Weapons of mass distraction

Some time ago I received advice about a stressful work situation that today remains one of my favorite tools.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing,” my friend encouraged.

It was just what I needed to hear. The conundrum I was in had me caught up in details, and while the particulars were important, they distracted me from the central goal of an important client project. This simple platitude my friend shared, credited to author Stephen Covey, immediately realigned me.

Over the years I’ve found it pertinent not just to matters of business, but also to matters of faith.

I’ve been guilty time and time again of getting caught up in the fine points when it comes to my walk with God, and losing sight of the essentials of the Gospel message: that I am a sinner, and that Jesus died for me, rose from the dead and conquered sin to offer me eternal salvation.

It turns out I’m not alone. The Pharisees were also guilty of missing the forest for the trees, and Jesus condemned them for it.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Mt 23:23

While the main thing is not the only thing, just like Jesus explained to the Pharisees, I have to be mindful about not allowing other things to distract me from it. Satan knows this, and he uses situations to sidetrack me from Jesus’s message of salvation.

As I look ahead to Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. later this month, my hope is that I stay focused on the main thing: the Holy Father’s mission of sharing the Gospel message.

I’m certain that the pope’s words will be diluted and distorted to further agendas, to spark controversies and to wedge division among believers. The media and other interest groups will manipulate his message with their own ideas of what the main thing should be.

So I will remember that the main thing doesn’t change regardless of how the media package it. Pope Francis is a descendent of Saint Peter, who was appointed by Jesus to build the Church; nothing he says should be received outside of the context of the full breadth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some will present his visit as primarily a political one; they will project his meeting with President Obama, his address to the United Nations, and his address to Congress as the real purpose for his trip.

So I will remember that his visit was announced for the occasion of the World Meeting of Families, an international celebration conceived by Saint Pope John Paul II to strengthen the sacred bonds of the family unit across the globe—a vital expression of Jesus’s Gospel message.

If the media do choose to cover the canonization of Junipero Serra during the pope’s visit, they will probably focus more of their attention on those who oppose this man becoming a saint rather than on his missionary work for the unbaptized.

So I will pray for Junipero Serra, the Franciscan Missionary who spread the Gospel, to intercede for us. I will ask that he not just pray for the pope and the people during his visit, but for the continued spread of the Gospel.

God sent his only son, Jesus Christ, to die for me to save me from my sins. He rose on the third day, and in doing so Jesus triumphed over sin. In matters of my faith, this must always be the main thing.

COMING UP: Team Samaritan cyclist goes ‘Everesting’ for the homeless and hungry

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When it comes to the daily sufferings of those who are homeless, there’s nothing like a 29,029-foot bike ride to keep things in perspective.

That’s exactly what Corbin Clement will be doing this Saturday, June 19, with a couple of his riding buddies as they attempt an “Everesting” ride to raise money for the Samaritan House homeless shelter in Denver. Starting at Witter Gulch Road in Evergreen, the three riders will climb Squaw Pass Road to a point in Clear Creek County and ride back down the hill for over eight laps, which amounts to roughly 190 miles in distance and the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing – hence the name “Everesting.” Their goal is to complete the feat in 20 hours or less.

Oh, and they can’t sleep. It is, indeed, just as crazy as it sounds. Those who aren’t avid cyclists might be wondering, “How in the world do you train for something like this?” 
“For training, it’s been just more or less ride as much as possible,” Clement told the Denver Catholic. “The training is structured around endurance, and that’s of course what Everesting is. It’s just a lot of peddling. So, a lot of my training so far has just been trying to ride as much as possible and ride longer high elevation rides.” 

In March, an Irish cyclist set the world record for Everesting when he completed the feat in six hours and 40 minutes. Clement isn’t trying to set a record, but regardless, it’s quite a feat to undertake, even for a seasoned athlete like him, whose pedigree includes snowboarding and rock climbing. 

“Our ride will be the same thing, but it’ll be pretty different,” Clement said. “We don’t have any sort of special bikes or super focused diet or a really regimented plan or a crew that’s very well-instructed on how we’re going to tackle this. I’ve read a couple of things to just kind of make it into a party — have friends come out to support you, get people to join you on certain laps…that’s kind of the approach we’re taking.” 

Clement has already raised $5,200 for Samaritan House, with a current goal of $8,000. This is Clement’s first year riding for Team Samaritan, but his dad, Kevin, has ridden for the team for several years. When his dad offered to give him an extra kit and uniform, Clement accepted, but didn’t want to take it without doing something help the cause. He could’ve simply opted for a nice ride in the countryside, but he chose to do something a bit more challenging.  

Corbin Clement used to experience the challenges that homeless people face on a daily basis when commuting through downtown Denver to work on his bike. This Saturday, he will raise money for Samaritan House homeless shelter by “Everesting,” a 190-mile bike ride that is the equivalent of the elevation of Mt. Everest in terms of vertical climbing. (Photo provided)

“For some reason, the Everesting idea popped into my head,” he explained. “I think it’s one of those things that has a little bit of shock value for people who hear about it. It’s certainly something that’s gained more popularity and visibility in the last couple of years with endurance athletes. I wanted to choose something that would actually be a challenge for myself and something that I’d have to work towards.” 

Clement currently resides in Utah, but he used to live in Denver and commute by bike to work every day. During those rides to his office, which was located near Samaritan House, he would pass many homeless people and have conversations with them. This experience was also a motivating factor for his Everesting attempt for Team Samaritan. 

“It’s very different when you’re on a bike versus in a car because you’re right there,” Clement said. “If you stop at a stoplight and a homeless person is on the corner, whether or not they’re panhandling or something like that, you hear the conversations, or you’ll have a conversation with them. There are things you smell or you hear or you see that you just never would if you were in a car. So, it kind of made sense, too, with the biking aspect. It’s part of my community that I’ve lived and worked in for a very long time.” 

Clement’s Everesting attempt is one event in a series of endurance event’s he’s doing over the summer that culminates with the Leadville 100, a single-day mountain bike race across the Colorado Rockies. In that race, he will be riding to support young adults diagnosed with cancer by raising funds for First Descents.  

Both causes are near to Clement’s heart, and he said that while his Everesting attempt will be a form of “suffering,” it pales in comparison to what the homeless face day in and day out. This is ultimately why he’s riding and raising funds for Team Samaritan. 

“Any time we see a homeless person or people who have to live on the streets,” Clement said, “That is true suffering — true endurance — with no end in sight.” 

To learn more about Corbin’s fundraising efforts or to donate, click here.