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Everybody on the planet

I just got an email from a friend who read my book “It’s Fun to be Catholic!” Joe Bonura, wrote “Gary, your book needs to be read by every Catholic and non-Catholic on the planet. Keep up the great work.” Joe is Christian but not Catholic. He helped me adjust my thinking because yes this is a book about faith and growing in faith. So I think he has got something going when he says it should be read by everyone on the planet. I agree!

Someone else thinks the book is a good read for all Christians and you can see what she has to say about “It’s Fun to be Catholic!” Check out what Dawne Gee of WAVE TV said about the book during a recent interview on her show “WAVE Country.” The interview is posted on my blog www.icanplay/blog on July 10, 2016.

Some people I greatly respect are getting value from “It’s Fun to Be Catholic!” no matter their faith denomination. My goal is for the book to travel far and wide and be read by … as Joe suggested “… everybody on the planet.” Here’s why. An eighth grader caught fire in my Sunday School classroom and wrote a thank you note. He said he discovered that it’s fun to be Catholic while preparing for the Sacrament of Confirmation. If an eighth grader can grow enough in his faith and in relationship with Jesus Christ, then others can do the same and experience the value of a relationship with Jesus Christ and his Father. If what we do in the classroom can move an eighth grader from being bored about his faith to thinking It’s fun to be Catholic, well we need to open the classroom doors and let the energy out! We need to share the Good News far and wide. So I am going to keep working, keep trying to convince grandparents, moms and dads, young adults, and eighth graders of all faiths to step into “It’s Fun to be Catholic!” with the expectation that they too can grow in their faith, whether they be Catholic or a member of another faith.

As we get excited about our faith we discover more about it. When we put more into our faith, we get more out of it. That’s when we discover that … “peace beyond understanding” … that Jesus brings and the hope we were created for. When we live in peace and hope all parts of life become fun.

Try it. You’ll discover the path like Joe Bonura or Ryan Riggs, the eighth grader who inspired me to write the book. I’ll tell you again; if an eighth grader gets energy and fun from his faith it’s time to write it down and share that great experience with others. It’s time to share the Good News “… with everyone on the planet.” Discover the fun in your life and in your faith. Go to www.icanplay.com/books to find out what’s it’s all about.

Wednesday Mornings

A group of men gather on Wednesday mornings at my church, St. Bernadette in Louisville KY. It’s a group of catholic men focused on growing as Men of Christ then sharing then the “Good News” with our wives, girlfriends, children, families, co-workers, and friends. We call it boot-camp but we’re not building muscle, we’re building our faith.

It started a number of years ago when a friend, Joe Bonura, called and asked if I would like to pray with him and a group of men on Wednesday mornings. I said yes and he told me they were meeting at his church at 5:00 AM. I asked if we could do it at 10:00am but Joe told me the men in his church were challenged by a preacher visiting from the country of Kenya to get up early in the morning and pray. I said I would be there and started a process where I grew in prayer and in my faith. My protestant friends went deep into prayer.

After a couple of years of being faithful to the men’s prayer group at Southeast Christian Church I decided to start a Wednesday morning group at my church. I felt compelled to give Catholic men a chance to start Wednesday mornings in prayer. We begin at 6:00 am, but still get a few early morning comments and complaints. But the purpose of the early morning start is simple; nothing else gets in the way.

A week ago we had a special visit to our “Catholic” Wednesday morning gathering at St. Bernadette. Three men from the “Protestant” Wednesday morning group paid us a visit. It was a joy to see Mark, Daniel, and Gary. They blended in nicely.

As we started I asked if someone would like to open with prayer. Normally there is a long silence and most often I end up leading the group in prayer. But not this day. One of our visitors, Mark was the first with a hand up when I invited someone to open the event with prayer. Mark’s prayer was personal, specific, focused and fervent. He shared himself and brought Jesus alive in our midst as he always does in prayer. It was a mini-lesson for our group to hear his heart-felt opening prayer. Many in our group are still growing in shared prayer.

After the opening prayer we stepped into a wonderful hour of scripture, working on leadership and listening skills, and additional prayer. All talents we can use in all parts of life. When it was time to conclude the “boot-camp” for another week, I asked if someone would like to close with prayer. Daniel Sam’s hand went up and he quickly stood up.

Daniel started his prayer by thanking God for the time together and to help us practice what we learned. Then he broke into song; heartfelt, joyous, fervent song. Mark and Gary, the other two-thirds of our protestant visitors, joined in. I was in the front of the room, eyes closed and singing quietly with my no-talent singing skills, and smiling. I didn’t want to look at my Catholic brothers who I believe were thinking, “What kind of praying is this?”

But that is always part of Daniel’s prayer. I heard it weekly in my previous Wednesday mornings at Southeast Christian Church.

The meeting broke up and not much was said about our new friend’s way of praying, but this past Wednesday there was some discussion about their visit and the uniqueness of their prayer. And then we started working on growing as Men of Christ.

As we closed the gathering I did as I always do on Wednesday morning, I asked if someone would like to close in prayer. I joked that you don’t have to sing like we did last week when Daniel closed with his singing prayer. I was ready for the normal long pause. But to my surprise Patrick Renn raised his hand and started to pray. Not the unusual way of praying at our St. Bernadette Wednesday morning gathering. Pat started to sing! He stepped up and shared a beautiful rendition of “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord.” It was beautiful to hear him, and the rest of the Wednesday morning group join together to praise God in song. It was powerful! Then he closed his prayer with the spoken word.

I watched as we stretched ourselves. The Wednesday morning group of men grew this past Wednesday morning. Some visitors came and witnessed to us with prayer that is a bit unique and we learned. They witnessed to us and we grew. These are the simple lessons God wants us to see, experience, learn and then share. He wants us to “Taste and See the Goodness of the Lord.”

Thanks Patrick … and thanks Daniel. I love Wednesday mornings.

Really! It’s how you say it.

Judy and I took our grandchildren on a weekend trip.  One evening were were swimming in the hotel pool and my grandson said “Pops, swim over here.”  I said, “I can’t Caleb.”  The reason I said that is I can’t swim.

Caleb looked at me and said “No, really Pops, swim over here.”  My replay was the was the same.  “I can’t Caleb.”  Caleb was more emphatic now.  the tone of his voice was urging me to follow his directon.  “Really Pops, I want you to swim over here!.”  I said it again.  “Caleb, I can’t swim to you.”  He frowned at me and I dicided it was time to clarify.  I said, “Caleb, I can’t swim.”  He had an astonished look on his face.  “Really!”  I said “Really, I can’t swimn.”

I remember that incident as thought it was yesterday, especially his final “Really!”  It hurt, it was troubling, to tell him I could not do something that he thinks everyone should be able to do.  But I can’t.

I have a swimming pool in my back yard.  It’s been there for ten years.  Caleb has been visiting the pool his entire life.  He is not ten.  He has been taught, encouraged, inspired to swim, many times by me, his Pops.  So he assumed I could swim because I have been encouraging him to learn to do the things it takes to swim.  I encouraged him to go past the fear, past the doubt, do something you don’t want to do, put your head under water, believe in yourself, trust.

I guess that’s why it hurt, the “Really”  Because Caleb respects his Pops when I encourage him to go beyo0nd what he thinks he can do.  He trusts me.  But perhaps a little less when he discovered the guy who was telling him to keep reaching wasn’t reaching very far.  “Really!”  yeah, really.

Unknown

The Unknown

It’s a scary place, the unknown. We all think about it and some of us go there. Of course it’s no longer the unknown when we go there, that’s how we get rid of the unknown, take a risk and step in.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.

Not long ago I had a medical scare. I woke up in the middle of the night and knew something was wrong. I discovered a bump which was causing some pain. Never noticed that bump before. I wondered what that’s all about. Is it just a swollen muscle? Did I do something to cause it? What is this all about?

The darkness and loneliness just made it worse. I had too much time to think about it and most of the thinking was negative. I started asking myself the negative questions and thinking negative thoughts …. because I didn’t have answers. I was in the unknown and when you don’t know it’s easy to think the worst.

Fortunately when the light of dawn came and Judy was awake we discussed options. Judy suggested we focus on the problem immediately so we went to an emergency medical center and discovered the nodule was something that could easily be taken care of. I got out of the unknown and got answers and discovered how to treat the problem. Turns out the unknown, the monster under the bed, was not as bad as the fear I created in my mind.

I speak and train in an industry where the unknown has halted opportunities at success. Head Start is a federally funded program that helps low incomes families get a “Head Start” and enroll their children in a program to help them prepare for kindergarten. Many of the families who enroll are challenged financially and consequently they are challenged in many areas of life; education, career and self-esteem just to name a few. The Head Start program is meant to help the children and families of these children grow to success and self-sufficiency. However the more I learn about the children and families the more I see them stuck in the unknown. Not the unknown of wondering about a nodule showing up somewhere on the body, but the unknown of having no idea of where to go to discover success.

Some of these families grew up in families where the unknown invaded their atmosphere and they never learned how to get out. They felt stuck. They lived in neighborhoods where young men and women did not graduate from high school, much less college. In fact college wasn’t even a thought. And they did not know anyone to help them see a path that would lead them to success, an improved lifestyle.

But the unknown doesn’t just reside with the economically challenged. Doubt and low self esteem can cause individuals to curl up and cower in the corner, never walking down the hall to see what is in the next room, or turn the corner to see another way. It’s not just darkness that keeps us from seeing success sometimes it’s the unknown that has built the wall around us or tied a weight around us to hold us down. And we are unable to solve the predicament. So we accept it because the solution is unknown … to us.

Face it, take a risk and step in. That’s how we get rid of the unknown.

Slow down for Success!

One of the fastest ways to ruin a presentation is to talk too fast.  (I guess you got that bit of humor)

You know the story.  Starting too fast while sharing your message and you can’t slow down.  You begin talking faster and faster.  You know you’re doing it but you are unable to slow down.  I’ve got a tip for that which I’ll share later, but first let’s stop the speed from picking up in the first place.

If you normally talk too fast, and you know who you are, practice by reading some material from a magazine, a book, newspaper, or Gary Montgomery’s blog.  When you see a period, stop.  When you see a comma, stop.  When you see a semi-colon, or colon, stop.  Stop for a count of five.  You probably thought “five seconds, that’s too long!”  I agree if you are reading to an audience but what you are doing is practicing and the best practice begins with exaggeration.  Stop so that you recognize you are stopping and stepping out of what you normally do and you recognize you are learning something new. 

To use an analogy from coaching kids in baseball and softball, I’ve had young players try to make the throw to first too fast.  After a great catch on the ground ball, she rushes the throw and the runner is safe at first.  We need to adjust thinking.  So I teach them to pat their glove three times after catching the ground ball and count each pat, out loud (it’s usually slower when you say it out loud.)  It gives her time to position her feet and see the target, the girl playing first base, before throwing.  No we aren’t going to normally do that in a game (although some have) but this is learning.  We need to exaggerate to learn.

Step number two is to start slow.  Not just start talking slow but make the mental approach to the stage or the lectern slow.  Think slow as you are introduced.  Walk slowly to the front of the room.  Speak slowly when you thank the person introducing you (be sure to get their name so you can share it.  People are listening.)

As you face your audience and start to speak;  wait.  It may feel a little uncomfortable but use your five second count again, (not out loud this time.) Look left, look right, smile, feel your feet grounded on the floor or stage.  Now you are ready to begin …s..l..o..w..l..y. Know what words you are going to use.  I’ve seen many start talking at this point and not know where they are going.  Know your open, your story, know what you are trying to accomplish in the open.  Your slow start and intentional pauses will put you at ease and your audience will be comfortable because you are comfortable.

And here’s the tip I promised in case it happens that you do begin talking too fast and feel you can’t slow down;  just stop.  Try to make it appear you are stopping on purpose.  Perhaps a drink if you have water nearby (if not you should).  Attempt to find a reason to pause in your presentation;  stop to draw attention to a particular word or point you are making.  Make the stop feel like a pause for effect.  But even if you are unable to have a reason to stop, just stop; smile and breathe.  It might look a little irregular but it is better than gasping for air and becoming anxious because you are going too fast and can’t slow down.

Bottom line: prepare.  Think slow, start slow, and get comfortable being with a group of people who need to hear your message.

A lot more great ideas at Gary’s presentation skills seminar coming up in Louisville, KY, September 17, 2015,  “Making Magic in the Front of the Room..”  For more information go to www.icanplay.com/magic, or call Gary at 502.339.0040.