord Himself.

Hospitality is a central theme of our Christian faith and we are reminded that we never know who we might be entertaining. This is particularly relevant today when the issue of immigration and refugees divides the country and even Christians. On the one hand we fear the stranger who might harm us, and yet we are compelled by Christ’s command to welcome those who seek safety and peace.

How Current is Jesus?

Posted on February 2, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Godspell Cast ImageI recently watched the 1973 film adaptation of Godspell with my teenage daughter. I had such fond memories of watching it when I was young, back in the day.

I listened to the soundtrack so many times and learned to play many of the songs on my guitar. The exclamation from the show, “You are the light of the world!” has always been firmly planted in my mind.

After about ten minutes, my daughter looked at me with that look only a teenage girl can display. “What is this?” she asked with a certain level of condescension. Yes, the film did not hold up so well in the eyes of this twenty-first century critic. So we laughed most of the way through it.

What attracted me to the film and the soundtrack in the first place, however, wasn’t Jesus in a Superman shirt or the idea of the apostles wondering around the urban jungle. I was attracted to the message. I was attracted to that assertion in the song, “You are the light of the world.”

There will always be people who see the Gospel of Jesus Christ as dated, irrelevant, and even hokey. You and I are called to be the light of the world? Good stewards must never shy away from living lives that truly bear witness to the reality of the Gospel. The parables of Jesus have as much meaning for us today as ever. Look around. The world we live in needs a little light for sure.

Rooted in Faith

Posted on February 1, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

“So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith,” (Mark 6:6).

Cross of FaithEvery day we are presented with opportunities to question and think critically. It may be a situation that someone else presents or, in fact, may be something we face directly. Let me explain.

Recently, I read about a long time school principal that pled guilty to embezzlement of school funds. Apparently, he had served flawlessly as an educator for many years, growing in responsibility, and rising in the ranks. In his new role, however, he found himself with access to school funds. Experiencing personal financial hardships, he made the decision to skim money, which led to several years of the same activity.

There are so many lessons here but is it not true that we are all faced with temptations every day? Temptations may vary in penalty but are equally rooted in a lack of faith.

Recently, my 15-year-old daughter woke up late and missed the bus. This is hardly an equal temptation compared with embezzlement, but potentially as poisonous just the same. I questioned her level of responsibility, her ability to take school seriously, and her priorities. I was tempted to make her stay home as a punishment. I then asked a different set of questions. How could I best help her, by punishing her or taking her to school?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. Some who heard him asked where he got this knowledge, what kind of wisdom was this, and what great things would come. Others recognized him as the carpenter’s son, son of Mary and identified him as a local. The first set of questions were built on faith yet the second came from doubt and lack of faith.

Perhaps the school principal could have had faith and asked God for help but took the situation into his own hands. Today, let us think critically about the everyday situations we face and identify the questions that are rooted in doubt and ask the ones rooted in faith.

Steve Botsford is a husband, Father, Catechist, Educational Consultant, Blogger, and Game Designer. There’s only one life to live, so let’s live it to the fullest! (John 10:10)