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What Can We Hear in God’s Whisper?

When we apply the understanding of the objective truth we find calmness in the midst of a storm.

Sometimes, especially when we position ourselves properly, we receive news which indicates extraordinary events explainable only by the Grace of God.  I know I’ve heard more stories than I can remember of events related to people which inextricably have no answer other than to associate a divine presence as the author.  I don’t want to diminish or dilute the faith of anyone, but I’m not referring to events such as a near miss or someone was sick with a common cold and got better.  These are happy events, but not miraculous.  I’ve spoken on the topic of miracles in the past, just a little, and so I was thinking about our perception of the mode of arrival in which God lets us know his presence.  In Kings 19, we read about God and his discourse with Elijah.  We expect the presence of God to appear with great whirling winds and earthquakes as the chapter alludes to, but this isn’t the form with which God spoke.  No, instead it was in a whisper, a faint representation of the Almighty’s power which to our human estimation presents us with either doubt or misinterpretation of strength.  When we as men, especially today, think of strength, the cultural landscape we live in dictates a confusing juxtaposition of strength and weakness.  We are presented with a need to be stoic and unmovable on points of rightness, and yet have the knowing capability to bend with a pliability needed for every situation.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but we can’t have both.  We can have one path to follow, and in this we will represent strength, compassion, courage, fear, and love.  Above all, we will find our thirst quenched in our loving pursuit of this whisper, which in its perceived weakness, is the most profound strength anyone of us could hope to discover.

Never have I been more confused as when I watch any thirty minutes of television today and attempt to figure out what society is looking for from men or fathers.  Morality seems to have taken a backseat to general wants, and those wants are paramount to material wealth or physical pleasure.  The objective truth, which does exist, is pushed aside for a version of “my truth”, which is nothing more than the perspective of any individual based upon their experiences and intelligence at the time of the thought.  It could change from moment to moment, and what’s worse, if someone is exposed to an experience less than acceptable, their moral line in what they are willing to accept or do, could be what’s needed to push them over the edge of a precipice where darkness consumes the soul.  I know this seems very extreme in the context of our normal lives, but I would argue this, if an alcoholic knew by taking their first sip, they would become an alcoholic, would they take that first sip?  We seem to be wandering the desert right now, and where there are beckons of light in the darkness, there are unseen hands grabbing at us to pull us down and away from those lights.  So, what do we do?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I can tell you my journey, my struggles, and where I see a path of righteousness in pursuit of Christ leads us.  As I was detailing earlier, morality is a big button issue at the moment.  There are causes and movements swirling around us, so much so, I’m not sure anyone of us comprehends the depth of any three causes, except for what is explained through our media outlets.  Just recently we’ve been subject to sexual scandals, the ever-present abortion debate, and the stance on leadership as it pertains to our governments, and the need for a religion to strengthen our faith.  There’s a lot going on!   I want to address some of it, because by my estimation it is relative to the whisper of God’s voice in our lives, to the silence in our hearts where God resides patiently waiting on us.

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I would like to begin by saying, if you ask yourself before you do anything, “Is there love in that?” You will find an ability to ask yourself the harder questions and have a distinct answer which is not only resolute in its solution but creates a paradigm to explain what love actually is.  To begin, love is not an emotive decision process, no matter what the movies tell us.  It isn’t the license to treat people poorly because we’re bored with our situation or we in other words have found something or someone else to gravitate towards.  Love isn’t the process to find wrong in others, so much so, we risk true joy and happiness for pursuits of the physical.  In other words, we miss true love poured upon us, because we insist our partners or those we love should fit in a precise paradigm of diminishing returns.  We want people to look and act a certain way, and we delude ourselves into thinking, once we have what we want, we’ll be happy.  Wrong!  The question of love in our actions becomes imperative, it becomes something we must utilize as a presence of being, a tool of sorts, to delve deeper into actions, meanings, and where we want to be.  When we apply the understanding of the objective truth we find calmness in the midst of a storm.  The storm is our person, our society, our loved ones circling about us and yet we must find the calm, because only in the calm can we ever hope to hear the voice of God.  In this calm, we find love.

Ok, so love is paramount to understanding everything, much like Jesus was referred as the cornerstone (Acts 4:11) “He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone’”.  We must apply the love of Christ as the cornerstone to anything we look at, any argument we face, and any hot button issue which seems to plague us today.  I will promise this to you, if you truly apply the objective truth as it pertains to love, you will have an answer to any issue you find, and the issue will become no longer up for argument, but rather a means of understanding to approach your life.

For the topics I mentioned earlier, I want to attack each one, and put to rest what should have been put to rest already.  The current environment of sexual proclivities including sex of all types, pornography, multiple partners, artificial contraception, and a willful acceptance by a growing percentage of the population has presented us with an aberration of truth as we see it contextually.  This is to say, we haven’t a problem with what’s going on, until we do, and hopefully you’re on the right side of the fence when the problem becomes apparent.  Now, this isn’t to say poor behavior such as rape, harassment, or sexual perversion as it relates to unlawful behavior has ever been ok.  Instead, it seems to be more an ideological perception of what right and wrong in the context of right, and then pushing and extremity to areas where it was never considered or was simply put back on the participants.  Let me give you an example, a woman being raped is awful and should never happen, and based on the individual circumstances is how to determine the degree of severity with which any justice is to be applied.  However, in our cultural climate today, we find, the presumption of guilt no matter the circumstance.  The accusation is levied against an individual, and without any due process whatsoever, we hold this person in contempt and they have now become a pariah we wish to turn away from.  We no longer find the promiscuous behaviors of the population as a matter of unacceptable path to personal destruction, but instead we honor the victim (poor decisions and worse consequences and all).  We don’t ask why this event occurred and what the factors were leading up to it transpiring.  We don’t ask if the event ever occurred at all, because it becomes too risky for fear of reprisal in either a private or public forum, usually both.  We don’t want to be the one to pour salt on a wound which has already potentially caused someone pain, we haven’t the stomach for this.

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I do want to set the record straight, I love having a physical relationship with my wife, it is a gift from God, at its most basic understanding it’s a physical representation of love to express our oneness with each other in the covenant of marriage.  A marriage which is brought together by the Graces of God to perpetuate life, love, and the objective truth as set forth by the Divine Christ.  To extend this even further, it’s the natural progression of life as was ordered by God.  Anything outside of this, from a physical intimate portrayal is a disorder of its intended purpose.  In Humane Vitae, Pope Paul VI, intuits a destruction of familial truths in society (Section 17) as a result in the creation of artificial contraception.  He indicates the failure of will, to be replaced by want.  No longer do people need to worry about the societal implications of their actions, as long as they got what they wanted.  Before anyone thinks, they know what’s best for their lives, I would caution this method of thinking, we don’t know from day-to-day what our lives have in store, and to explicitly challenge objective truth and replace it with our own, should be analogized as trying to play chicken with time.  It just doesn’t work, and when we try, we inevitably fail.

Now, I know what some people think when they hear this, and at first it appears Puritanical.  However, if we approach the entire paradigm with a lens of love, we see this is the furthest aspect of the truth.  It’s not that rules are for us to follow, but when we apply love to our decisions, we find we follow a pathway with the truths and these truths become objectively speaking a rule or guideline to stay on the path to God’s love.  Which presents our next cultural challenge, abortion, the destruction of life, to preserve our own way of life.  No matter, the decisions it takes to get to this point, killing life is unacceptable.  Christian Faith, and specifically Catholicism, is a religion of putting to death a sinful life and a rebirth of spiritual purity.  To put it bluntly, you must allow your old self to die, before you can be raised up to the light of Christ.  This is not, and has never been achieved by the destruction of life.  This is to say, we can’t move forward as a culture if we create a culture of promiscuity and sexual disorder, then allow the circumspect behaviors towards those involved as they continue to make poor decisions.  I’m sure at one point or another, we’ve know someone who has had an abortion (if there are women reading these words, it’s possible you may have had an abortion), and it’s not a matter of condemnation.  Instead it’s a matter of compassion for those who have sinned, but if we don’t change the behaviors then the sin continues unfettered and this becomes the culture we are being forced to embrace today.  I’ve heard arguments for a very long time in the position of “pro-choice” and “Pro-Life”, and yes I capitalize my life stance for the inflection of importance.  Life is always more important than any one of our choices.  To give our lives for another is a choice which still places life above anything else.

The way I’ve always seen the arguments crafted for abortion is a matter of the utilization of outlier (i.e. extraordinary events to make us think about what might happen) and prevent any movement whatsoever on the topic, which has so divided everyone.  The vast majority of abortions are performed as a matter of contraceptive method, a decision to regret sexual behavior, and instead embrace a pathway which leads away from accountability.  At the end of the day, there are two stances one can take for the argument against abortion, a scientific one (very valid when speaking with secular groups or atheistic religions), and the second it the faith comprehension of truth and applicability of love in all situations.  If we apply love to this debate, then we see, no loving person could end the life of another soon to be fully functional human.  Just isn’t possible, and if anyone thinks I’m accusing those who’ve had abortions as unloving, you’d be correct.  We all have the ability to love, but we must learn how to love, and we can’t learn to love if we are pursuing our own selfish ends.

The final topic of discourse is our need for leaders in this world.  Do we really have anyone we can look up to?  Maybe, but at this moment, we are so unwilling to hold ourselves accountable on the most objective level, how can we expect to hold our leaders.  They are a symptom of a much greater problem.  We must start with the family, we must start as fathers and husbands and hold ourselves accountable to each and every person we come into contact with.  We can’t deny our failures, we must embrace and learn from them. “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick” (Matt 9:12).  We have to acknowledge to ourselves, we are sick and in need of healing.  A healing which can only be provided by God.  Our leaders begin with us, they begin with a family which is both made up of a father and a mother to teach our children the proper objective truth in life.  To accept pain as par for the course, and yet continue to move forward as a matter of life and the pursuit of life and the light.  Though the most important gift we can teach our children is to be charitable.  Our charity, or love, towards others will help us to be leaders and to pick leaders who meet our ideals and share a common pursuit of objective truth in a time of hegemony of subjective morality.  Our leaders are an extension of our pursuits in life, these leaders have the courage to stand up and show us the way.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for a leader who embodies these principles in life.  There are too many good people in the world to give an excuse for the selection we have now, but because of the ever changing moral climate, it’s impossible to tell unless you calm yourself in the midst of the storm and listen to the whisper of God.

I only briefly touched on topics which in themselves have been the inspiration of volumes of books, dissertations, and essays which explained my topics much better.  Though at the end of it all, we don’t need a full explanation, sometimes, to know deep down what is wrong.  Be only with a spouse, it is more ordered and special in this context.  Don’t kill innocent life (this really goes without being said, one would think), when left untouched, life blooms, we can’t hide behind choice, life always takes precedent.  Our leaders are an extension of us, if we don’t like who our leaders are, perhaps we need to take a longer look at us and fix what is apparently broken.  God gives us the strength to fix what is broken, but like anything learned, a level of pain is needed to correct a wrong.  Even if the pain is the intrinsic understanding which alludes to ridicule of one’s self for failing for so long.  Pursue God, pursue love, and the answers you seek will become all too clear.  May God bless you, and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Are We Really Finding Humility?

As a father and husband, I feel like I am challenged to walk this humble line constantly by trying to be the living example of what Christ wants us to be, and to be a man in this world.

So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been diligently working and spending time with the family, and a curious question was raised, which I thought was food for thought.  When we see our fellow man act with some level of contrition, are we associating a measure of humility to their actions or are we so focused on our lives we don’t notice at all?  Does humility require us to be subservient, contrite, or on many levels something other than ourselves as we feel we should be?  Is humility an ability to self-deprecate and lower ourselves so we can be liked by perceived superiors?  These are the questions which have been rattling around my brain, so I wanted to go more in depth with you and hopefully we can find a way to embrace our humility and yet retain all of who we are and how this applies to our pursuit of love in God.

When we look at a simple definition of humility we see the most basic of answers; “freedom from pride or arrogance, the state of being humble” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  When I think of the word pride, I immediately imagine a patriotic banner swaying in the air, and music which evokes an emotional response tied to heroic events sweeps through my mind.  Though, in this case the pride which humility seeks quash, is the pride we take when we can’t accept our wrongness as it pertains to us and the people around us. The first example I can think of is when the devil tempts Adam and Eve with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3), their desire to know as much as God and their pursuit of control amounted to a prideful pursuit of self-sufficiency, to rule themselves as they see fit.  This pride became arrogance as the devil continued to whisper in Eve’s ear about how she could do things and make decisions just as good as God, and the combination of her pride and arrogance mixed with Adam’s own pride and arrogance gave rise to an unhumble desire to control.  Isn’t this what an unhumble person becomes, someone who can’t be told what to do, a person who can’t accept their fallibility, or a person who sees what they are doing as wrong (by all conventional and moral standards) but desires the control and will do anything to keep it?  I’m sure we all know people (could even be us) who fit the bill, and as Christians we are bound in our pursuit for the love of God, to be a representation of someone who is humble in life.

Now, isn’t it just that easy?  You say to yourself, “I want to be humble, so now I’m going to be humble.”  I find, it is much more difficult to put into action than just saying those words.  Peter Kreeft, Angels & Demons, remarks about the super intelligence both angels and demons possess.  Their intelligence on it’s lowest level makes our smartest human beings resembling the intelligence of a dog.  This isn’t to say we are dumb, just not as smart as they are.  As we understand and apply our knowledge of the intelligence paradigm, it is much easier to understand the crafty nature of the devil and demons which pursue us and latch on to our arrogant and prideful natures.  It is also not too difficult to see how playing on someone’s need for attention and need not to forcible made to be meek in the sight of everyone would prompt them to take a path where humility is looked down upon rather than something which seeks to harness the true reflection of God’s light.  At every moment of every day, we are being tested to make decision which have no humility whatsoever, so we can pursue earthly accolades.

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As a father and husband, I feel like I am challenged to walk this humble line constantly by trying to be the living example of what Christ wants us to be, and to be a man in this world.  I’m constantly challenged to be kind in the face of insult by exterior events, but at the same time I’m challenged to be humble in front of my family, especially when I’m wrong.  Truly wrong this is, I’ve lost my temper and acted so poorly in the past, I was faced with two options, either accept the humiliation of my wrongness or continue to move forward with my unjust behavior and in doing so create an example to the people whom I love dearly, with an example which leads them down a path of selfishness and despair.  We all, as a matter of learning our humility, must in many instances face the humiliation required to learn this very basic but important learning block of our spiritual development where the result is God’s love for all eternity.
This is an interesting turn of events, when we think about what we must learn to continue in our growth.  Much like we all had to learn to write letters before we could read or compose full sentences.  We must learn how to accept what creates our unhappy nature before we can pursue the joyful path.  This is to say, we can’t possibly know which path to walk down, unless we’re shown this path, and in some cases irrespective of our desires we choose the wrong path, and in doing so we are given perspective to decide to continue this path or face the humiliation.  This humiliation hopefully causes us to take stock of our decisions and never walk the wrong path again.  The instances of humiliation we face from day-to-day, are seemingly poignant reminders of our straying from the desire to pursue God.

I’ve faced humiliation more times than I care to remember, and one lesson I can take away from my learnings is the complete and total embarrassment which set me on a path, so I wouldn’t repeat the behavior/process again.  I hated the notion and even the feeling of setting myself down a notch, especially in front of those people who were blameless yet suffered my pride and arrogance.   At the same time my embarrassment was reaching its zenith, I could also feel a growth in my behavior.  I could feel a movement past where I was currently at in my growth spiritually and in my understanding of others.  In other words, I felt as though I was learning to love, through my own humility.

We can never hope to gain all humble circumstances within the confines of our comfortable surroundings, we are pushed through our life to move from one changing circumstance to another, and in the process of doing so, we learn the pitfalls which allow us to gain traction in understanding.  This isn’t to say we learn on the first time we fail at anything, I personally have failed more times than I care to remember, on the same subject or topic.  The more difficult the topic the more times and effort may be needed to fully comprehend the humility we hope to attain.

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As a husband, I know I’m in the dubious leagues of eating some humble pie to attain a paradigm of understanding and application of love.  When I was younger, I foolishly thought my passion for life and what I did, would translate to an application of love.  I thought, if I approach everything the same way, with the same amount of fervor, I would have fair to similar results and this would be fine for me in life.  I was a perfectionist when it came to my hobbies and general pursuits in life, and I just figured, everything would fall in place when it came to my spouse.  I intended to just approach life in the same haphazard manner I approached everything, and I would just learn along the way.  Marriage just isn’t this way!  To begin, marriage is a sacred covenant between your spouse and yourself, a focus only to be beaten by your faith, is absolutely required.  This person, who is your spouse completes you, they balance your place in the fabric of time, for however long they are here with you, and evenly yoked, they present the challenge of family and faith as a matter of path for your very existence.  You mission, as it were, becomes the movement of both husband and wife through and ever-changing landscape, requiring a steadfast approach to compassion and love, but to bend as the tree will do in large storms but never break.  Though, we do break sometimes, we do need to be fixed sometimes, and in the processes, which requires the time and attention needed by both spouses, continually sets the foundation of solid stone and regrows (obviously with God’s help) a loving environment.

So, this is where I was at with my own relationship with my wife.  I needed to humble myself, and truly understand where my wife was at, more than choosing to think I was the only one in pain.  She also needed this, and together we were both broken, but we needed each other to mend our brokenness.  My wife, who is an angel, was in pain because of me and because of failed expectations, I was in pain because of me and failure to care what the expectations, which were lovingly asked of me, were needed to grow our love in God’s eyes through the covenant of our marriage.  In the end, we both became fighting and selfish to what we wanted, and the irony was we really didn’t know what we wanted.  We thought we were going to do everything ourselves, our pride, our arrogance was going to fix the problems we inevitably faced because of our pride and our arrogance.  This became a revolving door of misery for us, no matter what I attempted to do, I was getting things wrong, and no matter what love she tried to show me, I interpreted it as anything other than love.  We didn’t trust each other, and we didn’t want to be the first to give in, for fear of showing weakness, or so I thought.  In my monumental arrogance, I failed to see, my wife was there with open arms, and in her unconditional way was giving me herself (much like the day we said our vows).  God helped her in a humble path, and she was humbly waiting for me.  I am completely floored when I think about this now, when I realized this at the time, I was embarrassed and didn’t know how someone could love me so much.  She did!  Little by little, she patiently waited, and we eventually were yoked evenly again, and since this time, we’ve moved side-by-side in patient step with God’s will.  We recognized, it is far better to stand together, realizing God lifts us both up, and allowing his light to shine in everything we do.  It’s not about whether I got what I wanted, or she obtained the expectation she hoped for, but it is, and has always been about the journey to find truth in love.

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This is a funny concept, one which I’ve met people over the years, and I’ve had them explain to me their perception of what a truth is, and as a matter of course, they indicate a destination of understanding rather than a journey.  Humility isn’t just about knowing what we did to bring us to the point we are at now, but instead it’s about perceiving just how every step can affect every perception and every action we take.  Our journey in life is what forms us so when we do meet an expectation or a goal, we will know just what to do with it.  Humility must be attained if we are ever to understand who we are in relation to a loving God.  If you think back in your life and you meditate on those individuals who carried the most influence and seemed to show a love in one way or another, you should see the marks of an individual who humbled themselves to be a loving foundation of your life.  If you are one who has never been able to knowingly acknowledge a presence of love, look deeper and know, there have been people all along the way, but with every ounce of humility they are harder and harder to find.  Which is a good way of saying, they are involved with you daily.  Those who are so humble as to be almost non-existent in your life, not because they aren’t there, but because you never noticed those things which they do for you to carry you forward.  Perhaps someone holds the door open for you, allowing you to walk in first, maybe someone at work is willing to accept more work because your shift has ended, and they intuit your need to go home, or maybe a beggar at the stop light, looking for a handout stares at you and with fluidity says, “God Bless You” and then walks on.  None of these instances carries with it a perceived notion of a life changing event, but in their humility, they give what charity they can (the effect of a true charitable love).  Of course, we’ve all talked to a friend who states, “those beggars probably make more money than we do”, or they might say “well if they are willing to stand at the corner, then why can’t they work”.  Though the truth of the matter is more nuanced than the simple observation of an impropriety or perceived laziness.  Perhaps the real humility is to recognize, someone of lower societal stature than yourself, can look into your eyes and pray for you with three simple words, and your inability to recognize this humility is indicative of a path still untrod and still in need of travel.  You must humble yourself to understand, even if the person doesn’t mean what they say, you can draw a deeper understanding a deeper meaning and in this newfound perception your humble response should be one of gratitude.  A gratitude for a truth being revealed.

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I know for some; a perceived naivety can be construed by what I’ve written but allowing those who wish to fool us or take advantage of us grants us an understanding (at times) to understand the person who is in enough pain to hurt another.  Yep, that’s right, someone willing to hurt us in one way or another is truly in pain.  They’ve left the path of love, which exudes joy with every step, and they’ve entered darkness, and although they may not realize exactly where they are at, the innate need for God’s love in our lives will project pain when we push the light of love away.  This pain will be reflective in outward actions towards others, your humility and understanding are paramount in these situations.  Your ability to put your pride, ego, arrogance, and need for honor will steer you and hopefully those who need your example in the proper direction.  The best example of those who need the most influence are our children, as we all know, they are easily influenced and respond to exhibitions of natural and unconditional love.  This means, yes you must say no and be the bad guy.  In the end, their acknowledgement of truth, as a humble person would accept truth, will in its recognition through their own humiliation of being wrong or even right create a loving individual on a path to find God.

So, are we really being humble in our every day lives?  I know I am not, I know I can find more and experience more in my life to create in me, a humble heart.  I know I can find love in the darkest of places, those places exist in my heart and in the hearts of the people I am in contact with every day.  As we find those places of darkness, we see despair, desolation, a sense of hopelessness and it only appears this way because of the darkness.  Find humility in your every action, find a sense of right through your wrong.  Don’t be fearful of being wrong, it just might be what you need to find the path God has set forth for you.  Above all else, be the light which burns the brightest because you’ve lowered yourself and attained an overflowing measure of humility.  To find humility we must seek understanding, as we journey for understanding, we find humility was the ability to recognize our weakness and our wrongness as the foundation for understanding all along.  Look within yourself and you will find the humble place your heart desires to be, because as we are made in the image and likeness, this humility is the unconditional love given by God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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What Is Heaven To You?

Those obstructions are laid before us, that we might know, God will be there when we fall.

This is a loaded question, and one with no really good answer to the average person.  Though, it does carry with it a sense of finality and its elusive context provides the backdrop to our finite reality on this earth.  When I turned 35, I didn’t go out and do anything uncharacteristic, nor did I push the envelope of proper behavior.  No, what I did was take a figurative look back at the previous 35 years, and my first thought was, “whew, this went by way too quickly”, but as this began to set in, so did my mortality.  Just who am I?  What is my purpose in this life?  What am I truly meant to do? Where is it I go, when I die?  You know, the easy questions in life.  Of course, it’s been several years since I asked these questions, and although the answers were not necessarily what I wanted to hear, they were what I needed all along.  I hope in the next few paragraphs, you will see some of your own questions come to light, and perhaps you will find an answer yourself.  At the end of the day, God is always the answer we look for, but finding the path, He crafted Himself for us, is the first step to the hardest and most rewarding decision of your lives.

Let me start from where my “mortality enlightenment” occurred, and then I will push forward from there.  My realization of a world which passed me by, like bullet train, was beginning to sink in.  My kids were much older now, I was much older now, and I wasn’t further along in my career.  I wasn’t doing anything professionally or socially important with my life.  I wasn’t attending church on a regular basis.  I didn’t have many friend or even acquaintances, except for those people I talked with at work.  Though, I hated my work, so I understood, as much as I enjoyed talking with people, this eventually would go away.  So, back to square one, I thought, “where am I supposed to go from here?” I intuited I needed people in my life, but at the same time, I didn’t want anyone else but my immediate family.  I was going to take the quasi loner’s life, and I would wear the invisible cloak of struggle.  At the end of the day, I was creating my own paradigm of failure, and this mortification of self through a deprivation of human contact was probably one of the lowest times in my life.  I didn’t feel unhappy though, I was content in my solitude, but desperately seeking human interaction.  I only noticed this, when someone would give me the slightest attention, and it was as though my world was set to right, and I could function as I should.  At the end of the day, it would always go away, and a false reality would set in.  The words seemed to pop into my head, indicating, “This is all you’ll ever have, and you should be happy”.  Now, I’m not sure about anyone else, but sometimes faced with an acceptance of less than we anticipated can be demoralizing at times.  At any rate, this is where I was at in my life.

Now, it’s taken me years to seemingly self-diagnose this and realize, I was the problem, not everyone else.  God isn’t asking me to suffer my situation, but rather as St. Theresa of Lisieux would point out in “Story of A Soul” it was a matter of embracing what it is I am and giving it to God in every possible way.  To begin, I looked at all the years which to this point passed me by, gone, I can’t get them back now!  I sat quietly thinking, at best, I may have another 35 or 40 years left, and I’m on a downhill trajectory at this point.  I was very depressing to be around, but it is just like the darkness next to the light, always seems to be more enveloping and consuming until we become illuminated.  As was the case for me.  I began to move my thoughts from, why the years seem to move so fast, to just who I am as a man.  What is expected of me as a man?  What is my purpose?

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As a man, this was a pretty hard question to answer for a couple of reasons, the first being, and my expectations as a man, because I’m a man.  The second being, my expectations as a man, because society sees me as a man.  When I tackled the first, I was constantly convoluting it with our cultural expectations, and rendering a poorly imaged portrayal of what a man should be.   There was always a defect in my mind’s eye, and I continuously was exposing the flawed characteristics of my manly personality and my frustration began to grow.  This mixed with my attempts to teach my son about being a man, becomes more confusing to him, which in turn frustrated me. However, just like anything we do, with enough time and attention, we begin to get a little better, we look for better sources of information in what we seek, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard as we increase our skill.  My higher standard is God, and my recognition of the source of my manhood was the illumination I wrote of earlier, it exposed the good and the bad.  It was the medicine I needed to heal the festering wounds of pride, hubris, ignorance, and a lack of love in my life.  Let me be the first to say though, it wasn’t easy to take, it wasn’t a picnic facing the exposure.  My wife, in her unconditional love, fought hard to ask me the question and have me realize the answer, “where is the love in what you do”.  Seemingly a simple question, but when we dig deep, the exposure of an answer, “I haven’t been giving my love, I’ve been holding back for fear of rejection, loss, and failure” entered my mind.  I was in my anger and removal of myself in situations creating a distance which allowed an insularly effect protecting me from my fears (at least I thought so).  As hard as it was to take the answer to the question posed, I found it harder to look in the direction of God, shame was winning and the worst part was, I was letting it win.

I must emphasize my shame in this, I thought I looked like the biggest fool to everyone and to everything.  I was arrogant, and put myself in a place where I didn’t need anything or anyone (or so I thought), it was like being a mile in front of everyone in the race, only to realize I took a wrong turn.  My embarrassment, especially to my wife, created a sense of anger in me and confusion.  I always felt as if I need all the answers to anything asked.  I read, study, and constantly try to know everything I can for a couple of reasons.  I need the human attention so bad, I wanted to immediately be valuable to anyone if they just asked, and the second reason was I needed to know as much as possible, so I can never look foolish.  When my wife pulled me back in, she did so in the way a wife loves a husband or as a woman can love a man.  She unconditionally asked me the question, and I had to answer.  It’s the best question I was ever asked, and I didn’t have the answer this time.  I couldn’t make an excuse for me any longer.  Happy 35th birthday, right?  It was probably the best birthday, I’ve ever had.  It was as if the door was opened, and I was exposed to the “real world” the objective truth as it were.

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A couple of things changed on the onset, first of all, every detail didn’t escape my notice.  Now, I’ve always been hypersensitive to my environment, but in a way which was entirely self-serving.  This time though, I noticed one simple change to my perspective, and then everything seemingly fit into place, even when I didn’t have an answer.  I could see love, in everything.  I don’t just mean, pink hearts, or people smiling a lot (which is nice, but overrated).  No, I could see the love of God, in everything.  It’s truly amazing!!!  I can’t describe, the joy which can overwhelm me in an instant at the thought of what I see.  I have stopped to embrace this all-consuming experience, and many times, because of our cultural perspective of manliness, I will conceal my tears.  Peter Kreeft, once remarked in his dis-belief of those who claim to speak with God, and yet seem to have no emotion or memory of emotion which isn’t fervent or believable.  In other words he indicated, God, in His sheer goodness should shake us to our core and in being within the presence of this goodness will inadvertently cause us to look within ourselves and be repulsed at the sin which we have allowed to corrupt our very nature.  I would use this example to further explain my point, when I’m around someone who I can very clearly tell is good and kind in their nature, I carry with me a sense of shame because, in my pursuit of God’s love, I am immediately exposed to the truth, I can do more than I am doing as this person has clearly (without saying a word in chastisement) has shown me.  This is what my wife’s question did for me, and this is what my experience is when my hypersensitive experiences are introduced.  I have less of those experiences now, than when I first started having them, but they still come back, and I fully embrace the chance for a realization of emotion attached with a recognition of my failures.  Embracing our sin as a cognitive device to remove it would be the same as a doctor acknowledging the sickness before he can remove it and make you well again.

Right, so there I was answering the most important questions of my life, and the next question popped up, “what is my purpose?”  This question, is on the minds of everyone at some point, I would imagine, and some have answers and some don’t.  When I asked this question, I was at a point in my career and my life where it was evident I wasn’t achieving the goals I set forth for myself.  I had clear intent to attain my degrees and work a job, all the while moving up the ladder of success.  This did not happen, at least not in the way I would ever have imagined.  I was challenged to look at my perceptions and goals, and place a new perspective on something other than a material view.  What was I doing for others, how did I show God’s love in everything I did.  This was further exposed by an understanding of God’s place in my life.  God, who lovingly created me, put me where I would have the greatest opportunity to find love in my life, he does this for all of us, although be it, in different ways.  Some of us must go through great struggle and there are others of us, who must be willing to push those earthly gifts away to create a sacrifice in life for God.  Those little sacrifices are to push those things which keep us further away for the light of Christ and embrace everything we see with an acknowledgement of love.

I was meant to be a loving husband and father.  I was always meant to pursue God and embrace His love with every fiber and ounce of my being.  These were my true goals, and at 35, I realized I had wasted too much time on my personal wants, rather than a determined focus on the unmitigated love of God.

My wife deserves a husband who is patient and loves her for who she is.  This meant for me (I’m still working on this), accepting those things which make her who she is, not who I want her to be.  This can’t be stated more clearly, how can we love anyone if they are not free to choose who and how they want to reciprocate the love in return.  My children deserve a father who is willing to place the principle of love before all things.  This doesn’t mean, I’m their best friend or I won’t become upset at their actions, what it means is I’m willing to teach them what true, unconditional love actually is, and I do this through my actions towards them.  I will admit, my son tests my patience beyond measure at times, but when I give myself enough time to think about him, I am transported to what my mind imagines the pain God must feel when we constantly and without rest test his love.

We test God every second of the day when we fail to repent, through our sinful behavior and through the repulsive behaviors which push Him away from us.

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This brings us to the final question, and the hardest from the standpoint of truth.  We as humans have the power to decide two pathways to travel down.  The first is the pathway which God has placed before us, a pathway which is laid with obstructions and bends so severe we risk failure at every turn.  Though this is our perception when we look with our eyes, it is much different when we acknowledge what we see with our hearts.    Those bends and slopes create in us a need to slow down and find God, nothing in life is truly gained by running so fast we miss everything around us.  This is the first path, the journey is our journey of love, the pathway we might seek to embrace an unconditional love of God.  The second path is a path of self.  A pathway where we control our destiny, or at least we try to control our means and end.  This pathway is straighter and less narrow, it has less obstructions, and we find there are many people on this path but no one person is concerned about us and our journey just their own.  How can we find joy in people who aren’t concerned, at every unconditional level, about us?  The answer is, we just can’t, and we can’t pursue the desires of another and hope to find the joy of God.  Ok, so the moment of truth came when I was tasked to answer, “Where do we go when we die”?  This was the fundamental question, the question when once asked and answered should be the direction we base our entire lives going forward on.  So, I did.  Based on everything I know of this world, and those who’ve been kind enough in their lives to exhibit God’s love, I chose God.  I want to be in an existence where I can fall in love with the creator of all things and do so in a way where I’m not creating an issue of being forced to decide.  This was the inevitable truth and I accepted it with all my heart.

At the end of the day, the decision was a fork in the road.  Either I could believe or not believe, and if I chose to not believe (deluding myself from every bit of evidence and what I knew to be certain in my heart), then I would lead a life answering only unto myself with a moral compass set only to an emotive true north.  On the other hand, believing in God presented a multifaceted acceptance.  An acceptance of an objective truth, a way as it were for me to direct my energies.  I was given a solid black and white paradigm to accept, it was the belief in a true right and a true wrong.  Something I could tangibly rest my back upon for the rest of my life, and this was what I was always searching for.  My heart longed for something and I tried to fill it with everything possible, except the one thing which would keep it full.  God’s love is what I was searching for, and in this I found the answer to absolutely every question I ever had.

The meaning in my life was God, the joy which was a side-effect of loving God has brought a fulfillment of riches regarding my marriage and my family life.  I see people so much more differently now than I ever did, and in the process of seeing them differently I recognize everyone is precious in the sight of God.  If God loves you as much as he does me, then how can I not love whom my heavenly father loves.  Heaven is the joining of this world and the throne with which God sits.  Since my pitiful attempt to describe the indescribable is the best I can do, we will just have to imagine the original tear in the fabric of life being brought back together where we will walk in communion with God in the cool of the evening as Adam once did.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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What Does Devotion Mean to You?

In my own life, it took falling down, and disappointing almost everyone I knew for me to realize, my desire to seek selfish goals was achieving the figurative equivalent of pouring out God’s precious blessings.

Devotion is such an interesting word, often overused to indicate one’s pursuit of a goal as a means to an end.  Though, if we delve deeper into just what devotion is, I think we might be surprised.  Every example of the definition of devotion has a moniker of love associated with it.  Either through the pursuance of faith, religion, or even the love of a spouse and children.  Typically this might involve a sense of urgency as it relates to want or desire pertaining the devotion.  It would perhaps carry a zeal or enthusiasm as we approach anything in context to our devotion.  Where we begin to trip up is the self-interpretive benchmark our culture lays on our shoulders to create a devotee status which is worthy of our peers.  In other words, our society seems to place an importance on our personal devotions which is neither substantive to our personal pursuits but instead becomes a socialistic collective of ideas bound to meet an ideology of equality in outcomes.  Ok, so this is was a mouthful, the lay version of this is, people have their own pursuits and want us to want what they want.  If we do, they are pleased with us, and if we don’t we seem to be a pariah to them or to their cause.  So, the question comes back, and hopefully we can discuss this in depth as a matter of interpretation and fulfillment of our devotional development.  Where does your devotion stand, based on the influences of our culture?

Let me begin by saying, everyone is on their own spiritual journey in life, so for anyone of us to think or believe we’ve cornered the market in devotions would be tantamount to a priggish snobbery.  There is no place in the Heavenly context we talk about for behaviors such as this.  However, if we approach our faith and our interactions with all of God’s people as a matter of zeal and an enthusiasm, seeking not to tear away (as is the devil’s desire), but to bring together as in one “church”, one “body”, then we’ve found the truth of a true devotion.  Every day, I run into people who are on one path or another, some are seeking the spiritual guidance of God, and others are just trying to tread water in this world long enough to see earthly goals realized.  Though, objectively speaking, where do we go when we’ve been blessed to see our earthly goals come to fruition?  Do we stop, or is it human nature to seek more and more?  My money is on human nature, although imprinted with the image of God, seeks to fulfill its own accord or desire.  Sacrifice isn’t apart of measure of achieving more.  In my own life, it took falling down, and disappointing almost everyone I knew for me to realize, my desire to seek selfish goals was achieving the figurative equivalent of pouring out God’s precious blessings.  I was shouting in the silence, “I don’t need you”, all the while being miserable with what I was seeking.

There are numerous types of devotions, and I want to discuss what I see as the top three.  The first being our pure and truthful devotion to God.  The second is our devotion to the covenants and missions we chosen in life.  The third is one’s devotion to their family.  As you can see, none of the devotions can be truly realized without the first, in the context of truth.  However, when we attempt to put the second or third devotion over our devotion to God, we find a misappropriation not altogether wrong, but somewhat misplaced.  Take for instance the beauty of a flower, to recognize its beauty is epidermal, and to associate a function of the senses proves to be yielding of purpose.  Though this purpose could wane with mood or time, and our once simple devotion no longer exists as a matter of course.  This all changes, of course, when we look deeper into the meaning of the flower and to its lineage of creation.  This is to say, when we peel back the layers of the flower’s inevitable creation, we see God as the architect of this beautiful, and seemingly insignificant portion of our lives.  Now, the observation takes on a new priority, and in this priority, we find as we stop and “smell the roses” we are not just appreciating the sights and smells of this beautiful example of nature.  We are also finding appreciation in the gifts God gave us as a matter of natural design.  So, perspective changes all solutions.  This is to say, our devotions will take on new characteristics as our perspective of God and our natural existence changes.

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In descending order, let’s look at the devotions one-by-one.  The third, family, a devotion worthy of kings but given as a gift to even the poorest of beggars.  The family is so important to God, he choose to lower himself, as a man, and be born of a woman, who was betrothed to man.  Then to be raised by this family, until such time as the fulfillment of the ultimate sacrifice would come to pass.  The apostles walked with Jesus, and created an ad hoc family of believers specifically focused on the evangelization of the world.  As we can see, family should be in the upper three and we should never dilute the importance of family, let alone allow culture to dictate what the definitions of family should be.  Here is where devotion should play its most significant part.  We devote ourselves to raising families and teaching our children the ways of Christ, and in doing so we build upon the stone foundations set by Christ Himself, leveled and adjusted as the cornerstone of life.  Men, our wives are there for us and we are there for them.  We enter into a covenant with God, when we enter marriage (nothing to be taken lightly, I assure you), and we create a physical family focused on the rearing of children and teaching them the ways of Christ as they were taught to us.  So, what if we weren’t taught the ways of Christ, and this is all news to us?  Good news, The Catholic Church is the “Universal Church”, in other words, the biggest family you could ever know.  Not here to judge, and never here to condemn, but instead here to pour forth compassion, and teach us everyone is invited to the table of redemption and love.  This is what we must teach our children and this is what we must show our spouses.  This isn’t easy, to be certain, choosing the covenant of marriage and choosing to raise children with my wife, has been by far one of the toughest choices of my life.  However, I tell my kids all the time, “go to the hard” your results may vary, and you might just fail, though failing isn’t the end, it shows we must try harder.  The knowledge of seeing where we must go is God’s gift to us.

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I personally can attest to the forgiving nature of my wife and my kids when it comes to my failures.  I cannot state this with enough importance, I am a hard person to know, and I thank God for the gifts of my family, and of the family of The Church.  We are all one family, maybe not by blood or in the natural law abiding sense of the description, but as devotion goes with God, we are all family in the ecumenical bonds set forth by Jesus Christ himself, even with those who don’t believe at all.  Just like a family member who refuses your company (I have one of those), all we can do is lovingly want the best for this family member, and then pray this blessing for them.  Perhaps they will walk our path with us once more and we can rebuild and repair as we journey through redemption.  Make family a priority, treat everyone as a meaningful person who we can be more with, in doing this we might just be able to move the obstacle of egotism away from our path.

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The second devotion (covenants and missions) is more hidden in our lives but carries with it the interpretation of God, and the point of views we possess as they translate into our daily activities.  I already wrote about the covenant of marriage, and in this I discussed its application as a familial matters are concerned.  Now, let’s talk about the covenant as it relates to our spouse.  This person whom you choose and they choose you, and just how this daily gift can be looked at as a struggle or as a blessing.  Early on in my marriage with my wife, I perceived everything I did as “the struggle”, never to be undone but to be layered one struggle upon another.  In doing so, I blamed everyone else for my problems, and I wanted them to feel sorry for whatever predicament I was in.  Even if this predicament was of my own making, and if as a matter of course I was facing the consequence of my decisions.  As a point of fact, I didn’t devote myself to my marriage and this was its faltering.  My wife was willing to work hard until she could see I wasn’t and in the overall process we allowed our feelings and egos to decide best course of action.  Emotive responses are good for the movies but have little place in the decision to do what’s best when discussing true problems with any relationship.  We often forget, the dynamic of any covenant is a realization of our place within the covenant.  Too often, in our culture, we see people demanding an answer for evil, demanding to see a relationship with God on an inverse level.  They subordinate the Most High, into a subservient position as a requirement to answer questions which within the context of understanding or not knowable.  Cardinal Sarah (Power of Silence) indicates we neither can know the highest of the highs or the lowest of the lows, but we insist on an answer.  The covenant between us and God, isn’t a matter of knowledge as to how, but rather as to why.  The answer as to why, is all just a matter of love.  Love is God, in every pure and concentrated way possible, and as we approach our covenants and missions we must do so as God has done with us, in love.

The second part of the second devotion is our mission, our perception of the work with which God lays out before us.  A choice as always, because love is not love if we don’t have the free will to choose to love in the first place.  Though our perception of a loving God, is the fire for the enthusiasm to approach our mission as reflect the goodness and love of our creator.  I’ve discussed “mission” in the past, and let me say, my mission is what brings to reality the true desire to seek the redemption God is so willing to give.  It is also the pathway which allows me to stop wandering in the desert of doubt, and instead head for the mountain of faith.  Without my mission in life, which for me is to be a husband and a father (in that order), and to be a reflective light for all of God’s people.  No matter the perception of anyone else, I am here to be a reflection of the Light of Christ, and in doing so be an example to show love in any and every way possible.  I must confess, I still have a long road to travel, I seem to trip and fall a great deal, but this hasn’t discouraged me one bit.  I can still see the mountain, and I am as energized to and full of strength to pursue my faith as I’ve ever been in my life.

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Finally, the first devotion, God.  This is a devotion we were all born to realize.  Some of us do, and some of us fail to see where devotion should always be.  When we pursue anything in life, without the guidance or devotion of God, we find the pursuits can be meaningful at times, even to fulfill somewhat the desires we set as goals.  Though, with enough water which passes under the bridge, we become unfulfilled once more, seeking more goals to get us back to where we have a sense of purpose or even belonging.  If we think of this like the addict we might just see many familiar traits, both ending in death, and both being abundantly clear to the objective observer, this life was wasted in the greater context of life in general.  As I discussed earlier the cultural predication, we deserve an explanation, runs counter to any meaningful relationship we could possibly want or know.  Logical fallacy as a matter of course seems to be the ruling ideology of the day.  We can apply, as a culture, a system of fallacies which neither prove a point nor can be sustained as a pillar of an argument, and then we vacillate between fallacies in order to create false equilibriums of perceptions and right actions.  Supposition, as we know it today, is more an art form of fallacy, than it is of following and interpreting evidence of anything as one would deduce a set of clues.

To be sure, evil exists in our world, and this evil is set on the destruction of love, the separation of covenants, the diminution of family, and the belief there is nothing but what we see and what we know as the objective truth.  Our devotion to God, changes all of this.  I know evil exists, and I know this evil does terrible things to all people no matter the place or time, but I also am aware of an existence of the loving embrace of God.  This embrace is indicative above all else, which is as terrible as evil is, it becomes inconsequential to the overall narrative with which life has been written.  It is our choice to accept what we can’t change, but to know it is God who lifts us up, and not the other way around.  The topic of devotion to God, has filled the pages of books, beginning with the Gospels, epistles, writings of the Old Testament, and the inspired writing of authors for millennia.  I would never presume to come close to the writings of the masters who were titans to my insignificant attempts.  Though, if I had one take away to give to anyone reading, my life has utterly changed with my devotion to God.  For years I was stumbling around in a darkened room of awareness.  This awareness, seemingly innate, was telling me to open my eyes to the truth.  It was painful, to the extent, I wasn’t forced to tear anything down, and I gladly did so.  The truth hurt because it was growth, and any real growth in our lives should involve a level of pain.  The pain which I felt, in some cases has become the signal my devotion was right, and in other cases has become an expected portion of my spiritual growth.  I would be ridiculous to think my devotion to God was as simple as truth and understanding.  The hurt still hurt, the poor still exist, and the evil in this world still hunts the weak of spirit.  Our devotion to God, is our first line of defense against the, for lack of a better expression, ways of evil this world chooses to thrive on.

None of us are immune to sin, and we’ve all let our devotion wane from time-to-time, but the redemption we seek is a matter of accepting the truth.  Hans Urs Von Balthasar remarked about the “theo-drama”, a play which is produced, directed, and written by God, only to be countered by the “ego-drama” which is a play written, directed, produced, and stars us.  This is something we all insist on being in, and why our devotion seemingly diminishes or at least teeters on a brink at all times.  We are all cast in God’s “theo-drama” some big, some small, but the truth is we have the perfect part, one written especially for us.  This is the truth, no one want to witness a play where one actor upstages all, and demands more than others.  Instead, we want to be a part of something which allows our devotion to expose the relevancy of our existence as it translates to the creator.  We want to play the part with the most love we can provide.  Remember, truth isn’t a matter of interpretation, it just is, as God is “ispsum esse subsistens”, the very nature of being itself.  God isn’t changed and will forever continue on the path of existence within our lives whether we accept this truth or not.  I hope I’ve brought salient points of interest to the forefront of your mind with what I’ve written, at the very least, hopefully these topics will allow you to think and discern the needed devotion to God and the way in which you love yourself, those closest around you, and for better or worse the world.  I pray God places many blessings over you and your family, and these abundant blessings will help you attain a new perspective on your devotion to life and God.

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Are You Wandering In The Desert?

God’s Grace is the living breathing functionality of love, and then all at once it culminates in the one great sacrifice, Jesus.  Within this sacrifice, we see the desert for what it really is, a treacherous gift.

From time-to-time we hear about someone wandering the desert, and I’m not sure we assume a literal translation but either something of a metaphor or an allegory to teach us what we may need to know. At the very least, remind us of what we’ve forgotten.  However, if we look at the overall paradigm of our lives and their relation to an eternal existence, we see how the wandering we do in this desert of life is set more profoundly than we could ever imagine.  There is a deeper meaning to all of this, if we’re willing to look around and ask those hard questions which never come with easy answers.  This desert write about, seeks to confuse us with mirages and the promise of salvation just over the next hill.  This false hope we chase is bent on giving us an earthly fulfillment but when we really examine the fountain of knowledge we see, we find nothing more than the proverbial sand and wind so many have endured before.  So, are we truly lost in a desert?  Are we being led to the oasis which is a truthful promise of our life and salvation, or are we just wandering aimlessly, just filling time as we see it? Do we attach ourselves to those people who will help lead us through the desert of life, and do we trust them enough to help lead us?  The next question which comes to my mind, is who do we trust, and how do we know to trust them?

I’ve read, and listened to speakers talk about the wanderings of Jesus, as he didn’t so much wander in the desert, but embraced it.  Jesus, fervently approached a time of fasting and want as those necessary steps in the ultimate sacrifice he would inevitable make for each one of us.  St. Theresa of Lisieux, who in her writing “Story of A Soul”, remarks over and over again about her excitement in the sacrifice which would be asked of her.  Her story of course, is an extraordinary one, but not a story of bewilderment.  She approached The Trinity with a fervor and an innocence, I’ve never encountered before.  Her laments in life were over what we would admonish as a mere triviality, and yet she begged in some ways for hardships and tests so as to prove her devotion.  She aggressively pursued a relationship with God, this pursuit, until her death, was a reflection of the vigor Jesus displayed to all of us as he walked in the desert.

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So, the question comes back to the forefront.  How and who do we know to trust to lead us through the desert we wander in life?  I know it’s too simple to suggest we listen to the voice of God, but in truth, this is the answer.  Quiet yourself, allow your heart, your ears, and your soul to hear the silent voice of God as you begin to pray.  It’s not a matter of sitting still, though it can be, but more a matter of the willingness to be patient and focus on all around us.  To sit in awe, as it were, and notice every inch of every movement, and every sway of every branch to be the integral creation (beyond our mere comprehension) of God.  God’s Grace is the living breathing functionality of love, and then all at once it culminates in the one great sacrifice, Jesus.  Within this sacrifice, we see the desert for what it really is, a treacherous gift.  I know this may sound like your standard oxymoron, but let’s think about it.  In past writings, I imbued the concept of falling, not for the sake of our pain, but for the instrument of God’s love in the greater cognitive reality of our lives.  We stumble, that we might realize the need and love in our lives provided by God.  Isn’t this true for everything?

I had a discussion with my wife the other day, and we talked about the incomprehensibility of people only willing to accept part of a truth.  In other words, they cherry pick what is important to their point and seemingly forget the rest, although to fully accept the truthful logic presented, one must accept the whole truth.  We can’t drive the car without gas, we need all of it for it to work.  The objective truth, is neither concerned or acknowledges ignorance or willful disobedience.  Though you cannot willfully acknowledge an untruth and carry with you the credence of logic or proper discourse, there will always exist and fallacy of truth exposed by the existence of objective truth.   It just is, and in its being, we can either accept or deny.  Even though we can exist in the gray matter of ambiguity, we are still challenged to accept or deny as a matter of faith, logic, understanding, and pursuit.  Some of us get into trouble, pursuing an ends, which is neither truthful nor morally sound.  We attempt to pursue a pathway which is untruthful, whether we acknowledge this or not.  Any pathway which leads us from the truth carries with it, the opposite of love, and the opposite of God.

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Ok, so why is the desert of life a treacherous gift, because we need this gift to understand who we are and who God is to us.  We need those hill which move constantly, and those hidden enemies which test us at every turn, but more importantly we need the mundane and never ending perception of blandness to remind us our sacrifice and struggle in our lives and those of the people we come in contact with are the most important.

If any one of us has ever been in a desert, you will find, there is a rugged beauty to what we see.  This goes away quickly, and what we begin to see, is harshness.  There is no water, the animals which seem to inhabit this forsaken land are treacherous.  Snakes, scorpions, and even the plants are all living warnings telling us to stay out.  Though, after our initial shock (especially in life), we begin to look past the epidermal layer of fear, and notice a whole new world of beauty.  We come back to the rugged beauty of our surroundings and we notice, on a deeper level the colors, the movement, the history, and the uniqueness of those entities which desire to keep us out.  With enough time, we are no longer worried about the danger, but wish to explore a newer brighter world which pushes us further and further into the exterior of everything we know, and we push past the barriers to see everything.  All the while, we rely on a deeper voice, God’s Voice, to give us direction in where we must go.

This is where I’ve been in my life, not truly knowing where to go or what to do.  Many friends and family have benefited from the clarity of purpose in their lives as a focus on family or careers.  I wasn’t blessed with this type of focus, but for me, the clarity of a more providential purpose has been my focus of faith.  How do I translate my faith into purpose for my life, and for those around me?  How can I become a true reflection of light to everyone I meet?  In the end, this hasn’t been easy, to say the least.  I seem to be challenged at every turn, either from my relationships in a professional or social environment, to my son and his never-ending challenge to what seems like me personally.  I would translate this as when we first step into the desert, and our perception of the desert.  How we must take everything in before we can truly appreciate it all.  It’s not about the paradigm of the desert, but rather, it is about our recognition of mission as we journey through the desert.

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In my personal relationships with people, and the frustrations which come along with these relationships, I find there is excitement in getting to know the people and finding out about them personally.  This can be difficult to a large extent, especially when everyone is so guarded these days, and we all seem to exhibit an atmosphere of underlying hostility towards society at large.  Though, if we can only imagine, we have opportunities everyday to show God’s light in every situation we are faced with.  Now, I’m not writing this with an exuberant level of optimism, but instead, our situations are loving means to our inevitable ends.  The end being an eternal relationship with a loving God, who desires to be with us and longs for us with open arms.

This becomes the paradigm we exist in, if we accept our faith journey, then truly no matter the situation, our faith becomes paramount.  I know this seems in some ways rudimentary, but the real questions are can we apply this new focus on faith to all situations?  For instance, you’re diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable disease, given only months to live.  Can you accept you’re almost through the wandering desert of your life and although this last challenge will be the hardest, it will be the one you gain the most insight, the most ability to love, and the greatest opportunity to show God’s love.

As we believe we are truly lost in this life, truly lost in this desert, this is where we should be learning to let go and give God the control.  Ok, so what does it mean to give control?  Control, is another way of saying to be patient, accept not everything will go your way, but above all show the true light of God and give love at every turn of your life.  To accept one’s way as a matter of course and quit lamenting the perceived negatives is the first step in our personal focus to look past the barren landscape of the desert and we start to see the colors and beauty of God’s work.  St. Theresa looked forward to the hardships of life, and her laments were more concerned with the frivolities and luxuries of life.  Jesus was asked by a wealthy man with many possessions, because he followed all the commandments, what must be done to inherit the Kingdom of God, and Jesus’s response was “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21-23) Truly all which is being stated here, isn’t the obvious, but instead the focus of our lives.  How can we accept God, if we can’t give ourselves to the journey?  The journey of our wandering through the proverbial desert has become our mission as we seek God.  In Mark, Jesus was asking quite literally and figuratively to follow him.  In the literal sense, he desires us to drop our worldly need for possessions as we seek him, and in the figurative sense, Jesus seemingly was eluding to our ability to focus on the beauty of life, even as we walk through the desert.

So, as I begin to focus on my own desert, I realize, I need my children to challenge me to be a better father.  It’s at those times when my consternation is at a heightened level, I begin to see the colors with which God painted the sands of my life.  They are truly beautiful, and I’m blessed with an abundance of joy and gifts truly given to me by God.  Just now, as I’m writing this, I receive a wonderful blessing as my son tells me goodnight.  He is growing to be a handsome and responsible young man.  He has his whole life ahead of him, and yet he still finds the time to come and tell his old man good night.  I’m not saying this is what fatherhood is about, but instead it is one of God’s blessings to allow me and his mother an ability to focus on our task as our son’s parents to teach him about God’s love in its completeness as we understand it.

I’m not saying I have everything figured out, in fact, I don’t.  I get more things wrong than I get right, and this frustrates me almost to the point of exhaustion.  Though, I see everyday the light shining brighter and brighter in my life.  With every passing moment and every written word, I find more strength to become a reflection of this light and become a beacon for others who wonder in their own deserts.  This has been done for me, by my parents, and by those people who have entered the pathway in my life and lovingly helped me.

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Why do we wander?  I think above all else, we wander because we are looking to be filled, much like the man who was unwilling to give away his possessions.  We want eternal love, but at first, we might just be too unwilling to put in the work, especially for something we can neither tangibly see or know.  However, this is our faith.  This is the journey, to give one’s self over to God, even when everyone disagrees.  To wander the desert with him, and know, he holds us up through everything which comes our way.  To realize, although things don’t turn out the way we imagined or wanted, to assume we know the narrative of God’s plan is to become the epitome of arrogance.  This is perhaps why we wonder the most, we allow our egos to interceded and decide our path, instead of our hearts.  We look for excitement, instead of love.  Love is our decision, a decision to accept what we cannot change, a decision to embrace who we are and why God loves us.

I hope as you wander through your desert of life, you seek the reflection of God’s light in those around you to indicate which way you should go.  Don’t rely on easy answers for your journey, but don’t expect every step to be drudgery.  Look around, look at God’s beauty in everything.  Who hasn’t ever watched a storm roll in and been amazed by God’s presence in nature?  I know this is an overused line, but stop and smell the roses, and then look deeper into the pistil and the petals.  Go further and think about the design of something so insignificant yet so beautiful in this world.  When God goes to this level for something like a rose, imagine to what level He would go for you.  You are precious in His eyes, and because of his love he longingly wants you to see the beautiful canvas He’s painted for you.  I pray God blesses you and your family in everything you do!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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How Right Are We?

We need to be humbled, we need to seek redemption, and we can only do this by a self-reflective quality which will manifest itself in the silence we seek within the rightness of God’s voice!

Last week I had the pleasure and in some cases the burden of reading N.T. Wright’s book on St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus).  The burden lay in my extreme lack of knowledge of a person who was so instrumental in developing the Christian theology as we practice it today.  This burden was pouring through the details and minutiae which existed based on Wright’s expert knowledge of the subject.  The pleasure in the reading was focused on learning the human aspects of a man, whom God personally chose, to bring the news of life to all peoples.  His focus was primarily on the conversion to Christ.  Christ, whom Paul never met, but who spoke with him on the fated road to Damascus.  The blinding light, the voice, and the redemption given to Paul to proselytize the Christian mission until his dying days.  So, this is where I would like to begin, and discuss the mission, the perceptions Paul faced and how we seem to face very similar derisive decisions in our own world today.  How does this affect our daily lives as husbands and fathers, and just how can we fall more in love with God?

I think it might be fair to say, the ancient world was a tough place to live.  From disease, short-lives, warring regimes, autocratic rule, religious fervor, and hard physical work.  We see a lot to be miserable about but this isn’t what we find when we explore the words of Jesus or the disciples.  We see tremendous hope in the face of the gravest danger, and this is compounded by conditions which would cause any one of us to shrink in our seats with fear.  We see in numerous writings the joy which seemed to be infectious for those early Christian believers, a willingness to enter the homes of strangers, and the walls of societal implement being torn down to receive the open arms of love.  If we were to believe what we see today, we might just think the world was in its own handbasket to hell.  Everyone utilizes their own supposition based on nothing more than just their perceptions, and in the process they go through to know and understand why they believe something amounts to little more than a cursory search of multimedia pictures and click-bait ads.  We are all experts at everything, and we all don’t need to be told how to do anything, especially by older people who are out of touch with reality, right?  Wrong!

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Something which occurred to me when I was reading Wright’s book was, how does he know all of this information?  How can he know so much about a person who lived 2,000 years ago, and at best had very little written to explain motives and understandings of this person?  It hit me with clarity, he knows because of his extensive knowledge of historical writings, of personal experience, of teaching and researching this topic ad nausea, and the culmination of his life’s work allows him to intelligently speak about topics which are as foreign to us as Greek (assuming you don’t speak Greek, but if you do that’s awesome).  The more and more I looked into a person’s expertise the more I was astounded at the authors who neither have an expertise (including myself) and the numbers of people so willing to listen to a person who has no basis of knowledge whatsoever.   I’m not saying the people who aren’t experts are going to make competent comparisons and analysis, but there is a great risk in accepting what is said at face value.  Though we do this on a daily basis.  We listen to the news, and we think because of the perception of the person delivering the news, we can trust what they have to say.  Because the news isn’t so important we must check it daily, we accept stories with little to no fact as truth, and we buy into the acceptance of ideologies which neither have the capability to encapsulate our society nor explain it very well at all.

Non-Expert experts are everywhere.  Their form is usually deceiving, and as life goes leads us down a path of regret and selfishness.  I have been down this path, and I would owe it all to my inability to distinguish between what was really truth and what was not.  I listened to anything which sounded like it made sense, and then built a cognitive stream of thought in order to rest my back upon this new founded information.  At the end of the day though, there always seemed to be a “fly in the ointment” and would cause me to give up my new opinions or beliefs about something.  After a period of time, this became so disconcerting, I almost felt like giving up.  There seemed to be no redemptive quality in my actions, and the more I tried the more it seemed to compound me and cause a disconcerting turn of events to unfold against me.

This was when I began to realize, perhaps I should go deeper in to the meanings and trappings of life and find out a truer purpose than to just live.  This presented me with a challenge, questions down to the very fiber of who I was.  Questions which threatened to dismantle everything I ever thought I believed.  Who is God to me, and just where do I think I go when I die?  These questions have taken many years, and it seems to me, I always knew the answer, but my need to hang on to what was in this life carried precedence, to my shame.

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My questions needed to be answered by those people who seemed to float in and out of my life, by the circumstances of everyday and the experiences I dealt with daily.  I was given answers to these questions when I least expected it, but people I never thought would have the answers, and most importantly my humiliation was key to a realization of humility which for me is soul saving.  This isn’t to presume I don’t continue to make mistakes daily, as though I’m in a contest to win a prize for the person who makes dumb decisions.  I still have days which make me scratch my head and wonder just how I could have done something so selfish or stupid.  However, on the overall scheme of things, I see a growth in myself which seems to breed an overflowing abundance of joy.

Those times which I just knew I was right, I was completely wrong, and this acknowledgement of my own flawed paradigm gave me the clarity to realize.  We are all like this, we are seeking to prove our points of rightness, but we are all guilty of a failure to realize we don’t know everything.  Not only do we not understand or have the ability to conceive everything in a competent way, we are miserable at it.  Oh sure, we have experts on the law, on art, or ever on politics.  Though, I find most people are seeking some truth in life, to become an expert in anything else is a way to fill the gaps in the more important question, who is God to you?

Ok, so the gauntlet has been thrown down.  Is God your main point of purpose?  Do you wake up and constantly think about God throughout your day?  For most people the answer is no, and they have their “right” way of perception and a belief in their “rightness”.  However this amounts to little more than a grasping of earthly footholds in an attempt to ascend a mountain of unknowable dimensions.  The only way to truly ascend this mountain is to allow God’s loving hand to gently set us atop.  The analogous understanding in all of this is, we are always in God’s hand and when we attempt to do it ourselves, we are trying to leave the grasp of the one who loves us the most.  Think back on times, in your own family when you push away those who would love you unconditionally, and in your attempt to free yourself and possess the “rightness” you so desired, you were willing to hurt in the most egregious ways.

This is where I’ve been, I’ve been at the precipice of life thinking I was completely right, and when finally exposed to the objective truth, I was shocked.  I was shocked at just how little thought I put into those things which required the most thought, and I was shocked at the depths with which I was accepted by those whom I hurt the most.  This prompted me to begin to look at the world in a completely different way.  I was willing to explore everything in its deepest way, to search for the meaning I could find in all of it.  Believe me, this can be exhausting, but in the best possible way.  The most exhausting part of my new perception has been to realize, most people don’t want to go too deep for fear of getting the answer I was so afraid to find out myself.  Some people are sure, like I was, I am wrong and they don’t want to hear what I have to say which brings me to the next big point.  A knowledge of the truth isn’t about telling everyone you meet, it’s about showing everyone you meet.  Let them figure out through observation and discussion just why you are who you are.  Let them know, your only motivation in life is the pursuance of God’s love.  In this and only in this can you be a reflection of Christ’s light.

Now this isn’t to say, when you meet people you are bound to silence, we aren’t Trappist, but what we are, are people in awe of God.  Delving deeply in to a love for God, means simply finding the deepest possible meaning in everything, even those which aim to hurt us and cause a tearing of the fabric to which we would cling in this life.  It will present a paradigm, whereby God is our focus, and because we can never hope to completely comprehend his reasoning, we can accept it more fully.

My role as a father is a challenge every day, my wife challenged me a few days ago about my need to be more as a father to my kids.  This wasn’t accepted well, but she wasn’t wrong.  Her observations of my actions, and furthermore willingness to face my anger over her understanding of “rightness” as it pertains to the objective truth, was what my soul needed to accept the task, one more time, to try harder as a father.  I was also challenged to accept, I wasn’t right in this instant, I was completely wrong.  My back also felt this, as I was presented with a night on the couch as a means of my stubbornness to prove just how right I was.

As it just so happens, when I was more level headed the next day, and for all intents and purposes very humbled by just how wrong I actually was.  I could see a definitive change in my interactions with everyone.  It was as if I had been walking around in the dark, and suddenly the room was filled with bright light to illuminate the fact I was always standing near the door.  My wife is a true reflection of God’s light in my life, and she is right most of the time because of this.  I can only hope to have as much fervor and love for God as she does.  I have so long to go, but I’m not discouraged in the least way.  I am looking forward to my journey.  I have conversed with several people about what I write, both good and bad, but I’ve learned something from everyone.  I am so very thankful for God’s graces to be poured out in the manner in which I’ve received them.  My stubborn need to be right, and my acceptance of just how wrong has been the sanctified understanding, my life is meant for more than just waking up and doing a job while running through the motions.

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No matter what is happening to us at any given time, we must look deeper in to whatever it is we do.  In most cases, as they pertain to life and God overall, we might just find we are more wrong than we are right.  This should humble each and everyone one of us!  When I entered my graduate program for business many years ago, I was challenged by a professor who asked each and every one of us, if we were aware of just how much we didn’t know.  When I was asked, all I could see was a forest of knowledge and me standing on its edge fearfully waiting to enter.  Don’t let fear hold you back from pursuit of God, don’t let fear dictate what you will or won’t do when it comes to the truth.  Don’t be afraid of fear, don’t be subject to the paralysis which accompanies a fearful life.  Go out and be a disciple of Christ, and spread the message of God through your works.  As fathers and husbands, we must do this, we must be the example to our kids and our spouses.  Although they may not say it to us, they rely on us.  Although, my wife keeps me centered on us, she needs me to do the same for her when it comes down to it, but she also needs to be evenly yoked with me.  Which above all else requires my dedication to my marriage and my family.  If one spouse is doing all the work, the burden will be too heavy to sustain and will eventually cause the dissolution of the marriage, the failure of the covenant before God.  When we let go and give everything we have to God, then although the world will still continue to move around us, we will have joy about it.  Although we will still face hardness of hearts and times which cause deep sadness, we will still have joy in the understanding we are here for more than what amounts to a glimmer of time.  We are here for more than to just be right, we are here to be wrong and recognize it.  We need to be humbled, we need to seek redemption, and we can only do this by a self-reflective quality which will manifest itself in the silence we seek within the rightness of God’s voice!

I do hope some of my words will help, especially if you are struggling today with your life.  You are truly loved and you are truly special in God’s eyes, but also every Christian who stops and answers those questions I posed to myself.

So I want to ask one more time, for you, as well as for myself.  Who is God to you?  Where will you go when you die?  I hope these questions are a permanent fixture in your life from this day forward, if they already weren’t.  Joy in life isn’t about being right, it’s about filling yourself up on the abundance of love provided only by God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Is Stubbornness a Good Thing?

“Are we satisfied with cultural status quo, and are we better served to leave things as they are or search for an objective truth?”

I think it’s fair to say, anyone who has ever met me and of course known me for any time at all would characterize me as being a little stubborn.  Once I have something set in my mind about what anything should or should not be, I’m almost impossible to convince otherwise.  In my defense, I spent inordinate amounts of time searching for an answer before setting my mind to a point.  Therefore, I’m a little stubborn when it comes to what I think, and how I interpret what is happening.  I will also argue, as my mom has stated for years, “with a brick wall, if he thinks he can win”.  True as well, I’m not satisfied with listening to anyone’s point which carries either a logical fallacy, or clearly hasn’t been thought out well.  This is a common phrase I hear from people when I talk about something and proceed to enter a deeper thought stream regarding the point, “I don’t know, I just don’t think about things that deeply, most people don’t look at it that way!”.  At this point, I almost can’t see straight with the ludicrousness with the phrase just spoken to me.  Whereby I will begin to start justifying why I do what I do, and hope (at least in the back of my mind), they nod and say, ‘you know what, you’re right, I was wrong in how I perceived things my whole life”.  So, this is a mountain of stubbornness, I’ve been working on most of my life.  I think people could agree, stubbornness can be good in some instances, and because of a prideful affect detrimental in other situations.  I want to write a little on just what these have done to really create a positive and negative situation in my life, and perhaps we have similar stories.

From the earliest age I can remember, I could think fast, and usually fast enough to have a quick-witted, and usually unkind response to anything anyone stated.  Sometimes, my responses were met with laughter and other times a look of awkwardness on the faces of people standing near me as if I’d relieved myself completely unawares.  In fact, I’ve made a true ass of myself so many times, I qualify some statements to people with a phrase, “I hope what I’m about to say isn’t offensive to you”.  Over the years, I’ve taken a more rigid and institutional look at my opinions as they pertain to my discussions and found, if I don’t have any experience and I’m not well read on the topic, it’s probably best I keep the information to myself.  This has given me great results over the last few years, but I still step in it from time-to-time.  What I will say is, because I’ve tripped up so many times in the past, I feel as if I’ve got a good point of reference when talking to my kids.  I can literally see what they’re doing and remember when I did the same thing, and I can tell them (not that they listen that much) not to do whatever it is they’re going to do.  My stubbornness in its infancy has created a stubborn need to keep pursuing a correctness and in some way perfection to “get it right”.  Nowadays, I would rather read ten books about a topic before talking about it, because I don’t want to be embarrassed again.  I think we can all reason with this in some small way, no one wants to be humiliated because they didn’t think something out properly and were eviscerated by another’s argument to a point, the scar can still be felt a decade later.

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I feel like stubbornness is like a mutant power from the X-Men and all I’ve needed to do was harness it.  Of course, this is a silly notion on the surface, but when we delve a little deeper, we see truly everything should be something like this notion of expertise.  I have natural ability to argue, or at least pick a side and think cogent thoughts to make my point.  I don’t always convince, but at the same time, they don’t walk away from the table saying to themselves, I have no idea what he was saying.  However, at the same time, I spend more time stirring up whatever it is I’m talking about, instead of true points of conviction being harnessed.  My stubborn nature finds this to be a goal worthy of pursuing, but not at the cost of anything or anyone else.  I can see the same nature in my children when they want me to allow them to do something, I otherwise said, “no”, to and I’m asking them to convince me.

All of this is less of an attempt to show anyone I know what I’m talking about, than to raise the question, “Are we satisfied with cultural status quo, and are we better served to leave things as they are or search for an objective truth?”.  On the surface when I ask people about this, they always say, “objective truth, of course”; however, when they are confronted with the actual objective truth, they tend to shy away and back track.  It seems the truth has a way of confronting anyone, especially if their beliefs are wrong, or their understandings are completely inaccurate, of exposing them and at the same time in the silence of their minds shaming them.  Who wants to be shamed, I sure as heck don’t, so like many people, I myself have run the opposite direction of truth many times.

However, do we have the stubbornness to eventually accept, we were wrong, and then to move in the direction of truth, no matter what castigating vitriol we must face to get the truth we seek?  Take for instance our political climate we deal with from day-to-day, currently we have three relevant perspectives.  All three have in their own ways valid points of view, and all three have relevant areas of needed development.  For many years I tottered with an idea where I would look to the most relevant at any given time, but the problem with looking at things this way makes subjectivity (my truth) the qualifier.  This never works, because my subjectivity could change from day-to-day, as many people’s perspectives do in our ever-changing cultural landscape.  In this case, what does a man of faith do?  Do I hang on to a platitude as a common phrase spoken, or do I challenge myself to pursue the objective.  Since asking myself this question many years ago, I’ve concluded (see why I’m so stubborn), objectivity is the only way to pursue anything at all.  This means, principles must be adhered to, and objectivity is always the pursuit of truth in everything.  We should be stubborn about this.  We should always apply a litmus test, which when it doesn’t pass, the point is cast aside until another can challenge and defeat the point we now possess.  The great thing about objective truth as we pursue this understanding with our completely stubborn nature is, it is what it is and we can see in the entirety a fairer way will never be met past a certain point.

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Take for instance an argument where one player takes an argument to a valid extreme, but the other player, because of recognition of the truth which has just been exposed fails to acknowledge this truth and either ridicules or dismisses what was stated almost immediately.  So, out of stubbornness, because the first player sees the truth, they try again, and once again the second player refuses the attempt.  Is it at this point, player one should relinquish their pursuit or continue to challenge?  In my experience, player one should stop, otherwise their stubborn need to be right will subvert anything they could hope to attain through this conversation.  Ideas are seeds meant to be planted in the mind of another, if they are truthful, all ever need be done is to plant and leave alone.  If we continue to pursue without changing our perspective we, risk uprooting whatever has been done.  Therefore, in an argument, an extreme case should always be offered to meet the extreme confines of the paradigm, and if shown not to destroy the argument, you’ve attained a truth, at least within the argument.  Maintaining this principle out of stubborn pride, is wrong, but maintaining this principle out of a stubborn need for a pursuit of objectivity is right.

So how do we know when we should pump the brakes or continue ahead?  Are there warning signs to let us know when we may be taking it too far?  Of course, there are warning signs, but generally experience is the only way to recognize, unless we get a “life” coach and the coach can be with us every day of the week and will sit back quietly to watch our actions, and based on their experience will only speak up when they can see us going awry with our actions.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but I think this would be a silly notion. Which usually leads to another parallel, as smart as people may be, there is no substitution of experience.  Thinking one’s way out of a situation is terrific, but only one theoretical point of view is grasped within this convention of solution.  When we hire, or promote anyone with experience to a position of leadership or coaching, we are really looking for a successful track record of experience which will allow for difficult situations to occur, as they do in anything, but to have a leader at the helm who knows exactly how to handle them.  Within most police departments there is usually a minimum amount of time before anyone can be considered a supervisor, not because an effort to discriminate is prevailing, but simply a matter of time must exist for a potential candidate to attain supervisory levels needs the experience to handle what ultimately, they will need to know when faced with similar situations under their watch.  I think it would be a good use of stubbornness to continue an effort holding to a standard such as this; when we allow some levels of hubris to enter our stubborn pursuits, we will always fall short of any glory we hope to have.

I will admit, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken my stubbornness superpower to the very next level.  In my attempt to teach my children and a husband to my loving wife, I’ve failed miserably.  I’ve been so stubborn as not to take the advice of my wife or recognize the imploring needs of my children for one thing or another.  It’s so easy to write off what I do, or rather what any of us do as a matter of course or in the end, we never meant to achieve such dubious goals in life.  Though with much thought, I must admit, I failed them at this point, and it’s up to me to make it better.  I was fortunate to listen to a wonderful homily given by our local priest, and his explanation of fear was one of the best I’ve ever heard.  His exemplification of the normal paradigm we all face was our lack of doing what is right comes from the innate fear we have for whatever it is we attempt.  His point was rather, if we fail to do anything at all, it has more to do with our own failure to attempt to accomplish a goal, and saying to ourselves, “I’m no good for any of this, so why even try”.  So, in retrospect, we fear the change of life, so we subordinate ourselves to being stubborn, so in futility we hope we can stop time by saying “no”.  This is where I’ve been for the last couple of weeks, my focus has been on me and what I want, rather than sacrificing my time for God.

So, if you will forgive my absence from writing over the last couple weeks, and if you will accept my confession of selfishness and the stubborn pursuit of “me”.

At the end of the day, no one person is immune to a condition of stubbornness; the real question happens to be more a matter of do we have the self-reflective ability to change our ways when we can see the bigger picture and realize our actions are going nowhere.  Being able to step back from whatever paradigm we happen to live in and look at outside influences and apply a healthy principled foundation to whatever decision we make will help all of us be better men, fathers, and husbands.  Our roles in this world require of us a tremendous responsibility, so being stubborn until you have the full objective truth is an absolute must.  Don’t ever bend to the feelings of society, especially when you know those subjective feelings can turn on you in an instant.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Why Do We Never Have Enough Time?

God’s love isn’t about rules, it’s about the pursuance of his affection, and in this pursuance, your guidelines to stay on the lighted path will appear to be rules, but really, they are instructions to find your way home.

Do we ever really have enough time in our lives to do what we want to do?  So, there seems to be two valid yet disqualifying answers when we really think about our lives.  Yes, we always have plenty of time to do what is needed.  At the same time, do we ever truly do what we ought to do?  The answer to the second question seems to be a resounding, “no!”  For me personally, I find a multitude of items to fill the space, and none of them ever completely fill the void.  Instead seemingly prolong an internal agony I feel constantly by not placing the most primary goals and items in my life in the appropriate order.  Deep down the worst part is I really do know where I need to be, but my laziness, and indeed acacia have proven to get the better of me.  I know a deep recognition resides in the most quiet and resolute places of my soul.  Those places which recognize God as being my sole purpose in life, but instead of keeping his love and presence as front and center to my everyday actions, I find I seek out, with what time I have something other than the truth as a replacement.  So, when I do finally realize my shortcoming, I say to myself, “I never have enough time!”.  Which, for all intents and purposes, is one more lie to myself and to God, whom I love but not enough to be honest.

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Ok, so here’s the rub, we are all given a specified amount of time to exist in this earthly life, and we are challenged to live life to the fullest.  I once heard a homily given by a priest friend, who exclaimed, we should be living every day as though it is our last.  We should be living every day as if we were given the terminal diagnosis, which interpreted properly gives a time-stamp to our days.  A gift as it were, a period for us to realize our own mortality and make best use of time.  I am sure many people look on death or the circumstances of sickness and then subsequent death as an awful transaction of a godless world, but I don’t see it this way at all.  We are all creations of God, and in the process of living an earthly life we must live it fully, loving all we are in contact with, and at the same time finding our own path (lighted by God) to fall in love with the One True God.  Since all our pathways are separate but uniquely convergent as well, we find intersections of pain and loss along the way.  No one enjoys pain, hence the word, but to the extent we experience life, isn’t most of our life attenuated by the reduction of pain?  Think back on a time where we did experience a real pain, perhaps a loss of a loved one, or the failure of a much-anticipated goal.  Didn’t we learn from our experience, don’t we carry that pain in some small measure with us?  If it is true pain, doesn’t it linger with us, when our presence of mind is consulted about what we should do next?  The entire misconception is, we are the doctors to affect the healing of our own pain.  We aren’t, how many doctors have you ever met, perform open heart surgery on themselves, it just doesn’t happen, but without the much-needed surgery, they will die.  The surgeon must rely on another to help in the process of dealing with the pain, and then in the process of moving past the pain.  An open-heart surgery patient, if coaxed to do so, will indicate what they’ve dealt with in overcoming their pain as it relates to the physical and mental of the surgery.  Isn’t this like those of us who’ve dealt with some form of pain in their lives?  A properly healed wound isn’t something someone is afraid of confronting, but a wound still in need of proper healing will continue to fester and with writhe with pain.  When asking myself the question of time, and realizing I was avoiding the answer all along, the recognition of my avoidance, and the flood of a realization of the emotional and spiritual pain which has crippled me the whole time was an experience everyone should realize.

My pain exhibited its traits in my poor attitude towards people and life, in my avoidance of people and events, but most importantly it affected my decisions towards those I love and those I was always meant to love.  This avoidance, or sin as we all know it by, is one of the most powerful weapons the devil has as an influence over us, the confrontation of pain is something our culture would much rather do without.  Look at the world around us, we can’t speak truth for fear of the environment it will cause, or the offense it may give to another because of what we think or say.  Our feelings are the emotive equivalent to the Washington Monument, apparently, and defacing our emotions at the expense of reality has become verboten among large groups of people today.  This is never truer when we confront the truth of God, and for doubters out there, truth doesn’t care if you believe, it just is.  Now, just imagine being a skeptic all your life and then suddenly realize everything you think didn’t exist does, and not only that, you have a lot to make up.  You think to yourself, I just might not have time to make up for all the lost time.  Never fear, you have time, if the God of all can raise a life from the dead, then you can repent and believe.

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Where does this leave us then?  Where do we go with our time?  Should we just hang it all up and enter the cloister with the Franciscans?  Well, if you feel this is the life you should lead, and with proper guidance from a spiritual director, then I pray for your journey!  If you are like me, and have a wife and kids, then this is the real question.  How do we have a life focused on God, but not oppressive to the people we love the most?  The answer is once again, simple and yet seemingly a matter of personal perspective as it translates to what is best for each one of us.  Some of us are challenged to enter the cloister, perhaps some are challenged to see a perspective of life dealing with personal physical sacrifice, there are those of us who must accept loss as their path, and even those who deal with their own pain as it translates to their loved ones.  Whatever the path might be, the time focused on God’s Graces, as they pertain to each and everyone of us, is a matter of significance.  Like any loving relationship, God allows us the free will to choose what we will do.  To make a determined decision to either fall in love with Him or walk away.  What we will all inevitably see is, our choice to walk away ends in a determination, we never had enough time.  We never did enough, we never made enough, we never experienced enough, but in the end, with God as out focus we will be completely full.  No regrets, at least not in the manner of seeking God, except to lament not doing more to grow the unconditional love we seek.

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Perhaps there are events in your life, I know there are in mine, where I regret the decisions I made, no matter the significance or the inscrutable circumstances which surround my regrets, they are mine and mine alone.  Even to have someone I truly love and care for tell me to move forward doesn’t always wash away my guilt or recognition of the delta which exists between what was right and what was wrong.

As time continues to march on in my life, and my hair gets more and more grey with each passing year, I find my memory serves me well, I forget those things which cause great pain, and I seem to remember those which brought me the most joy.  I fully believe this is a Grace poured upon me by God, because the devil wants nothing more than for us to relieve the hurt we cause or the pain we felt, this is ideal way for him to keep his liar’s clutch on us.

Suppose there are things about you or someone you love which are almost too much to bear or at least you think they are.  Consider this, stop wasting time, confess your sins, reconcile their impact in you life and the lives of other, and rectify your decision.  Your decision to waste time, your decision to push yourself further from the loving gaze of God.  Realize, you have time for what you make time for, and in the process of learning what is most important, realize those who want to fill your life and embrace them.

When I was in school, I was not a part of the “in-crowd” I performed on stage and spent a great deal of time reading and philosophizing with my father and friends.  Over the years, I’ve had significant run-ins with people who seemed to look down upon me in school, but for reasons unknown matured and treated me as a person worthy of their attention.  I have subsequently done the same, and it occurred to me an analogy which in a manner of perspective sums up our lives and how we treat people or how we are treated.  Imagine yourself on a team of any kind.  This team has captains who receive all forms of adulation from everyone, some deserving and some not so deserving.  Then there is you and me, we serve the captain, we get the captain what they need whenever they ask for it.  In our eyes, we perform a valuable service, but in the eyes of the captain, he doesn’t even know our names, or possibly a nickname is given.  When the captain achieves a monumental victory everyone on the team is thanked but us, we are left to continue our seemingly subservient duties until we can move on to something more befitting our own aspirations or desires.  What did we learn from the experience?  We have two ways of looking at it, much like anyone might perceive.  The first way would be the most typical, we are stepped on because the captain imbues a level of sub-distinction on us, even if the work we did was exceptional.  The captain always thinks of their self as superior, even if they don’t come right out and say it, their actions speak louder than any utterance to move past their lips.  The second perspective can also look at the same situation and realize this, God is our focus, and much like Jesus washing the feet of Peter (John 13:5-9).  We are to make ourselves as servants to all, and in our humility, we glorify the one true God.  In our attempts to serve the captain we seek God’s love, in our search for God’s love we face the ridicule of the captain, but it doesn’t truly matter.  It doesn’t dampen our spirits, it just shows us we have much work to be done, if we choose to seek the light of Christ.  Christ, hanging from the cross, served all humankind by a humiliation never realized.  The Divine Christ allowed himself to be tortured, spat on, beaten, and crucified as a matter and an example to every one of us.  His efforts in their actions spoke to us saying, I love you, and I will die for you.  I will humiliate myself for you, give me your time and energies as I have given them to you.  Love me, because I love you so much.

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Ok, so where does your time focus at?  What will you do with the extra five minutes you have at lunch?  Will you help those people at your work, who struggle but need someone with a loving soul to figuratively wash their feet?  Remember, we are the subservient, we take the beatings because in our own sin we’ve given them out.

As husbands and fathers, we watch those we love the most treat us with love and disdain.  We watch a child, whom we nursed from sickness, stare into our eyes with utter contempt because we told them “no”, and they give not one second of thought to us when making poor decisions.  Though when they are in trouble they look to us for answers.  Did we not do this to our own parents, from time-to-time?  Were we not the “captains” in our perception of the game of life?  I know I was, I know I behaved abhorrently when it came to the people who loved me the most.

When we think about time, and we think about what we might have wasted, don’t let the fear of what people may think regarding decisions.  Your decision to love God, is a matter between you and God.  It doesn’t matter what people think, or say, or do.  What matters is the agape you have, the love sense to look towards true light of God, this is what will cleanse you and light your way.  Nothing any person can do will sanctify your life, except the sacrifice of Jesus, and worrying what another person my say or do in this life proves to be nothing more than wasted time.

If you feel like you’ve wasted time in your life, welcome to the club.  I wasted so much time, at first, I thought I needed to play catch-up.  What’s worse is I didn’t know what to do or where to look, I was running around trying to do everything, and this in an of itself cause levels of consternation with my family and I was perceived as being a priggish interlocutor condemning those who weren’t willing to see my perceived goals.  As I grew a little wiser in my relationship with God, it was only then did I see the humiliation I cause and faced my own humiliation.  I was embarrassed to know people disliked me because of how I treated them.  I was the “captain” and I treated those who were most willing to love me with contempt because I thought I was better.  I wasn’t, I truly desire to wash the feet of those who surround me, I am contemplative and want everyone I meet to know, I love them with the light of Christ.

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When you look at your wife tonight, realize how much she serves you and how much you should be serving her.  Realize, with her a grace has been poured upon both of you, and in this grace, you will reflect the light more fully to everyone you meet.  Recognize, the time spent teaching your children the ways of Christ will be worth every moment.  They won’t always understand, but be solid, be unwavering in your love.  God’s love isn’t about rules, it’s about the pursuance of his affection, and in this pursuance, your guidelines to stay on the lighted path will appear to be rules, but really, they are instructions to find your way home.

Don’t waste any more time, don’t give yourself any more excuses.  Seek God, ask for a transformation of your soul and the time to bring yourself into his fullness.  Spend just a few minutes each day in communion, conversation, confession if you can.  He desires this from us.  Don’t be the child who pushes the parent away, because they don’t understand why the parent said, “no”.  Instead, trust God knows what is best for us, if we would just be willing to accept the truth.  I’m sure there are many people in your life who will tell you, you are wasting your time, let them.  They need God’s love as much as we all do, so be the reflection of this love, so they will stop wasting their time.

I pray God’s light will enter your life, and illuminate the way for you, your path is your own.  Don’t waste any more time searching for sources of light which will neither illuminate your path or direct you down another’s misguided way.  Put God in the forefront, cognizant reaches of your mind and keep Him there always.  May God bless you and your family, always!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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What is Faith Without Love?

We are called to do nothing more than to find the beauty in all others, and in our understanding of this beauty we can love our neighbor!

This is a question Paul asks in Corinthians 1,13:1-2.  A question, which at the times he preached was relevant, especially with the groupings of Jews relegated to focus of Jewish law as a means of living, for the one true God.  However, as we see time and again, within the Gospels, we see the challenges given to Jesus in a manner of what appears to be a question with no way out but answered flawlessly by Jesus.  So, in his answer, what was the one key ingredient the scribes and Pharisees were missing?  Love!  Their questions were aimed at a focus of rule and regulations as set forth by the Jewish teachings and prophecies as they were interpreted by the prophets.  This is finally challenged when the Divine God walked, suffered, cried in pain, and eventually died for us as a matter of love.  Our very definition of faith was challenged at this point.  We were challenged to see, life as a matter of love and sacrifice in this love as a way of living.  Essentially speaking, a new rule was brought forth, to challenge every rule ever set before.  The rule was love, to seek a path so we could fall in love with the Eternal God, and in this path, we may be the light for others (like Paul), to help light their paths.

How many people have you ever met in your life, and wondered why they are angry, upset, or seemingly without joy, but at the same instance you see this joyless expression you determine your calling being the light this person needs for their pathway to be lighted?  I will admit, I see it all the time, and I’m as befuddled at a solution to help light their way as I am my own, but I see the need.  When we expressly understand, the need in others, this is the gift God has given us in the sacrifice of Christ.  To not only have the faith to believe in what we see in others but combining this with love as we pour out ourselves to the other.  Fulton Sheen said, “for no one comes to Christ, and comes back the same way he came” (Meditations of the Magi, Catholicism, Barron).  Our path is such, we are forever transformed by what we see and feel.  I’ve asked this question before, but for those, who have never read these words, “where you think you go when you die?” are the foundational understanding of our lives, our faith, and our interpretation of love.  Once we truly answer this question, we are never the same, our pathway is forever changed, our blissful ignorance has become the very sand blown away in a desert to reveal the stone with which we build our foundations.

I talk a great deal about love, over and again on this, but it is for nothing more than the pursuit of faith and love we exist.  We can never hope to fall in love with God if we are just faithful to the commandments.  My son, indicated during our discussion, “yeah, I have to be good, so I can go to heaven, right?”.  My eyes were wide at this moment, not only because, I felt he missed the mark of our faith completely, but I also felt this was a teaching moment to help form his faith more solidly and become a principle he could always come back to as his life continues to move forward.  My answer to him was Heaven wasn’t about winning or losing, but about our relationship to God as a focus of our lives.  I used the analogous example between my wife and myself as the prototype of the love we seek in Christ.

Imagine having a relationship where we seek only the result as a means of winning or losing.  Many Christians may have this interpretation, one where they see the result of life as being good and walking through the pearly gates of Heaven or doing bad and burning for all eternity in the absence of God known to us as Hell.  Since, I’m not a theological master, I can only explain it as my interpretation of faith as it relates to the Catechism.   CCC – 1024 “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme definitive happiness.”  I ask you, have you ever thought of Heaven in this manner?  “To live in Heaven is to be with Christ” (CCC-1025).  God has opened our minds to see past the rules and effectively attached our ability to fall in love with him, and in doing so, a beatific vision is given to all of us, allowing for our contemplation within the expression of love.  Could we ever love our wives without being allowed to think on her and what makes her so wonderful in our eyes, but then not limited to an understanding she opens herself to us and creates an ability to understand her.  We don’t always know ourselves but being open to exploration of our love and our purpose in our lives, allows our spouses to truly love us to depths we can hardly imagine.  This is true with God, God opens himself to us in a way where we are called (through prayer) to contemplate on God to fall truly in love.

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There isn’t a list which indicates, if you complete all the rules and follow everything which is said, you will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.  We are called to do nothing more than to find the beauty in all others, and in our understanding of this beauty we can love our neighbor!  Our perception of life and love is distorted by the times we live in, we find abject beauty as being a prerequisite for love.  We also determine, if we don’t feel a sense of emotion or jittery feelings as they pertain to our perception of love, then we truly must not be in love.  This pursuance of an emotive acknowledgement within our own person as the litmus test prevents us from seeing the real person we meet.  We are ridiculed if we are with anyone who isn’t beautiful on the outside first, or at the very least pleasing to be around.  Though this comes to us like a double-edged sword, why would we want to be anything other than accommodating when it means we have an opportunity to be around someone to love more?  Have you ever treated, anyone who you determined in your eyes to be diminished of your own stature, in a less than loving way?  In my shame, I have, I haven’t always treated people as though I am, if anything lucky to be in their presence.

So, is it any surprise to us when people attach an emotive understanding of love, to associate with God.  In this pursuit of feelings (a reciprocal effort), when they don’t receive their expectational response, they determine a lackluster quality to a pursuit of love in life as it relates to God.  Then it becomes, as I explained to my son, an atheist’s pursuit of life and to follow just the rules as to follow a rule and receive something for our efforts becomes a subjective morality and value system ever more.  Morality isn’t a set of rules we must follow, in order we may fully understand our faith.  Instead, morality is the surest way to keep ourselves focused, that we might have a clear chance to deepen our faith and love for the One True God.

Ok, so where do we go from here in our lives, if we determine God is truly where we want to be?  A life of love, put down those instruments of hate and determine (unto our deaths) where Christ is, and don’t just walk or meander down this path, but doggedly pursue the relationship.  Don’t let it elude your efforts by letting life slow you down or become the whisper in your ear indicating your unworthiness.  You are worthy, you are lovingly fashioned by the hands of God, and it isn’t about emotion, it’s about your pursuit of faith in love which will create the deepest seas of emotion you’ve ever experienced.

My life as a father has been one of confusion for me, but one of the greatest rewards possible, and I can’t imagine what God must feel from us, when by our own unloving actions, we say, “leave me alone, I don’t want you!”.  How this must hurt!  Let this perspective soak in for a little while.  Are we as fathers pursuing a loving relationship with our children and especially our wives?  Do we allow God to lift us up for the lessons so desperately needed as a daily dynamic in our own families, or are we insisting our trying to be the unmovable rock?  Don’t get me wrong, men, we should be men always, and our pursuance of a society, which has a pure focus on God is our utmost responsibility, but at the same time, are we seeking to understand above all else.  Have we taken this beatific vision, and let the love of God permeate our senses to move us closer to God’s light?

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My son’s comments today, made me question how we see events as they relate to those around us.  His friends, who don’t believe in a God, are without a strong parental figure to show them the objective truth, but instead attempts to teach them the only way to a proper life is one of subjective feelings and morality which applied to life is the aberration of love altogether.  This isn’t what God is about, God is about our attempt to have a closer relationship to Him, but we obtain this relationship by loving those around us, without condition.  No matter what they throw at us (Acts 7: 54-60, St. Stephen’s Martyrdom), we must be willing to face this with only the armor of faith, and the weapons of love.  Without either one of these, we can’t hope to best the giants which faces us, like Goliath and David.  Without both, we will succumb to our own expectations and our own perceptions of what love should be.  It is an all or none, a black and white existence, although we live in a grey world, our pursuit should be one of truth.  The truth is, without the free will we have, we can never truly know love, but within our free-will, if we don’t pursue love, then our pursuit of right and wrong is marred by no other than us.  My advice to my son’s friends, was to be the loving example God gave us, Jesus.  Be the best person he could be to everyone, but be true, be himself, no matter how much people accepted him or not.  It’s not about the acceptance of those who are not on the same faithful, loving journey we are on, it’s about us being the love to light their way.  I’ve had too many situations based in some manner of conflict, over the years, to not have a take-away which is an understanding, our actions in love have more power to move those mountains which stand in the way of faith, than anything else we could ever imagine.

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When you go out today or tomorrow, remember, you’re never alone, and so, all you need is to believe.  Your belief will bring you great joy, but more importantly, your belief will be fulfilling.  This pursuit of the fulfillment in your life is love, the ability to become fulfilled is faith as the tool to accept love.  When you’re sitting in your spot tonight, watching TV, or when you look up from your plate at dinner tonight, and you look over at your wife, think on three things.  The first, do you think it would be possible to love her if she didn’t open to you who she truly is?  Second, could you love her even if she didn’t seem to love you back?  The third, is love more transcendent than your own perspective of reality do you have to understand everything about her to love her?  Sometimes, we aren’t meant to understand everything, we must trust our spouse, we must have faith in them, which isn’t too much to ask seeing as how we are in a covenant with them before God.  As our trust/faith in them grows, we see a ripping away of those cultural and societal constructs which represent a shallow pursuit of love, and we see the deepening of a bond which as strong as an oak, sways with life.

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I hope and pray we are all pursuing a means of faith and love as it relates to a closer relationship with God and our fellow man.  We can’t take this physical life with us, which is why faith and love are the deepening of the soul, encouraged by the physical joy we feel by our pursuit.  Don’t be tempted to act on a matter of reverse egotistic tendencies, when we don’t receive the answer we wanted or the response of another.  Don’t give up, when we see the path change before us, and it isn’t what we originally planned our lives out to be.  Have faith, know we are all going through our own journeys of faith and we all need each other to light the way.  Objective truth shows us, our love is all God desires, and our purity though this love is needed that we may be in Heaven with God.  If you see yourself sinning, sacrifice those sins so you can fall in love with God, be willing to let go as a matter of faith to feel the love of God in return.  God speaks to us, within the silence of our hearts, and when you think about your family and friends, are we not moved to love them more when we see them sleep or see their actions of love as a matter in our own quiet contemplation on our feelings towards them.  God is much the same, take time to think about your relationship with God, and in your silent contemplation, you will see how He fills those spaces of your life with the loving graces to an overflowing capacity.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

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What is Our Sickness?

The damnable quality of sin is just when we think you’ve got a handle on it, or just when we think we’ve overcome the sin we’ve struggled with, we become mired in its grasp and search for God is as if we never knew him. 

When we think of ourselves, are we consumed with thoughts of who we are as a person, or what we are capable of?  Do we look at ourselves the way we want others to look at us?  Why don’t we look at ourselves as someone who should be in a hospital?  I recently spoke with my mother-in-law about perception of sin as it relates to those who do us the most harm.  For her, it was my father-in-law, a person she loved at one point in her life with unimaginable unconditional love.  She saw her life, as an old woman, growing old with her husband surrounded by kids and grandkids.  This wasn’t to be, she faced a reality whereby, she was deceived and eventually abandoned by her husband.  Her wound was deep, and in human fashion, she was forced to deal with a new reality which included hard-times, strife, and the coming face-to-face with an all to reality of loneliness.  In here reality, she was forced to look at those items of her life which caused her the most grief and deliberate over the face of the person who wounded her the most.  In her despair and anger she found solace in God but struggled with forgiveness of the one person who caused the greatest pain in her life, her ex-husband.  So, this is where my point of recognition begins.  This in my conversations with her over more than two decades has become the realization of our sickness.

So, bear with me, imagine you are walking through a hospital, and you see a patient burned beyond all recognition.  Burned so bad, you’re not sure if there is a hope of his survival, he will probably gain some manner of disease, or eventually die of the pain.  Then imagine, you look around and everyone in the hospital ward seems to have the same degree of pain and wounding.  You look around and begin to ask questions about whether there was a fire or an event involving terrorism.  No one around you has a good answer but they are feverishly trying to use their machines and medicines to alleviate the pain and suffering, but more people are coming in by the droves.  You think to yourself, “what is this madness, why are all of these people coming in?”  Then suddenly, you are struck down with sever pain, you can’t seem to understand why you are feeling so ill.  Sores and blisters begin to form on your skin and the pain is unimaginable, and yet you can do nothing to stop them, eventually you fall and are picked up by medics hoping to deal with your pain in the same manner you were just dealing with the patient’s minutes before.  Eventually, all who come to the hospital, in pain and agony will succumb to their pains, but it’s their decision on just how they deal with the pain.  They can push away those people who are there to help, perceiving the help given as a poor attempt at control, or they can accept the help and realize although they don’t understand everything which is happening, they will trust in the help given.

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Imagine again, life is like this hospital, and the sickness incurred is the sin we gladly accept into our choices and allow to stain our souls.  As we begin to move more and more away from the will of God, we become more reliant on anything to fix our problems except the one truth, God.  One part of my discussion with my Mother-in-law was our inability to see sin for what it is, a true sickness on our soul.  Imagine walking through the hospital ward, seeing people writhing in pain, and being unaffected by this display of pain and the need for compassion.  Would we really walk by someone in need of our charity and love and tell them no, especially if we could see the sores exposed for all the world to see?  The answer is if we have a human bone in our body, we would probably bend over backwards to help this person as much as possible.  Our discussions pertained to the actions by which we perceived either an evil action or an action with so much malice behind an action it was perceived as evil.  Though the real question should have always been, is he dealing with more than we know?  Is there something which is he is dealing with, which requires patience and understanding more than my anger?  If he was sitting in the medical ward, with sores all over his body, writhing in pain due to the sin and influences he was dealing with, would I be more compassionate to him?  This is how I think God sees us, not as our sin a rapacious causality to our choices and behaviors which keeps Him away from us, but instead, sees us with love, and sees these sores and pains which cover the landscape of our soul as a matter of the need to be healed.  God’s compassion for us, is one which lovingly holds us with care, and wills us to be nursed to health by His will alone and our decision to accept His help.  This creates another analogous paradigm, which manifests the most bizarre perspective of all, because we writhe in pain, we don’t realize it, because our conventional understanding of pain isn’t exhibited, so when God offers to heal our sickness, we push God away and insist we can do it all our own.

I would also, point out, accepting sin as a sickness, much like I described, isn’t too far off the mark.  We can’t see the true form of sin, because we lie to ourselves, we fool ourselves into thinking what we do isn’t all too bad, especially since no one was hurt.  Though, at the end of the day, our sins are there no matter how noble they may appear to us, care no nobility whatsoever, they are what they are, sins, and those sins push us away from God.  With each sin, if we can only imagine the wound we inflict on our own body due to the sin we choose.  Some sins, may be small in the larger estimation of our actions, but if we think about any time we’ve run through a wooded area, and thorns were everywhere, while running we may have been aware of a thorn here and there cutting us up, but when we stop and we look our entire body over, we see more wounds than we could have previously imagined.  In this we can determine, even our actions, seemingly innocent by our estimation, could still cut us, because in the objective truth, a sin has been committed.

Ok, getting back to my mother-in-law, where is she at pertaining to the hurt inside?  Well good news, she is much better than ever before, she seems to have forgiven the man who hurt her deeply, she seems to have moved past the pain, and realized the one truth, God, and placed God before her in everything she does.  In our discussions together, we both agreed, looking at people who we deem to be sinners including ourselves requires our sympathetic perception of pain before anything else.  We should be looking on those, especially the ones who touch our lives, as a matter of a doctor dealing the medicine of love to those who seek relief, even if they don’t know they do.

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Our sin is a lot like a sickness in many ways, if we spend too much time around it, it can affect us.  It truly creates derision in everyone causing a ripping or tearing of the fabric of love.  In doing so, we see exactly what we are seeing today, less people willing to make decision of faith, or more people willing to ridicule and criticize those who attempt to go through life looking for the light of God.  The sickness is the darkness of sin, and the only way to rid one’s self of darkness is to be presented and exist in the light of God.  It cures our soul of the sickness we feel, or don’t feel, but we allow to reside in us.  The damnable quality of sin is just when we think you’ve got a handle on it, or just when we think we’ve overcome the sin we’ve struggled with, we become mired in its grasp and search for God is as if we never knew him.

Being a husband and a father has been the most challenging things I’ve ever associated myself with, in my life.  I’ve never not loved my kids or my wife, but I chose to love my wants and needs more.  I chose to put something before my very God, and I confess to all of you, I am like Peter in my abandonment, and I have wept bitterly because of it.  The sickness grew inside me so much, the sin took over, and I said to myself, “what’s the point now, I can never be the perfect child I saw myself to be, I’m stained with this sin forever?”.  This was the devil trying to influence my thoughts and make me feel worthless, and it almost worked.  It was “Screwtape” trying to capitalize on my mediocrity of life and decision, and in my lack of enthusiasm and fire, I almost let go.  I didn’t know, even when I wanted to loosen my grip on the life I thought I lost, there was a hand over the top of my very own hand.  This hand in its strength, in its silence spoke to me, or rather spoke to my heart.  It said, “no, don’t go, I’m still here and I love you!”.  It was as if I had a thousand stones lifted off my chest, and I could breath once more, I could think about something other than myself.

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So, what was I missing?  Fire!  I was missing the fire of the Holy Spirit.  The only topic in my life which ever seemed worthy of my attention was the study of God, and the actions according to my faith, so when I failed my friends and family, I thought I covered the fire over with the dirt of sin.  I was so very wrong.  The one thing the devil doesn’t want you to know, is God’s forgiveness is the medicine we all need, we are all looking for redemption from our failures.  Some people have more than others, but this doesn’t negate the powerful forgiveness of God.  His love extended to a man, a man who chose to love us so much, he would die for us.  Love hung on the cross, love bled for us, love died for us, love conquered death for us.

Men if you have something in your life holding you back, and you know without the recognition of this sin and the wiping away of sinful behavior you can never walk one step closer to God, then stop now.  I would tell you, right your wrongs, ask forgiveness of those who’ve hurt you.  Be men!  Be strong!  Be the example, your children can look up to.  If you yelled at your wife, because she hurt you or angered you in some way, apologize to her, hold her, tell her how much she truly means to you.  You are one with her, you are bound to her within a covenant put together by God, so treat her as such.  I will be the first to admit, I’m no saint when it comes to anger or treating people the way I should, but I will say, the rush of emotion when you do ask for forgiveness is God’s gift to you, it’s God’s way of saying, “I love you!”.  What is more powerful, is when you do ask/beg the forgiveness of the wounded party and they forgive you, there is nothing more powerful in this world than someone who is truly hurt by your actions, willing to accept you for who you are, a bond of unconditional love is formed.

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Sickness wishes to ruin this, spoil this holiness, sin wishes to tear apart the bonds which bind us lovingly.  It takes many years to forge a path of love in pursuit of God’s will, but it takes only seconds to obliterate the very path we seek.  What is so wonderful, is God doesn’t deride us for destroying the path, but forgives us, and wishes to give us light so that we may see the path once more.  Sickness is darkness, and in darkness, how can a father ever show his children the way or be the reflective light his spouse so desperately needs when she is in her own mire of sin as well.  I know this seems almost too much to burden any one person with, but I assure you, life was never meant to be easy, it was always intended to purify and create lovers.  God’s beauty is the weapon of love, of righteousness, of hope, and of faith.  The Saints are our examples of this beauty, their lives are examples of the sin we fall into, but the faith which will carry us out of our own willingness to walk away from God.

I pray, within our own sickness we can realize, sin isn’t a matter of disobeying a rule set forth by God, but rather sin is our way of pushing the hand of God away from us when we are sick, and all God wishes to do is make us better.  I pray we can accept the forgiveness of other, but also be willing to forgive those who writhe in pain because of their choices in sin.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

Jesus Forgives

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What Does Eternity Mean?

God is your definition, Jesus is your purpose, and the Holy Spirit is your guide to a realization of an eternal light which will never again allow darkness to enter your heart. 

When we think about the word “eternity” doesn’t our mind immediately think, “whoa, that’s a long time”?  Which really isn’t accurate whatsoever.  The salient point to be made here is, eternity isn’t so much a mark of time, but a place without time which exists.  A place where being is, and a conception of time no longer keeps a place of importance within what we do or how we choose to fill our time.  Take for instance, what have we done today to mark time?  I personally have been awakened by my alarm, and then I had my “morning coffee” and I’ve just eaten my “first breakfast”.  During my day I will have more to eat, which will mark time in the day, I have a few appointments, and then my day will end with exhaustion (hopefully) and I will mark another point in time while I sleep.  This is just one example of how time dictates a pattern in our lives which imprints its decree of compliance on everything we do.  As humans, we rely on this time to perceive our existence, otherwise we might go mad with just not knowing.  Time is so important to us we sell high priced time pieces to mark our day, some of the greatest ancient inventions (Archimedes), were done as a measure of time, and we determine high points in human existence (e.g. Birth/Death of Christ) by a calendar.  So, if I wasn’t clear so far, time is a big deal for us, we need it, we search for it, and we can’t live without it.

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So, where does the question of eternity and time fit in with our pursuance of faith, and where does eternity fit in with our lives in general?  In some of my previous writings I referred to the paradigm shift of endings and beginnings, and to be sure, eternity is the beginning.  We’ve entered life, fashioned lovingly by God, and we’ve been put to the task of living.  We are thinking, breathing, beautiful creatures which have captured the heart of God, and it is our choice in life to reciprocate this love (freely given) and pour it upon our fellow man but also look in agape towards the light of God.  This is seen in the gift of Jesus, the gift of forgiveness, and the gift of love outpoured again and again by God in his grace towards us.  When we read the Bible, we are given a tremendous gift of forward sight as it relates to eternity and this life as we can know it as it pertains to Heaven.  God is heaven to be sure, existing in Heaven, means existing within the presence of God.

I’m not going to presume to explain an existence without time or of a place I’ve never been, all I can do is speak of the teachings I’ve received and of the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life, which I believe are a semblance of what eternity must be like.  I always tell people, I’m not a fan of those movies which seemingly try to represent heaven, the first which comes to mind is the movie (What Dreams May Come), and to be clear, the acting was very well done in the movie.  Though, what I feel we miss is the ineptness with which a movie tries to describe the indescribable.  We as humans can’t possibly describe heaven, we are just too limited by our brains and our creative thought potential to realize a place of intense beauty and the true presence of love.  Kreeft points out, we are no longer seeking faith or hope when we enter the gates of Heaven, but instead we are surrounded by pure love, pure goodness and this must be impossible to describe, as none of us have ever experienced something so intense in our lives.  Those of us who have, are probably saints, St. Thomas Aquinas, was believed to have received a vision of Heaven, and when asked if he wanted to continue the Summa Theologica he declined and stated, “I cannot”, when asked why not, he replied “because everything that I have written seems to me chaffy”.  Just to be clear, Aquinas’s Summa is one of the greatest works of literature ever written, I would also mention, the very foundational understanding of Christian Theology is attributed to Aquinas and his explanations and refutations of everything pertaining to the Trinity.  Even as this is acknowledged, his vision of what we can only presume as the presence of God turns everything gray by our standard of perception, and this even includes time as it exists for us.

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When Moses asked for God’s name, at the burning bush, a response like no other was given, “I Am Who Am”.  A name which indicated an eternal existence, Scott Hahn points out in his discussion on the Gospel of John, an eternal existence is one which has always been no beginning and no ending, and everlasting life is an existence with a birth yet with no ending (i.e. Humans pursue everlasting life with the eternal God.).  We accept this, as Christians, when we eat the body and blood, and through our belief of Jesus the promise is fully realized.  Though to be in the presence of God as we are given many examples in life, it is to touch eternity and glimpse its stark contrast to our time.   These transcendent events, works of art, or our personal experiences with out fellow human beings is this glimpse.  If we can’t afford to spend any of our time in the presence of God doing the good works needed for our soul, how then can we presume to spend eternity doing this very thing?

As a man, I find my lack of emotion for some things to be bothersome, but I am just not moved by what my wife is moved by and combined with either my anger on some issues or my willful ability to push those things I don’t like in my life out, I create walls seemingly impervious to your standard list of acceptable responses.  Walls which prevent love from entering my thoughts and walls which make it nearly impossible sometimes to feel the sympathy or empathize at least with the events occurring around me.  For instance, my son was sick from school and when he approached my wife and I, I castigated his excuse for feeling unwell.  I was dissatisfied with his lack of explanation and seeing as I wasn’t to be made a fool of (I was more worried about me than I was him), I was going to stand my ground.  I was immediately imbittered by his lack of explanation and unmoved by his condition; in my anger, I upset my wife, and removed myself from an ability to look at his pain with my own love.  My wife, upset by my words and actions stated, “there is no love in your actions towards our son”.  This hurt.  Though, by my estimation, it probably didn’t hurt as much as my actions towards him, both my son and my God.  This was cathartic for me, my wife was truthful with me, even if I didn’t like it because I did feel pain when she stated my actions for the record, I had to accept the truth.  Eternity is the truth, it is the expression of love which God gives us by every means possible, and in this expression, we can look within ourselves and determine the answer, or we can be like I was with my son.  We can choose to allow anger to control our destinies, or we can accept our past behaviors and make amends for what we’ve done wrong, and then choose to make every effort to curtail our boorish attitudes and behaviors as events happen to us and with us.

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Men, I think we have a tough road, we are increasingly looked upon as being out of touch with the times if we exhibit a roughness or stoic attitude about events which occur around us.  We are put in a place of diminishment as cultural subjective attitudes take precedent over objective truth.  Feelings have become a vital weapon in the arsenal of victim-hood, and men who blubber and cry in entertainment and public forums has become the normal paradigm now.  Personally, I don’t want to see men cry about tragedies, I want to see them stand up and lead the way to solutions.  Now, I’m not going to be ridiculous about my perceptions of men, but nothing good ever came from an emotive action, including legislation of laws, and changes in truth.  The truth is, bad stuff happens to good people, but time requires we continue to move forward, and this isn’t achieved when we attempt to stop moving and wallow in our misery.  I challenge anyone to read any five books on the westward expansion of the United States and you will see stories of misery whereby people were expected to pick back up and continue forward with their lives.  They did not have the luxury or time as it were, much like we do today, to stand and cry about what awful events transpired in their lives.  As this just so happens to be the case, all misery is terrible, and all misery is creating a void in our hearts longing for what once was, but as pain hurts, we learn from the experience of pain.  Our desire to be with our eternal God requires a purification of soul, and within our efforts of purification we will endure all manners of pain.  Our culture is attempting to create its own eternal paradigm where we are see ourselves as victims and where the culture pushes out those people who don’t agree or refuse to accept this self-aggrandizing behavior.  They are creating their own personal hell, and I don’t want to be there running in the never-ending circle which is misery.  I choose to believe in God, the sources of joy in our lives.  Our joy is the recognition, within our reality, no matter what happens, God exists and is there to comfort us, if we would only allow this love in.  Allowing this love to enter our lives is the beginnings of lights of eternity as it illuminates the darkest places of our hearts.   In every chance possible we should be looking for our places in the eternal light of God.

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Ok, where am I going with all of this?  Perception.  Perception is your key to understanding all, your pathway to understanding.  How can you ever hope to perceive what your wife or kids are doing if you don’t understand what they are doing?  How can you ever know the events in life which happen are bad, but altogether within the scope of the love God pours out, as matter of understanding and perception of love.  Your acceptance of an eternity which creates, The Paradigm, acknowledges the very real and very hard asked question, “Where do you think you go when you die?”.  This was the game stopper for me, this was the question above all other questions, which when I stepped up and finally answered, changed my perception of everything.  In the back of my mind I always knew the answer, but was too afraid to confront it, I choose to be willfully ignorant of the ways of the world and my culpability regarding those ways.  Much like Constantine’s Confessions, I was more apt to take the easy path of sin rather than the difficult path of righteousness.  My answer to the question was this, God is very real, and eternity does exist, God loves me, and so desperately wants me to love him back, but he won’t make me as this is not love, but a modern-day subjective aberration which dictates God should answer to us.  This is unequivocally wrong, we answer to our creator in all things, and we should refrain from hubris, arrogance, and the priggish pursuit of our own personal rightness.  God’s will be God’s will, it should be followed, and in a pursuit of anything else is our attempt to justify sinful behavior.

Fathers and husbands out there, this is the teaching we must pursue with out families, we are leading them down the path, especially our kids, as much as they may act like grown ups sometimes, they are still innocence personified and trust us beyond measure.  They still look to us, with an enthusiastic attitude of amazement, they want to put us on this pedestal and even expect us to never make mistakes.  There is some pressure, if we truly care about the eternal decisions we make, but in the end, eternity is our choice.  Everything we do is moving in the pathway of eternity, and we decide if it’s an eternity of love and fulfillment, or an eternity of misery and damnation.   This may seem a bleak representation of what we have before us, but it really is this simple.  We get to choose, and what I’ve noticed is when we choose the light of God, our whole perspective changes with death, sickness, kindness, feelings, and most importantly love.  So, when we are teaching our families through our actions or words, we need to keep eternity in mind, we need to be completely aware of those events in life which are determined to define us, but you need no defining other than looking to God.  God is your definition, Jesus is your purpose, and the Holy Spirit is your guide to a realization of an eternal light which will never again allow darkness to enter your heart.

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As we are coming into Good Friday, we are brought face-to-face with the reality of eternity, through the resurrection of Christ, we see a very real perspective confronting us.  A perspective of truth.  How does a man, beaten, scourged, and crucified manage to walk around after his death?  Well, he was the divine God, first, but more importantly we he was ascending to eternity as a manner to light our ways.  Subsequently the disciples followed his teachings and became martyrs themselves.  They all died to be reborn into an eternal life.  When we see the horrible events, which are occurring in our world today, we as a matter of media extension, focus on the death and destruction as a placement of emotion and we seek to put the guilty parties to justice.  What we don’t seem to focus on, as a society at large, is the very real need and understanding, God is all powerful, and nothing happens to us without the express love and attention by God.  When we die, we go to God.  Those of our families or friends who have died, are by my estimation, in a much better place than myself, and I long for the day when I will go to see my creator.  I am not worried about my journey, nor am I worried about my family, I seek everyday to show them the path as I see it, and I know God loves them.  They will have to make their own decisions, in life, and I pray my actions and words will help guide them in the path they need to go as time continues to march toward the sea of eternity within their lives.

Where did we end up in the discussion of eternity?  We’ve ended up knowing a few truths, you are your own worst enemy and in a matter of accepting pain as a matter of growth, you have two paths.  You can choose right or wrong, both are eternal, but one is with God, and one is without the loving presence of God.  To place this in a general perspective, we are always in the existence of God on Earth seeing as God is the creator of all, God is the very nature of being itself, but as Heaven is concerned we will see and know God more fully.  Being in an existence without the creator is an awful thought, and much like we can’t incapsulate the perception of Heaven, the same is also true with Hell, though Dante’s Inferno does a pretty good job describing it.

I hope and pray, eternity is a very real thought for you and your family.  I hope it is on the forefront of your mind daily, it is where we meet God, and I’m very excited about this!  Answer those fundamental questions and create a foundation of understanding which will keep your gaze in a form of agape always and keep your focus on the important work of God.  You are loved, and this is evident in your life, and the potential to do wonderful things with your life.  I pray your family is keeping you grounded in your faith, and as a man you stand in front to guide their way.  A family doesn’t need a crying blubbering man to guide their path, they need someone who is strong and willing to continue moving forward as a matter of faith in God and faith in eternity.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Is Seeing Really Believing?

Faith was never about seeing with my eyes, but having the ability to listening to the voice of God in silence and learning to see with my heart.

How many times in your life have you been challenged with your beliefs, only to be unable to fully defend why you believe or see things a specific way?  How many times have you ever been confronted by a non-believer, and because of either their aggressiveness or their circular arguments in questioning, you’ve left feeling inadequate to answer their seemingly innocent interrogations?  Well I have more times than I care to remember, and in some ways, I felt shamed because I could not defend my faith.  I know my faith to be correct and the basis for objective truth, but I couldn’t explain why.   Over the years I’ve read more and more, and engaged in some debates over faith and the Church, but overall, I’ve made it a general practice to refrain from arguing politics and religion/faith.  We seem to live in times where the only thing worth believing is what we can see and what we can measure.  Even then, people are left with a healthy dose of skepticism because the measurement is only as good as the person who measures.  We just don’t know who to trust or who to follow.  We gravitate to those who seem to have the answers, and when we realize they were wrong, we become emptied with nothing but dashed hopes and dreams of a promising future (maybe where many secularists/atheists are at in their lives).  Though, faith isn’t like this at all, I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve learned, and at the very lowest expectation I could have ever had, it has surpassed anything I could have dreamed.  Faith was never about seeing with my eyes, but having the ability to listening to the voice of God in silence and learning to see with my heart.

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Where do we go when we are surrounded by those who not only don’t believe us, but even ridicule us in every way, when our beliefs run counter to what they deem as “stupid” or at the very least outdated cultural mentality.  What this inevitably does is to presume, we are the more enlightened culture now, and those who came before us, especially if they were the faithful, are at best simpletons because of their lack of knowledge on science and modern-day matters.  To this line of thinking I would caution the arrogant, this is about the time the carpet is pull from beneath their feet.  The matter I’ve always run into is perception of what is right and the pushing away of what is wrong, no matter the situation or subjective nature of the situation.  The collateral damage incurred by this poorly crafted focus of life become a measure of in and out as they see fit.  Subjectivity is dangerous when trying to create equality of outcomes.  Currently most people still have a strong faith presence in their lives, but the swell of non-believers and aggressive atheists has promoted a movement towards a relativistic culture.  We see, as Christians, an acceptance of ostracizing behaviors meant to relegate those with faith beliefs to the section of the proverbial yard containing all the nuts.  In doing so, pushing us out of relevant discussions, we see a culture shift intent on pushing us out of the general forum altogether.  This in my opinion is unacceptable, and we must do everything we can to exhibit our faith in action, but also our faith in defense as much as we can.  We can’t be afraid to talk about our faith in public forums, nor can we be afraid to become the ostracized.  Jesus was our example, no one faced as much humiliation or degradation as he did for us.  We can endure a loose insult with a smile and then pray for our insulter, can’t we?

When I first began to study about the faith, and those who so fervently believed in it, I was looking for intelligent answers and a logical line I could follow.  Something which would make sense and yet was also something which would require my action of faith to finish the sentence (so-to-speak).  I wasn’t looking for platitudes, nor was looking for something based solely in the prophetic.  I was looking for something which could open my eyes to life, and the expectations of life, and tell me why I felt the way I did.  What I found were many people who were just like me at one point, and who embraced their faith in such a way as to become examples to all.  Some were Saints, and others were just faithful servants, and when I read their biographies or works of faith, I didn’t find a didactic instruction meant to punish those who’ve fallen in their faith.  Instead, I found a beautiful example of God lighting the way for everyone and they were the brightest beacon to do such a thing.  In some cases, I was reading text over a thousand years old and some only fifty years old.  Their texts were never an admonishment of sin, but an acceptance of their sin and the desire to repent and search for God.  They illuminated and clarified matters of faith which I never even realized to be an issue, and they refuted with tremendous clarity those who would seek impugn the fervor of those who are faithful and pursuant of God’s will.

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As time was marching on, I noticed something within our own time as it related to the writer’s perspectives, some of which were centuries old.  Life, really hasn’t changed all too much, in the grand scheme of things.  We still fight over petty need for control, wars rage over territory and disputes of common ideologies every day.  Greed has never gone away, and since there is probably more wealth today, than at any other time in history, the greed runs rampant.  Though everyone claims they’re not greedy, just the businessmen or politicians.  Be honest, haven’t we all been greedy at many points in our lives, and isn’t our culture a representation of our need for “me” in a lot of what we do.  I have been greedy in my life, for a time, I was only looking out for me and to the detriment of the people around me, and in many cases to myself, I caused so many problems I was drowning in an ocean of poor decisions and hurtful outcomes.  At any rate, the points of views expressed by those faithful servants of God, illuminated a point of perspective which indicated, our time is our time, but our philosophies and faith are ancestors of those who came before us.  Failure to recognize this simplest of facts, invites hubris and even a priggish sense of self into discussion where there is no place for such a thing.

So, where does belief come into play, regarding everything we see today, and read from yesterday?  Have you ever heard the expression, “read between the lines”?  I’ve been told this time and again since I was a young kid, the inference is an indication to understand implication and thus refrain from all the superfluous questions.  Look at the bigger picture and ask yourself the pertinent questions for the important answers.  This is where faith resides, this is where we see faith in action.  In a very similar action, those of us who envision images as explanation, see a sheet of paper with words written and we look at those small spaces of emptiness and find the proverbial answer, this is also true when we think about the quiet spaces and silences in our heart, this is where God resides.

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A few weeks ago, my son asked me, “Dad, if God is real, why doesn’t he just reveal himself, wouldn’t that be much easier, then everyone could believe?”.  For such a young man, he has a wonderfully quizzical mind for simple and yet puzzling answers.  So, why doesn’t God just reveal himself to us in a grand display of power, so we can be believers, and the debate we currently face will be settled once and for all.  As a man, I love simplicity, and I’m not ever looking for drama, so when my wife indicates she will be watching the nightly litany of drama shows, I run the other direction.  I, like my son, have always searched for the easy answer, and this is exactly what this is, an easy answer.  For this, I find, usually the easy answer is the wrong or at least the less right answer.  The reason for the seemingly silent presence of God, is one of faith.  God wants you, God wants your love, and just like a relationship where we would love another, we must be willing to allow the other to choose completely unfettered and a decision which hasn’t been adulterated in any way.  When my spouse reaches for me, I know it is a matter of her will, and not my presence as a guilt, or even I possess something she wants.  Which is why God, doesn’t have a superpower light show every Sunday, if we want his love we must seek to be in his love.  This is all God ever wanted from us, God is love, and in his ability to be love, he is unable to not want this.

In my reading, and looking for the true answers which are sometimes plainly written and other times as plain as day within the context of the spaces as actions in faith.  I found there is more evidence to indicate a loving and beautiful God than to presume an existence where we are our own device and we’ve become gods ourselves.  There is more to this life than a pursuance of what we want, the early Christian writers didn’t just test the walls of doubt, the destroyed those walls with their love, reason, and faith in action.  If you ever want to read the best objections to the Christian Faith, read the Summa Theologica, not only did St. Thomas Aquinas present wonderful objections to the faith, but he also more sublimely refuted the objections with reason and philosophy.  It wasn’t about seeing with our eyes to more enhance our faith, but instead it was about seeing with our hearts to understand what is our faith.  The supernatural with which God exists, can’t be measured by human instruments, but can be seen with human understanding.  So, is seeing believing?  Yes, it just depends on what you’re looking with, and if your heart is open to accepting the truth.  Open your heart, allow the light of God to enter in, and illuminate those dark corners so at once you can see what it was you were always meant to see.

One of my biggest failings in life is having an opinion which excludes other opinions and is unwilling to allow differing perspectives to enter my cognitive thought pattern.  Though, having my kids, and being married to my spouse has softened this approach a great deal.  I tend to find myself thinking, much like with the question my son proposed, and really taking the time to explain what I know.  This is our jobs as fathers, we must be willing to search for the right answer, not the quick or easy answer.  Take your time, as the words you speak to them, will be something the will roll over in their heads for decades to come.  Something you may say to them will be the deciding factor in their pursuance of God and how they treat people in life.  Something you’ve said in love, to show thought and caring, will help prevent a series of poor choices ever happening.  The truth of the matter is, you will never be able to answer all their questions, and you will never be able to prevent them from making poor choices when it comes down to it.  Though, you do have the response capability to answer them in a way which is illuminating of the faith in love, and explanatory as in the explanation between the lines.  Kids understand your actions more than your words, mine do for sure.  Hugging my kids and exhibiting behavior which rewards or derides their own behavior is more beneficial than any diatribe I could recite about the beauty of God.  There is a place for such explanation, but it is always superseded by the action of love.

As is the point of my writing, you are bound to understand what you are willing to accept.  If you don’t accept anything without seeing it for yourself, then you will never accept it completely.  So, if you see anyone exhibit, what you don’t accept, your general interpretation will be one of nonacceptance maybe even ridicule.  When we look back at the Apostles, we see their attempt to preach the wonderful news of Jesus, and yet they were believed by many and hated by more.  They fought the establishment through prayer and preaching and were hated by the establishment, unto death, for doing so.  Imagine, telling someone you believe in the very words of God, and then having a stone smashed on you for this belief.  Do you think you could still say the words, “Jesus, My Lord and My God!”?  The disciple Thomas, uttered these words as he was being run through by spears at the end of his life (at least as the Gospel of Thomas indicates).  He was the perfect example of the one who seeks to see to believe, which is why he is known as “Doubting Thomas” for his unbelief, whereby Jesus, already in his resurrected state says, “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)

If we really think about our lives, there are many things which occur and we are not privy to their details, or we just can’t be in all places always and so taking some things on faith of trust between the parties is a necessary.   Ok, so where am I going with this?  Originally, I was writing about one’s defense of faith as a matter of exhibiting God’s light and reflecting this light to light the way of faith for others.  This seems irrespectively difficult when those around us are trying to trip us up at every turn.  Here is where believing is never about seeing.  Be the mustard seed which is planted in the minds of those we see and speak to each day.  God will do the work of growing this seed in their minds, but we need to plant it.  This is accomplished in our daily interactions as we come into fullness of our relationship with our spouse, and the tree of faith in our own soul continues to grow, but as an example to our children what is possible and what is truth.  It comes into fullness when we choose to understand and love those who are around us every day.  The faith comes into fullness when we exhibit those traits everyone sees and immediately realizes, as they read between the lines, and they say to themselves, “there is more here to my existence, and I want to know!”.  Be the example which causes them to say this.  Be the men who are strong enough to ask for the help of God, and be satisfied with the silence God will give in return, the answers are always in the silence of your heart.  Believing is seeing with the heart, and with the heart, we can all be wonderful by seeking the goodness of God, and receiving the blessings God pours abundantly over us.  Faith isn’t about rules and regulations, and it isn’t about seeing what we want, it’s about believing although we can’t see with our eyes we can feel with our heart.

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Today, if you get the chance, embrace your wife, and your kids.  Stop and listen to anyone, and really listen to what they say.  Focus on anything and everything but yourself, and I promise, as tired as you will be at the end of your day, you will have the energy to want more, want to do more, want to listen more, and want to really know God.  I pray your journey has begun or begins today, put your whole faith in God, you will not be disappointed in your journey.  It will be tough, but in the best way possible, and it will be fulfilling in the most unexpected of ways.  Listening to the silence of your heart is the key to seeing God with as much clarity as possible.  Be willing to listen, be willing to be quiet, be willing to pray.   I pray your family grows closer, and you become an example for those around you to see God more clearly.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Do We Really Understand What We See?

It’s about the effort applied to find a more loving and accepting relationship, to become open and unafraid, to become unconditional in our efforts to find oneness with the other.

Can we legitimately look at our neighbor and will their good over our own?  How many times have you been wronged by a friend, a coworker, or a boss and in your anger prayed for them?  Have you envied the position of someone you thought didn’t deserve the status or position they attained?  Have you ever known anyone to abuse their power, and thought, “I hope they get what’s coming to them”?  Do we have it in us to forgive the unforgivable acts committed against us?  Can we gaze into the faces of those who would wish us dead, and bless them as the proverbial stone is dropped upon us?  Don’t be mistaken, faith is a matter of one chapter ending and another beginning.  Faith is everything, as we know it, placed into the perspective of eternity and then thrust back at us, to choose life or death.  Life of course, is the eternal existence with God, and death is reality of knowing we will never be in the presence of God ever again.  An emptiness so lonely we haven’t the words or ability to comprehend its effect on us.  Though, based on the saints on interpretation and Jesus’s reference to a “fiery Hell” (Matt 5:22), this is also no where I think any of us wants to be.  For some of us who think God isn’t around, I would remind them, God is the creator of all, so in this very understanding, God is in all things we see, feel, and know.  We also must never forget, it isn’t about one or the other, all of this is about learning to fall in love with God.  God is love, and we run to him in our exuberance, our zeal, our love unconditionally as he does for us.  It’s never been about rules per se, but instead, look at your spouse.  It’s about the effort applied to find a more loving and accepting relationship, to become open and unafraid, to become unconditional in our efforts to find oneness with the other.  Though this isn’t just for our spouses or our family, but just as important we do this for our neighbor.

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I am the kind of man, who remembers a wrong, especially one which was perpetrated against me with malice.  This might have been an embarrassing incident where I was the butt of a joke (mean-spirited of course), or a person made my time in whatever I was doing interminable through their constant manipulations or passive aggressive behaviors.  As you can imagine, I didn’t handle these tests of faith very well at all.  I used name calling, yelling, me on subversive behaviors to undermine what I perceived them to have done to wrong me.  In the end, I was no better than them, and in many cases when I really think about it, I probably was much worse.  I knew where I should be at, and I knew what I should do, and I turned my back on what was right to avenge and uphold my honor.  My honor was the biggest issue in my journey to charity, my honor created more stumbling blocks for my life than any single factor I can think of.  Don’t be fooled by the word “honor” either, this isn’t a medieval word or something of a Southern Gentility where people take off a glove and proceed to have a comedic slap fest with it.  No, honor is a very real thing, a very debilitating way of looking at life.  We hold a form of honor so high in our culture, we are willing to some of the evilest acts as a matter of keeping our honor intact.  Hollywood’s staple blockbuster movie is about a heroin regaining their honor by destroying their enemy, by whatever means possible.  We rarely see a character willing to put everything on the line as a matter of faith and humility so vengeance will be eliminated and representing a true morality of character.  This just isn’t good entertainment, death, destruction, immorality is the best form of entertainment our culture can come up with now.  We can do better!

I want to start with work, and the unfortunate events which happen daily to us as we meander our way through the jungle of work politics.  Men, we can’t think everyone has a basis of understanding when it comes to morality or ethics as they might pertain to us, but everyone does have an innate longing for truth (the truth being God), and a recognition of this truth as it pertains to their lives.  So, when we work with people of similar backgrounds, races, and religions we naturally will have similar expectations when it comes to the moral landscape.  However, this isn’t the culture we live in anymore, the world has become much smaller, and inclusivity means everyone is welcome to the party.  Naturally, we work with every type of differentiation of character, race, religion, and orientation possible.  This isn’t an easy pill to swallow for many people, because we have beliefs which are so ingrained in our person, we recoil when we are confronted with an altering point of view.  Especially points of view which run completely counter to our very faith beliefs, or social understandings of ethics.  Ok, now how do we deal with this drastic change in philosophies or culturally acceptable behavior?  We accept everyone is a treasured soul in the eyes of God, and everyone deserves more consideration than even we think we do ourselves.

So, how many times have you ever been wronged by your fellow man?  Was the pain tremendous?  Were you enraged by their actions so much, for years when their name was mentioned, you became immediately angry and unable to find a calm?  I am not sure of anyone else, but for me, this has happened more than once, and in my anger, I found a revolving door of shame and more anger.  There was no respite from my inflammatory feelings, and within the procession of my anger, I took it out on the people I love the most.  Those people who were closest to me, received my vitriol, my rage at those who had perceptible wronged me.  Yet, this anger was somehow intoxicating, I wasn’t reducing my wrath, I was increasing it with ever turn of phrase.  I shamefully will admit, I would hand gesture my favorite gesture when passing their offices or homes.  When asked by anyone about my feelings, regarding my enemies, I had nothing but anger laden insults to hurl at these people.  Was anyone trying to stop me, yes, my lovely wife, but I wasn’t listening.  Instead, I was paying attention to those people who would encourage me to feed off the bitter angry vine I found succor in.  The parallel I noticed, was everyone was beginning to give me cause to anger and everyone was wrong but me.  My family was wrong for not agreeing with me, my friends were wrong for having a difference of opinion.  My wife was the most wrong of all, she loved me enough to tell me the truth, and I couldn’t handle the truth, and pushed her away.  I pushed her away in the most figuratively violent ways possible.  I avoided her, I wouldn’t discuss with her, I wouldn’t listen to her, and I passively decided I wasn’t in need of her at all.  To my shame, I was so utterly wrong, I can hardly bare to write the words you are reading now.

At the end of the day, I fell, I wronged, and I had become a perceived shell of God’s creation in love.  At least I thought!  This is where the fire began to grow in me, once at a low point in my life, the light began to burn the brightest, I began to see what is for some the beacon of hope, and for others the path which would lead out of the forest we call “shame”.  The deceiver wants us to forever stay in his forest of shame, he forever wants us to lament our decisions and create a never-ending spiral of degradation which we cannot ever recover from.  Judas is our primary example of someone, who in his very own decisions, decided to listen to the deceiver and betray the Son of Man, and in Jesus’s passion we find the very answer to the dilemma of charity.  Jesus, forgave the very people who put him to death.  Jesus, hung on that tree in a place known as “skull”, Golgotha, and he forgave.  He forgave the Sanhedrin, he forgave the soldiers, he forgave Pilate, he forgave you and me.  Let this sink in for a minute.  If Jesus can do this while hanging in the most unbearable pain, bleeding from his cuts, his lashes, and his nails, can’t we take the anger which wells up in us and just let it go?  What is the worst which can happen? Will people make fun of us?  Maybe we aren’t perceived as being as strong as people once thought we were.  Does it matter what people think of us?  Doesn’t the truth just exist with God?  Are we not more in search of a loving relationship with God, than what our neighbor down the road thinks of us?

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The matter at hand is our ability to understand just who we are, and what our purpose is.  My purpose as a man is to be a man.  I am here to help lead my family with my wife, and show love as a matter of daily existence.  To accept people are not always going to do what we would like them to do, but as a matter of love, do our best to understand why they do it, and then to pray for people as we may be the only ones who are praying.  We may be the only person to show another, who may treat us poorly, any type of love whatsoever.  Should we shirk this amazing responsibility?  I don’t think so, we should approach it head on, and allow God’s will to form as it was intended.  I’m not suggesting we do anything which would be foolhardy or wrought with degrading circumstances, unless this is the only route to love we can see.  Sometimes we must walk the line of danger (danger in life, danger in love, danger to put one’s self out there to be ridiculed for one’s belief) to be the loving example God intended us to be.  I can remember many times in my life when a circumstance would have completely changed, if for nothing more than my willingness to accept and the other person, understand where they were coming from, and pray for them.  I’ve always heard this phrase, “seek to understand, then to be understood”, everyone can stand to benefit from its platitudinal expression of wisdom at the sake of sounding too easy to work.  When was the last time you were derided for anything you’ve done or believe in?  Were you made to feel small or less intelligent?  Did you feel foolish for talking about it to begin with?  Maybe, you turned in a project, but the project was completely wrong, and since you pride yourself on doing good work, you looked silly turning in something so completely awful.  I’ve done these, and I lived, and not only that, I found it in me to put myself in the position of the person who’d suddenly become my adversary and found reason to understand their point of view.  I realized in an instance, I wasn’t so much angry with them for their behavior, although if could have been better, but I was more apt to see things in a clearer light.  In some cases, I still saw my point of view, but I could understand their point of view as well and this understanding allowed for a more conducive discourse between us.

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As I began to learn I wasn’t the center of the universe, and I learned other people’s opinions were as beneficial and useful as my own, I found growth beginning to occur.  I found I wanted to listen more to what was being said, and I found weakness in my own points of view.  This truth was a point of realization for myself, a recognition of my overall inadequacy as a person, but deep down what it showed me was a desire to know my neighbor more fully.  I was taking the skin-deep approach and applying it to everything in the past, but now, I want to know everything I can, and I have found a couple of wonderful benefits to come from this catharsis of selfish individuality.  I found I want the company and encouragement of other, plus the ample discussion which comes from friendship.   I also can see the beauty in most everyone I speak with, man or woman, a true and deep love for the people who enter my life.  I don’t mean a love of Eros, but a love instead known as Agape, a love which looks to God and is a fulfillment of our deepest desires in life.  I find everyday an inescapable feeling of thankfulness for the conversations I’ve had, or even the opportunity to bless the person who just cut me off in the fast lane.  I want God to create in me a clean heart, one which looks to the charity of another and the hope for the best of all circumstances which will allow them to see the true light of faith in God as we should all want.  Charity being the epitome of our willfulness when it comes to love, sacrificing our time, our efforts, our energies to the benefit of another.  Just think, if you can give just a few seconds of your day in prayer for the person who causes you the most grief, perhaps you will see the light of Christ begin to emanate from them in the most peculiar of ways.

 

I was never more challenged though, than when I had to forgive and even pray for those people who caused me the most grief in my professional working life.  These people went out of their ways to stop my advancement, and to create an atmosphere of derision within every turn I made.  I was taken to the brink of complete misapprehension and lowest self-esteem of my life.  I blamed everyone one for everything, and if I told my story to anyone and they didn’t take my side, I wrote them off as well.  I was completely wrong, I should have prayed for those people who didn’t understand me nor I understand them.  I should have tried every day, either in prayer or in conversation.  I should have been fearless, because God was always there with me, and I should have never worried about how I would be perceived.  I was so wrong to not trust in God.

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Men, as strong caring persons, we must always remember, strength of character comes from struggle of life.  If we struggle, then we are learning to become men.  Struggle within our marriages and how we can become a better spouse to our wives.  We struggle to become a better parent to those kids who just refuse to listen to our knowledge.  We need to understand who they are, who they want to be, and how their expectations fit in with the life God chooses for them.  This is the same with our neighbors, for whatever reason we are placed in the path of another, God’s plan is infinite, and we are only exposed to a minuscule portion.  We were never meant to understand everything, but instead trust in God.  If we choose to trust in God, then we choose to struggle to love, we choose to accept what is given us, and in our acceptance, we will move forward in our faith journey.  I do hope and pray, if there is a circumstance which is hampering your daily life or even bringing your down in spirit you do the right thing.  Pray for those individuals, pray for their understanding of faith, pray for your love (your Agape) to abound in the favor of another as it God wills us.  Remember, men, we are helping to create a foundation of faith, hope, and love in our cultures, and within our efforts we have the need to be understanding of all and willing to sacrifice in the name of God those things which keep us apart.  I pray you are finding a loving balance in your family and with those you meet daily.  We all need to be doing more, in the name of God, and in the pursuit of our love of God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Why Are Beginnings Painful?

It seems to me, this is just how our journey works, for without those points of pain along our path, we may never realize the truth of joy when it is presented to us.

So, today, I was intrinsically motivated to leave my job.  My job became a labor of stress and pain and created in me a sense of anger which I applied to everything I do.  To my regret, I applied my anger in ways which were not beneficial to my family or the people around me.  I started to become the very individuals I was so opposed to, and in some ways, I was worse.  When we realize the objective truth, and yet fail to accept it, are we not more to blame than those who willfully create ignorance as a matter of truth?  I wanted to write about our endings, necessary in sometimes, sudden in sometimes, but inevitably we all have endings.  How can we accept our outcomes when they don’t seem to benefit us, but instead put us in a more precarious situation?  Jesus, hung from the tree, because an ending which wasn’t particularly beneficial to his health was our eternal benefit.  The greatest example of ending we could have ever been given, and God gave it to us.  We see time and again, endings occurring within the Bible, and in most cases the endings aren’t pretty.  We see the end of the population in the world after the flood and Noah’s Ark (Gen 7), everyone not on the boat, was relegated to a watery grave.  How about the fervent belief of Stephen, the first martyr of Christ, we see Stephen stoned to death, but created an ending which was more in tune with the love of God, than one of horror (Acts 7:54-60).  It occurs to me, our endings are of our own making, or at least of our own interpretation and we choose to accept the pain or give love.  Jesus, hung from the cross and chose to give love to all the world, Stephen chose to bless those who wished him dead.  We much choose the path to and ending of love when it comes to doing what we must do.

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Many years ago, much like the job I’m leaving, I was challenged every day to see a “positive perspective” and I attempted to look at thing from a positive point of view.  It was only after attempting to see things in a positive light did I realize, this was a lot of cultural junk.  Some things are never meant to be a positive, some things are problems, and some things must be seen for what they are or we risk a delusion within our own perception of truth.  Here is what I mean, we see an ending which doesn’t seem to benefit us in any way as a negative, or something we would prefer never to have occurred.  Perhaps a death, a divorce, or loss of a situation by our own actions.  These perceived negatives have the potential for creating within themselves more negative circumstances if we follow the path illuminated by their treacherous light, or we can create a recognition or even a precognition of sorts to understand what our role in life is.  I’ve heard once before, “the only certainties in life are death and taxes and the only thing which stays the same is change”.  All endings of one fashion or another, all points whereby we must except and embrace our lives as God has graced us with or turn away and attempt to control our perceived destines.

Of course, this is what this topic is all about, perception.  What is your perception of your life?  Are you where you thought you would be?  Have you become the important person you always perceived yourself to be?  Are you aware of God in your life?  All questions I’ve asked myself at one point or another, and all questions which were life altering, and ending to a perception which needed to die.  I perceive life as a matter of decisions which in the larger context are related, but to which I had full control over, up to and including a bad result/ending was a matter of poor decisions. Ok, so can we make bad decisions, and this have an interminable effect on our life and the lives of the people around us?  Sure!  The decisions we make carry a ripple effect, much like we would see in the wake of a boat.  The more speed and carelessness we pursue in our life, the more turmoil caused in its wake.  I perceived my life as a matter of my intelligence and I would determine its path.  This was a lie I told myself, a lie which I believed wholeheartedly and the perception would carry with it a mess which would take me years to fix.  My perception of life was wrong.  God gave me this life as a matter of a gift, he created me, lovingly to walk a path of my choosing.  Though he so desperately wants me to choose love, and in this choose him, it is my choice.  It’s my choice to end things the way I do, or embrace God’s will and create endings which are seen through a lens looked on by Heaven.

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My perception was so convoluted, I perceived my place in life as a matter of failure.  I had a good paying job, a wonderful family, I was singing in Church, and I had friends in my life who were great.  I though, perceived my life to be one of failure, not being where I needed to be, not finding God’s love in my family, not understanding why more people didn’t want me to sing, and pushing away those friends who added so much to my life.  It pains me to write this, because I must revisit my behaviors, and in retrospective analysis, I’m ashamed at the pain I caused the people I love by creating a means of ending our relationships.  It seems to me, this is just how our journey works, for without those points of pain along our path, we may never realize the truth of joy when it is presented to us.  So, was I where I wanted to be, at first the answer was “no”, but after everything, the answer is a resounding “yes!!!”.  I love my life and the people around me, I love the opportunity to wake up every day and be a potential influence for those of our brothers and sisters who are searching for the truth.  I love working, and I love resting.  I enjoy looking at nature as it whips past my truck window on an early morning drive.  I was missing my joy and failing to see the endings in my life as true beginnings.  It is all a matter of the perspective of life, we must see our endings as our beginnings.  It’s not about positive and negative happenstance, but instead, it’s a matter of “God I love you and want to be with you always” or “I can do everything on my own”.  I choose God in everything I do, and everything I see.  This presents a challenge, within my endings to love those who would do me harm, even more so than those who I know securely love me unconditionally.

Are you important?  I think this is such a relevant question.  Look around, look at those people who look to you in life, maybe it’s a coworker, or a relative, or your spouse, or your children.  Look at them and imagine them without you, see how they would rely on another person’s advice, and know you would give them a more loving committed answer to any question they have.  Much like Capra’s classic “It’s A Wonderful Life”, it truly is a wonderful blessing filled life.  We are not immune to struggle, but what we do have is the ability to see God’s blessings in all we do no matter what the event or perceived ending may be occurring.

As we see in our everyday life, God is central to everything.  When we are speaking with our spouse, do we see love in our decisions and how we talk with them?  I must say, my anger was so ferocious for so long, I didn’t approach my wife with a loving tone or consideration.  I was more worried about myself and what I needed to see and hear, than in what was right for the both of us as we stood before God.   This was a stemming from those failed perceptions in my life and the subsequent endings which I hated to my core, and they were all a factor of my inability to place God first.  I was rude and bitter to my wife because I hated myself and I’d become an aberration of myself and the person I knew I could be.  Every time I would catch a glimpse of this person I hated, I would thrash in conversion to become someone other than who I needed to be.  I was always willing to reinvent myself and distort myself for the perception of others, I was willing to see an ending as final so never to revisit my personal pains ever again.  So, the person I needed to be was God’s creation, God’s love in action, and the person I chose to be was someone who thought he was a better sculptor of self than our Heavenly Father.

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This led to pushing my kids away from me, and failing to enjoy their presence which was overflowing every second I was with them.  Now, I’m not saying, they don’t test me, my kids have advanced degrees in pushing my buttons, but this is what kids do, this is what we signed on for, so love them when it comes to handing out a punishment, this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t realize the error of their ways, but what it means is their father loves them but needs them to see what they should be doing as a matter of truth.

My son, tests me daily with his obstinacy, his complete unwillingness to do the simplest of tasks creates in me a sense of turmoil like none other.  Though, I’ve realized, I love him more than I could possibly put into words, he is a wonderful light in my life, he just needs the encouragement I can give him, and then the rigidity of truth needed to eventually move forward in his life without his old dad.  I once looked at my discipline of my son as an ending to his behavior, but now I see it more like the beginning of a journey he will undertake.  He very much needs my help (even if he thinks he can do it alone), life’s pitfalls are such I can’t help him in every situation, but I can attempt to be at his side as often as possible.  This is what God does for us, God is at our side every moment, through our tough and wonderful times.  God’s desire for us is to turn to him and allow him to save us, allow God to hold us in his unconditional love.  We must open ourselves to his light, and realize our perceptions of self are never truer than when we look through the loving eyes of God.

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Ok, so where are we left when it comes to endings?   We are left in a place some consider nowhere, we are left to our own lazy devices.  When I began to write this, I indicated I left my place of employment, but I didn’t say why.  I had a fundamental disagreement with the manner and application of employer dealings as they pertained to the employees.  I was not satisfied with the environment I chose to exist in daily, but more importantly I was becoming lost in a world of anything other than love.  I was willing to look at the worst parts of a person and become critical of their faults, as if I had no faults of my own, and I was willing to take my anger out on those people who mean the most to me in life.  My wife would always say “God has a plan for you, be patient and accept what this plan is when you see it”.  Of course, his plan came in the form of an email which exacerbated an already tense situation, and created a door that I chose to walk through, ultimately releasing me of my work obligation.  It was as if, I needed this to validate my decision to walk away and end my relationship with my employer.  Though, it’s not really an ending, this is a beginning for me in a new environment and atmosphere where once again I have an opportunity to influence everyone I am in contact with about God, a new chance to reflect God’s light to be an example of faith in everything I do.  Although, the environment I left was tenuous and acidic in its very nature, I have no ill will for anyone, perhaps an incomprehension to some behaviors, but nothing but love for these people.  We are all children of God, and we are cherished in God’s eyes.  I hope the very best for the employer I’ve left, and all the people who still work for them, I pray they are successful and their pursuits in life become that of faith, hope, and love.

Within the context of my current writing, I believe it is so important for us to regain a vital understanding of who we are to God, and who we are to our very situations.  Our endings are not endings they are beginnings, no matter how painful the transition just happens to be.  Like birth, as a painful process for both the baby and its mother, it is necessary for the beginning of life.  It is needed to feel the eventual love the child will have when they wrap their arms around the parent as the parent tells them “goodnight” or as the parent faces a new beginning in their eternal life with God.  When we can see our beginnings with a proper perspective we will see anything with a true beginning will have some level of prescient pain in association, but a pain which can shape us as God sees us, or can distort us as we see ourselves.  Don’t ever forget, God is with you always, you are his work of creation, God formed you before you were born, “Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid” (Luke 12:7).  Stop worrying about trying to fix everything which comes your way as a matter of control in your life, allow God to take charge and his will be done.  You are so very valuable to God, and all he wills in return is your love, but a love which is your choice as a matter of faith.  Be faithful, accept your beginnings, accept love in your life.  Men, stand up and be strong while you do this, be a foundation of your family to accept the new beginnings in the life of your family, and never ever let the thought enter your minds whereby you can change everything, or you are not enough, or you are not where you need to be, or Heaven forbid you aren’t loved.  You are precious, and so too are all of God’s creation around you, so treat them as such.  The final ending in our life it the truest of beginnings ever, embrace the journey needed to begin our eternal life.

I pray the words I’ve written here will find even the smallest cracks in a wall which might surround your heart, and will allow the light of Christ to enter in, be open to love and those walls will fall.  Be open to pain, and you will grow immensely, be open to God so that you will understand why we have endings and why they can become perfect beginnings.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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How’s Your Subscription to Social Media Morality?

Don’t be lulled into a sense of easy answers or platitudes which neither explain your faith, nor fully represent your growing emotional bond with God. 

How many times have you been on social media, and come across a quotation or meme which spouts a platitude offering wisdom in only a few simple words leaving you a pondering moment whereby you conclude in a thought, “yeah, I agree with that!”.  How about when you read those posts from a family member or just anyone you know, asking you to forward or share their post about something religious maybe even controversial.  Your seeming capitulation to the request indicates to them, you agree with their point of view, but if you don’t forward along, or you don’t agree, they become social media distant from you.  What we see in many posts is a one-sided assertion meant to persuade those who read it.  In some cases, a misguided attempt to encapsulate a complex theology or epistemology of faith into a simplistic ideology of conscious will.  We see political views being expressed as matters of fact, but, the views are colorful suppositions meant to ridicule those who don’t agree and welcome those who agree.  Don’t misinterpret my meaning, some posts people publish are correct in every spiritual, intellectual, and feasible way possible, but when we are forced to wade through the right and wrong every time we log on, we would rather not.  How many times have you seen the profile of a ubiquitous quote fairy (we all know who they are in our circles), and just kept scrolling?  How about a family member, who can’t understand why their opinions aren’t solid gold, and so we hide their posts as a matter of passive protest them?  I know we’ve heard from everyone we know; social media creates a negative dynamic in our society (i.e. each and everyone’s life).  Social media is in fact a diminishment within the constructs of our culture because we’ve let go of traditional knowledge for the short-order wisdom special, and a side of hubris, with a dessert choice of anger or apathy on those topics which require neither to be addressed.  Our culture has replaced understanding with a “me, me, me!!!” entitlement philosophy, and those of us unwilling to capitulate to the new normal behavior, are seemingly left in the dust of those who tell us daily, they are moving forward.  They are wrong, the accurate paradigm is, those of us who choose not to berate those who disagree with us, or those of us who choose to look deeper into our faith journey, are more like to recognize social media as a tool for understanding rather than an opinion platform (I do realize the irony, as I write this blog though, it’s not lost on me).

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So, what do I mean by “short-order”?  There are so many different sites which post spiritual based text and pictures, and this become convoluted with the individual posts people make all focused on one thing, our spiritual growth and/or conversion of faith.  There are so many out there right now, how do we know which has a basis of truth, and how much is a matter of thought someone had one day.  I’m sure we’ve all see the quote, “Everything on the internet is true, by Abraham Lincoln”, I must say the first time I saw this, I belly laughed, because it is quite true.  We just don’t know what is and what is not, without a true basis of comparison as it relates to our journeys.  I know from personal experience, I have some relatives who are so combative and express so much vitriol with my points personal points of view, I eventually silenced them from my feed.  This was after a few altercations, whereby they quoted improper facts, and diminished my overall faith as a matter of stupidity.  In retrospect, I should have been more forgiving with my actions towards them, but at the time I was angry, and I felt as though there wasn’t any ability to have a civil discourse with them.  Not because I was unwilling, but because of a behavior which indicated they weren’t at a place to speak with me, because of their intense dislike of my views.

Over time though, I’ve noticed, people will post a platitude, and although it does have meaning and does strike a note if we allow it to permeate our thoughts for any period, when we mix true statements of wisdom with half-hearted attempts then we begin to see, the mire of junk we must wade through.  When we add this to funny posts, and posts with news feeds, the task becomes too much to look at for any one of us.  So, inevitably we focus on those things which we can determine as being mostly truth, such as videos which makes us laugh, and we push past all those posts determined to give us tidbits of information or spiritual advice.  Ultimately what have we lost, by only viewing pictures of friends or watching videos of people failing?  We’ve settled for quick advice, quick solutions, and even entitled ourselves to be a part of everything we see.  We’ve grown lazy in our attempts to embrace our faith, our responsibilities.  We’ve replaced conventional wisdom with wisdom from anything which sounds new because we attribute the past as an antiquated time which should be replaced with something new.  We are addicted to new, no matter what the cost of our change will be.  The irony is, we’re not the first culture to think we know better, and we’re not the first generations to think we are more enlightened and sensitive to culture than any which have come before us.

If we look at some topics in our culture today, we see politics is at a forefront, religion is purported as dying, social issues are the door to equality of outcomes (i.e. sexuality, abortion, identity rights).  We have so many issues, we as a culture don’t know up from down anymore.  At least this is what social media implies, we are led to believe by people who admonish religion and spirituality as something people with simplistic understandings of life accept.  We are bombarded daily by instances of “social justice” bent on righting the wrongs of the past by forcing people to be nice to one another, and then when people (rightfully) don’t like being forced to do anything they are derided as bigots, racists, or misogynists from those groups seeking justice.  It’s enough to make even the most vanilla of situations become intricate from the surface, where people are willing to give in to pressure, rather than to think for themselves and rely on a morality set in objective truth.

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Ok, how do we stop a progression of amoral, unprincipled people bent on creating a society whereby everyone can do whatever they want, if it’s ok with certain groups? Thing is, not everyone is amoral or even unprincipled, they due to ignorance willful or not, believe what they are doing is right, and they believe in it so much, they want us to come along.  Isn’t this what we would do?  Don’t we believe in something so much, we want everyone else to come along?  Partly I think we want this, because we believe in the experience, but also, it’s nice to have people we know along for the ride, people we know we can trust.  It’s about our comfort, our perception of the acceptance of others, in the end, it’s easier to do something if we can see someone we trust involved.  Therefore, social media is a one stop shop for religion, news, entertainment, and this is also the reason people spend so much time on their phones or computers attempting to live in a virtual world.  The only way to willfully admonish a perceived enemy is to attack their weakness and exploit their inability to defend this weakness or at least create a shift in paradigms focused on our faith.

Where is this magical weakness, I’m referring to?  Every person has this weakness, and we know it too, we are all searching for something.  Something which will give us all the answers, something which will metaphorically keep us full and we won’t ever become weary of this “something” we seek.  Until we find what we are looking for, we will search in every corner of this world, listen to anyone who seemingly knows what they are talking about, and progress any movement focused on the change we believe needs to happen.  We are sheep, and as much as someone may not want to believe this mentality, listen to Jordan Peterson’s lecture on “Man’s Capacity for Evil”, where describes just how easy it is as an instinct to commit evil.  As he states it, “when our own proclivity for evil unites with the human proclivity of evil, then you understand what you are capable of”.  I’m not suggesting people are all evil, but what this does show is, is the instinctive nature with which we can be persuaded, by our own personal selfish desires to lead or follow in just whichever way we are suited.  “When in Rome do as the Romans do”, an old phrase which has taken on a revived meaning within the context or contest of social media.  So, if someone has a will to be manipulated, we all do at one extent or another, then this will can be influenced in a similar manner by the action (altruistic for some) of faith towards one another.  As we learn from the life of Jesus, our actions are far more important than anything we could truly say to one another.  Giving of ourselves, sacrificing of ourselves (in either effort or body) is another way in which our actions will lead those who are searching for fulfillment, to truly be filled.  Though the difference is, they are filled by the love of God, and with this love, they become a true reflection of the truth of God.

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I personally, enjoy scrolling through the day’s events to find interesting stories, or listen to interesting people as expansive knowledge of our surroundings will help to codify my thoughts about faith and understand how we are all one in the Body of Christ.  As a man, I look to those men, who might be leaders of our faith, and as leaders will provide wisdom, examples of courage, and be willing to face the difficulties in their lives with the Love of God as their armor.  The apostles were led by Jesus because they could see the Divine Christ, and as this was made clear to them, they also knew his truth was The Truth, God’s Truth.

Men there are very good groups on different social sites which provide a meaningful interpretation of truth and action, and within this truth, they utilize the Bible as a means or guideline to approach this truth.  Don’t be lulled into a sense of easy answers or platitudes which neither explain your faith, nor fully represent your growing emotional bond with God.  As we can see, anything worth doing in this life will be hard and will be littered with our failures until we attain a successful outcome.  It seems, God isn’t disheartened in our failures as much as he is willing our success, he needs us to try, to try for a stronger, personal relationship with Him.  If we are willing to put forth the effort, by praying, doing good works, and willing the good of the other, God is there to pour forth the graces upon us.  Think back at a time when you were wifeless, and childless, now think about now, are you blessed?  For me, my life was an empty shell compared to now.  My children are the greatest gifts I could have ever received, but they are the hardest to understand.  My kids test everything I know, they are obstinate, willful, and forever confusing me by their actions.  However, and most importantly, they are loving, kind, happy, filled with joy, a constant source of wonder in my eyes, and essentially, they allow my heart to ache in the most wonderful of ways.  I think of our Heavenly Father, and I know, his love is unquantifiable, but I can associate my own experience and only imagine the depths of what he feels for us.  Therefore, there can be no words, there are no human words to describe a love like this.  No human comprehension can grasp the helix of complication we are loved by, except to draw from our own understanding of our best parallel, our fatherhood.

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Our truth in God is reliant on our ability to search for objective truth and in our exhaustible efforts we will begin to see a crack of light creep through the proverbial rock wall which surrounds our hearts.  Much like being in a dark cave far below the ground, we stumble over what we can’t see.  In our acceptance of easy platitudes and social media justice, we do the same, we stumble on ideologies which are not consistent and which don’t encompass the wisdom of our creator, but take a kernel of wisdom from man as a moral to live by.  We can never listen to the morals of man, they are subjective and carry with them the burden of exactness which creates a perpetual motion of ideals.  Much like a camel is a horse designed by committee, man’s morals are subject to everyone’s opinions.  God’s morals are true and never changing, but within all God’s morals are true love, a beauty unparalleled in life.  So, as you enter the darkened cave of social media, remember the Love of God is the only light you need.  The Light of God is the only light which will show you the way to truth.    As smart as your neighbor believes themselves to be, their wisdom pertains to their life, mostly if it doesn’t have the basis of their faith leading the way.

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Platitudes are nice, and should have some quick relevant understanding in our lives, but those platitudes should be in addition to what we know in faith.  Jesus, hung from the cross, he suffered a humiliating and vile death at the hands of people searching for the truth, even Pilate says to Jesus, “truth what is that” John 18:38.  Jesus was the truth, John 14:6, “I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”  I always recommend when people have questions, to read their Bible, and if after reading the whole Bible they don’t have a satisfactory answer, then they should read it again.  The answers for our life are not in a “meme” intended to delight or create a pithy statement, but in the words of the prophets, the kings, and the One True God.  This is where the truth is found, and through the tradition of the Church, we find a way to practice our faith daily by accepting the graces God has given us and cherishing them with a true love and willingness to push sin out of our lives.  I hope as men who are reading this or women too, we realize our God is the most important aspect of our lives, and our families are second only to God.  Place importance on what we know to be the truth, stop searching for easy answers to our faith and life, there are none.  One thing we can all count on is, if it’s hard, and we know it is right, then this is the path we need to be running down.  May God bless you and your families, and may your families always be cogent blessing in your life of God’s will and love for each one of you.

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Have You Found Your Joy?

Though, the pain with which we go through, we gladly accept as a matter of growth and a matter of need, much like the plant who stretches its stem to reach the light, so to do we stretch ourselves for the joy which may fill our hearts.

When someone asks you if you’re happy, what is your normal response?  I usually say something like, “yes, I’m good”, or I may make a more sardonic approach and respond, “what is happiness?”.  Though, happiness is more a reflection of our general feelings or perception of our contextual situation than a matter of our disposition.  Disposition is a matter of our qualities as a character trait or just in general how we perceive our situations.  So, a person who is more content with life, as they perceive it, will tend to be happier which should be a derivative of their joyous nature.  I think many times, we are happy, but it become a fleeting moment, because what we choose to be happy about is more a matter of material desired fulfilled, but just like anything, a material desire will always loose its potency or luster based on what it is we seek in its intrinsic nature.  Now, I’m not suggesting we’re all a group of selfish creatures walking around trying to get what we want, I directly saying it.  We are, we are selfish by nature, we are looking to fill our needs.  We seek to fill our own needs by filling our life with food, entertainment, adulation, pursuits other than pure love, and we seek sin because sin has promised us a life of happiness if we would just push ourselves further from God.

So, why are we pushing ourselves further from God, isn’t God the truth, the light, pure love?  Yes, but we are selfish, and we want what we want now.  We want comfort and happiness at whatever cost seems appropriate with our moods.  If we’re lazy today, then we will only pursue what we can get from little or no effort.  If we are challenged tomorrow and we can measure anything less than the full truth of our situation, we will choose it.  If we want to see a superficial example of this in action, look to our children, they are not nearly so complex as us, but still seemingly exhibit the same tendencies.  We, just like our kids, do what we shouldn’t because, in the words of my son “I just wanted to”.  We just want to do whatever we want, and we don’t like anyone, especially God to tell us, “no”.  Though in the context of my words as you read them, I hope you can realize the arrogance, my actions, your actions, actions in our general culture are to the way of love.  Love isn’t a feeling, more than it is a truth of pure goodness, a truth which will draw joy in to our lives, and may as a result create pain as we burn away the sin which crept into our hearts and hardened our very ability to accept and give love to God.  Though, the pain with which we go through, we gladly accept as a matter of growth and a matter of need, much like the plant who stretches its stem to reach the light, so to do we stretch ourselves for the joy which may fill our hearts.

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How many people have you ever known, who were seemingly miserable within their lives?  No matter what was said or done, they found argument or complaint in the very details they were dealing with.  Their inclination towards the negative, created an environment which lauded criticism and judgement which in turn degraded their ability to feel love much less give it.  Well, this was me, I’ve been so critical in my life, I’ve pushed away everyone at one point.  I even push away God, through my actions of discontented behavior, leading to sin, whereby I wallowed in my own misery.  I wanted to make everyone around me miserable, to the extent they would agree with me, and we could commiserate on topics of similarity.  We could chastise those people who didn’t meet our hidden expectations, and in the process, we could look down on those individuals who we considered to be lesser.  I was awful, the vitriol I would spew at anyone who didn’t agree with my point of view, was painful to take, and although it has been years later, when I think back on my words, it’s painful to relive.  I feel so much shame for my behavior, it is like a wave of inexcusable shame washes over me, and at once, I can barely breath because I can only imagine what those people I hurt must think of me now.  Though, my ability to view my behaviors has a two-fold purpose.  The first is a matter of the Devil trying to insist on my acknowledgement of pain, and in doing so, create a never-ending cycle of bad decisions and bad behaviors.  The second part of this self-reflection I feel, is God telling me, in my shameful silence, “I love you, let this go, I forgive you and I want you with me”.

This ability to really understand what God wants from me in my life, is where I end up after walking in the murky swamps of my historical sin.  The swamp is laden with pitfalls and snares of imperceptible pain, but just like anything we see as ugly in our mind, our mind has a way of overarching the ugliness, and at the same time undercutting the significance of our actions.   We must look towards the light of God, God will handle what is around us, in one way or another.  Though, to let our past control our now, is to allow sin a permanent place in us, and keep us forever mired in our sin.  The sin must be burned away, dried up, and an ability for a clean heart.

Here is where we find our joy!  Joy doesn’t mean we won’t be unhappy or have rough times within our lives, but joy is the consistent acceptance of God in our now.  Not tomorrow, and not yesterday, although we do perceive God’s place in our time as it matters to all existence including our own.  We must be concerned with the here and now, a homeless woman in need of food, isn’t concerned with her meal a week from now, neither should we when it comes to being concerned with the food of joy we receive from God.  Telling ourselves, we will focus on prayer and God when we have more time, is equivalent to finding a dry place in the swamp of sin, and relegating ourselves to this space, till we must move.  We all must go through the swamp, and on the other side is our mountain of faith we must climb. And yes, I mean a mountain, it is tall and it is treacherous at times, and yes, we have a good chance of backsliding with every step we take.  However, God, is there with us, and in our silence, he never leaves us.  He needs us to ascend this mountain, for when we ascend it, we find our joy, our love, our goodness in Him.

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Ok, so why isn’t happiness the same as joy, aren’t they basically the same thing?  Well, no!  Happiness is a feeling and emotive response to an external event.  Joy is a matter of an internal awareness which creates denotes and understanding of what we believe based upon our perceptions and acceptance of those perceptions.  Take for example, we are not happy when we have an abscessed tooth, but joyfully we are glad to have it removed for relief of pain and negative symptoms like fever and in extreme cases death.  Joy doesn’t always exempt us from pain, and I am not sure about anyone else, but I’m not happy to deal with pain, although as a necessary, I will joyfully accept it because I realize what it ultimately means to me.  This should inevitably be our perception of God and the joy which God’s love will bring into our lives.  One of the great atheist questions is why, if there is an infinitely good God, is there pain and evil in life.  If God is truly good, then how can evil exist.  The only question I think worthy of merit from a non-believing standpoint, but one which was asked and answered over 800 years ago in the thirteenth century by St. Thomas Aquinas.  Since, I don’t want to bore anyone with the wordy answer to the question of evil, the paraphrase is such.  Evil is a derivative, since primarily speaking good is the highest principal, evil is less than this value, it can never be a fully contained supremacy, without good, evil would destroy itself since its overall principle subject is goodness.  In other words, God is not evil, although it can exist, because within the evil decisions of humankind, there are the good decisions which always carry a supremacy of outcome.  Good always wins, and in the darkness which seeks to hide the light of good, we find dark will always exist because there is light, for a shadow is the lingering reminder of our sin and follows us as a reminder to seek the light in everything we do.

I cannot stress this enough, we must seek God to find true joy, without the recognition of the objective truth, love, and our understanding of our place in this universe, we have no hope for joy.   My perspective is just this, God is there for us, God loves us, God wills our good and the good of all.  We are all His creation, and in this, we are all beloved.  Even those of us who’ve chosen to push themselves from God, either by willful attempt, or by ignorant bliss, we are all given his compassion and graces to fill our lives with.  If we choose to fill our lives with anything less than the joy, God provides, then we find we are never quite full and continuously searching for something.  I was there in my life, and when I fully answered this question, everything became clear to me.  Where do you think you go when you die?  Some people will answer, “a hole in the ground!”, some might say, “I don’t know”, others might even answer, “I’m afraid to know”.  My answer after years of avoiding this question and answer was, “I want to be in the loving presence of my creator, I want to be with God!”.  Once I answered this question, there was no turning back (not that I ever want to), but this was a full committal on my part.  This was my life changing course and figuring out, I want what I’ve always been looking for, and in this process. I pray, I can be a beacon to others who are asking themselves the same question.  I felt the question was fundamental, but important for me to wade through the swamp of sin, and begin my journey up the mountain of faith.  I fully believe, the mountain for it to be moved, means we must have the seed of faith, essentially speaking the courage to climb our mountain.  We must have the faith to believe God is there with us the entire way, and we must be willing to accept, this will be the hardest journey of our lives, which will not end until we close our eyes for the final time.

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This is a tough road, I will speak from experience, I fail more than I succeed at times and I am constantly frustrated by my lack of perceived lack of faith.  Though, in my conversations with other men who are on their journeys, we are all walking this perilous road up the mountain of faith, and although it seems impossible at times, and feels like we could fall at any second, just remember God holds us up, and bears our burdens if we just allow him.  For all he men and fathers out there, does it feel like everything is resting upon your shoulders?  Do you feel like you must work in a job you hate, or submit yourself to those who constantly undermine or underappreciate your contributions?  Me too, but if you try and go it alone, you will be destroyed by the very notion of a never-ending onslaught of degrading paradigms.  So, what can we do?  Embrace our wives, let them know of our struggles, pray together, find your faith together, you are one.  Within our covenant with God, we must embrace our struggles together and meet the challenge of life head on, this is what men do.  Being stoic about any problem and failing to truly solve it, or bring about a loving answer is something the movies have fed to us for over a century.  Men crumble, and men are failures, and men can’t do everything alone, when we create a pedestal of glory, only one thing can ever happen, it will eventually fall.  So, don’t!  Let God in, let him guide you through the briars of childhood, know your kids will test you at every turn, but your love will keep the light in their hearts, your compassion will show them a strength which can’t be synthesized from any other means than the love of Christ.  Sacrifice for them in ways which astound and yet be willing to continue, unconditionally, your pursuit of their hearts as God does for us.

I would challenge everyone to stop, slow down, and realize just what is important.  This weekend alone, we had discussions in my home about the importance of God and family as it pertains to our lives and the lives of the people around us.  Though to truly appreciate the mire of the swamp which sin exists in, we must be willing to seek joy.  We cannot appreciate the joy God brings in our lives without the existence of sin, and our willingness to push sin away for the pure joy love will bring to each and every one.

As men, we must walk that mile in another’s shoes and recognize they need us, and much as we need them, but we must also be encouraged to be unafraid and bear all which may come in our path.  Do not run from your fears as they exist in sin, but stand firm knowing they Love of God stands behind you always.  Seek your joy.  Find your joy in hard work, in being a husband who is willing to show his spouse a better version of himself, and be willing to accept your role as father.  Sacrifice your time, efforts, energies so they can also find their joy.  Joy will get us through those times when all our heart yearns to do is weep, because we continue to look to God.  God’s presence mitigates all pain.  If you failed, keep trying, I would love to be a failure with you, and know we are always seeking the light of truth.

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As I’ve stated in the past, our ability to love, should eclipse every ounce of embarrassment we might endure, every point of pain which we will feel, and every moment of doubt seeking to disturb us in our silence.  Listen for God, listen to his voice, it will come to you in the silence of your heart, if you’re willing to listen.  I pray the Love of God will rest firmly in your heart, and your love will become a transcendent ray of light for your spouse and your family.  Do something wonderful with your life, glorify God in every way possible, when you do this you will most certainly find joy.  Your sacrifices in life will be a constant source of joy if you allow them to be.  God is the greater glory of our existence, never forget this.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Where Are Your Priorities?

I will tell you, in my selfish pursuit of anything, I am constantly challenged with putting the proper priority in context with my life, and I usually need to make things simple for me to be successful. 

This morning, I was looking at bills and daydreaming of a day when I won’t have to worry about debt.  I’m sure most of us, think about the same thing.  This is probably more prevalent today than at any other time in human history, we are wealthier than ever before, and because of this wealth, we are enticed to buy more items to fill the material void created by our comfort.  So, as I am sitting here, and pondering different scenarios to pay off the list of bills, I start placing a general priority on the bills on paying bills of most importance to least important.  I’m looking at annual percentage rates, and effect of disposable income increase before I commit to a bona fide action plan.  It then occurs to me, if we placed as much emphasis on the small details of our own lives as we do on our bills and perhaps health, would we be happier, or better husbands and fathers?  Are our priorities a reflection of God’s will in our lives, or do we choose to take the reflective sources of culture to make our earthly lives more bearable and comfortable?  Only we know the questions to our own circumstances, and as heavy a question as this is, it is important to answer with full truth.  Be courageous enough to admit, we all fall short, but how can we make it better and rectify our wrongs?

I will tell you, in my selfish pursuit of anything, I am constantly challenged with putting the proper priority in context with my life, and I usually need to make things simple for me to be successful.  I always tell my kids, and subsequently now, people I run into.  We have three priorities in life, we must follow to be intrinsically ordered; first glorify God with everything you do, without God, there is nothing and we are nothing, and if we are nothing so are our achievements or in most cases our lack of achievements.  Second, family, without our families we have no base of comparison in life, we have no one to cheer us on in our successes and console us when we fail, and we have no one to teach us a proper understanding of truth as it exists in objectivity.  Third, we must be willing to “handle our business” in everything we do.  This means, we follow our principles set forth by our Faith and our Church, this third is a contingent of the previous two, because when we follow the first two we invariable embrace the last.  Many years ago, when I first picked up the Bible, I read a passage, Mark 12:28-34, and it read “One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, ‘which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these’”.  This scripture blew me away, its simplicity was put forth to the scribe, but within the walls of its utter ease, was shown to the answer which even in complication presents the truth.  I don’t think we find many things in life, which on the surface are what they say they are, but also present a world full of answers within those simplistic phrasing.

Can you think of any time where a comment has been spoken to you, perhaps a platitude, and within the hearing the context of the words, your life in some way is changed?  The wisdom in Jesus’s words are unparalleled in their fervor, but also in their approach to answer what seemingly is a question anyone could attempt a more material answer with.   In our culture today, people might say, commandments are a little old and outdated, or some others might speak in ambiguities, because they truly don’t have an answer.  Whatever anyone might indicate as being important, based within their priority structure, we must not forget, anything less than glorifying God, is just not enough.  Therefore, the Ten Commandments are listed in the order they are in, from most important to least, and the very first is “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before Me.”.  This isn’t meant to be a rule you can’t break, although you shouldn’t.  No, it’s an instruction manual to help you ford the river of life, and reach God who patiently awaits on the other side.  God loves you and me so much, his joy is reflective in us, if we are willing to look for him in our hearts, and lovingly follow his instructions to find him.  I would consider the commandments more like a map in search of the heart of God, and all we need to do is accept the guidelines and they will lead us to our life of Joy in God.

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Ok, so as priorities go, my most important priority is God.  What does this mean?  Seems a little open, how am I supposed to achieve this priority, unless I stop everything and run around singing his praise every second of the day?  Well, I guess anyone could do it, and in truth there are some saints in the past who’ve done this very thing.  Though, I’m not telling anyone to do anything they haven’t reconciled within themselves, and I would want anyone considering anything to listen to the silence of their heart for the answer.  God will give us the answer, but be bold enough to accept this truth, no matter what it is, and no matter what it may mean for you as your life exists.

What has worked for me, is acknowledging everything I do as a gift from the Almighty, and within this gift, I only want his glory to be realized.  If I write a paper, I don’t want anyone to pour on a lavish account of my words, because in truth, my words are helped along by the Holy Spirit, and they are for the Glory of God.  Which as a result, I hope my words will bring about conversion, and I pray my words will create a compassionate understanding of the overall love, God wants to give us with every breath we take.  Just look at the world around you, and you will see in every detail of everything you look at, God is in the smallest of the small and yet more wonderful than the highest of the high.  I was fortunate enough to leave my home one morning this week, and the sunrise was gorgeous, there were oranges, purples, yellows, grays, and pinks.  I’m sure there are some scientific folks out there who could give me an explanation of the science which creates these colors, and believe me I would love to know it.  Though this is surface deep, when I really considered the sunrise, I saw the creator beginning everything and knowing I would leave my house at exactly the right time, to see his Glory in splendor as it was painted across the sky.  How wonderful, how loving, and yet how humbled am I, I was permitted through life to see at least one more beautiful sunrise and gaze upon a splendor which is God.  God is in all things, and no matter our belief systems, we can all agree on beauty.  Science can tell me why it looks this way, but only beauty can relate my emotion and the correlation of God’s creation as it pertains to my life in this moment only.

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So, God is in everything, take a moment to realize and contemplate this paradigm, you will be a more humbled and loving person if you do so.  This is what I’m trying to teach my children, and when they ask the obvious question about pain and evil within this beauty, we all need to remember, even in the Glorious presence of God, did the devil insist on turning away, and relegating himself to an existence devoid of love.  So too, will people on this Earth, they are willing to acknowledge God, but unwilling to love God, and in doing so are accepting a path of pain, which isn’t necessarily derived of their own pain, but on the joy of the pain of another.  Love must be given, and never taken, all God can do is love us into existence and continue, unconditionally, and we choose to do the same or walk away.  My kids in their youth have never chosen to walk away, but in their inexperience, have lashed out in an unloving manner at people who care about them, and people who don’t, but it’s my responsibility to teach them the difference and the need to love both parties of offense because we are all beloved in God’s eyes.

My wife and I experience the same struggle, but ours is to attempt to understand one another.  We are one, in the covenant with God, and in the existence of this bond, we struggle from time-to-time.  Though, our recognition and humility in the sight of God’s Graces poured out over us, is what centers us and our pursuits in life.  My wife is a wonderfully strong woman, who in her own way has wisdom which far surpasses my own, but is humble enough to ask my opinion of matters which involve both of us, though I admit she could probably decide on her own best practice.  However, in her wisdom she elicits the recognition, we are as one and must function as one.  Though, within this recognition we face the second of the priorities, family.  As we are the teachers of our kids, and we also, whether we care to admit it or not, are examples to anyone who we are in contact with, our secondary life focus is on our family, nuclear, extended, and all people we meet.  Everyone is a part of the body of Christ, and in this understanding, we are all one family (clearly not in the genetic sense, but this doesn’t diminish my recognition of my brothers and sisters in our world).

Family, has numerous functions, and I think the most importantly the family’s role in this world is to unconditionally love one another through a recognition of the love within one another, and the love which is God.  I know this is difficult at times, just the other night, I watched two family members who normally get along very well, look at each other with disdain in their eyes, creating an atmosphere of tension so palpable it seemed to weigh everyone down and risk a tremendous upset.  Though, they love each other so much, they were willing to talk about their disagreement and walk away from the situation because their anger was still on the surface and nothing good would come from the irritation occurring.  As I thought on this some more, later in the evening, I was heartened at the thought of how, even if some people don’t care to admit it, but the devil is there to rip families apart because the family is the single biggest threat to him.  The power of love within a family, is paralleled by nothing, which is why the family is so important to our culture.  We need to stand up and recognize this, and husbands, this is as much on you as it is anyone else (don’t put yourself in a position of compromise, and don’t say to yourself, “why isn’t she doing anything?”, simple answer, because you are the man, and you need to act like it).  I hope my words aren’t too harsh for anyone, but I believe them completely.  As a man, I need to be the strong, the compassionate, the soft, the flexible, the rigid, and the understanding all rolled into one.  I can’t be afraid to fail, and yet still have the courage to keep trying until the full Glory of God is realized.  My wife, whether she really wants to always admit this or not, needs this in me, she is a woman, and as strong as she is, she isn’t and will never be a man (political climate aside, I’m referring to biology), and expecting her to be one is an abhorrent aberration of societal detriment we should stop doing immediately.  She is a beautiful woman, and should be treated as such, her strengths are not mine and likewise mine are not hers, which is why God gave man and woman, as a compliment to one another.  Stop looking at the times and trying to match subjective nature with reality, come into a reality of truth and be men who are what God intended, and while you’re at it, a beard is always a good way to start.

The last priority I follow is when we handle our business, and this covers all things, but is reliant of the first two priorities to maintain consistency.  So, what do I mean by handling one’s business, well, just like it says.  Don’t be lazy and allow acacia to enter your life, and don’t do anything which in its context is less than loving.  For example, my son, shorter than some, but as wonderful a boy as you would ever meet, and a heart as big as the ocean.  He, becomes frustrated by others who are short-sighted and measure him only by his physical stature, creating a sense of diminishment in their eyes, can complicating they matter by lowering his self-esteem.  This at one point or another has become an issue, and in certain cases, he’s resulted in anger to solve the problem and lashed out with his quick wit and created an insulting environment for everyone involved.  Though, when both his mother and I speak to him, our first question to him always is this, “son, was there any love in what you did?”.  His response is usually something like this, “why do I have to love them, when they are hurting my feelings?”.  I think this is a fair point of view to take when someone is, especially in this case, willfully ignorant of another’s place in this world and how their actions are perceived.  Though, our response is, “because, they need your love more, and your reflective light more than you can know, and until you understand this fully, we need you to consider their feelings before your own.”  From, discussions in the past, I’m sure there are plenty of people who would consider our advice to our son as being naïve, but in the same vein if this is the case, is it fair to consider the actions of Paul as being naïve as well?  His fervor and proselytization of the truth were more important that any cultural norm, especially in ancient Jerusalem.

The point we try to teach our kids is always one of love, and to always ask the simple but profound question to themselves, “was there any love in my actions?”.  If they can get a yes, and if their moral principles have been followed, they are good, and all one can say any further is, “go with God!”.

I’ve heard before, people exclaim, “why is everything so complicated?”, and I’m sure you have probably asked this question at one point or another in your life, and I would say, nothing is complicated if you’re willing to accept truth.  When objective truth is involved, it either is or it is not.  You either make good choices or you make bad choices, and those choices where you hesitate probably to have more to do with the fulfillment of a selfish need than a true pursuant desire to love.  No one’s perfect, and I suffer from this more than I care to admit, though I can see the path more clearly now than ever before in my life, and although there is a pain involved in changing what I do, and I’m glad to make the changes necessary in my life, to glorify God.  I just need to be better about it, and become more ubiquitous with my attempts.

I hope you and your family are at a joyous place with God being fully at the center of your lives.  If He is not, consider a few things, you’re not alone, and all that is left is for you to ask his guidance, and get ready for the ride.  Then accept your own faults, accept your manhood.  Make the good choice, make the choice to be a true father and true husband, and to be clear, not the ridiculous notions the movie industry sets forth, our families need our spiritual and faith guidance.  They are yearning for it, and they need a strong leader, this is you, so be a man (again, preferably start that beard today).  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Is Your Belief In God, Outdated?

Truth is never outdated, it is just what it is, truth just takes a matter of faith to realize its implication within our lives.

When I’ve had an opportunity to speak with anyone, Christian or not, and get their feedback on their overall perception of religion and faith, I receive an answer which eludes to an outdated perception of reality.  They usually talk about science, and how the utilization of empirical data to answer life’s questions is a more solid approach to who and what we are, and why we’re here.  Whereas I agree with the utilization for science, as a matter of answering those questions which elude us in nature, it’s not the whole scope of human understanding.  Really, as deep as science goes, there is an intellectual quality to understanding which if applied properly, affirms our discoveries in science.  Take for instance the fact of evolution, it exists, and has shown humans to drastically change in a rapid amount of time, considering the average span of a species on Earth.  Evolutionary science has also shown us something else, but which is neither explainable or conceivable without one consideration of intellectual submission and acceptance of faith.  Within the history of the World, and within the history of all species, why are humans the only species to have evolved so quickly, and within our own evolution why are humans so advanced in comparison to species which are considered prehistoric (e.g. alligators).

Our appreciation of science is warranted, it explains so much, which previous generations could only ever speculate and when no answer could be surmised, attributed to God (also not untrue, in keeping with the context of all life and matter included).  And, so, when we have conversations and such things as to be relevant to the supernatural, are brought to the forefront, many people are skeptical at the notion of something or someone which defies the very nature we are bound to live by.  We aspire to know something or someone who is unfettered by the everyday restrictions of life, say a famous person who is adulated and wealthy, to increase the comfort in this life.  Though every person must prescribe to the reality which is nature, or at least this is a foundational understanding when discussing the perceived whimsical notions of God.  Though, in one quick swipe of the intellect, we can poke a massive hole in the theory of using science to explain all, such as an explanation for moral intellect, or beauty.  When an argument for moral subjective nature comes into the conversation, we quickly realize without an objective point of reference our morals become points of subjective linear time markers.  They mark the periods with which we attained a new level of understanding, or we degenerated our thoughts because of perceptibility and potential gullibility in action.  There is more opportunity to create a morality out of emotive perception than to recognize an objective mountain which doesn’t move to suit our needs.  Now, this thought should be outdated at this point!  As the race of humans continues to age we’re too far along to think a matter of hubris is something we would never suffer from, because it sounds too much like something from an ancient time, and outdated time.

So, what about faith is outdated?  Is it the notion of a being which has an omnipotence over us and creates us as a need to feel loved?  I’ve heard a lot of reasons people think it would be crazy to believe in God, Christopher Hitchens was quoted as referencing God as a “flying spaghetti monster in the sky”.  Hitchens very notion of an omnipotent God, who watches us, was one of incredulity and suspended belief because of poor grasp of scripture and a misguided perception history based in assumption and supposition from which he drew his conclusions.  His larger context did come as a matter of a belief in science, and science’s ability to answer questions which were once believing to be unanswerable concepts of faith.   He took an epidermal approach to something which the depths are still unknown even now, and concluded based on his light understanding of a topic too complicated to create a simplistic ideology of the outdated, there was nothing to know but us.  We are all gods, and we control our fate, which is only hindered by technology and man’s ability to comprehend.  To say the least, this was a summation of his arguments, but in truth an argument made of straw, and altogether an argument which presumably could be crafted by a first-year philosophy major.  Ok, back to my original point, science can only give us, an answer to what is, but it is our intellect which ultimately derives a solution to the unthinkable the unsolvable.

If we apply the same contextual understanding of science, but more of a philosophical hunt for clues, we find in the pages of scripture and in the words of those since Christ hung on the cross, a treasure trove of signs pointing to truly modern and vibrant concept.  We see people, who already live difficult lives, lives where if work isn’t being done, no one eats.  Lives where one wrong decision to follow the wrong person means death by association.  A time when kings, had first born children hunted down and killed, and yet in the words of the Gospels we find people flocking to the Divine Christ and giving up everything they know.  People who somehow, in their own time, had truth revealed to them, by the Holy Spirit, and truly walked towards the light.  In this, we see Christ raised from the dead, we see sickness healed, and truth revealed over and again.  The fathers of the Church, all but one died as martyrs for Christ, and in this time the word spread like wildfire.  How outdated is a concept of truth, does truth become outdated, or is it a matter of expectation and boredom?  Kreeft, in “Jesus Shock” analyzes the experience of faith and compares it to a modern-day form of entertainment, and his comparison is correctly presented, people are bored with the liturgy.  Primarily, they are bored, because they don’t fully understand what they are experiencing.  Men, fathers, husbands, this is on us to be teachers to our children and to proselytize to the world, the good news.

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How do we combat the boredom we’ve all faced at one point or another?  The answer to this question, is the keystone to a realization of just how modern the truth Jesus has revealed to all of us.  Truth is never outdated, it is just what it is, truth just takes a matter of faith to realize its implication within our lives.  When Jesus, asks his disciples, “who do you say I am?” (Matt 16:15), it wasn’t because he was on some search for self, but he wanted his disciples to reach into the silence of their hearts and listen and have the truth revealed, and Peter’s answer was simple and profound, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”, a truth which was revealed by God.  How is this boring?  When mixed with the works, and the wisdom, and further the love, this was the truth.  In argument over the believability of these statements, some have claimed these were made up and can’t be believed.  Though, if we search our hearts and really think this argument through completely we find a couple of non-sequiturs, the first being, if it were made up then why four gospels and not twelve?  Another question which comes to mind, is why the variability within the context of all four gospels?  Why not have them be the same, if there was no ethereal context whatsoever, how could they possibly presume the context of any argument today, let alone what you are reading now?  The argument for the truth within the context of the writings, adds no mystery, except a question of the ludicrous attempts at dissuasion within the scripture.  The only part of a desire to disprove the existence of God, and subsequently worship at the altar of modern atheism, is the outdated argument tactic of non-existence.

Here is where the modern Church is needed so desperately, to remember our faith isn’t about excitement in the framework of entertainment, but in the intense love which is poured out unto us as a matter of grace.  We must remember, the bread which is transformed into the body, is the body of Christ we consume, and although I can’t reach into a deep theology, I know this should be a transformative experience for each one of us.  We hold the very body of Christ in our hands, and there is nothing boring about this experience whatsoever.   For any person who is unsure about the believability of this happening within the mass, I would remind everyone, God, is, and as this applies, anything is possible.  Within John 6:53, we are given the context of eating the flesh of Jesus when he says to the disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”.  The disciples knew what this meant, and continued this function of love, which is still practiced at every mass today.  It wasn’t until Martin Luther interpreted the scriptures different (nearly 1,500 years later) did the concept of symbolism take shape.  I would rather listen and follow the workings of those who walked with Jesus or those who followed the disciples of Jesus than of anyone who lived a millennium and a half removed from the first century and take any realization without first testing it against what the disciples interpreted and practiced.

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Now, as any Catholic should tell you, this is exciting, we are in the tangible presence of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, when we consume the body and blood.  Which further gets back to the original point, how is understanding the very presence of God, outdated?  Outdated is seemingly an extension of boredom within our culture today, but there is truly nothing boring about being in the presence of God, we’ve diminished God’s pungent presence within our lives, and in doing so we’ve decided we don’t need Him.  However, if you look around you’ll see everyone is searching for something in this life, except those who’ve found God, their search is over, and their journey is on developing a true love for God, and desiring a closer relationship with their creator.

Another more perilous aspect of the outdated mentality is arrogance, and we all assume this shade of sin at one time or another, but we don’t have to, if we remember, God is there with us at every second, His love isn’t one of condemnation.   God’s love is one which cleanses us from the muck and through fire purifies us.  Men, can we be strong enough to admit our failings, and yet be strong enough to push past those failures to be the examples our families need, and our spouses so desperately want?  Can we truly humble ourselves and love unabashedly, even at risk of failure or risk of exposing our vulnerabilities?  The answer, is yes, let go and give everything you have, to God, don’t hold anything back, don’t fail at being truly honest with how you feel in prayer, ask for help, ask for forgiveness, pray for those around you and be truly charitable.

Faith isn’t outdated, only the arguments against faith have become antiquated and empty.  And if anyone is ever interested in reading true arguments against the faith, St. Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica” raises the best.  Nothing anyone brings today, carries the argument equivalent to his objections, and then subsequent refutations.  If we are brave enough to face the criticism brought about by non-believers, we’ll see nothing about Christianity is outdated.  In truth, most detractors are novice when it comes to their knowledge of faith and Christianity in general, they usually attack the negatives (something they can identify with as can everyone) which were purported by those who were corrupted by evil, rather than a focus on those who are truly in love with God and wish to express it with every action and thought possible.

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My goal as a father to my kids is to remember, I’m not trying to make faith an emotive function, although true faith should shake the very ground we walk on.  Instead, I’m trying to teach my kids the comprehension of truth as it exists, objectively.  I’m trying to have them understand a foundational work of truth which they will always be able to build their faith upon, and hopefully their questions and answer will far surpass my own.  I hope they aspire to be a family of saints, God willing, and in their journeys of life, they find the deepest love possible.  Within their journey, I want them to find relevance in their daily lives where God is always at the forefront, and a matter of modernity never is placed in context to how they perceive God.  We risk this, when we attempt to make faith a matter of fun rather than a matter of truth.  Don’t sugar coat the truth from your kids, tell them what they need to know, you’ll be surprised how wonderful their minds work, and how often they will come to you with deep questions of faith and practice.

Our families are second only to our focus of God, but our families in the greater context of society are the foundation for every society, and within our efforts, much like all the fathers out there, we must be willing to sacrifice our children’s need for fun and lovingly serve them truth at every turn.  As husbands, our wives need us the be the reflection of God’s truth in all we do, love your wives unabashedly, hold them, let them know just how much they mean to you.  It’s not a matter of passion, but more a matter of true unconditional love, and the need to be one for the entire family.  I hope the best for everyone, and I pray our families become stronger in the bonds of Christ, and we remember, God is never outdated, only an outdated perception of truth is to blame.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Do You Care About Your Neighbor?

When we think about willing the good of the other, this other person is beloved by God, just as we are, and our will to love them becomes an indirect experience to love God, but to love God through His creations.

I first heard the phrase “will the good of the other, because they are other” while listening to a documentary on the Catholic Faith, which is derived from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (CCC – S1, A1, Ch5, 1766) This was a lightning bolt moment for me, when I heard it, it brought me back to the understanding of Luke 6:32-33, “If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them.   And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit can you expect? For even sinners do that much.”.  Though, we are all sinners and we all tend to do good, especially for those we are agreeable with, and those people who don’t pose any sort of threat, as far as our social standings, or physical health are concerned.  I’ve entered conversations in the past where a challenge to help a stranded motorist on a desolate highway late at night, is answered with “um, nope” from most people in the conversation.  A common and not unexpected response from reasonable people, who are looking to preserve their life (for familial and personal reasons no doubt), and prevent undo danger from occurring.  Ok, so, are we missing something when it comes to following Jesus’s example in the Gospels?  Should we help those motorists, or enter the home of someone who is potentially sick with a deadly disease?  Do we help those people at work who’ve hurt us or caused tremendous discomfort with a reality they’ve set forth, to complicate and degrade our lives?  In short, yes!  We are Christians, and we are the true reflections of God’s light to those who may dwell in their own darkness.  We are the truth, and if we’re unwilling to trust in God, then our faith is nothing more than a whimsical notion of right and wrong which we can project on others and stand in judgement when they fail.  When we can’t be happy for the success and blessings of another, we fail, and our soul’s sadness is magnified through and increased distance (distance is the best analogy of measure when talking about God, not good, but the best I can do) from God.

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Willing the good of the other doesn’t always mean we put ourselves in harm’s way, but does mean, we are willing to see the success of another and want the success from a purely loving and genuine perspective.  This is to say, watching a coworker succeed you in promotion and being as happy for them as you would yourself, happier even.  Failing to acknowledge or even will the good of the other, as Barron points out is a matter of reverse egotism.  When we are angered and jealous because they are unwilling to impart a semblance of good will upon us, based in a deluded expectational goal of social interaction, we fall short of the charity needed to imbue God’s love in this world.  So, what does this mean exactly?  Do we walk around with a goofy smile on our lips everywhere we go, no, not necessarily, but if smiling all the time makes you cognizant of your love for God, then do it all day every day.  Who cares what others think of your incessant smiling, maybe they are where you were at before you began your smiling conversion.  C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity wrote, “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.”  Although, Lewis, has great advice, I’m thinking more along the lines of a perception of will as it relates to us all.

Culture today, is based on an increased awareness of self.  A push to look out for one’s self before moving forward with anything else of a charitable nature.  When dealing with people who are infirmed or homeless, we ponder what this will mean for us in a far-reaching way.  Of course, I don’t want to sound pessimistic, I know everyone is on their own spiritual journey, and everyone comes to the conclusions of faith when it is the right time.  Though, for my own purposes, I’ve felt this way many times, and regret my personal and selfish motives for completing any good will regarding anyone else.  It doesn’t change the good work which was accomplished, and it doesn’t negate the benefit anyone may have received from our unselfish acts, although I acknowledge my own selfish motivations.

Though, since I was moved to action by Barron’s simple words, I’ve found different motivation in my perception of the people who surround me.  The first being, I truly want what is best around me, and secondly, I recognize the very nature of our existence, and why we were created in the first place.  God’s will was to love us into existence, and all he wants in return is our love, but to have our pure love, He is willing to allow us a choice.  Within our daily actions, our choice is our will to capitulate to God’s never-ending love.  This is to say, when we focus on God’s warmth and light, we are focused on willing the good in everything we possibly do.  We are transcended, as it were, to a higher plane where more than ever before we see truth more clearly.  We accept a harder understanding of life, and yet we attain a greater level of joy, which creates an inexplicable sense of calm, like oil smoothing itself over the surface of the water.

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While wanton of the best outcomes for everyone I have ever met and those I’m sure to meet in the future, I have experienced a sense of destruction, at least as far as tearing away those old constructs which seemingly were strong and rightfully perceived, but when exposed to the light of truth, were seen for what they were.  Duplicities, meant to merely hide a façade of wretchedness, focused on self, and self-aggrandizing.  It was an awful sight, when exposed to the light, yet in its exposure, there was a feeling of righteousness as I began to tear all of it down to the very foundation.  The foundation was the love of God, the existence of faith, and our general understanding of who Jesus was/is, and how this would ultimately pertain to my life as it was and how it will ever be going forward.  The truth of charity as it pertains to my existence among all God’s creatures, especially as we are a part of the overall Body of Christ and the Church’s mission to bring everyone into the fold.  We can’t of course do this, if we are seeking our own ends, by seeking our own means.  We want to control how we show our charity to one another, and in doing so, we hope to control our destiny, which in a very rudimentary way, we hope to be gods over our own individual universes.  Our will is not God’s will, except when we hope to reflect God’s will by our very own actions and thoughts.  It requires our thoughts to be as pure as our actions, and we begin to purify our thoughts by prayer.  Prayer was the single most effective tool for me, in my approach to the good of everyone I meet.  My prayer for the person who was out to ruin my day, made all the difference in the world.  My wife would say to me, “you never know what they are going through!”, and so she is right as usual.  She is an example of God’s grace for me, she is wonderfully strong and capable of keeping things together so we can come to God, evenly yoked.

Another strong point which should all give us pause is, when we think about willing the good of the other, this other person is beloved by God, just as we are, and our will to love them becomes an indirect experience to love God, but to love God through His creations.  God doesn’t make mistakes, and in the overall process of love, if God can find something to love about our enemies, so can we.  In the movie, The Shack, the father, played by Sam Worthington is bitterly angry at the loss of his kid (sorry, to spoil this if you haven’t seen it yet), but is then given a choice to pick if he had to choose between his two remaining kids, which one would he pick.  An impossible task, and one which no parent can do, no creator can do.  God, does not choose between any one of us, instead, he allows us to choose him, and he never leaves our side, nor does he abandon us when we’ve pushed him away with our incessant need to sin.  As this understanding should unfold for us, we can also understand, God, wants us to love our brothers and sisters as much as he does.  This love begins with a wanton effort to will the best possible circumstance we can.  We pray, whatever the bad times are, they may turn to good.  We are excited for the great outcome of their personal life, and we above all else seek to understand who they are to God and to us.

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Men, here is where we are at.  We must be willing to stand up and will the good of the person who stands near us, even when they wish to do us harm.  So, back to the original set of questions.  Do we help those who might be willing to hurt us?  The answer to this question is yes.  A resounding yes, our eternity is with God, and not here, Earth is a stopping off point before we embark on all eternity.  Why are we this concerned about a material life?  Could it be we would miss our wives, or our children, possibly the creature comforts we’ve become accustomed to in this life so far.  Our lives are not about comfort, although we are the most comfortable humans who’ve ever lived, our lives are about sacrifice and devotion.  Our devotion to God above all else, our devotion to or family, and our devotion to all peoples.  It’s not about the best animal activist group, or who won which award, or how much money did we make, and it’s not about where we are in the line.  It’s about our individual efforts to be a driving force for the world, in love, in giving of ourselves for the best possible outcomes and understandings of those who are God’s children.

I’ve had many conversations on this topic in the past, and I think we could at some level agree, on the positive outcomes for everyone.  Though this leads to two opposed methods of thought, the first being a pursuit for an equality of outcome, and the second, is an abandonment when the risk of death is introduced.

An equality of outcome is an ideal place to be, but equality of outcome isn’t a biblical understanding, it’s a manmade desire.  Even within the confines of Heaven, there are different levels, and different positions of placement; though the different positions don’t correspond with achievement as say would be won in a race.  Instead, the difference of level is based more on the graces with which God has poured out to us.  Even the angels have varied degrees of importance, though all love God fully, enough to sing “Holy, Holy, Holy” without ceasing.  We are where we are, because this is where we are.  Cryptic, and not satisfying, I know, but truthful nevertheless.  Your ability to be a father isn’t translatable to another paradigm, although, your actions may be.  A father may see your love for God, and in this he will be led to the light, and may become a reflection for his own family.  We can inspire to love God, but we can never replace, or expect identical outcomes, our only expectation is God lifts us up, and we can accept or deny him, it’s our choice.

Finally, faith is our compass and our tool as we search for God, and pertaining to God alone (in the Trinity of course), when death becomes a reality, what were our efforts in this life.  I will never suggest anyone do anything they are not prepared to do, but for me, my faith is one of hard decisions.  Unto death do we realize our existence as a matter of time, but on the overall perception and functionality of objective reality, there is a bigger context which we must accept if we are to accept Christ.  We must accept, death, Christ died for all mankind, and in doing so wiped away the original sin Adam and Eve brought about by their “original sin” and eating the forbidden fruit.  Though, we all must die, and for some this is a very disagreeable notion, they must leave everything they know, and all the people they love.  Faith is our function to overcome this fear of death, our ability to look past, although we aren’t sure what we’re really looking at, and accept the unfettered goodness of which God is.  The pure love which envelopes us, and permeates our existence to the ends with which no one can imagine.  Even those numerous near-death experiences (NDEs) which have been given to us in detail, have no explanation or wording to describe their experiences.  They are changed though, they are transformed into a greater understanding of their short-comings and willing to accept their sin for what it is.  When St. Thomas Aquinas was amid writing the third section of the Summa Theologica (his masterwork of over 3,500 pages, and subsequently the explanation of Christian theology as we know it), while in Matins, he was in intense prayer when a voice from the image of Christ on the cross and it said, “Thou hast written well of me, Thomas; what reward wilt thou have?” St. Thomas replied, “None other than Thyself, Lord.”  When he was asked to continue his writings, Thomas stated, “I can do no more. Such secrets have been revealed to me that all I have written now appears to be of little value”.  His transformation had less to do with himself or what anyone else could provide, but more to do with what God had in store for him.

Willing the good of the other because they are other, is a very foundational understanding of who Christ is to each one of us.  God’s loving will to create us, is a matter of agony in love, then of warmth within love.  The agony of knowing something you love unconditionally, has turned away from because of their refusal to accept your love, must be agonizing.  This is represented in the crucifixion of Jesus on the cross, to show every one of us, how much his love is willing to go, for all of us, to endure unspeakable amounts of pain, and still as he hangs on the tree, he wills the good to the thief by saying, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43).  Before he expires and lifts the whole existence of mankind and he says “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34).  Jesus was the true example of willing the good of the other, and loving those who would hate us.  We must teach this to our kids, we must be examples of this to our spouses.  Our responsibilities to our families and to the world we live in cannot be overstated, it’s up to every one of us daily to be the examples for everyone, by following the examples Jesus set forth on the day when he hung from a tree for our transgressions.

I hope and pray the words you read today, will help strike a chord in your heart, and help you to pursue a life of love in God’s name.  I pray your families will become stronger with each passing day, and never fear what is hard or ever fear the reflective light of God you bring to them.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Have You Ever Faced Rejection?

Our rejection of God, is the rejection of love. 

Have you ever faced rejection?  Have you ever been turned away for just being who you are?  I think on some level we’ve all faced a level of rejection which forever changes us.  Some people are more apt to receive a rejection, because they choose to exist on the fringes on our societal norms, but in the end, they still possess enough desire to be a part of the larger collective, and are affected by the rejection of others.  I know from personal experience, not looking the right way and acting the right way are two ways we become ostracized from inclusion of popularity.  I’ve been on both the receiving end, and I’ve also been the person (to my shame) who has excluded others for something as simple, as I didn’t like how they looked and acted.  It was only when I was put out by another, because I wasn’t agreeing with the proverbial mold they put forth, did I realize just what it meant by rejection.  I’ve been rejected by loved ones, for being too much of one thing or another.  I’ve been rejected by jobs, for failing to have whatever it was they were looking for.  I’ve also been rejected by ignorance, people failing to understand my faith and what I am completely about, and subsequently rejecting me, by their apathy or avoidance in hopes I would, “get the message”, and leave quietly.  I’m quiet about hardly anything, and instead of avoiding conflict, I ran to it, like a moth to a flame.

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When I was a kid and growing into my teenage years, I was “big-boned”, flabby around the middle, I was a food connoisseur of sorts.  I enjoyed eating, and working out wasn’t on my list of to-dos’, I did enjoy playing sports, but because of my increased girth, I found it difficult to keep up with the other boys and subsequently I sat on the bench a great amount of time as the games became more competitive.  As I grew older, I felt more rejection by people who I once considered my friends, for little more than I couldn’t keep up with them, sort of a natural selection.  I was hurt at the time, but I masked it with laughter or anger and tried to move on.  Although, it did one thing for me, it gave me a drive to attempt to work harder to prove, I could do anything they could do, but the rejection was solid, although I attended all practices and ran all the miles, I still wasn’t chosen for the team.  I was given a conciliatory job to keep score, and fetch the sandwiches for the portly coach during our practice (subsequently, I was still required to run when I finished fetching the sandwich, as the other boys laughed at my expense).  To make matters worse, I was also a singer, and to my horror, while asking for a practice off to sing at a school competition, I was instructed to sing for my teammates as a proviso requirement to have the practice off for said competition.  I shudder just thinking of looking at the amusement of those boys watching me humiliate myself for the coach, once again.  This for me was a form of rejection which even stings a little to this day.  Now, I don’t want to insist, my embarrassment was something along the lines of comparison for anyone who has felt degradation at the hands of rejection (i.e. rejection based on racism or xenophobia).  Though, I think I bring enough of a point as to draw similar situations for all who might be reading this.  Perhaps you were the butt of jokes, maybe you made a fool of yourself trying to impress the girl you just knew would be the one, or even deeper, you felt self-rejection over your own actions towards another you considered lesser.

Rejection is a powerful motivating tool for the devil.  To take one’s insecurities, magnified by the loss of inclusion, and submit them to inverse scrutiny whereby the ones who’ve rejected us would be subject to our sinful vengeance.  He promotes the utilization emotive actions where our anger seemingly takes control, and when we’ve lashed out, we’re subject to feeling even more worthless, which becomes a never-ending spiral into the abyss of death.  The farther we fall, the abyss becomes darker and darker, giving us a perpetual sense of despair.  Although this may seem an extreme example, I’m sure we can all think of someone who has suffered from a sense of rejection, and altogether isn’t sure how to handle it.  Sometimes people handle rejection by embracing their differences and rebelling against anyone who they perceive to be apart of the rejectionists, and further complicating their lives by creating a sense of mandated solitude so as not to face anymore rejection.

My daughter and I were watching a classic movie, Back to the Future, and there is a scene where “Marty” says to his girlfriend, “I just don’t think I can take the rejection”, and I think this is so relevant, because anyone watching the movie would probably think, “come on, you played the guitar well, what could that teacher possibly know?”.  Though, if we think back to those moments where we put ourselves out there and were soundly shut out of the group we hoped to be in, we might think the same thing, Marty, did and avoid pain wherever possible.

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For anyone who knows me, knows the story of how I met my wife.  I coolly walked over, to what I perceived as being an older woman, and proceeded to stumble my way through a proposal of a date.  I was so nervous, I even made sure she knew it was with me, and not anyone else or a big group.  In retrospect, I probably sounded like a gigantic moron, but I muddled my way through, and she said yes.  Decades later, she is the love of my life, and we have a home and kids together.  I think this is all because I faced my fear of rejection and I didn’t care if I failed, the prospective of not failing far eclipsed her saying “no”.  The chance to be seen with this beautiful girl was worth every possible pitfall imaginable.  My rejection from the team, I so wanted to be a part of, gave me courage and understanding, not everyone will understand who I am or where I need to be.  Even to the detriment of my honor, reputation, or even good humor, I was going to sing and do the very best job possible.  It was all a matter of perspective, when we can see past any situation and begin to understand, we don’t risk rejection, we gain understanding.  I was always told by my parents, “if someone is making fun of something you are doing, or the way you look, it’s to cover up their own insecurities”.  I’m sure this may be true in a lot of cases, and in others, people are just reacting to their own sense of rejection of fear of rejection and preventing it by striking first.

Ok, so what do we do with this new perspective?  What do we do, when people are willing to shut us out of our coveted position or place or thing?  Remember, there will be no other gods, then the God of all creation, and when we risk the rejection of something other than God, then our focus is misplaced.  God will never reject you or me, or anyone.  He holds us up and gives us abundant graces where we are never rejected.  However, us turning away from God, is our rejection of Him through our want to fulfill our own selfish needs in our sin.  Think of our journey as a path where we run from God and think of His Grace as a light to the path we walk.  The further we get from God, the dimmer the light will become, but it will still let us know we are walking in the wrong direction.   When we finally do figure out our rejection of God has pushed us so far away, we must begin the journey back towards his warmth which is His light.  Our journey back if we are focused on the light maybe perilous, but when our attention is on God, nothing else matters.  Not the rejection of others or of society, but just the warming love of God and His unending love for each and everyone of us.  So the rejection we felt from others is just their way of dealing with their path as they too walk from God, or possible their rejection could be their recognition of their own sin, and leaving us to walk our path as they begin their journey back to God.

As fathers we face rejection from our own children, which must in some manner of speaking resemble how we also turn from our Heavenly Father.  Our kids become so defiant and willing to risk everything to face our wrath and anger, all because their perception is they trust us, and we won’t abandon them.  I think this is much like us to God, we trust God will always be there for us (in some cases with atheists, they never believed anyway, so they have determined they are the authors of their own destiny, although be it, many of the moral and societal norms they regard as necessary are based on a moral religious teaching).  We assume, a loving God is unwilling to turn His back on us, even when we’ve rejected Him.  What some of us don’t fully comprehend is, He loves us enough to search our hearts, and where we’ve really rejected Him, He loves us enough to let us go.  Hell is a door which must be opened from the inside, we must request a place.  In God, the door is always open, but we must accept His love before we can do anything else.

We reject love, and so society tries to replace the absence of love with material items where we are happy for a while, but never filled with joy.  Our rejection of God, is the rejection of faith, hope, and love.  This rejection feeds on everything it sees, and so we are faced with rejection daily from people who’ve also faced rejection, and in their pain are willing to exact the same sort of contrived acceptance we so desperately need.  Our supervisors in work reject us or what we do, no matter how hard we try, society might reject us because we don’t look or act a way befitting their expectations.  Our families might reject us, because of the lifestyle we choose to lead.  There is more rejection in our culture than there are reasons to reject.  Why?  We’ve rejected God!

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Rejection can become the worst enemy we ever face, because it’s ramifications are long-lasting, and in some cases the negative consequences could take years to be fully realized.  Our boorish behavior to women, is a rejection of love and charity as it pertains to God’s creation.  Our rejection of our elders is a disrespect to life and the courage or even necessity to live it.  Our dismissal of those who are fervent in a loving belief, all because it doesn’t suit our selfish inclinations, is our rejection of sacrifice which is a cornerstone belief in any faith and the building block of any stable society.  Currently we reject common sense for the much sought-after study which will explain away all our doubts and put to rest any contrived notions of the past.  We strive to think our generation and the time we live in now is more enlightened, more knowledgeable, and more capable of creation of a better society than any generation before.  This ironic twist to rejection is, we’ve failed to reject hubris, and instead we’ve accepted it with open arms.  We’ve failed to reject our emotive desires to concluded amidst turmoil to create a culture focused on its own feelings and especially feelings associated with being a victim are held in the highest of esteem and given carte blanche until they are then rejected themselves.  Even those things which once were held subjectively sacred, have been rejected for a more constrictive perception of life.  A life where we should be told what to do, what to think, and who to accept base on empty platitudes or superficialities (e.g. criticism of celebrities by celebrities on the red carpet for a show to give awards to people who already lead a rejection worthy lifestyle).

Men, in my past writings, I’ve acknowledged the need for strong men and a presence which dictates a caring need for us to be good husbands and likewise good fathers.  I know I’m guilty for rejection of anything which ran counter to my own expectational beliefs and was unwilling to discuss.  I rejected my family at one point, which had more to do with my stubborn pride and misguided sense of honor, than anything else.  If you are feeling a sense of everything slipping through your fingers, remember, God is holding you up in His own hands, so to speak, and nothing slips through.  Learn to let go, and be willing to focus on God’s will, this doesn’t mean everything will turn out the way you want, but it does mean, you can focus on the bigger picture.  Teaching our children to be fishers in a world so willing to have other people do the work for them, will create a fire which will spread to all corners.  Christianity is global, but there are entire generations of people who seem to have forgotten just who Jesus was and what His sacrifice was for all of us.  He not only rejected the way of man, He sanctified His existence with His sacrifice, and in doing so He embraced us in all in our malevolence and our every attempt to reject God by serving our will instead of His.

It takes a stronger more faithful man to embrace his enemies, including himself, acknowledging his own faults and his rejection of God as a matter of truth.  We can hardly expect to teach a truth if we fail to live the truth ourselves.  Don’t reject those you see no matter who they are, embrace them (accept them), in the best possible way you can.  Sometimes this will just mean to pray for them, because we don’t always know what someone is going through, and anyone who rejects us for some reason or another, needs prayer.  If your focus is on God, and within your focus, you show compassion and love, then prayer is your greatest ally.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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What Is Our Mission In Life?

My mission is to be a father, husband, and devoted servant; nothing more, and nothing less.

Do we have a mission?  If so, what is it?  If we can determine what our mission in life is, can we handle if it doesn’t meet our expectations?

I think we all have a mission, some are to be fathers, some are to be champions of the weak, and perhaps some are selected to be stewards of the world.  No one mission, in the great narrative which is the book of life in God’s eyes are any more important than another.  We just don’t know the story in its entirety; our mission may be that we raise a young child and teach them faith, whereby they are selected to be a father to someone who will one day lead the world in peace for God’s greater glory.  We just don’t know!  Though, not knowing is the journey which we learn and can one day follow what it is we were chosen to do.  Just like on any team we find there are leaders and followers, and as you can probably guess I’m going to point out the obvious.  There can be no leaders without competent followers and vice versa.  This extreme compliment works in all aspects of society it seems.  Look at the example of light and dark, with true light there is true darkness.  We can’t exist in both, but we can make a choice, and when we make the choice it is ours alone.

I wanted to talk about mission after reading (Mk 1:29-39); Jesus indicates to his disciples “Let us go elsewhere, to the neighboring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came”.  There were many people with sickness, disease, and possession in this time and they flocked to him in droves.  Imagine this, there is no such thing as a doctor in your town, and an influenza epidemic has hit, your youngest daughter comes to you and says her throat hurts and she can’t stop sneezing.  What do you do?  Do you sit it out, hoping and praying for recovery?  Or, when you hear of a man, “a great prophet” who can heal and teaches with authority like no other teacher you’ve ever heard.  Do you run at the chance he may be able to heal your child?  Now imagine this, you are the man who can heal, and you feel the pain and anguish of every person who is near you searching for healing, both in the physical and spiritual sense.  You have a mission, do you stay against the wants and desires of the people around you, or do you stick to your purpose?

I think this in a very small way is analogous to the mission we as fathers and faithful men of God are selected to accomplish.  I see simply, do we continue in the directions we know to be right, in the moral teachings of God, or do we capitulate to the needs of our children because we can see the pain they may or may not be in.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not referring to those situations of innocuousness where your son or daughter may want ice cream, and you say “sure”, knowing it may not be what your wife wants.  Those are battle decisions, a choice to do battle over something that provides no long-lasting point, other than being able to flex the dad muscle.  No, I am referring to those decisions when your oldest daughter comes to you and requests that her and her boyfriend would like to go see a movie.  My mission in situations like this is three pronged.  The first, is she safe with said boy?  I want to do my best to insure she is aware of good and safe conduct and to never put her in a position where she may wind up getting hurt or anything much worse (it’s definitely not lost on me, the number of sicko guys out there).  Second, I am not someone who can see into the future, but I would like to think with my experience in life and my perception that behaviors are as easy to read as a book.  I ask myself this question; is the behavior they exhibit on which will get them into trouble in the future?  If so, I must have the strength to say, “no”, no matter how much crying and angry words are exchanged.  Third, as familiar as I am with the ways of the world and the importance placed on sex, I want to show that love is much bigger than a physical act between two people (whom are married).  My wife and I try to have the healthiest relationship possible.  We talk about everything, and yes, we argue about things too.  Sometimes our arguments are unproductive attempts to win the passive aggressive Olympics.  Though, I’ve noticed as we’ve put some years behind us, we’ve become more productive with our time.  We are willing to say sorry more often than try and blame the other for our decisions.  Though with this example, we try to show our children, the relationship is so important to everything in their lives.

When thinking about these three topics, I have no misconceptions about the fact, my daughter is a thinking breathing person, who can at some point make up her own mind with no help from, Dad.  So, I want to give her the choice of understanding, so when she makes her decisions, they are hers and she can own them.  However, like the driver’s education car of my youth, I have my hand firmly on the wheel and my feet ready to slam on the brakes.  At the end of the day, I know better than her, and this is my mission, to let her walk the path and quietly allow her to make some mistakes and gain recognition of the better choices which could have been made.  Though when I see a major bend in this road, to hold her back until I can see she can move forward.  I know this sounds like the typical jerk dad in a Hollywood movie or TV show; though the truth of the matter is, it is necessary.  Sure, there are some dads out there who never want to see their children grow to adulthood, but this truly isn’t the case for either my wife or myself.  We can’t wait to see the grown men and women they will be, but once again it’s out mission to patiently move them down the path of life, until we can see, they will make it.

So, this is my mission in life, at least as far as I can tell; I’m a father, a husband, and a faithful servant in God.  This mission has become my focal point in life, and no I’m not constantly talking to my kids about what they should or should not be doing.  Just like anything which is repeated too much, it might fall on deaf ears; I pick and choose my times to teach them what I’ve learned, because I was a major bonehead for a long time.  I know my teachings to them have three simple points.  God is always the most important aspect of their lives, no matter what adversity they face.  God is always there for them, they must recognize this fact, and they can always continue to move forward with everything.  This may mean, they face terrific hardships, crippling losses, or personal setbacks which test every fiber of their being.   Though they may go through all of this, God is always there, God is always comforting, and most importantly loving them for who they are, not as they see themselves.  If they are always honest and willing to stand up and expose their faults to God, God is always listening and forgiving.

The second point I make to them is the point of family.  Family should always come second, no matter what.  Now, I’m not saying people should allow a family member to walk over them like a floor mat, but what I am saying is, even if they do, we must be willing to make the ties of our families much stronger.  This means seeking to understand those members of our family who get under our skin the most, accepting them for who they are, not necessarily what they do.  This means, in its most unconditional way, we must learn to love them.  Everyone must face their own judgement at whatever time is selected, but in the context of family, our love may just be what they need to really see the reflection of who God is to us, and where they need to be.  I have a brother of whom, I’ve spoken with a couple of times in eleven years, we have just drifted apart, and this is a point of conflict deep down for me.  However, I am there for him no matter what; I love him deeply, and wish him the best no matter what he chooses to do.  Though I will not pander to behavior either; if he wants a relationship with me, he can have one for sure.  I have built my portion of the proverbial bridge, and I must wait for him.  He must build his own portion, otherwise it will never work.  A relationship requires work for both parties involved, and this seems much more complicated when dealing with family, but I feel it is worth the effort.  So, my wife and I teach our kids, family is second only to our faith in God.

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The third point is equally as hard as anything we could ever do.  I always say, “handle your business”, which for all intents and purposes means, make sure you get done what needs to get done.  This means study and make good grades, when given a job finish it to its completeness, always stand firm to their principles (e.g. be honest), and will the good of the other because they are other.  If we are unwilling to be charitable in our behaviors towards others, then we can never truly know love.  Sometimes, I will have a talk with one or more of my kids about someone who causes them grief either in school or the neighborhood.  My advice to them comes down to two things, “make sure you are right in how you act and how you treat the other person”, and second, “before talking, try and listen to what they have to say”.  As you can imagine, my children are more impatient than I am, so this most times falls on deaf ears, but the point is there to be made.  Again, and again, I ask what they could have done better in every tough situation they face, they must be made to realize they should hold themselves to a higher standard before they can have a single expectation of another person.  In this, I hope to challenge their intellect so they can learn the very much needed human trait of self-reflection.  Until someone can learn to do this, they will never progress in anything.  Athletes have the benefit of watching film to get better, but the only tool we have is our humility to ask forgiveness or how we could have been better.  The rough point is, when they’ve followed my advice and it blew up in their face, and they were embarrassed.  Embarrassment is not altogether a bad thing; the root of humility is humiliation, no one can ever hope to be humble without, at least some level, of humiliation that they may be forced to reflect on themselves and their actions.

As a father, when I’ve taught my children these lessons, I’ve thought back at the relevance of my teaching them as it has pertained to my life.  I’ve found when I failed or created a situation whereby my goals weren’t realized or a punitive situation has occurred, it has been a failure to adhere to these three points of action.  So, the relevance is there, and the broad stroke placed on the importance and ambiguity placed on the interpretation, allow for implied understanding in the need for an objective truth.  Without objectivity, I have never been successful in accomplishing anything consistently.

My mission is to be a father, husband, and devoted servant; nothing more, and nothing less.  When I’ve strayed from these roles due to a perception of want on my end, I sense an unseen for drawing me back to the fold, as it were.  When I’ve embraced this mission, my life has been anything but easy, and at the same time rewarding beyond a comprehension to explain.  I’m happy to wake up in the morning, and happy to be even a small portion of my family’s life.  I don’t always get to see my kids because of work obligations, and I’m just like any person who works from early till late, I’m tire when I get home.  I know some people may think there’s a regret there, but there really isn’t.  My kids are a priority, but to be clear, the tail never wags the dog, an old euphemistic phrase a wonderful choir director would say.  I want to give them things I never had and teach them lessons I see as important, but my wife and I never make big family decisions on our perception of how they would feel about our decisions.  Instead, we decide on what would be best.  This is to say, we know what is best, and they don’t, their kids, and as smart as some kids may be this still doesn’t qualify for an ability to make competent adult decisions.  Perhaps, some parents should realize this when deciding whether being a friend to their kid is as important as they think.  My mission is to always be a parent first before trying to gain my child’s affection.  I love them, and I truly want their affection, but they don’t even know what they want, why would I put stock in something which in its entirety is fickle at best.  They are kids, and I want them to be kids, and not worry about anything other than learning and knowing they can trust me and their mother no matter what.

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What is your mission?  Do you know?  Have you really spent the time to discern what is it God has planned for you?  If not, I challenge you to consider the silence of your heart, if you are quiet and listen long enough, you’ll find the answer is right in front of you.  I pray you find a noble and discerning mission which will fulfill your life and those of the people you are meant to be around and associated with.  May God bless you and your family, and remember God first, family second, and handle your business with everything you do.

 

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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You Are Forgiven!

I was so broken, and I hurt so many by my own actions, I felt as though there was no path back to the light.

What does it mean to say, “our sins are forgiven!”?  What exactly is sin to us?  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Ar. 8:2,1849), sin is defined as “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods.  It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity.  It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law’”.  The Catechism further explains sin as being an offense against God, which is “love of oneself even to contempt of God”.  So, to say the least, sin is immoral, and something we should remove ourselves from as quickly as possible.  As this is the case, we don’t remove ourselves from sin because we’re worried we won’t get to heaven, which I’ve heard people say.  No, we run from sin, because we want to know the pure love of God, and we can never truly be in the pure presence of love if we are choosing to sin.

Understanding what sin is and how it relates to our daily lives is an absolute imperative to understanding forgiveness.  Men, we should be the first to forgive and set the example for a culture which is seemingly devoid of forgiveness, and looks to ridicule, blame, and shame those of us who have had their sins exposed.  To begin, it starts with all of us making the effort to look within ourselves and see where the cracks in façade are, or even where are the gaping holes which make up the edifice of our exterior duplicity.  Looking deep within the recesses of our soul, and carefully listening to the voice of God in our hearts tell us, we too are sinners and yet he loves us.  When we can stop and look within our self, we can know what it truly means to be broken.  We are all broken in some way or another, and when you see someone who is truly put together, we must remember, we truly don’t know what they are going through, and although they seem to have it all, they may be screaming for help.  So, listen to yourself, I am a believer in our personal ability to recognize the pain in others is a gift which comes from a direct recognition of our own pain, and within this acknowledgement we truly have an ability to heal.  God has given us this gift of endurance to withstand the ugliness which creeps into our hearts and seeks like a dark unseen force to destroy by ripping apart those things which would bind us in love.  Deceit, anger, envy, and laziness are just a few to give us example into a world of sin, which we all spend our time cowering in the darkness.  God’s love is the light which exposes these sins, and gives us the strength to cast them out with the force so powerful as to have no equal.

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In my younger days, I was not averse to sinning and openly not caring about my actions, except for I didn’t want to face the negative consequences which so commonly occurred because of my personal decisions to hurt.  Hurting is what sin is all about, even if we don’t feel pain from our sinful ways, there are people who do, or who will feel the pain, and what’s worse they feel pain due to no true fault of their own.  It stands as an analogous equivalent to us walking up to a family member and slapping them in the face for no reason, and then walking away as though we never cared for them to begin with.  When we can look at the whole situation, we can see the awful nature of sin, where It’s hurtful action and coldness, are an indication of a lack of remorse.  Sin make us numb to love and life as we see it every day, and how can we even expect to find a loving relationship with God, when we can’t love others or truly love ourselves.

Ok, so if everyone sins, doesn’t this just mean we are all working on stuff, and we don’t need anyone telling us how to live?  Well, in short, no!  We all need the advice of others who are farther along their spiritual journey than us.  Those of us who’ve ascended the mountain, but love us enough to wait and help bring us along with them, even at their own peril.  A lesson of humility I try and tell my kids is, “there is always someone faster, better, smarter, funnier, and more popular than you.  So, if your focus is on those aspects of life, you will always fail.” I know it sounds a little harsh, but truth does hurt, and love can be even more painful for us as fathers, when we must watch our children learn these lessons.  I am good about not bringing up some potential problems without having a solution though.  If we can acknowledge we may be deficient in some areas, and in some cases, there is no way past this barrier, it should make us rethink our entire focus of life.  Our focus should be on the love of everyone we meet, it should be on the support of those who are good at what they do, even if it means we will never be the superstar in comparison.  Our focus should always be on willing the good of the other, charity is and “mankind is our business”, to borrow Jacob Marley’s phrase in A Christmas Carol.  God has a plan for each one of us, and when we try to out-think or control our “destiny” we subvert the very graces and love God pours on us, and in this sin, we assume roles of deity, which we are not, because there is always something bigger, better, smarter, faster, and more sought after than us.   Even in competition we see how sin moves its way into our lives and corrupts what should be healthy, all because we want control.

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Control, is where I always found my short-comings to be at; I wanted control in everything I did, and I assumed I could out-think any situation which ever came along.  I was so wrong, and I left the mistakes and the pain in my wake of selfishness.  Ok, where did I begin my journey?  Confession, I talked to my local priest, a man whom I’d known since I was a child, and who married me and baptized my children.  I trusted his spiritual guidance, aside from his impressive compassion and knowledge of all things related to God, he is also very kind.  So, I confessed my sins, and when he didn’t stand up and kick me out of the confessional, nor did he act surprised, I was overcome.  I wept like a child in front of him, and he accepted me for who I really was.  I was so broken, and I hurt so many by my own actions, I felt as though there was no path back to the light.  I was so wrong though, not only was he willing to show me the way, he was also willing to walk with me through the fire as well.  When I left, I was physically drained, I had nothing left in the tank it seemed.  A few days went by, and now I was on my own because I felt this is where I needed to be, I left everything and everyone for my own company (don’t it’s an awful choice).  Then just when I thought I could never have anything like what I pushed away ever again, God saw fit to prove me wrong.  His graces flowed through those people who I pushed away, and those I derided as my enemy, and slowly and deftly they accepted me and my sinfulness, and then with love held me up.  They forgave me.

After my walk through the wasteland of sin, I realized a few things which have always helped me to self-reflect and then to understand those who are struggling themselves.  First thing, everyone, whether they are willing to admit it or not, is looking for some form of redemption.  God is the only source for redemption, and when you forgive them for their actions, do it with the light of God in your heart, and I promise they will feel it.  Even if they refuse to acknowledge it.  I know this sounds somewhat mushy, but I’ve seen it work time and again, and I’ve seen strong men, crumble under the magnitude of the weight of sin which assumed a position on their shoulders.  What allowed them to feel God’s light, were other men willing to accept their pain and continue to love regardless.  The second lesson I learned was, we must be willing to show other men what men of God can do.  We, must be willing to hold up our brothers and sisters, in a way they can learn to become “fishers of men” Mark 1:14-20.  We aren’t perfect and at one point or another, we need to rely on the efforts and prayers of those around us, we need the community, brotherhood, to remind us who we need to be, and look out for us in every possible way.  This is where forgiveness comes into play, we must be willing to admit our fault, and at the same time we must be willing to forgive those who have sinned against us.  It can’t work any other way.  We should always be humbled by those people who embrace the sinner rather than push them away.

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Men, I can firmly say, we have a tough road ahead of us.  We should be working to carry the light of Christ through our culture and make sense of the tragedies we see daily.  The shootings, bombings, and vitriol which is bombarding us at every turn.  People are dying, and we seemingly have no solution for the problems at hand.  Sin is running rampant across the world, and it seems very little is being done to combat it.  Sacrifice is what is needed here.  No culture or movement was ever anything at all without sacrifice.  If Jesus had not been sacrificed and then risen from the dead, there would be no Christianity for sure, but then there would be no possibility for redemption in life either.  What can you sacrifice to combat the sin you face every day?  Can you pray, and sacrifice your time?  Can you forgive your opponent in life, and with a heart full of charity will the best for them?  Can you let go of your anger and pain from years of sin?  Can you finally let God take control, and trust in his love?

I know some concepts are seemingly easy to say, but so very difficult to put into practice.  It’s too easy in some cases to tell you to forgive someone who has so abhorrently behaved towards you, and not have you feel like you lost.  For me, it felt like I was losing every time.  It appears I was the only person trying, but what I completely looked past, was everyone’s efforts prior to my own.  Their efforts were more magnanimous than my own, and the growth I was dealing with through my journey to forgiveness of myself, hurt.  I needed to give them time, and I needed to understand, a process of trust and forgiveness takes time, like any wound, it needs to be properly cleaned set and then we wait for it to get better.  This was exactly how it worked for me, everyone needed time, and I was just going to have to understand them and where they were at with me.

Within sin, we choose to push ourselves away from God, we stop seeking his love and start trying to do everything alone.  This never works, no matter how many have tried, there is an emptiness and loneliness which swallows up the soul, and leaves seeking what we can’t find like a drug addict looking for their original high.  Love is the only medicine which cures this sickness, and forgiveness is the method which it is administered.  It is painful because it is a detox of the soul.  It aims to purify us by loving to extinction that which would have separated us eternally from God, and giving us the sense of understanding which becomes purpose in the pursuit of God.  So, how do we receive the forgiveness we seek, by giving it to those who seek it from us, by our love of the people we are surrounded by daily, and finally by sacrifice.  Sacrifice unto yourself those things which would separate you from God’s love.   Don’t be afraid of what anyone might think about your zeal and love for God, if the saints in Heaven had ever been worried about appearances, we would never have had St. Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis, was truly a man in search of God’s heart, and just his example is one of wonder and longing.  We should all aspire to become a saint.  When someone asks you what your goal in life is, your standard answer should be, “to become a saint”.  This should be the goal of every human being who ever lives.  Forgive often, and don’t let fear keep you from seeing the objective truth as it is before you always.  Allow yourself to be forgiven, don’t let the deceiver allow you to believe you’re not worth the effort.  You most definitely are worth every effort.

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I will leave you with a few thoughts, the last act of Jesus before he expired on the cross, was to forgive those who were putting him to death, Luke 23:34.  The divine Christ, forgave his murders, and then in passionate wording looks at the thief who accepted his fate and his sin, and begged forgiveness says, “This day you will be with me in paradise” John 23:43.  This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible, it is so loving and so wonderful, while in the midst of so much pain.

If you are having trouble as a father and a husband, be willing to be open and to accept the payment for any poor decisions you’ve made.  Then allow forgiveness, all the healing to begin.  It may not always work out the way you envisioned, but I would bet those people we’ve hurt never envisioned how we would hurt them either.  Trust in God, allow his love to permeate ever cell in your body, and become a true reflection of his light within your soul.  If you are facing troubles, just remember what my wife always tells me, “this too shall pass”.   Your pain will pass for sure, and your focus and prayers to God will mitigate it.  Remember, your prayers are not about you, they are about your relationship with God, and with those around you.  Don’t be selfish, and never tell God what you want, humbly ask for his will to be done always.  I pray my words, although difficult to take at times have helped you and allowed you to see hope in your life, and I pray God blesses you and your family.

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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What is God’s Narrative For You?

The narrative which intertwines all human existence into one single story and creates a relational wave which is continuously moving throughout all generations up to our current times is a narrative which can only be authored by God.

What is God’s narrative for us?  Years ago, I was asked what my five-year plan was.  This was of course about my work life, and where I saw myself in an approximate time of five years.  I thought so much of this question, I would apply it to many things I’ve done, some good and some good but with room to improve.  In other words, the question is ok, but seemingly lacking something greater.  I can see the benefit from a Socratic methodology to disseminating a truth from question and answer, but in the end, it should never just end with an open-ended question.  A dream without goals is nothing but a dream, a dream with proper expectation and goal attenuation as an alternative is something I can sink my teeth into.  So, what do I mean by goal attenuation?  Just this, goals are often left in up in the air as to a proper perspective with meeting those goals, especially when it comes to something we’ve never done before.  How can we possibly know what it would take to reach a goal without proper experience?  We are constantly increasing sometimes, but mostly decreasing the size of the goal we hope to attain, to make it manageable and accomplishable for us.  So, in a manner of speaking, how ridiculous is it really to ask someone, “where do you see yourself in five years?” especially when they are beginning a new job, or at all to an extent?  Why are we concerning ourselves with five years from now?  I know there are some people who might be thinking, “well, we need some sort of plan, if we want to measure the success of a goal!”, but I would argue, this simply isn’t the case.  Live for here, and let God worry about tomorrow.  He, got you to today, be thankful, because today, just might be your last day.

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Ok, so how does this play into the context of a narrative?  I’m sure some people have had instances in their life, where no matter how hard they fight against an unseen force, they seem to be relegated at doing something which they have perceived as being a less than sought after goal.  Now, I’m not presuming everyone is right in this assumption, but I’m looking more to those reasonable folks, who have tried and failed numerous times at being anything other than what they are, and still they are no closer to their realized goal and subsequent dream.  Some people say this is luck or just how the cards have fallen, but one more explanation and less popular if you read anything from popular culture, is the God narrative.  The narrative which intertwines all human existence into one single story and creates a relational wave which is continuously moving throughout all generations up to our current times is a narrative which can only be authored by God.  A relational understanding which simply put, is a matter of a domino falling in all directions at once, and still falling in the right direction every time.  It’s a little hard to wrap my head around sometimes, but makes sense to me.  In other words, had your grandfather not stopped to buy a newspaper and get a hot dog, he might have been killed in a car wreck and never met your mother and thusly you would not be reading these words.  Now, apply this context with a billion more layers all with perfect alignment and still they lay balanced and perfect on one another.  This is what I mean by narrative.  The stories don’t always have happy moments, and even within the sad context of the occurring events, there is some perspective of truth we can all see.  Within this truth we do see the context of joy, and further this leads to a happy ending as is our hope, to be in love with the divine creator.

I’ve asked the question, many times, “why are some people’s stories so much more difficult than my own?”, and there simply is no answer to this perfunctory question.  I say perfunctory because, what we go through on this earth helps us to grow in a relationship, and so, it is assumed, whatever we are dealt is the best pathway to our redemption in Christ.  In my case, I have fallen short of the glory more times than I can count, and in some ways my arrogance has prevented me from doing what I know to be right and yet I still turn away.  I also am culpable in practice of acedia, knowing what to do, but failing to do it because of my apathy in God’s will.  This isn’t to say I ever didn’t believe, but instead it is a function of my need to alter the path I am walking.

Of course, people who ostensibly disagree, or openly hate the thought of God, utilize the function of pain or suffering, even the utilization of sin to dissuade anyone from a belief in God.  The function of pain and sin, is probably the best argument they have.  However, within a perspective of narrative, we see this is little more than a footnote to the overall story.  Bishop Robert Barron remarks in his “Word on Fire” YouTube series about the narrative being like a book, and in his example Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and ripping a page randomly and in some cases finding the worst points of the book and assuming from the few lines written, the worthiness of the story or if there ever really was an author to the supposed book to begin with.  It shows a lack of genuine imagination and understanding of the whole picture.  Bishop Barron used this as a small (an I think a brilliant example) way to explain the intricacies in just how we must look at life.  It is never just about us or just what we see; God’s narrative is most about what we don’t see and what is happening always.  Barron further points out the book of Job where when Job laments his condition, and God answers, the first words are “Who is this, obscuring my intentions with his ignorant words?” Job 38:2. We presume our intelligence to be sufficient to understand complexities, but this simply is not the case when it comes to understanding God.  We are capable of understanding what is meant to be understood, however in the case of the overall narrative, there are just things we are never meant to understand or know until the time it should be revealed. This doesn’t stop us from trying and asserting we know more.  This arrogance is what led the Pharisees to assume because they were lovers of the law, this in turn meant they were lovers of God.  Not always the case, especially when they were so willing to kill the divine Jesus because he didn’t follow their laws.  I think it would be fair to say, they followed the narrative to its end.  Though in the case of Jesus, the end resulted in a glorious day which all mankind could rejoice.

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As we place ourselves in the thick of life, we through many experiences gain a general perspective, one which in some cases is jaded and in other cases completely naïve.  I’m using the extremes for my purpose (in case you were wondering), so to craft an understanding whereby if the position holds under extreme circumstance it will hold under your own scrutiny.  So, at any rate, people must endure terrible pain, and for what reason?  So, they might realize the light of God and the way in which it illuminates even the darkest of places.  There are countless stories of Jew and Catholics alike assigning their fate in the concentration camps of The Third Reich as being a part of the journey God saw fit as them taking.  The Holocaust was awful by any standard we could set in modern times, and yet we still see the light of God shining brightly in those who chose to accept its warmth.  Evil exists because people have free will, and within this free well the act of evil know as sin, and sin must be utilized to alter God’s work, namely all of us.  As we continue to alter ourselves, from the surface to the soul, our beautiful shape (figuratively speaking as in the shape of a master work of art in sculpture), is tormented into grotesqueness and eventually becomes hideous, yet God never gives up on us.  God never looks at our perceived hideousness and says I don’t love you.  God, loved us into being, and subsequently allows us the free will to alter everything and look away from the narrative which our life runs continuously.

Ok, with context now, what is your plan today?  What are you going to do with the rest of your day today?  Do you have responsibilities which take a backseat to your family, but you chose those responsibilities first today?  Why not just put those things down, and find out where your family is and for even a brief second, hold them.  Consider looking in their eyes, see who they really are, see who you are to them.  My wife tells me all the time, I’m too hard on my son, and in some cases, she might be right.  Though, I sometimes forget, he is a young man, who is looking to his father for answers and in his search for answers I’m failing him.  I must take a step back and realize, I don’t control a single thing, I am here to be transformed in the love of Christ, and realize my sin affects everything as it relates itself to God, and this especially means my relationship with my family.  I never knew I was going to be a father of so many kids, or at any rate they would be as wonderful as they are.  I never knew I was in God’s grace enough for an angel to be sent my way and one who is as strong as steel and soft as cotton, who stands beside me as we walk through the flames life dolls out to us.  I am utterly humbled by my past and poor decisions, and yet, it seems when I think on everything which is God’s narrative, it is for me is to learn humility and cast away my arrogance.  I must learn to be a servant as Jesus was a servant to his disciples (John 13:5-15), and especially to my family.  I must be willing to serve them with humility and with love if I’m ever to accept the narrative of God.

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When we look on our lives we may see points where if we think too hard on, we are in some small way ashamed and disgusted with our behavior, but this is what the great deceiver wants from you.  He wants a sense of inescapable guilt and grief whereby you feel there is no way out, or at least there is no redemption.  Judas Iscariot (Matt 27:5), takes his remorse and proceeds to find a tall tree and a short rope to handle his problem.  Isn’t this something we’re seeing more of these days, more teens who are taking their lives because they don’t have the slightest comprehension of the love and redemption Jesus was offering by hanging on the cross.  Do you talk with your children about the amazing sacrifice and then redemption of Christ?  Our children need to know this, even a child can have a sense of longing, which a parent can’t fill, a void in search of truth, a void in their heart in search of love.  Love is God, and essentially speaking, God is all which is ever needed to fulfill our hearts desire for unmitigated love and acceptance within the confines of the narrative we live and the scope of eternity.

God’s narrative for our lives is one which touches every person we meet and every person they meet.  Our decisions as men, fathers, and husbands is a fundamental understanding of the foundation within our faith and within our society.  We when we shirk our responsibilities through selfishness or through apathy, we are bound to be the recipient of two negative impacts either directly or indirectly.  The first being a society where the men in the society looking out only for their selfish needs, is bound to have diminishing returns as it pertains to everyone looking out for themselves instead of the whole.  Much like we are all part of the body of Christ, what we do as an action for or against another is bound to have an impact overall on of the body.  The second, is an apathy to do what is right, again is bound to have an impact.  When we fail to create trust, and fail to do what is right, those who are affected, and this is all of us for sure, begin to think we are the arbiters of our own fate and we must take things into our own hands, which goes into the premise of believing we are our own gods, and we will decide what happens to us.  It starts with us, men, and creating a society or culture where men are leaders and yet still the focus is all, must be put into motion.  I’m not suggesting men take over the world, but rather, be responsible for our actions, be selfless when it comes to our time and our families, and finally recognizing we don’t control our fate as much as we’d love for this to be the case.  We are on a ride called Earth, and it will take us where it sees fit.  Within, our faith we can handle whatever the ride brings along the way, and we can accept with love those who enter our paths.

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As men with families, we are bound in a covenant (as married men), to watch over our family, and protect them.  I’m not referring to “get your gun, shoot, and ask questions later” mentality, but to do the hard stuff.  Pray unceasingly for your family, pray for their souls, pray for their lives as they pertain to the narrative of God.  Pray for those who would do us harm, and who have harmed.  The greatest show of love is to pray for the person who is unrepentant has taken everything from you.  You will still bless their life and wish the absolute best because as much as it pains you to say this, they are also a creation of God, and beloved in the sight of God.

Remember, the narrative will have ups and downs, but it is up to you to find your joy.  It is up to you to seek the face of God.   It is up to you to set things right in your life, even if someone else has dealt you a rotten hand.  Not all things will be bad always, and not all things are only just the way you see it.  Be willing to understand all perspectives, when we can do this, we have better chance of accepting the narrative God has lovingly put before us.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

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Did You Pray Today?

God is agape, and agape is not feeling. So, God is not feeling. That does not make him or agape cold and abstract. Just the opposite: God is love itself, feeling is the dribs and drabs of love received into the medium of passivity. God cannot fall in love for the same reason water cannot get wet: it is wet. Love itself cannot receive love as a passivity, only spread it as an activity. God is love in action, not love in dreams. Feelings are like dreams: easy, passive, spontaneous. Agape is hard and precious like a diamond.

Peter Kreeft

So, did you pray today?  When you first opened your eyes, perhaps for some of you it was still dark and your room was quiet, or others as the sun began to illuminate the windows and this light seemingly forces you out of your sleep.  Were your first thoughts of praising God or general thanksgiving for another day, another chance to recognize beauty and the existence of love?  I will admit, I don’t always do this, but this morning, a conversation I had with my wife made me think on our perspective of today.  I will say though, prayer is your greatest ally and tool for your spiritual life, and indeed for your physical life.  No person or government can take this from you, and they can also never take away your faith.  They will take your life, but never your faith, and we’ve learned this from the martyrs reaching all the way back to Stephen Acts 7:58-60.  St. Stephen’s last words as they were stoning him were, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit……. Lord, do not hold this sin against them”.  They could not take his faith, even unto death.  His last effort in this earthly life was to pray.  So, where are our efforts now, why don’t we take the need for prayer more seriously?

When I was in school, I was always bothered by the positive spin placed on problems, they were called “areas of opportunity”.  This would bother me, because it was a need to control even the perception of an event or events, so much we couldn’t bring ourselves to call them problems.  So, what are problems?  An unwelcome situation, in need of our attention.  In this case, I would think everyone has a lot of problems in this world, probably more than we can handle, and therefore there is such an effort to put spin on words, as though this positive spin will suddenly make us say to ourselves “gee, since it’s an opportunity, why don’t I just tackle it and I will probably have a good outcome based on the potential for opportunity which I’ve been confronted with”.  If we are honest, most of us meet with situations which cause us strife, usually with a sigh or some other point of exasperation.  As fathers or husbands, I’m sure we cause problems with our spouse and kids, and equally deal with the stress pertaining to the problems our family causes too.  So, is it a matter of having a positive mindset, or is it a matter of dealing with the root of the problem and finding a solution to all problems within one’s self?  Short-answer, you must change the paradigm of who and what affects you, and in doing so, problems will melt away like ice, and become just our daily acknowledgement of the need for God’s presence.  As, we place more importance on our journey and our material pursuits, we will see the diminished effect of true perspective, and find we become bogged down with “problems” once again, and not general points of prayer.

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In sheet music, a vocalist is looking for proper phrasing as it coincides with the arch of the music, words, and just general inflection.  We are looking for places to take a breath, without taking from the beauty of the song, but also so in keeping with the beauty of the song.  Everything must come together for this creation of song to occur.  Those of us, who have pursued music longer, are usually more adept at finding the best points of break and breath, than others, which is why a good musician will watch and learn from a more experienced form of pedagogy.  I’m using the analogy of music, because it seems to carry a relevant juxtaposition to our focus on problems.  A problem in our life, is the much-needed breath much like in music, and as we breath, a time for prayer will and should surface.  Our sleep is the rest between stanzas, as an interlude is played, and so we pray before as we begin our rest, and we pray before we begin once again.   As our perspective begins to change on the importance of prayer in everything we attempt to do, we keep a few things in mind, everything is an opportunity even if it’s a problem at first.  So, the perspective of “areas of opportunity” was right in, God gives us opportunity with everything, but it was wrong in a push for a more positive environment.  Some issues we run into aren’t positive, and neither are the inevitable results, although be it necessary.  The reason for this, is we need low points, everyone needs low points, it is what allows us to see the contrast in life between light and dark, without this contrast, we walk through life with little or no comprehension of anything around us, and we are thankful for hardly anything which isn’t given to us and even then, we may not be completely thankful.

Ok, where are we at then, do people who fail to pray have a diminished life as it relates to the culture we live in?  Of course not, they move with the masses to the same feeding line, and will undoubtedly be fed by the cultural machine, intended on showing us the misery in our lives is something, which if we don’t like or think we can’t handle, we can either walk away from or deny the existence by putting the yoke on our nearest neighbor.  Unfortunately, we see an increased level of violence in our society due to a myriad of issues which are problems for our society, not opportunity areas just waiting to be capitalized on.  Our societal issues are problems, and until we take responsibility for our problems, they will never become an opportunity for prayer or to life genuinely better.

How many people have ever heard their parent say, “you know, I can remember years ago, when we wouldn’t even lock our doors at night!”.  Whereby our incredulous response is something effectually like “have you lost your minds?”.  We have poorly crafted debates on the sanctity of life, and if a baby growing in a womb should be allowed to live, and in case you’re wondering, it should.  There is no room on this, a life is a life, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, choosing to have sex and then regretting the consequences, because the outcome is a problem for you, isn’t the child’s fault at all, and they deserve to have a say in their life and whether or not termination is acceptable (I would venture to say, if you had the ability to ask every fetus this question and they were able to answer, their response would be “please don’t kill me”).  I’ve heard the argument for rape and incest as a matter of contention to allow for abortion, and again I say no, all life is sacred, no matter how it came in to being.  The people who’ve had awful events happen to them, and are subsequently faced with dealing with their issue at hand and finding God in the answer or being allowed to wallow in victim-hood, are at a crossroad in their life, where they can either seek the face of God, or choose to foolishly try and become a god themselves.  This topic quickly swells into an existence of a God who would allow terrible events to happen to good people.  Free will is the reason evil exists, we are all God’s creation, but each one of us, has at some point or another, chosen to adulterate God’s work, and distort his work by creating sin to lift our own hubris.  Our free will can either be used for the purposes of problems which can be used to glorify God, or problems which define us as victims and subsequently push us further away from his light.

Protest

Just like any parent who watches their child make mistakes, up to and including they hate their parents, is in full realization of the fact, no matter how much we love something, that something always has the will to reject us.  God’s will is just this, he loved us into existence, and he continues to love us although we reject his love at every twist and turn of our life, we blame him for our problems, and then applaud ourselves for perceived accomplishments.  The logical fallacy of an argument whereby we take credit for those areas where opportunity shined its light upon us, is so stark as to equivalize itself to us analogously carrying a sign which says, “hey, I really don’t know what I’m talking about, but I can sure act like I do though”.  We all do this by the way, because anything which isn’t directly considered truth is an aberration of the truth, and therefore a consideration of injustice.

People today, are screaming (literally) injustice in the streets, every time an event occurs where victims are realized or where people are offended by words stated from anyone.  I’m sure I’ve offended people by my writings, and it wasn’t as a matter of callousness, but love which I write anything.  I truly do care for everyone I encounter, I want what’s best for them.  I do see an incomprehensible tide of misinformation and blame pushing its way into our culture and seemingly at the same time telling everyone you can solve your problems by blaming your neighbor.  There isn’t anything out there which is pushing a point, at the very least of altruism, indicating a need to help our neighbor.  When we read the Bible, and we take in the teachings of Jesus alone, we don’t see anything which is concerned with getting even for past wrong doings, but instead turning the other cheek and even loving those who figuratively crucify us for our beliefs.  “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.’ And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.” Luke 23:34. He hung on the cross, nails in his hands, and feet, and he prayed for them.  The ultimate example of love.

As men we must pray always, for the people we meet, we may be the only person praying for them, and in their needs.  Our strength of character and will is what helps shine a light into their life, even if they are never aware of your actions, it should still be done.  Prayer warriors are a very real thing, and today we need more than ever; a prayer warrior is a saint in the making, a person cites this motto as a way of living, “God first, you second, and me last”.  Be willing to give your extra minute of two for another person daily, but also be willing to see problems as an opportunity to pray to God, and have the patience to deal with whatever comes your way.

Our culture, has every opportunity to be better, and guess what you can’t do it alone, you can’t out think a problem, and you can move the mountain by yourself.  God can though, the creator of all, the creator which Is, can do anything, and sometimes our prayers small and seemingly insignificant will be answered in a big way.  Ways which we could never have imagined and ways which astound us and forever change the course of our life.  All God wants is our love, and in our love, we push away sin with a mighty shove.

So, have you prayed today?  If not, it’s ok, do it now, do it when you’re driving, or flying or talking or alone in your room before you close your eyes.  Be willing in your privacy to submit yourself to interior self-reflection, knowing what you will see may be awful, but also knowing God will forgive you.  Be willing to fall on your knees as a servant to God, much like he did with the Apostles (John 13, the whole chapter is awesome).  Be willing to accept negative and positive outcomes for what they are, nothing wonderful in life was ever realized without know what the alternative could be, and we know what the alternative is, because we lived it at one point or another.

I pray when you read this, you’ve become a prayer warrior for your family, and for your spouse.  She needs it, she needs your prayers as much as anything else you could possibly do in life.  She is your other half, and what’s good for her is always good for you, even if you can’t see it now.  Your kids will flourish in life, if not physically, spiritually they will become reflections of the light. You will be a better man because of who you choose to love and look up to.  I will leave you with a wonderful quote by one of the greatest philosophers I’ve ever read:

God is agape, and agape is not feeling. So, God is not feeling. That does not make him or agape cold and abstract. Just the opposite: God is love itself, feeling is the dribs and drabs of love received into the medium of passivity. God cannot fall in love for the same reason water cannot get wet: it is wet. Love itself cannot receive love as a passivity, only spread it as an activity. God is love in action, not love in dreams. Feelings are like dreams: easy, passive, spontaneous. Agape is hard and precious like a diamond.

Peter Kreeft

 

Please pray often, we all need to, and we all need it.  Never forget, God is by your side, and wants so desperately for you to realize his love for you.   There is no room for machismo when it comes to God, so make yourself humble and small, that you might see the true glories which are given to us daily as problems, but truly are opportunities to express one’s love through prayer.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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When Was Your Last Doctor Visit?

We’ve allowed the sickness of sin to enter our lives and we’ve done nothing to rid ourselves of this perpetual pain and misery.

Have you been to the doctor lately?  Has your health been of such a concern as to warrant a visit to the man in the white lab coat?  For me, yes, this is certainly the case.  I’ve visited my friendly neighborhood doctor and received my yearly physical.  He determined, I’m getting older, I probably could stand to lose a few pounds, and for all intents and purposes, I’m “ok” at least for now (physically speaking that is).  He has pretty good bedside manner, and generally avoids too much awkwardness when I’m trying to remain calm while he is apparently prospecting for gold.  So, why do we go?  Do doctors have a magic pill which will ensure our long life?  Do doctors have all the answers?  Are doctors there for both the prevention and relieving of pain?  To be sure, we go, because health in our culture is a pretty big issue, so much so, it’s now mandated everyone has health coverage.  Doctors don’t have any crystal balls or special magic which allows them to keep us alive, but like any good mechanic working on an engine, they know how to keep us running if all or most of the parts work.  Doctors don’t have all the answers, they are human, there are conditions even they have never seen or heard of, germs and viruses seem to be creative.  At least, creative enough to always be changing, which seems to be a never-ending study as it pertains to the doctor’s edification at the behest of our health.  Finally, doctors are here to prevent pain by telling us “best practices”, and when we do have pain, they diagnose it and tell us how to make it better.  Why am I telling you all of this?  Simple, first, go to the doctor if it’s been a while, they won’t bite, and will surely help you understand your current health condition, you probably have family members who might appreciate this effort on your part.  Next, when we look to God, and realize the health of our own souls, have we made any efforts to try and heal our pain, and then at the same time look to stay healthy as our life will continue to move forward?

About six months ago, I went to confession, and as is my usual choice, I prefer to sit in front of the priest as I confess my sins.  I always prefer the face-to-face encounter, when it comes to doing anything of a difficult nature.  As, I sat there and confessed my sins, I looked at the priest, his eyes were closed.  His forehead was contorted by his upraised brow, and yet he still looked peaceful enough as I spoke.  When I was done, I half expected him to quietly say, “get out!” or “there’s no hope for you fella”.  Instead, he began to nod, never opening his eyes, and he gave me some great advice.  He quietly stated, “when you’re sick, don’t you go to the doctor immediately, so as not to get sicker?”, I responded, realizing his point and acknowledging him, and then he said, “God heals all that is broken, much like a doctor heals us when we are sick, and God wants you to come to him often”.  The magnitude of his statement, which he’d probably told hundreds of people, wasn’t lost on me.  As a Christian man, I know I want to be with God, and I know as a point of fact, the health and purity of my soul are what’s most important.  How else do we attain this purity without coming to God?

Walking in the Dark

Catholics attend either weekly or daily mass, as a matter of celebration of the Eucharist, we are literally consuming the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Obviously, the bread and wine don’t look like flesh and blood as we see it, but nevertheless it is.  In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, (CCC 1393) we see truth established as:

Holy Communion separates us from sin. The body of Christ we receive in Holy Communion is ‘given up for us,’ and the blood we drink ‘shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins.’ For this reason, the Eucharist cannot unite us to Christ without at the same time cleansing us from past sins and preserving us from future sins:

For as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord. If we proclaim the Lord’s death, we proclaim the forgiveness of sins. If, as often as his blood is poured out, it is poured for the forgiveness of sins, I should always receive it, so that it may always forgive my sins. Because I always sin, I should always have a remedy.230

 

Catholics, recognize this understanding, and so the focal point of the mass is the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood to purify one’s soul to be in greater communion with God, and in the most extreme way possible, to experience his beauty and love.

Abraham Heschel, an American Rabbi, who is quoted as saying, “God is an earthquake”, made an excellent statement in the magnitude (no pun intended) of God’s presence in our lives.  Peter Kreeft, points out our exposure to pure goodness should make us turn away in horror at the realization of our own ugliness as we are anything but good, only God is truly good.  We’ve allowed the sickness of sin to enter our lives and we’ve done nothing to rid ourselves of this perpetual pain and misery. This is where I was at, upon listening to him talk to me, a person he’d never met, and even to this point still a person he’s never seen.  Astounded, almost brought to tears at the perceptible reflection of my sin, and just how sick I was in relation to God’s goodness.  Then acting as a conduit through which the Graces of God might flow unfettered, the priest stated, “your sins are forgiven”.  This was all, it was like a two hundred-pound weight was lifted off my chest.  The cathartic experience of expressing my sin and knowing I was forgiven was transforming for me, so much so I’m writing these words today.

The priest still never opened his eyes, and I stood up, thanked him for his charity, and walked out the confessional.  I went to the nearest pew, and I prayed my penance with zeal, and upon my thoughts while I was praying was a realization of this whole world before me.  This world which is filled with beauty, and if we’re willing to look hard enough and quiet ourselves long enough, we can see God in all creation.  Now, I know this sentiment may sound a little mushy, but I promise, if you’re willing to give of yourself, you will have a similar experience, maybe even more intense than my own.

So, where is the ethereal doctor, God, in your life?  Have you said to yourself, “well I’m not bad, I don’t do anything to hurt anyone, so all in all, I’m ok”?  I’ve been there and I’ve said this very phrase to myself, more times than I care to remember.  I was always deluding myself.  I was only concerned with matters as they existed on the epidermal layer of life, though, whether we care to admit it or not, life is much deeper than if someone is being hurt by our actions.  This is right, we don’t want to hurt anyone, but if we are so unwilling to right a wrong, because it doesn’t appear to be “hurting” anyone, then what is the ever-loving point? A point of relativism, is the worst possible scenario we could ever be in; we then become lukewarm in the presence of God, and in a most arrogant way, act as if we really don’t need him.  We subvert his control, we make ourselves more powerful than him, by our dismissal of his truth.

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Ok, so why did I go through this long explanation to get to my point.  Let me explain, my wonderful wife this morning, sent me an article by John Rosemond Your kids should not be the most important in the familyThe title is obvious to my point, and as such, makes a good discussion about our culture as we live it today.  As a father, I feel like my main goal is to show my son how to be a man, and my daughters how to be women.  Obviously, my wife is better at teaching them how to be women, but our children need both of us to teach them about the world, and just how they should be adults.  I had a wonderful choral teacher in high school who would always say to the kids in his class “the tail doesn’t wag the dog, you will do what I say”, and I’ve often used this phrase while trying to have teachable moments with my own kids.  I have from time-to-time forgotten my kids are just children, they sometimes try to act so grown up, and I must remind myself they don’t know anything in the grand scheme of life.  My wife and I are their teachers, we are supposed to prepare them for whatever comes their way.  I have been truly blessed in life, and have made themselves available to me and any questions I would have.  I didn’t always get the answers I wanted, but they taught me, how to be a man.  In this acknowledgement, I would also say, they aren’t perfect, and yet they did the best possible job any parent could ever do.

Have you ever been to a check-up and the doctor know right where to touch to send you through the ceiling?  Point of view is key to understanding, what we’re dealing with in all situations.  A Christian’s point of view should be one of loving extremes.  An extreme, whereby the Christian, is willing to understand a person’s faults and still choose to love them, or seeing although we have great amounts of sin which surround us always, we are never alone.  To have the point of view which gives us perspective, is to have the graces poured upon us such as patience, or purity.  The doctor we seek is God, and his medicine is love.  Love doesn’t always fix the body in the simplistic puerile way we understand the world, to be.  Evil doesn’t exist because God wishes us to have a hard time in life.  Evil exists because the creations of God, decided on their own accord to do as they pleased, and God in his infinite goodness allowed it, all at the same time, his heart is aching.

When we raise our kids, and we attempt to take advantage of “learning moments”, these are our best advantage to preparing the way for our kids.  They are bound to walk the path alone (God will always be with them though), and will face their own struggles and their own temptations which none of us can help them prevent, other than a lesson to be, fishers of men (Matt 4:19).  For them to allow times of respite and recharging, they must go to be with God, and in being with God, I simply mean to be with the Eucharist.  They must pursue the graces of God, which will strengthen their faith, and their devotion will inspire others.  Our inactivity and lack of effort to show thanksgiving, might show more willingness to follow the great deceiver, than anything else we do.  As teachers of our kids, we must be the example, and show them what real men do, we confess, we fix what is broken, we remain strong, stoicism is a must.  In our culture today, we’ve been told a man is willing to show emotion, and I would resoundingly disagree with this silly notion of what culture thinks men should be.  A man should feel emotion, and should be compassionate, but a spouse, isn’t moved by a man who cries so he can show he’s an emotional guy.  My wife, for example, wants to know, I’m there and when I’m there it will always get done.  She can rely on me to set things straight, and knows I’m not ever going to leave.  This is what a marriage is, knowing when we enter our covenant with God, it is “till death”, not when it gets too hard.  Men, you must be strong, and you must be willing to cast aside those cultural dispersions of who someone else thinks it would be nice for you to be.  Men must be men, we must be as hard as iron and soft as cotton as the situation permits.  Love your wives with a renewed passion, consider her and see how beautiful she is.  If there are those who have fallen away, be a man, suck up your pride and admit your fault to her.  New beginnings can’t begin unless you tear down the misaligned structure to being anew.

Don’t wait for your situation to ever get so bad, you can repair it.  Don’t let this proverbial sickness with hampers your soul to weigh you down so much and give you a sense of never ending doom.  The Devil, is looking for you to feel no hope and nothing but despair, it’s then he has a real shot of corrupting your soul.  God is the one who lifts you up, and God is beside you always, trust in him, talk to him, know him.  Listen to the silence of God in your heart, and in doing this, you will find the medicine you need to handle any sinful sickness which you will encounter.

Your family is the second most important focus of your life, second only to God of course, so focus on them and administer those helping doses of God’s medicine (i.e. faith, hope, and love).  It is your responsibility to do so, it is your charge as a husband and a father, and if you don’t want to do it, too bad, you are here except your mission, and begin to make things right.  I know these might sound life some tough words, but we must be willing to accept the truth if we are going to be willing to accept eternal life in God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Why Do We Run From God?

We are on this earth as a gift from God, and in this gift, we are given a multitude of graces which are poured upon us as a matter of his unwavering love.

When we think of authority, do we visualize a figure telling us what and what not to do, or someone who has an ability to make us do what we don’t want to do?  In this visualization, are we in some way rebelling against anything which presumes to make us go against our will or do we accept the direction and follow like sheep to the slaughter?  I’m sure all of us at some point don’t like being told what we can and can’t do, but at the end of the day it exists and we must all deal with authority.  I think of authority on many different levels from the authority of time as it pertains to life, God’s authority over all, the authority of the government, or even the authority used within our work places.  Do we ever think of the authority we exercise within our own families or our employees if we have them?  I would anticipate many people thinking of the negative connotations which exist with authority and usually have a grim picture to paint.

This may indeed be why we have such a problem with authority as it relates to our culture and everything we’ve been taught from the earliest age.  We may choose to become worried or get angry when being pulled over by a police officer, but not because of a possible citation which may then occur (our frustration is equal part ours and the discretion of the officer).  I think it has more to do with being caught and the presence the police officer represents, an authority by the faceless, nameless justice to chastise our behavior.  We just don’t like being told what to do, and any man I can think of would just roll over and say, “hey, pull me over…. I think a ticket by a guy twenty years younger and better shape than me sounds ideal”.  So, there is a natural animosity which already exists between both of us, the police officer and Joe Public.  Yet when we step back from the whole situation, we can see the officer is just trying to do their job (in most cases), and because they are doing their job and we’re being pulled over, there must be a reason.   I wondered, why this happens?  Was I traumatized by my parents growing up, to fear authority, or am I just so worried about doing something wrong, just the mere mention of being reprimanded makes my stomach turn in knots.  Well, for me, I wasn’t traumatized by my parents, and I’m not fearful of being reprimanded (don’t like it, but not fearful of it).  Nope, the real issue is, I just don’t like having anyone tell me what to do, and in my arrogance and sudden awareness of shamefulness, I don’t want this exposed to the world.  I don’t want people to see any crack in the façade, appearance has become dominant in my decision making, and in my subsequent choice patterns.

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So, why do I, or even why do you, feel this way when faced with an authority presence?  We want to feel as though we have some control over our lives, and in doing so, we conclude we are the masters of our own destiny.  When someone disrupts this course we’ve charted for ourselves, such as an authority figure (perhaps the principle of your school when you were younger and their reprimand was met at home by the rod), we instinctively place blame on anything or anyone but where most of the blame lies, with us.  When we refuse to take blame or at least put the blame in other places, then where it should be, we seem to represent an instinctive behavior which creates an alternative subjective truth (lawyers are experts at this), and shirk what is the natural objective truth.   To achieve a subjective truth, just like an illusionist, we usually misdirect and cause the figurative or literal eye to move from our blame and fixate on another.  In Genesis 3, we see both Adam and Eve eat of the forbidden fruit, and when God is walking through the Garden of Eden, they at first hide themselves, and then when asked to show himself and explain how he knew of his nakedness, Adam blames Eve.  Adam was the first Christ figure in the Bible, it was his place to take the sin of Eve and burden himself with it, for allowing her to take of the fruit.  Instead, he did what we as humans do, blamed someone else, to mitigate the perceived chastisement he anticipated as a response from God.  Thusly, God punished Adam and Eve, and regarding the punishment, we see an explanation for everything which we would foresee as pain in our own time today.

Usually when I talk with people about this topic, there is mixed points of view.  Some people recognize the wrongness of Adam and Eve doing what they were told not to do, but other people take a stance of incredulity over the severe nature of the punishment.  To the extent, where literal pain is exercised as a matter of life and death.  This make the childbirth of Jesus more profound, because it is the stance of the Catholic Church, due to her immaculate nature, she never experiences pain in the birth of Jesus.  This is a punishment for only those who were born with “original sin”, the sin which is placed on the actions of Adam and Eve.   When I read Genesis 3, I think of my children though, I’ve busted my kids in so many lies and poor behavior over the years, I grown intolerant to anything which isn’t the truth.  Their first behavior is to act like Adam, and immediately blame their siblings, or their perception of an impossible situation.  There is usually crying involved, at least until they realize the crying isn’t working, and then sad faces with a stark look of disbelief.  This is then peppered with their own form of anger, based on the little fact they have nowhere else to go, and they must finally admit their fault.  This is when we arrive at the “I’m sorry, Dad” depot, located at “I won’t ever do that again” stop in “Sorrysville”, which is somewhere just south of “It’s still not really my fault, but acting like it is, is still the best play”.  To say the least, it frustrates me, and I can only imagine where we must be at with our general sin as it translates to our Heavenly Father.  I can’t even envision how frustrated, God, must be at my total unwillingness to change.

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So now, we’ve come to brass tacks.  In my arrogance possibly, or hubris, I’ve placed more emphasis on what I want and need rather than what’s at the heart of God.  So, when I’ve thought of authority in the past, I conclude, as it relates to my life and God’s place in my life, I’ve been rebellious.  I’ve thought more of not wanting to be told what to do, or at any rate being a failure through my sin, then anything else I could think of.  This is where most men, your average husband or father, just might find themselves.  We have all this responsibility which rests on our shoulders, assuming you want to provide for your family and be the best father possible, this can be stressful.  Then we combine, a thought of God looking down upon us, in disgust or in most cases just disappointment.  We give ourselves a perception of a perpetually displeased creator who is more concerned with the rules than with us.   This isn’t true in any way, a God who lovingly crafted each one of us, isn’t telling us what not to do, but instead is willing us to fall in love with him.

Ok, we have a new point of view.  We are on this earth as a gift from God, and in this gift, we are given a multitude of graces which are poured upon us as a matter of his unwavering love.  It is less a matter of “don’t do that because I told you not to!”, and more of a “please do this, because I love you and want you to be with me!”.  Being close to God, and with God is a matter of purification of one’s self.  We do this in our daily work, our prayers, our actions towards one another.  When we fail to embrace God’s will and purity, of our own accord, we push ourselves away from God, and subsequently love.  As a father, I need love to show my kids, and spouse, but if I’m unwilling to accept it, then how can I really give my whole self to what I’m doing.  Pouring one’s self our is a matter of leaving nothing behind.  When we have nothing left, this is when we can appreciate the love of God and those of the people around us.  Receiving the love of the people around us, charity, and giving it in return is what we are all about.  I know in the past when I have truly left myself open, and empty, I was filled with emotion, but more importantly I was overcome with love for my fellow man.  Men, we must recognize this and be willing to put ourselves out there first, and bear our hearts and souls for all we meet.  We must be willing to be strong, to fight against those forces which would corrupt us, and cause us to fall short of the Glory of God.  Just remember, like any war a nation would fight, it’s not about the single battle, it’s about the attrition and strategy which each side is willing to fight.  There is no good defense against prayer, we have a direct line to our Heavenly Father, and the intercessory prayers to the Saints, to pray on our behalf is one the most powerful acts we can accomplish.

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Prayer and repentance are in our arsenal of weapons to fight evil, stronger than any blade and more blinding than any light, we can use these as tools to bring us closer to God, by pushing away those sins which want to rip and tear us from him.  When we can meditate and pray on our sins, and on our place as it relates to God and time and space, we can accept authority.  God’s authority is like no other, it isn’t meant to tell us where we can go and not go, what to say and what not to say.  It’s there to show us the truth, a beauty which is so magnificent as to astound anyone without words to describe, the greater glory.  God’s authority isn’t meant to be mixed with the authority of the government, and furthermore to be diluted in talks of politics, and as men we should be willing to keep some things sacred.  As fathers, we are to mirror God’s relationship with us, as our heavenly father, and translate this as much as possible to our own children so they will continue the same parenthood over their children down through the generations.  Failing to do this, failing to be strong when it is most necessary, is a failure of gigantic proportions.  We don’t fail because we do something wrong, or behave poorly, we’re human, this is what we do.  As men, and I think my wife would agree with this statement, I act like an idiot from time-to-time, but it isn’t because I don’t wish to be closer to her or my kids, or God, but instead it has more to do with my selfishness getting in the way of love.

We are going to face trials of authority in the future, perhaps some of you are facing them as we speak.  Stand up for what is righteous, what is of God’s will.  Don’t be persuaded to accept the easy path because you’re just not wanting to deal with whatever stress is coming your way.  “God never gives you more than you can handle” a phrase my wife says all the time, when I am at a perceived breaking point.  She is a true reflection of the light of Christ, and although, we must walk our own paths in this life, it is so much the better when we can have a spouse to walk with us and help us go through times of trouble and angst.

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As authority is concerned overall, I listened to a priest friend say about the Catholic Church, “no government has ever lasted as long as the Catholic Church, and there is a definite reason for this”, Bishop Robert Barron stated in his book Catholicism, in a reference to Cardinal Francis George’s “pensive expression”, “When the cardinal returned home, reporters asked him what he was thinking about at the moment.  Here is what he said: ‘I was gazing over toward the Circus Maximus, toward the Palatine Hill where the Roman Emperors once resided and reigned and looked down upon the persecution of Christians and thought, ‘Where are their successors?  Where is the successor of Ceasar Augustus?  Where is the successor of Marcus Aurelius?  And Finally, who cares?  But if you want to see the successor of Peter, he is right next to me, smiling and waving at the crowds.’”   We owe it to ourselves and to our families and the people who we come into contact daily, to recognize truth and focus this truth in our daily lives.  There is only one true God, the fact the Catholic Church stands, is a testament to this truth.  The fact Christianity is alive and seeking this truth daily is a testament to the authority of God.  My advice to any man who is struggling or seeking this truth is to say, our government is for the betterment of the people we live with daily, it helps to oversee infrastructure and the general needs of the people, but it is never a replacement for God in any matter.  We can see the secular push to try and make it such, we can see a left leaning push to make government a more central focus in our lives, but it will never fill up the void we seek in life, love.  God is love, or rather love is God, we should, we must seek his authority.  Though not as a matter of telling us what or what not to do, but like a father who loves his child and weeps when they hurt, he weeps for us when we stay from his love, because he can see where we are headed even if we can’t.  There is a beautiful song we sing during the forty-days of Lent, Hosea, and the first line of the song reads, “come back to me, with all your heart, don’t let fear keep us apart”.  I admit, this line floors me, it speaks right to the core of who I am.  I find myself running from fear of disappointment, and shame in the sight of God.  He loves us too much to let us go, so stop running if you are, and if you’ve reached a point in your life where you have stopped running, then lift someone else up, this just might be your calling.

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I pray some of my perspectives and pseudo advice will help light the way for those who just might be struggling with their own fears of disappointment and failure.  God loves you always, he created you, he formed you, he knows everything about you down to the smallest detail.  He knows you better than you know yourself, “And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So, don’t be afraid” Luke 12:6-7.  May God bless you and your family!!!

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

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Why Is Growth, So Painful?

We are building a relationship with God, and how can this in any way be boring?   

I had the great pleasure of seeing a skit performed, on YouTube, and the perspective as we relate ourselves to God, was done with simplicity and yet masterful in its delivery.  The acting was ok, the dialogue was “ehh”, but the message was profound.  The one statement I found to carry the impetus for change was “I love you too much, just to leave you where you’re at”.  Powerful, and yet so simple a phrase.  Have you ever uttered this to anyone you love, or have you ever put yourself in such a position to be hurt and yet in the most unconditional way look past a hurt to continue loving?

I’m constantly looking at my surroundings and either being in awe of what I see, or dealing with a sense of annoyance based my poor perception of a situation.  Let me be clear, it’s my inability to see past where I am, and understand another person which causes a sense of annoyance with me.  Even if they were trying to frustrate me, it is my responsibility to look past their shallow efforts and focus on the person before me.  I was once told, criticism is an effect of envy, and envy is a doorway to sin, and sin is the surest path to an existence without God.  I find myself, stepping back from many of the situations I deal with and rethinking my position as it relates to what I would perceive God to see.  Now, let me state before I go any further.  There is no way I could ever possibly know what God thinks, my mind is just too simple to comprehend the fuller narrative.  Though, attempting to see what is before me through a lens of loving and acceptance is the only way I can come nearest to what God wants from all of us.  Jesus, accepted those who society walked away from, and he didn’t chastise them and create a condition of scolding as a matter of repentance.  No, he accepted them and treated much like a doctor would treat a patient.  With care and love, as a matter of course, and with a determined effort to heal what is loved without condition (Luke 2:13-17).  This love transcended any moment and any event which has or will ever occur, it gave us the most beautiful glimpse of what how God sees us.  We are his creation, and to borrow another point from the skit I watched, we’ve never let him down, he has always held us up.  He created us, with love and with attention, we weren’t made in a factory, and we are not like everyone else, instead we are unique in his eyes.

Ok, where do we go from here?  We’re unique, how does this apply to us?  In a world which is so convoluted with every point of view, how do we deal with secular ideology, feelings always being hurt, immigrants being turned away, presidents acting less-presidential daily, news media so abhorrently one-sided as to make anyone wonder what is true, and religion seemingly diminishing before our very eyes in the context of the greater world?  In some conversations, I hear ridiculous comments over who is to blame, and even sometimes a simple solution to one of the opportunities for change I mentioned.  Everyone is looking for an answer to one extent or another.  Some people choose to accept there is nothing alone they can do to fix the issue, but they recognize things are changing and in most cases for the worse.  Other people want to fix the problems they see, and do so by figuratively shouting into the wind.  Their efforts are noted, but the effect is like rubbing dirt on a wound, it might mask the wound, but underneath the dirt the wound still festers and could possibly make the situation worse.  Then there are those, who choose to organize and make a concerted effort as part of a much larger effort to change, and we see this with demonstrations or lobbying efforts to influence new laws within our nation.  The last, and probably the most effective is the solution which requires the most attention, the most time, the most pain, and yet has the greatest possibility for positive results.  I’m simply referring to the transforming power of family and faith.  So, before I get the giant eye-roll I can see you’ve already done, or want to do badly, just give me a little more time and I will explain my point.

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Let me start with faith.  I once read a book, Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft which stated, “The most total opposite of pleasure is not pain but boredom, for we are willing to risk pain to make a boring life interesting.”.  Think about that.  Our mistake is assuming, because something doesn’t keep our attention, it must either be not worth looking at, or at the very least not worth the time and energy to understand where it relates to us.  Religion is a lot like this, we would rather be at home watching TV, or doing just about anything else, than listening to a Priest tell us how much our lives have derailed.  Though, this isn’t what the priest is doing at all, instead, he’s trying to show us the path.  He’s trying to show us just how much God is in love with us, his creations.   Now, I know I’m taking the simplistic approach to a complicated topic, but in the end, the answer is simple, fundamental even.  The solution is black and white, we either choose to recognize a path other than an extension of our own ego, or we don’t.  I would say to one extent, no one really cares as much for our decisions as we do, but if you’ve ever met a loving parent, this isn’t always the case.  Sometimes parents, in their own unconditional way, love us more than we do ourselves.  So, are we willing to look past ourselves and what we currently find as non-interesting, and accept a new perspective?  Is faith important enough to grab our attention?

Yes, it is, just empty yourself of expectations and the material which is holding you back!  The allure of faith will no longer become reticent, but instead will be the focal point of a life which in contrast has been shadowed by a grayish fog of uncertainty.  Faith gives us the acceptance of not knowing the detail, but seeing the larger scope of events.  Creating a landscape of focus in either a black or white perspective, and because of our waning attention, we haven’t bother to notice, the spectrum of colors which exists within our choice to either be or not to be.  Our faith can be rich, beautiful, logical, philosophical, scientific, anything you’re willing to really consider and search for answers.  I fear some people don’t look, because they are afraid of what they will or won’t find, and it’s just easier to live in their current condition. The problem is, if we aren’t accepting faith, then we’re truly not living, we’re just waiting to die, and this is no life at all.  From a perspective of boredom, we fill small points of time with anything which will capture our attention, and the problem we always run into is the ending.  A great book always comes to an end, and in this ending, if we felt exhilaration from the story will indicate our search for another something to fill a void this book left us with.  A vacuum of sorts, and if we’re not careful, we will fill it with whatever comes along.  However, our faith does exactly the opposite, it’s a slow burn of excitement, but one which if stoked, will become red hot with time, and if fed properly will remain with us our entire life.  Though like any fire, it requires attention patience, and at times from an outside perspective of the here and now, boredom, but with proper perspective, nothing about faith is boring.  We are building a relationship with God, and how can this in any way be boring?

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Family is the second part to the equation, it balances out what we do.  There are two concepts of families though, perhaps many more if we plunge into the spectrum of culture, however for my point, I’m looking at just two versions.  There is the faith family, people whom you meet in life and who either have an influence on our lives or we have an influence on their lives.  The other, is the more traditional role of family, a mother and a father and children.  I would like to make a point which, in some matters will upset some, and affirm in others.  The church places importance on the roles of traditional family.  Without family, at least as the natural order is concerned, we would cease to exist.  I think this creates a hierarchy of natural importance, but doesn’t supersede compassion as we should all strive to do more of.  Family is family, and in the existence of what we know within the two paradigms of family, we are bound to one or the other or both.  So, let’s begin there with family, those people given the free will to walk away, choose not to walk away from us and instead put their efforts and energies into us through prayer and physical representations of their love.  As fathers, we work hard to provide a home and food for our families, and in return we ask for nothing more than the ability to continue our love in just such a manner.  As husbands, we are bound to our wives through covenant with God, and within this covenant we either choose to unconditionally love them or fall away.  As an aside, I hope and pray if you are at a point of falling away from your spouse, you recognize the truth is within you.  Prayer, and effort are needed; if you done anything to corrupt your marriage, then truth is your only route, and humility your only medicine.  If there is anything they’ve done to corrupt the marriage, then I pray you will be compassionate in your decision to love.  If you’ve made decisions without your spouse, now it’s their turn, and all I can suggest is you pray they are compassionate and willing to try again.  Success in anything isn’t a matter of winning, but willingness to keep trying in the face of defeat.  Marriage is a holy institution, not one which a government can determine, but one of a social nature and faithful implications.  This has been somewhat lost on our current culture, but not forgotten.  Marriage is of God, and of God’s will, not something to do or even “the next step”.  When we can place importance on this as a matter of a true bond with our spouse and God, and stop looking for ways out, we will have a chance at something truly beautiful.  Accountability is the first step to penance, accepting our wrong, and choosing the path God lights for us, is the only way to salvation.  Family, in the traditional sense, should be only second to God in importance, and this should mean, we are there for each other, willing the good of everyone in our family with a level of unconditional support.

Now where does this leave us?  Well, it leaves us with the ability to transform our lives, as men, fathers, and husbands.  Though like any transformation, pain is a matter of growth.  We must endure pockets of pain as we grow, and in some cases elongated time-periods of pain where our focus on what truly matters is what pulls us through the fire, so-to-speak.  So, why does pain exist, and why if there is a loving God, would he allow us to endure pain if he really loves us?  The answer is in the question.  Growth, and I’m referring to growth in our faith in the spiritual sense, requires the pain of leaving behind what we know.  Sometimes, it requires us to leave this world sooner than we originally anticipated.  The pain we go through could be a mixture of other worldly gifts being ripped from us, like having a loved one, a child taken before we believe it to be their time.  Deep down, the worst pain for us is changing ourselves and setting the path for our loving journey to God.  At times for me, when I was deciding to be transformed in God’s love, I still held back and held on to those things which kept me distant from God.  Those things were choosing not to look at each person as a beloved creation of God, and failing to recognize they were precious in his eyes, no matter how they treated me.  Because God, loves them unconditionally, I should be willing to reflect the same love on them.  This is and was very hard for me to accept.  I’ve run across some people in my life, who once gave me a visceral reaction jus to think about them.  I would gesture unlovingly to them, of course behind their backs, I would talk poorly about them (this is still a struggle for me, for sure), but more than anything I wasn’t forgiving them. “Even sinners love those who love them, and if you do good to those who do good to you, what cred can you expect?” (Luke 6:32-33).  Nothing is truly gained by only accepting those who accept us, forgiveness is the only path we can ever take for the redemption we seek.  Though, nothing worth doing is ever without risk, the risk of failing, perhaps the risk of having our efforts thrown back at us in the most unloving of ways.  I should add one more thing, if someone is correcting us and they are truly right, it isn’t a matter piety which makes them correct us, but love, they love us enough to risk our anger and this is a powerful motive to risk everything.  Don’t fail them when they are the most vulnerable, and this also speaks to those people who see a fault in others, be kind, be compassionate, and most importantly love them unconditionally. Will the good of the other, because they are other.

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 

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Our transformation in life will be painful and will be long, and I see us having the responsibilities of being fathers and husbands, we must endure the pains which will inevitably come our way.  Just remember, at the very least you will always have one of two families who will love you and support you.  Two families who will help to keep you on the right path, and will let you know when you’re beginning to stray from the light.  I pray you always keep your faith and family close to you and in focus.  When we can begin to do just these basic functions of life, we’ll see others around us infected by the love we exude and want the same fill we are getting from God.  Don’t be discourage with pain, be thankful for God’s presence in your life, no matter what comes your way. Prayer will always be the most powerful tool in your arsenal.  The power of prayer transcends time and space and gives you a direct line to God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

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Is Context Really All That Important?

We begin to look at events which may have happened a generation back, or even a couple of centuries in the past, and affix our values and perceptions to their outcomes. 

What is context?  For most, it’s a set of circumstances which form a setting for the allowance of understanding, creating a point of view and thus giving us a chance to evaluate any situation.  The more experience we have with any one topic, contextually speaking, the better we’ll evaluate and decide an outcome.  This could be circumstantial whereby we have direct control over the outcomes, or a condition which although we can’t determine outcome, we can accept it as truth or at the very least out of our hands, in other words, we aren’t surprised.  However, can context take on a direction of purpose, rather than the analysis of the past or cogent outcomes?  I think so, and by this, I mean a cognitive effort to will one’s self, by the Graces of God, to accept whatever context arises and be willing to apply a set of understandings which are contemplative, compassionate, and in the end the right decision.  As we grow older, I think this becomes a more plausible position to be in, at least as a matter of course.  Our context becomes one of proper decision making, and then also being able to see the contextual road signs which will lead us in the right direction.

When we read any history book, we run the risk of placing an event long since passed, in an incorrect contextual situation.  We begin to look at events which may have happened a generation back, or even a couple of centuries in the past, and affix our values and perceptions to their outcomes.  This is most dangerous, especially when we apply a harsher or less compassionate system of judgment to a proper system of context as it relates to the people and times of our general focus.  Ok, so let me give you an example.  Would it be fair to judge the medicinal practices of the early twentieth century as they relate to today’s medicine?  I think most people would give a resounding, “no!”.  Medicines and training have improved dramatically, we have specialist for nearly everything, and because of this, we live in a hypersensitive environment as it relates to health and fitness today.  I’m sure we all know a few people who spend their nights and evenings, working out making sure to eat the proper diet for an attempt to prolong a healthy and beneficial quality of life.  So, it would be bad form to criticize anyone from earlier generations, about their eating or working out habits, without having an extensive knowledge of the times as they relate to those individuals.  Acting like we know, when we don’t know, causes a poor platform for supposition and judgement, which left unchecked can create a paradigm where our contextual perceptions are misaligned with our environment.

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In today’s social climate, we see a great number of people giving unasked advice on politics, race relations, social dilemmas, and even health.  Everyone it seems is an expert, and everyone reserves the right to be offended at the thinnest of slights, if they can distort the context of whatever is happening and bend it towards a selfish goal an accomplishment although diminishing, is in its own context realized.  This diminishing accomplishment occurs while trying to apply contextual justice to matters which are already decided by the lens of yesterday, or a complete failure to understand anything more than our own person milieu.  The result inevitably means, a constant search to right the wrongs of everything seen, and an awful reality is, due to in improper alignment of context, those who pursue justice, are usually the ones who fail to recognize it when it is before their eyes.  They fail to recognize the inherent desire for all humans to set things right, and those social justice warriors (SJWs), have become self-appointed martyrs to a religion which have no true basis of judgement or context to determine justice whatsoever.  The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a perfect example of this aberration of truth, and the application of misaligned context as it relates to everyone’s sense of justice.   I will gladly admit though, people have been abused in the past and it was clearly discrimination.  Their rights were taken from them, and in many cases of abhorrent racism, lives were lost.  This is as unacceptable a point as anyone can make, life is the most precious gift God gave us, and it isn’t acceptable to take life as a matter of faith.  However, in the cases which we’re presented with daily onslaught of poor policing, poor social behavior, and misrepresentation of facts (or rather a distortion of facts, language is an effective tool) an environment is created causing a climate of misaligned context.  Everyone sees the same event, but everyone has a different opinion, and everyone else’s opinion is wrong but ours and the people who agree with us.  No wonder there is so much strife these days, but is this the right context, is this the right perception of our world as it relates to all of us.  Quick answer, nope, it’s nowhere close to reality.

I love to talk to people, and wherever I can find a conversation, I will.  What I’ve learned over the years is, most everyone is good, we are all trying to do the best we can with what we have, and the last thing most people want is a climate of strife and turmoil.  We inherently want good things, although an understanding of struggle to have those good things is being replaced by an environment of entitlement and, “what can I get now” attitudes.  Most people have a very sane view of life, and can see worthless context when it arises, though just like with anything, unfortunate context and its attractors mutate to the growing swell of anecdotal history plaguing any good discourse today.  A history which fails to look at context and a much broader picture, and dictates feelings based on individual stories as a matter of course, and how difficulties should be dealt with. For the record, no decision ever should be based on a matter of feeling as it relates to our culture, look at prohibition (Amendment 18, and its repeal Amendment 21).  If we go back and look at the policing as it pertains to the BLM movement, we can see verified police corruption if not racism in certain cases, like the Slager vs. South Carolina case, where Slager shot Scott in the back at a traffic stop, and it wasn’t self-defense this is self-evident in the video of the murder.(South Carolina, Michael Slager)  We can see many more events of this nature occur throughout the US, though if we just examine this one case and then with a simplistic ideological point-of-view, we try to paint the landscape regarding policing as racist, then we place situations much like the Slager case in poor context to the overall situation.   I included the CNN report as a matter of context to read along with my points, but one line in the article struck a chord with me.  “ ’Attorney Chris Stewart said the plea represented a rare show of accountability compared to other police-involved deaths that did not end in pleas or convictions.’ ”  Although, I’m positive Chris Stewart is an intelligent attorney, what a dumb comment to make!  It insinuates systemic racism, and presumes the other district attorneys who pursue justice are colluding with this attempt at racism, and now the jig is up, because Stewart has overcome the unobtainable.  The context is poorly judged in this statement, Stewart made, and should never have been allowed as a matter of statement on the CNN report unless vetted properly to insure the statement was of fact, or placed into a bubble allowing the general reader and understanding, this poorly crafted statement does not represent an accurate depiction of our criminal justice system and the moral and ethical attempts to serve justice daily.  In 2002, the Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded in over 26,000 times of complaint against an officer only approximately 8% were found to be of merit and exhibited “sufficient evidence to justify disciplinary action against the officer or officers”.  Hardly systemic, and this was in 2002, are we to believe racism is getting worse, I thought we lived in a generational time where we understand and perceive things better than our previous descendants?   If anyone has the time, they can spend days scouring the federal and state websites to better understand the transparency with which our society goes through to show a heightened sense of justice, and what they will find, is it’s all out there, a system of racism would never show its flaws to fool you, just wouldn’t make any sense at all.  It’s all about the context.

Lady Justice

So, why did I go through this long, drawn out story over context?  Even in our daily lives, when we aren’t paying attention, the subjective line of context is always moving.  If we’re not careful, we’ll eventually be caught on the wrong side of the contextual line, and be held accountable and judged by criteria we do not agree with and by arguments poorly crafted but gain momentum over a mob rule.  What do we have to look to, to properly and objectively base any judgement on?  In short, God, and the moral teachings of the Church.   I know there are those people out there who have their own opinions of God and the Catholic Church, but generally this is all it ever is, a nuanced opinion, most likely derived from a firsthand experience or a retelling of something based on a subjective point of view, with no obvious means of cross-reference to be seen.  As, fathers and husbands, it is up to us, when we attempt to lead our families to weed through all the junk which is purposely placed before us, and know when and when not to stop and investigate.  As we see major events happen before our eyes, played out on a global scale, the need to take our time and be more deliberate about our decisions is paramount.  Our wives and kids depend on it.  Like I stated before, people are searching for truth and people to follow.  I think this is the very nature of our beings, to never rest until we find, the truth, and just where this truth resides.  If we look back at our history, it’s founded on a strict set of Judeo-Christian values and morals as a roadmap.  The very fiber of our constitution is related to a proper understanding of these values, and now because of poor context, there are those who would try and upend our concepts of objective truths and values and replace them with a shiny and poorly constructed set of subjective contextual feelings as they pertain to events as they happen.  A desire to make our outcomes equal is the end of this quest as far as I can tell, and this is another way of exclaiming, “life isn’t fair”.

Of course, life isn’t fair, therefore we need leaders, men and women to help their families proceed down the proper pathway to life.  Life in the sense as we contextually understand it now, and as we perceive it to be, based on our poor understanding of God’s glory and love.  So where does this leave any of us?  Where do we go from here, and what can we trust above all else?  There are two things needed, the word, and the interpretation of this word.  When we have both, we are no longer concerned with fair, but with right as it pertains to our life and the lives of the people around us.  Read the Bible, in the context with which you understand it, and do this daily.  Then when you have questions, don’t go and ask your friend who may have less of an understanding than you, but go to the authority, the people who compiled the Bible and ask your questions.  This activity daily will change your life for the good, I never walked away from any daily readings thinking, “well I could have done without that tidbit”.  Some of the readings didn’t pertain to my situation, obviously, but there have been other readings which seemed to talk to me personally.  It was as if the reading was picked that day for my questions, or more astoundingly the answers to questions which seemingly weighed my heart down for what seemed ages.  The Bible is beautiful, this collection of books is translative of life to give us a sense of the proper context as we approach every situation we encounter.  Our context becomes such, as we see everything in black and white, a definite right and wrong.  Not in a sense where we judge people or create a divisive environment, but instead a right and wrong determined to bring, into the fold everyone we see.  We are all created by God, and in such a context, we are all precious in God’s eyes.  As a father, I could never choose one child over another, I love them too much, but in the context of God, I would always put their needs first above my own, and I would always stand defense to anything which insinuates a harm against them.  Anyone today could say, “well I don’t have to believe in God, to know this”, but I would argue, you most certainly do.  To keep an objective contextual point of view, you always need to know where you are, and how to proceed forward without fear of backsliding.  Always keep the light of Christ before you, to light your path, and keep truth in perspective.  An objective viewpoint which places context into its proper perspective, helps us to separate the fact from the fiction.  There is too much supposition and fictional points of view floating around in today’s media, politics, and social commentary.  I challenge the men and women reading this, to stand above all this, and choose to be better and focus on a proper context to all situations.  Take your time making decisions, appreciate the efforts, the struggles, and the bigger picture in anything you’re looking at.  We just don’t fully know the narrative with which our struggles are placed or why the means exist to our own ends, but understanding the overall purpose, places everything we could possibly know and understand into a more understandable context.

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I hope if you are struggling with content, or have personal issues in your own life, you will look to God in all matters.  The answers are usually found in the silence of our hearts and the context of the questions we ask, so pray, pray a lot, and you will find your answers.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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You Have Six Months…..Now What?

We all must die, and it matters less when or where, but within the context of understanding what our journey was for.

The doctor sits on their side of the desk and states, what seems cold but no other way to say it, “Bob, you have six months at best, and so I suggest you get your affairs in order!”  What do you do now?  “This isn’t supposed to happen to me”, you think to yourself, “I haven’t finished everything I wanted to do, and my kids aren’t even grown yet!”.  Seemingly a dark cloud of incredulity surrounds your thoughts and all you can think of is what you’ll leave behind, what you will miss, who will/might miss you, and then the big question, “Is God up there?”.  This is a lot to unpackage, well of course it is, you’ve lived a big life up and to this point, now it’s ending.  Brief moments of doubt enter your consciousness, “perhaps the doctor got it wrong”.  After clinging to this hope, and visiting several specialists, the sentence is confirmed, death at the hands of perceived unfairness and questions of “why?”.  Where do you go from here?

Now, let me say a couple of things before I get started.  Pain is awful and yet a matter of catharsis occurs at the same time.  We have a chance of emptying ourselves for a purer outlook and allow a truth to be revealed.  If we are willing to concentrate through the pain on something other than our own immediate suffering, our pain then becomes a prayer either for ourselves or another.  I know there are pains unimaginable, and I don’t presume to grasp what horrors people must go through when they are sick, but sickness doesn’t stop time, or conscience, and if these exist we do as well giving us a chance although difficult, still a chance.  This prayer is God’s blessings in a faith in action for us.  Often, I’ve heard the argument, “If you have such a loving God, then why does he allow pain and evil in this world”.  A good question obviously, but one which in its apparent rigidity of purpose fails by trying to encapsulate what is not capable of being contained.  Bishop Robert Barron has stated in the past, “It’s terrible……but perhaps is it ingredient in a much larger story?”.  What is this story, and how does it pertain to us?  Good question, I would say, but one which we’ll never understand, unless we’re willing to accept truth.  Also, a question which, we’ll accept truth, but not really know where this truth is leading us, and subsequently the journey Our Lives must take to see this journey through.  My wife and I were speaking about the death of a young man, who was my daughter’s age and whose life was cut short tragically in a motor vehicle accident.  We said the typical platitudes about how terrible this is, and his family must be suffering (of course meaning what we say, but not truly knowing their pain).  Just for the record, I abhor platitudes, until I don’t.  In this case, I sat down one evening after watching a video with this child and his friends laughing and talking to one another with no care in the world, and pondered the pain his family must have been feeling at that very moment, captured digitally, but what they would give to hold him was my thought.  It was like a swell of emotion came upon me, and in my solitude, and I wept.  I wept for the loss of a son, the loss of a brother, and anything which is forcibly taken for no reason at all. Look at the example of Christ, himself, taken before a perceived acceptable time, but still taken at the right time.  The mere thought of losing something and never having a chance to regain what was lost is our great mystery, everyone will feel this at one point or another in their life.  So, then came the question, “why?”, and like many other people there wasn’t any satisfaction or closure with an answer.  My empathy for this family was consuming, and in my silence about the topic over the next several months, as I would think about it in the early morning hours and I would enter a personal question and answer dialogue with myself (silently of course), and it finally struck me one day.  Our perception of life is one of our own making.  Now, we understand we live, and left to this, we manage to make a life span on average of ~78.74 years.  A statistic, a mathematical computation used to explain an average life and project your time.  Not bad, probably more accurate than the weatherman.

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Why is our perception one of our own making?  Because we are mankind, and where there is a will to control something we will try, even obsess until we achieve our goals on some level of control.  We try to control everything, we want to eradicate sickness, and make our lives easier in the process, essentially do away with pain.  How realistic is this though, Locke wrote about his theory of natural law as being something which can be discoverable through science and reasoning, but God’s divine law was something which can only be attained through revelation of a divine nature.  How does a young man, in his teens, have his life tragically cut short in any way pertain to a divine nature or natural law?  Simply this, God applies natural law in conjunction with his divine nature.  This means, although you are living, to fully realize the supernatural world with which “God is the very nature of being itself” (Aquinas, Summa Theologica), you must cease to exist in a natural world and then and only then can one proceed to a supernatural existence.  From this understanding, it is then derived an existential perception of eternal life and only then it puts our Earthly life into context.  What is this context?  We all must die, and it matters less when or where, but within the context of understanding what our journey was for.

Back to my original point, how would you handle the best/worst news of your life?  Within the context as I’ve just explained (not that well, but then that’s what the comments section is for), it’s about understanding, we don’t know the whole narrative, but truth in context is where we search.  Faith is meant to be this way, you must believe to move forward in any aspect of your life, and nowhere is this more exemplified than in the paradigm of faith.

Many years back, I was at a funeral, and I looked around at people and there was some whose pain was too much to watch, and others who seemed indifferent.  I think these are typical responses, some people are close to a loved one, and lament the loss, and others as a sign of friendship may have shown up to show support for a friend or colleague.  Though, the one impression I was most intrigued about was the attitude of the priest performing the mass.  He was smiling, and in general excited.  He moved around the altar, with exuberance and real fervor for what task was ahead of him.  It seemed counter completely especially when he was speaking about the family, and with the family.  When I had a chance, to speak with him, I asked about his energy.  He simply said this, “today is a day to rejoice in the Lord, we should celebrate the life of our loved one, but even more importantly we should celebrate the life of Jesus who sacrificed everything for us”.  Well, I will admit, I said, “ok”, and I walked away from this giving it a little thought, but nothing to keep me awake at night.  However, over the years and over the numerous funerals I’ve been to, I’ve notice one definitive point of interest.  Very rarely are we following this priest’s direction, but instead, we hang to our misery as if it is the only thing which will get us to where we need.  Misery is a circle, which will keep you moving, give you no rest, and never allow you to truly move forward.

Celebrate life, it is such a gift!  Look to the general Jesuit maxim, God is in all things, and walk around and look at the general majesty which surrounds every inch of everywhere.  God is in this, and in this context, wonder at the amazing complexity, size, and interconnection which binds all things.  Now, think if this is God’s gift to us here, and in our Earthly context, what waits for us when we are joined with God?

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Six months is the sentence, your affairs are decidedly in order at this point, you’ve notified every one of the predicament, and naturally prayers begin.  There are those, who truly love you, and don’t want to see you leave, and barring a miracle, the final chapter plot has been decided.  So, what do you do?  Where do you go?  Who do you talk to?  Since you are the final chapter’s author, what will you write?  Will it be grand, and be remembered for many years to come, or will it be something quiet allowing your memory to pass with each day?  This is up to you obviously, but if you’re not living your life with the determined understanding, this might be your last day, you’re living this life for you and not for God.

For me, my life as a husband and a father are paramount.  Making sure I “handle my business” when it comes to loving them, providing for them, and letting them know they can feel safe even when my earthly life is completed.  At the same time, I want to give them the tools for life, for love, and for faith.  I try to watch everything, to their chagrin, I see everything, and often this is a point of contention.  However, I don’t want to miss them, many times I act as though I haven’t seen something, so they will explain it to me, because I receive so much joy when I am included in their lives.  I’ll be honest, if I think too long on this, I get a little misty.  God is my joy, and he’s blessed me with my wife and children and they are reflective points of his light.  Even if my life ended today, I would have regrets about my general life and the poor decisions I chose to make, but not about my family.  I think we all do this.  So, there is never a good time to die by our personal standards, but we need to transcend our lives as we know them, and move to a higher plane where our perspective is one of objectivity, and our decisions are decisions of love.  You will see things clearer, brighter, more colorful than ever before.  You will love harder, and you will be willing to care less about what others think and more about what is best as a matter of charity.  You will care for things you never once thought were important.  Most of all, your focus should be on God, and if it is, you will be prepared for pure love and goodness.

As a man, these were always hard for me to do, not because I was prescribing to any sort of machismo, but just because I’m a man, head strong and stubborn.  Now, I still embrace my manhood, as I think all men should, it’s who we are and how we’re made. Though there is a kindness to is, a faithfulness to it, and my desire for a relationship with God has allowed joy to enter my life.  Joy doesn’t mean you’ll never be sad, sick, lonely, or hurt in some way or another.  What it means for me, is I know what awaits, and I want to be there regardless of anything that happens, the light forever seems to shine.  It’s like that afternoon day with a cool breeze and soft sunlight, that never seems to end for me.  This joy helps me to see past the superficiality of actions against me (although I haven’t mastered getting upset by these actions, I still recognize them), and gives me a will to understand who I am around (for the record, I don’t always understand, and my wife is living proof of this.  I still get her wrong as though I trying to win a competition somehow).

I pray for everyone who reads this, you will find your joy in all that you do.  You will find God in everything you see, hear, feel, touch, and smell; happiness is a feeling derived by joy, but just a feeling.  Your joy will be because of your relationship with God, so find God!  May God bless you and your family!

 

 

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!

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Emptying The Inconsequential, The Path To Redemption.

We all seek redemption for our past mistakes, we are all looking for someone who will tell us, “it’s ok, I love you for who you are not what you do or what you’ve done”

I had an opportunity to listen to a speaker today, who asked a simple question, “are you emptied out to accept God’s love, or are you filled with the non-importants of life?”.  I thought at first this question was a basic platitude we all hear when listening to an inspirational speaker, but as he used a prop of an empty and half-full glass, I was struck by its profound implication.  I will admit, I fill my life with a great many useless points of thoughts and worries.  All of which no more make me a better version of myself, nor do they create an atmosphere of learning and growth as it pertains to God.  In other words, I’m selfish, I would rather spend my time on activities where I can be entertained, maybe I worry about events at work as though through my worrying I can change the past and make everything better.  Ok, so what was his overall message, love, God’s love is waiting on us to accept it, and all we must do is accept it.  No one’s life was ever fully realized or fulfilled without the love of God.

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Our fulfillment depends on every choice we make.  I chose, many years ago, perhaps in my ignorance, but ultimately the greatest choice of my life, to be a father and a husband with an opportunity to become a man somewhere along the way.  What’s interesting about our choices is they are ours, and ours alone.  We truly can’t blame anyone for our choices no matter how good, bad, or ugly they might be.  Let me give you an example of what I’m thinking.  Say you are the only witness to a grisly murder, and the police need your testimony to convict the murderer, and without your testimony they will go free.  One more complication to your decision is, you’ve been told, by an anonymous source, if you testify, your family will die.  So, what do you do?  Many people might say, “no thank you, I have a family to worry about!”, but others would testify and face the potential retribution for their choice, by those who listen more to the deceiver than to the truth.  Now I know this is an extreme example, but you always had a choice.  Extremity is the point to which I’m trying to get us all to look at.  In any good argument, we should be able to argue an extreme and still find the same philosophical answer, this is what makes for a good argument.  There should be a linear logical point we can draw from argument inception to conclusion.  This is what gives us a clear thought pattern when it comes to making moral and ethical choices.

So, how does our choice pertain to the ability to empty ourselves out?  Here’s how I see it.  The first thing we must do is to recognize we have baggage and in some cases more than we should handle.  This weighs us down, and creates a spiraling discord which keeps our life out of harmony with others and our surroundings.  This discord, creates tension, and sets up barriers to prevent others from reaching us.  It also prevents us from seeing the true light of Christ in what we do, and posits an understanding whereby we look within ourselves for answer where we just don’t have any answers at all.  This spiraling effect then begins to create dysfunction our lives and then an unbalance occurs.  Ok, so imagine there is a glass of water, the water represents everything we try to fill up within ourselves, other than God.  There is a stipulation to filling the glass up though, the glass is constantly spinning on its edge in one direction while you stand on a platform which spins in the opposite direction.  This unbalance becomes more pronounce the more we fill our glass with the water of circumstance and selfish decision, eventually falling and spilling everything.  When we try and fill ourselves with the unnatural wants and desires of this world, all the while mixing in our problems, it keeps us off balance, and unable to fully set ourselves and focus on the here and now.  We’re always worried about trying to put things right, or trying to just get to the next day.  We always hope tomorrow will hold the answers.  Unfortunately, tomorrow is just another curvature of the glass and half spin in the opposite direction, and we are just a little fuller of the things we don’t need, and one step closer to losing everything.  This is our decision to attempt to fill up on those things which can’t provide stability or the focus on what we have before us now.  At this point, we must decide to stop, and truly start again.  Stop all the spinning and balance ourselves, so when we begin to become filled up with God’s love, we can accept the proverbial water of life till our cup is full and even overflowing with the graces which are poured upon us.

To empty ourselves, we must give of ourselves.  In Luke 6:38 “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”

The formula exists, we must all give of ourselves and the measure with which we will receive more than we could possibly imagine.  This means as family men, we must give everything we have for our wives and our children.  I once heard it explained, relationships aren’t a 50/50 proposition, but instead a 100/100% dedication.  As a husband, you must give everything you have, and never wait on her to capitulate or meet you, you must always be the example of what should be done.  With our kids, we should be setting an approachable father figure, but one who keeps expectations high and is willing to accept failure in the pursuit of those expectations. When we can accept the impossible, and forgive the inevitable, then an opening in our hearts begins to accept the light of God.  Opening ourselves to receive grace, by giving everything we have in us to all who enter our lives, presents us with an awesome choice, God or no God.  When faced with a perspective of God within our lives and the implications as they translate themselves in our own natural and supernatural epistemology, we see once difficult choices become simple pursuits of truth and decision.  Our once complicated lives take on a must do type of urgency, and where we once pursued the gray to color the fabric of our lives, now to see anything in any other color than black and white becomes an abhorrent aberration to what we determine as an overall perception of truth.  To empty means to give of ourselves from action to thought to feeling which leads to a sense of repentance.

Metanoia is the Greek word used in the New Testament to explain repentance whereby we have a “change of heart from the practice of sin to the practice of virtue” (Catholic Culture).  As this relates to emptying ourselves for filling ourselves with the love of God, we see the first function of anything we must focus our lives on is dealing with ourselves.  This may sound selfish, but how can you feed the hungry if all you can think of is filling your own belly with the food you would and should feed them with.  How can a husband give to his wife, if all he ever thinks of is how she isn’t giving to him, or how he tried so hard and she didn’t recognize?  Who was he ever doing it for?  I know some husbands, have no trouble in this department, and if this is true, God has blessed you with other areas in need of focus.  For those of us, like myself, I have always struggled with putting myself last and making sure everyone’s needs were met before mine.  I always lamented the need for my apology first, or being the person to attend to my wife’s needs where I perceived her to do nothing at all.  I was so wrong, it was never up to her to meet my expectations as I subjectively created them, it was my job to love her for who she is, and to be the best and most supportive husband I could be.  When I recognized this defect in my thinking, I began to see a dramatic change; I was less worried about the small stuff, and as it related to my relationship, we once again could connect with one another, and begin to move forward in our love with one another.  Of course, I know everyone’ relationship is different, so therefore I use the broad stroke of direction to say, love her, for who she is, not who you want her to be.  If you are thinking of marriage, then love her for who you know she is, recognize her dreams and goals, and support her in what she needs.  Our God provides, so never worry about this, just give everything you got.

With raising kids, I’ve learned a couple of things which may help anyone, it certainly helped me.  In a time of struggle and frustration, and in my exasperation, all I could do was shake my head and lift my hands in confusion.  Then I realized, my kids don’t expect me to get it right always, they expect me to never give up on them (even if they don’t truly understand this, they expect me to always be there).  Kids look up to us with those gleaming eyes, and they want us to succeed in life, because don’t you want anything you truly love to do well?  They are willing to accept our love at its lowest form of their perception of success, and yet we can’t see the innocence of this, and instead we pursue our own perceptions of what we think things ought to be.  Trying to be more than a father to our kids by never failing or admitting failure is the worst thing we could do.  I know, times in my past when I held anyone to an extremely high expectational status and when they eventually failed (everyone fails, when we hold them too high), I could hardly bear the sight of them because I failed to look at them with the lens of a loving heart.  However, when we show that in the face of failure, our focus remains the same, and we can admit the failure in a supreme effort to open ourselves and practice an effort to change our hearts, those whom we love the most are let in to our hearts and we are let into their hearts, an unconditional love can form in an ever-entwining helix which enwraps the fiber of everything we do.  This applies to our kids, our wives, our coworkers, and anyone we meet every day, but where this behavior and expectation carries the most weight is when we can open ourselves up for failure to God, and furthermore accept his forgiveness and love.  Our own metanoia is an ability to perceive light in the darkest of places.  Our desire to recognize fault and yet perceive a possibility for redemption will set us up to be successful husbands and fathers, as well as being men of uncompromising love.

We all seek redemption for our past mistakes, we are all looking for someone who will tell us, “it’s ok, I love you for who you are not what you do or what you’ve done”, with this know, God is love. God seeks our love, and with this, loves us so much he gives us the choice to empty ourselves and to be filled with his light, his grace, his love, his very existence.  When we can accept our lives are full of junk, and we entertain those willing to fill it with the unneeded junk, then we can never be filled with God.  When we can learn to pour out those unneeded items in our live, we leave ourselves open to wonderful possibilities, which in turn help lead others we know or meet daily to their own wonderful possibilities.  As husbands, we must always desire to be an example for our spouses, and as fathers we must be willing to be imperfect and yet show our children what a father should be in this world.  Stand up for a change in your life where you can legitimately pour yourself out, and transform yourself.  God loves you in all you do, and I do as well, I wish the absolute best for you in your life.  I hope where there is struggle in your life, God helps you to focus on what’s most important, and where there is joy in your life, I pray God helps you to increase your joy through the pursuit of charity with others.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Is Everything For Show?

The exposure of truth is like cleaning a wound, it really can hurt, especially if you allowed the wound to become infected and festering.

What about our culture makes people only do things for show, in other words take on the shape of duplicity?  I know a fear of ridicule has always been a motivation to take the shape of something else, to avert attention to my own short-comings.  Though at some point, this gilding will begin to flake off, and expose a truth, which by its very nature is a painful lesson.  Warner and Twain, wrote about the Gilded Age as a matter of truth in the late 19th century to expose in his own way a point greed and corruption.  The thing is, this façade people put up to prevent a truth is sometimes rather innocuous and other times, so abhorrent, risking its exposure could reveal true evil intentions to everyone.  So, where are we at with all this show, we’re nowhere, we don’t have the truth, but what is more alarming is, why aren’t people beating the doors down for truth in everything we do?

I think my last question is an important question because we look at all the news outlets, and people we speak to daily, and there is a definite pursuit of truth by everyone.  Are we any closer to a truth?  I think we are, but just like any truth, for those who accept it, and accept the pain which comes along with it, you see a progression in society, it seems more and more people are becoming tired of being spoon fed a subjective truth.  For those others, they see the truth the way they see it, and just can’t accept anything else.  Perhaps we’re all like this, but real truth can be tested and isn’t subject to failure.  Maybe because the obvious pain it involves, or because they are so convinced of  the other “truths” without any knowledge other than anecdote or perceptive reality, to believe something else in the same way, which so concretely disputes their original perception of truth would be an absence of reality to them.

What is truth?  A question posed to Jesus by Pilate in John’s Gospel (Jn 18:38).  Jesus, for any Christian, is not just a good and wise man, but in truth the divine God, and a sinless man.  This is the truth, we have three potential view we can take with Jesus.  The first is he was a nutter, he was completely crazy and in this we can dismiss everything he ever said or did.  However, when we deduce truth from the overall writings (which are more prolific than any ancient texts, and on a linear timeline, closer to the point of occurrence by relation to witnesses than most writings of this time-period), we see, no, one thought of him as crazy, this is understood by many examples of people who were clearly perceived as crazy, or possessed in the writings and yet no parallels were drawn into conclusion.  If Jesus was anything like them, there might have been a footnote indicating this, but instead, all texts keep his lucid behavior in the forefront.  So, a resounding “no” to the crazy behavior, which subsequently was also answered because of the rapid Christian movement in the early first century.

The next portion of the three-pronged attack, is everything Jesus was doing was all for show, the whole sticking point to this, and perhaps the strongest point anyone may bring to an invalid nature of Jesus.  Perhaps everything Jesus did was a show, a matter of trickery, one where he deluded everyone and was ultimately responsible for the death of his followers, the Apostles.  Though, we see a zeal extend well beyond his earthly life and find itself rooted deep in the hearts of his followers.  Why?  Why would they go to their deaths believing in a liar?  Doesn’t make sense, and before we go and think of the simplistic nature of people who lived two millennia ago, we should also remember, some of the most thought provoking and enlightening texts ever written are over two-thousand years old.  We are very knowledgeable these days, but we didn’t invent thought or reason, and people could rightfully determine untruths or even duplicity in this time, if even unable to articulate in words, because of lack of education.  Ok, so his disciples didn’t think him to be a liar, but what if he was just a good guy, from back in the neighborhood, and “we trust him, even if we know he stretches the truth a little”.  This surely can’t be it either, a large enough segment of people would have to have believed in everything he was doing, to follow him and begin the movement of the early Christians, and not just a movement in belief, but a belief in a movement to the ends of death.  Nothing about Jesus’s life was for show, and nothing about his actions make us doubt who he was.  The evidence for this deduction is the movement which arrived after his resurrection, any misapprehension of his ministry or unbelief in him has become something after the fact, and we should always remember this simple understanding.

Finally we come to the hard truth, which we deduce (simply I will admit, but the pillars of logic are sitting there for whatever weight you can place upon them), and find , if Jesus is not one of the previous two, than in the words of Peter Kreeft, “It is the most important argument in Christian apologetics, for once an unbeliever accepts the conclusion of this argument (that Christ is divine), everything else in the Faith follows, not only intellectually (Christ’s teachings must all then be true) but also personally (if Christ is God, He is also your total Lord and Savior).”

So, the truth might be a little painful to arrive at, and further change everything which we’ve believe thus far, but this doesn’t make it any less true, just us less willing to accept the truth.  Ok, so how does this pertain to us and our duplicity, here goes; failing to accept what is fundamental to our nature, and then failing to pursue the path of what we find as being truth, will lead us down a path of untruths and show, which are further built upon the showing of our untruths.  A little double-speak here, but not altogether wrong.  Knowing this, is like knowing a wonderful secret, but with some people no matter what is said to them, they choose not to believe, or even discuss reason as it applies to this truth.  This truth, comes in the form of what we like, or don’t like.  It may manifest itself and an almost debilitating fear of future or ridicule, as it pertains to overall responsibility.

Father and Baby

My responsibility as a man, husband, and father carries with it a tremendous potential to be duplicitous with my instructions to my kids, but failing to live by my own rules, or even as it pertains to my wife.  It would be very easy to conform to whatever she wanted or vice versa, but in the end, I would make myself unhappy giving her what she wants  all the time, or being a virtual puppet to her life.  However, unwillingness to capitulate and work together would be a selfish attempt at a showing some form of strength for the sake of winning which truthfully carries with it a mountain of duplicity.  The truth of this lies somewhere in the middle, being truthful, means not always telling people what they want to hear, but with compassion as we understand the truth can rip apart a belief in a matter of seconds, and everything a person ever believed will cease to exist (look at Saul of Tarsus, later Paul, and his conversion to the truth).  His truth consisted of ridiculing and even putting to death early Christians, but faced with the truth, his bright light and the voice of Jesus, he was blinded literally, but he pursued the truth at any cost, even to his death.

Ok, so why do people don’t look to the truth, when their duplicity works?  The answer is in the question, it’s easier to be something we’re not (perceptibly, or at least continue the lie), than it is to rip away the exterior and risk being exposed for who we are.  It’s easier to complain about a toothache than to drive to a dentist and go through the pain of pulling out the tooth.  True fear, because we believe everything is within our control, I would like to think, what you see is what you get with me, but I have insecurities just like everyone, and this causes me to try and hide those fears so I’m not hurt or exposed for anything less than a personal strength.  Giving it all to God, means all, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of you if your focus is clearly on the pursuit of the one true God.  This for me, is a true test of faith, to put it out there so I can face ridicule or at least to allow for the catharsis which happens when we give our all to anything as a sacrifice to ourselves.

In my own life, my focus hasn’t always been where it should or needed to be.  I was concerned with my career, hobbies, or anything which would put me front and center as attention goes.  I blame some of this on my “middle child syndrome” or a selfish understanding of “life’s not fair”, but most of the blame goes on our culture and lack of real tangible willingness to handle the truth and this concept is filtered down to everyone.  Regardless of what truth to what issue is presented, I’ve lied to everyone, at one point or another, and convinced myself, no one ever knew.  Years later, as I’ve tried with each day to be better and focus more on God, I notice the same people acting differently towards me, in a very positive way.  It was then, when I realized these events, the whole time I thought people couldn’t possibly know what the truth about me was, they could see straight through me which for me now is true fear.  They choose to accept me, even when they knew they weren’t always getting the real person, because they knew somehow the real person was in there somewhere.  This is my mission with my own kids, I want them to pursue a life devoted to the truth, even when exposed to the truth, they are not shown to be in a good light.  The exposure of truth is like cleaning a wound, it really can hurt, especially if you allowed the wound to become infected and festering.  If you allow this wound to become gangrene it could kill you, or at the very least cause you to lose something very dear to you (an arm, a leg).  Within our own lives, this figurative gangrene, we’ll just call it what it is, sin, can kill you as well.  This is what I’m attempting to teach my kids, wounds happen, they are created when we hurt others and when we’re hurt by others.  The only thing which will allow them to heal is the truth.  Some are so much worse than others, and although those wounds heal, they will always leave a scar.  The longer we allow something to fester, the greater chance for a scar to develop, assuming we ever heal the wound.

My wife is at the forefront of my mind when it comes to pursuing the truth, I want to always be there for her, I want to always give her everything and never leave anything back.  I don’t want to give an untruthful exterior and allow her to perceive something which isn’t there.  When she asks how I feel about things, which isn’t all that often as you can tell I’m somewhat long-winded, but when she does ask me, I want to be as truthful as possible and give as much compassion as possible.  When anyone, especially someone we love asks us our thoughts or feelings about anything, they are exposing themselves so we can either embrace them with our loving actions, or we can cut them with our duplicitous and lying behavior.  Be a true lover to your wives, give everything you have, even if they don’t give initially, they will, they will follow your lead.  Be strong, don’t capitulate to outside pressures in being something you’re not.  You are a man, a husband, a father, a human.  Be this, be willing to accept truth when it is presented to you, and be willing in the light of truth to admit fault and failure.  A truly unconditional experience of love will embrace your faults and failures, much like Jesus did with those people who needed their wounds healed by the truth.

Look at anyone who is truly exposed by the truth, and watch how the emotion will rush to them like a wind.  On many occasions, I’ve been brought to emotion as I realized in a split second where I should be.  Often, it came in silence, and every time, I could see God in every fiber of this truth.  I hope the light of God, is reflected upon your journey, and it will show you the way to truth, and nothing is ever for show.  Don’t be a disservice to those who love you the most, be who you are.

The unconditional love will be overwhelming, I don’t even know you, but I can tell you this, I would never want you to play a part with me, just be who you are.  Even if we never connected as anything more than an acquaintance, we would have the respect, or love, of truth behind what we do.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good!!!

 

Victoria Station

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Is This Really My Fault?

when I’ve grown tired of complaining and worry, I’m at the point of beginning and must move forward, God helps me with this

Why is blaming someone for something wrong, or faulting them for an obvious mistake such a big aspect of our culture?  Do we feel better when we can show we weren’t to blame, or at the very least we can still be trusted to complete what is asked of us?  Maybe we’re so willing to exert a level of blame on another, because we’re so fearful of our own situations.  At any rate, blame is the poison used by the deceiver to rip apart bonds and trust and effectively try and snuff out love.  As men, we are leaders and in as much as anyone can expect, we should never lead with blame, but with compassion.  Within the context of our compassion, we can show fault, but the blamed party will receive a greater understanding of what should be done, and how they could have been better.

Why does our culture look to blame before anything else?  In short, it’s easier to put the blame on anyone but ourselves and avert anyone’s eyes from us and possibly seeing what we may do wrong.  There are also those folks who don’t think they do anything wrong, from the priggish to the arrogant, we’re surrounded by people who fail to acknowledge even the most basic of human understanding, we all make a lot of mistakes.   We can even look at mistakes on a linear scale from “whoops, I messed up” to “what were you thinking, you nut?”.  At the end of the day, the key word here is mistake, an action or a judgment which is wrong, or in some cases perceived as wrong.

As a father, I seem my children make mistakes every day, as they pertain to life, friends, or anything related to our home.  I know they are kids, and don’t possess the full knowledge and understanding needed to prevent mistakes from occurring, but at the same rate, they need the mistakes to prevent them for future situations.  This of course is the impetus for the saying, “no substitute for experience”, it might stand to reason the most effective leader in any organization is one who made many mistakes and learned from them.  I’ve heard for many years, the difference between us and the saints is, they are willing to admit they are sinners and we are still trying to blame someone else.

Pointing Fingers

As far as blame goes, I’m talking about the real blame, the type which goes deeper than the action.  Look at the deplorable effects, on a long-term basis, we see from any type of violence in the home.  We see a young man mistreated in the home, and then in some small way he begins to make one poor decision after another, and then as it should be, he is blamed for his decisions.  Though the real question is on a deeper level, what culpability do the parents have as it is regarded in the man’s decision.  Obviously, I would never espouse legal action against a bad parent, but I do direct some blame.  I hear, jokingly, people say, “you need a license for a vehicle, but you don’t need one to raise a kid”, very true, but within a natural understanding, having a license, would be a ludicrous paradigm to live in just because we make mistakes.  Why don’t we hold people to a deeper understanding of truth as it relates to blame?  Often, when trying to complete my daily work, I’m informed in whatever manner suits my supervisor, I’ve made an error and this isn’t to be tolerated.  This adds so much stress to my life, because, in many of the instances where error is found, it has more to do with constant revisions or poor communication than any dereliction of duty and understanding on my part.  Regardless of whatever I’m under, I’m still expected to deliver a superb result, without errors and fast.  I have full gray patches in my beard than ever before, I look ten years older than I did when I started my job a few years ago.  This blame game has stressed me to the point of breaking many times, but as my wife reminds me, “God never gives you more than you can handle!”, which is so true.  In prayer, I focus on what is most important, and if at any point they are willing to terminate my services, I’ve excepted I will still do my best work, and this more a function of their need to blame than my incompetence or lack thereof.  Just so I am clear, I do make mistakes, and when I do, I am the first to admit them and give an action plan to fix.  By my estimation, this is what is required of all of us, be willing to admit fault and be willing to fix the broken left in our proverbial wake.

Now, I’m telling you this, because I’m positive, based on my conversations with other men in similar positions, we all have unbelievable stress in our lives.  I know for me, I want to provide a good life for my wife and our children.  I want to afford a lifestyle which we live in, and I want to have an ability to give help where help is needed.  If you are anything like me, I think you might be the same way, and within the context of a responsible understanding, the stress of the situation is exacerbated by influences, such as an angry or adversarial boss.  Maybe they micro-manage your every detail and in some way passively or otherwise aggressively cut you down to size, so a period of self-doubt sets in and now not only are you stressed about the job and responsibilities on your plate.  Now, you have no confidence in your work or what you deliver, you even prevent sending your work away, just so you can check it for the fifth time.  Invariably, even after checking it, another issue is found, but this time it has nothing to do with you.  Now, you’re angry, now they are nit-picking your every move, further eroding an already barren and slowly fading self-esteem.  I know of people who, because of such a low self-esteem, attack every person they view as a professional threat, and within this they gain reputations of difficulty and disgust among fellow professionals.  Those, who look down upon these people, aren’t doing so because they are mired in hate, but simply because they don’t understand and don’t want to try, we must try!

Ok, so how do we handle this?  How do we handle this ugly representation of life, as it confronts us every work week, all day?  You do spend more time with these stresses than you do your own family, and when there is stress at work, there is bound to be stress at home.  I will confess, there are many days, when I’m asked to do things by my children, and I push them off, because I’m tired or I need to decompress (so-to-speak).  The regret for me is there, and I’m sure there are many other husbands and fathers who find themselves in very similar situations.  The way we handle it is acknowledgement of truth, knowing who we are, and what our mission in life is.  The first for me, is knowing God is there, and moving forward every day, understanding my problems are shared.  The second, is realizing, I am one third of a covenant and one half of a married relationship.  This relationship with my wife is so important to keep our communication in check.  She fills in the cracked and broken gaps which I possess, and I lovingly mention the gaps she might possibly have (experience husband here, lots of mistakes by the way).  We complete one another.  The third and maybe the hardest to follow is, this all goes away in the end.  Everything goes away, you can’t keep any of this and worrying about it, because times may get hard, is ridiculous.  You could be in the best situation possible, and still have rough times, don’t worry about what may happen and be joyful in the moment now.  I talk to a co-worker from time-to-time, and he was shocked I have a five-year rule.  It goes a little like this, if you are ever in a stressful situation, and faced with a difficult decision, you ask yourself, “is the decision I make now, going to be relevant in five years?”.  Now, I admit this isn’t my brain child, but has worked for me every time I’ve utilized it.  The example I was given, which helped me in my perspective was, suppose you must go to a meeting at the last minute or attend a choir performance by your youngest child.  In five years, will you remember what the meeting was at all about, or will you have a lasting memory of your child singing “Silent Night”?  I always go with the family.  Which brings me to my rule of three as well, God first always, family second, and handling one’s business third.  When we approach life in this manner, and with this competence we can be blamed all day long for mistakes or perceived failures.  The facet of the matter will be though, if we handle our business, we are able to keep a competent understanding of accomplishment.  When I work with anyone, they understand this, and it keeps our work life simpler.  When I fail to make this an important part of my function, I begin to have stress, and competency begins to fall to the wayside.

As God is always there for me, I know worrying about stuff is fruitless, when I’ve grown tired of complaining and worry, I’m at the point of beginning and must move forward, God helps me with this, and as a matter of understanding, gives me purpose to push through my problems.  When we blame another for mistakes happening in the light of work or personal life, we are not looking to God for understanding and compassion, we are looking to have power and exert it over another.  As Fathers, and husbands, we are charged with full understanding and comprehension of our situations.  This will mean, sometimes, taking longer to make decisions which are wise, and loving.  God will help you and me with this, we need to believe it possible, and the work will be laid before us.

My wife, is my physical and spiritual companion, she sets me straight, and reminds me there is unconditional love.  Within her love for me, there is a purpose to give every ounce of energy I have in to a relationship which transcends whatever situation we’re in and moves us to a higher plane in communion with God for this purpose.  In layman’s terms, she snaps me out of my inner turmoil and keeps me balanced.  I hope I can do the same for her, but she is a confidently strong woman who is willing to face just about anything which falls in her path.  I love her dearly for this quality!

The final point I can make is one of objective understanding, as it relates to a bigger picture of who we are and what we’re meant to do.  Does anything you’ve done today or yesterday provide the ability to have a closer, more loving relationship with the Trinity?  In your daily activities, have you pushed these supernatural efficacies to the wayside, and created your own reality?  If so, don’t be too alarmed.  In our world today, we are expected to do everything, for less pay, less appreciation, and more expectation.  We are bound to a model of success, which in its entirety is bound for failure.  So, I’m not suggesting, we don’t try, but change the landscape.  Change your paradigm, or at least the perception of how things are coming at you.  Know, none of the material arguments, and stresses related to work can be taken with us when we go to meet our Heavenly Father.  Know, there were people who needed your compassion today, and your love, and because you were worried about how you’re going to pay a bill if you got fired, you recognize someone is in a worse off place than yourself.  I always tell my son, “there will always be someone, quicker, faster, and smarter than you, but those are still no reasons to not give it your all”.  This is what we must do, be proud of the man you are, and of what you’ve accomplished, if you give God the Glory, and recognize, people will blame us and put us into places we otherwise would choose not to be in.  If you can find your joy, in God, then none of the blame or stress matters.  Not the money, prestige, power, or fame.  None of it, you can’t take it with, so leave everything for God, and move towards the light of love.

Open Hands

So, was it your fault?  Maybe, maybe not, but acknowledging true fault is the first step to your own sainthood, and the first step in a deeper, more meaningful love with God.  A person’s blame of you may be coming from a place of deep pain for them, and with our consideration and compassion, as a witness, they may also be able to let go of whatever hurt causes them to lash out at everyone else.  My wife indicated one time or another, we might just be the only person thinking about them, and our prayers will make a difference.

I hope anything I’ve written here, will provide an affirmation of what you already knew deep down, or help to continue your growth in God.  I am energized by anyone and everyone who seeks God, but at the same point in time, I want the best for absolutely everyone.  Those who do us harm, need as much praying and love as anyone else.  Their blaming of us, for something we carry no blame, may just be the implied cry for help you needed to hear.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

 

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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What Should I Do With My Anger?

I don’t really think I became a man until I was forced to decide for someone other than myself

Let me be the first to say, I’m awful when I get really upset, and my wife agrees with this statement.  I overreact, and I jump to conclusions.  I’ve been known to be a little dramatic from time-to-time, and if I was forced to watch myself on screen as I performed many of my childish antics, I would be embarrassed enough to literally crawl under a rock.  Much like a rocket that shoots into orbit, I quickly run out of steam and come back to earth quickly and thus my mistakes are overwhelmingly realized, and although I do apologize it never seems like enough at the time.  This got me thinking, why can’t I recognize when I’m getting mad, or even better, why can’t I just walk away from my anger when it surfaces?  A local priest once gave a homily where he indicated patience is a virtue, a grace we receive from God.  This gracious gift, is not something which is just passed around, but something which is asked for and prayed about, a gift of sorts.  It doesn’t mean we’ll ever receive it, but what it does indicate, we have the humility to ask for something which brings us closer in communion with God.

Have you ever known anyone who is quiet and never seems to be bothered by much of anything, or if they are, they spew their anger in much the same way a cool breeze meanders its way down a valley, with ease and comfort?  I’m sure we all do, and I’m sure much like us, they have a story to tell.  My desire to be more patient with my wife and my kids is always thwarted by me, I always get in the way of my greatest desires.  This is something I think not altogether uncommon, and we all do, we are our own worst enemies.  The enemy platitude is often utilized when performing and failing to achieve the heights we dreamed about, but shouldn’t it also be applied to everything we do?  Do we set ourselves up for failure by fantasizing about what might be, rather than what is right in front of us?

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For many years, there seemed to be a torrent of anger built up inside of me, and I never knew how to let it go.  I was incredulous to questions like, “what you have to be angry about”, and truthfully, I didn’t know.  I tried to control getting mad, and I would do ok, for a time, but inevitably I would get really upset and become a grizzly bear to anyone who was closest to me.  My focus was on trying to control, what is impossible to control, the situation, and then the priest’s words hit me.  If I’m unwilling to ask for help, and I’m unwilling to accept my sin for what it is, then I am unwilling to love God.  I know this seems somewhat extreme, but in the context of life and God, it seems relevant and anything but extreme to me.  This anger about life and where and how I exist in it has consumed me for years.  It carries with it a weight, one which is much like the Jacob Marley chain of penance, one that weighs my very soul down.

To start off, I was more focused on me than anything around me, I was selfish to say the least, probably a little narcissistic, when it came to the people around me.  I really didn’t care too much about most things, unless they fulfilled a wish of mine.  I had friends which I deluded myself into thinking I could be friends with, but whom I ultimately pushed away with my lies and selfish behaviors.  I don’t really speak with them anymore, and this is a regret in my life, but one which I have come to grips with although I do not like.  In my teens, I was a portly child who couldn’t accept I ate too much and this really upset me, and making friends was a little difficult, so my behavior towards people exacerbated the situations around me.  When an opportunity came along for people to say what they felt, they usually did.  This was as a direct result of me, mouthing off and talking about them behind their backs and it getting to back to them at one point or another.  At any rate, I blamed them for my behavior and so began the anger.  I’m sure I would have walked down a life path of awful decisions and derision, but God has been there the whole way.  Always placing something in my path to help correct me, and even place a wreath of humility around my neck.

This has never been more prevalent than in my working life, as I have come face-to-face with a reality which offers me little of the career I envisioned, and one of even harder work than I could have imagined.  A career where people take credit for my pains, and one where no matter what I could possibly do, it doesn’t ever seem to be enough.  This runs counter to anything in my nature, as I was taught to fight for everything, to argue my point, and “stick to my guns” as my father would say.  It has never been a matter of giving up on anything, rather figuring out the way which will work best.  So, if you can imagine, my desire to fix my own pain, and my own anger has consumed me.  I can solve anything but this, and not only can I not fix it, but the harder I try, they worse my situation ever gets.  So, what’s the answer?

The answer, my brothers, is, God!  God has always been there in everything I’ve ever done, but I’ve needed the help of people to let me see his light.  My wife, for one.  She shows me where I need to be, all the time, and helps lead me down a path which is hard, frustrating, and painfully truthful but for my good.  She sometimes will state “this too, shall pass”, and I nod, because I know it to be true, but it still doesn’t stop the pain and anger of the failure I have felt.  There is wisdom in her words though.  So, my anger would subside but surely as the sun rises it would rear its ugly head.  It pains me to say, I would not go to God with my issues.  Prayer, and meditation were the answer, if I could pray, I could center my life and activities accordingly.  Many people deride the Catholic Church for its use of prayer, many prayers (Hail Mary, Rosary).  Though, if you step back and look at the nature of the prayers being said, you’ll see they are asking for help, desiring the love of God, and begging forgiveness for our faults.  Therefore, I feel centered when I go to prayer, and I know peace can come over me.

I was blessed about a year ago to be pushed into a retreat which my wife assured me would be a life changing event.  She was right, she usually is!  I left angry, and I came back with a sense of released pressure.  The image in my mind was always like waves crashing on the rocks then as I came back from the retreat, I felt as though the water was calmed.  In time the water always comes back, but at least this time, I knew what I was dealing with, and was learning how to withstand the crash of my problems better.  The retreat was a Godsend.  It was a retreat for men, where we could come together and pursue a relationship with God, to get to know God. Men cried, and men hugged, and we realized a vulnerability which we’ve all had didn’t make us weaker, but strong like iron.  What I took with me as I left the retreat center was, there are many men who suffer from the same problems and disappointments I suffer from.  We want so badly to be something more than we are.  We want to overcome our past and give our family the real man they know exists.  What we got from all of this was a sense of help, friendship, a sense of community, and a sense of God in all things.  Many of the men I spent a long weekend with are some of my very best friends today.  We meet regularly and discuss what’s on everyone’s minds, and what struggles each one of us are dealing with.  Anger is always there for me for some reason, masking itself as ambition, or telling me, “it’s ok to get mad, you have a right to”.  I don’t, I know this, and this is my struggle, to release my anger to God, and let God give me the grace to be a better man, husband and father.

So, I choose to write this blog, I know there are men out there who feel much like I do, and I want you to know, you’re not alone, you have a brother in me.  I know we have the responsibility of being fathers and husbands and this isn’t easy.  Know that you’re not the only one, and if you ever feel so angry you could weep, know that you’re not alone.  Take time at the office to stop what you’re doing and pray for ten minutes, take time at the house to look around at your wife and your children and focus on the gifts God has given you.  When you do this, I promise you will feel the warming touch of the Holy Spirit come upon you and you will feel centered immediately.  This is what it takes, slow down, recognize, you don’t have to fix everything everywhere.  Be willing to accept you don’t have control, and God most certainly does, and let him show you the path.  Laugh, be so willing to laugh (of course don’t laugh like a crazy person, they will surely admit you to the behavioral center) but laugh.  One release for me, is joy, God is my joy, and in it him, I find solace.  Work is difficult for me on almost a daily basis, and within the structure of my work, I find joy his gift of joy to me.

I will admit, I was upset over the last two days, and I could have been better about my attitude towards my kids, and especially my wife.  I could have slowed down, and taken the time to appreciate her, and I didn’t, my words as I type them are a poignant reminder of my flaws in their numerous cavalcade of selfishness.  Though, in my boorish behavior, I’ve once again been shown just where I need to be, and where I was.  A man who has an ability to self-reflect has an ability to tear down the façade of machismo which is boyhood, and really become a man.  I tell people all the time, I don’t really think I became a man until I was forced to decide for someone other than myself, and the decision was not in my favor.  I had to make a choice against myself as a matter of accepting responsibility, and part of becoming a man was confronting my mistakes.  Once my mistake was confronted, then it was a matter of making the situation better.  This is another big part of who we must be, men willing to fix what is broken, and work so very hard never to break it again.

I hope and pray, in your tough times, you’ll look to the light of Christ, and know he walks with you every step.  I hope, you can look at your spouse with a sense of gratitude in their eyes and see the grace which was bestowed upon you from God.  You may have tough times ahead, even with your spouse, but don’t give up.  Stephen Covey wrote in his book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, when an audience member asked him what she should do when she fell out of love with her husband.  His advice was simple, “just fall back in love”.  His advice is so simple, choose, it’s a choice.  Choose to work hard and accept a pathway which was perhaps not what you thought it would be but is or choose to become angry at something which anger is never a solution and risk being miserable.  Misery begat misery.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!

 

 

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Ephphatha – Be Opened Up

Because I spent so many years worrying more about myself than anyone else, I have a regret about the amount of time I wasted being so selfish.

For anyone who doesn’t know what this word means, it’s Greek, literally, it means to be “opened up”.  A phrase spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of Mark when he cures a deaf man of his hearing loss.  Subsequently he also had a speech impediment, probably due to the deafness, and this was taken away as well.  The man was cured, and this event caused such a stir as to involve the community in an exuberance to proclaim the deeds of Jesus.  I was reading this passage this morning, and it made me think of when I was a child and I heard the priest give his homily on just this topic.  Over and over within the homily he said the word, ephphatha, and his translation with arms in a large circular motion (like warm-ups in physical education class as a child) he would say, “be opened”.  In his exuberance, from a child’s perspective, he looked a little silly, but seemed to have purpose.  As I’ve thought on this physical display of his point, I realized what he was attempting to do.  His attempt to impart a point of referential fervor onto an otherwise similar grain of text, as it relates to the gospels, was successful.  Well done, father, even to this day I remember a good portion of your homily and points made within.

This has also made me aware of what Jesus did as it related to any miracle he granted.  Take for instance, the woman in Matthew 9:20-22 who touched the hem of Jesus’s garment, and was suddenly cured from a persistent hemorrhage which had plagued her for the last twelve years.  There was no hand waving, and cracks of thunder didn’t create a cacophony of noise to make people drop to the ground. Instead, Jesus, turns around and indicates her faith has saved her.  This was all in an otherwise seemingly normal transaction between two people.  So, why are the miracles performed differently for people?  Why are some miracles just granted, and why are some physically manifested?  I know when something miraculous happens before our eyes, we are more apt to remember or even believe it when we detect a mechanism as the switch.  So, for instance, when Jesus creates the mud and smears it on the blind man’s eyes, this is the mechanism for us as a physical sign something has changed.  As humans, we don’t seem to be able to accept what we can’t see, or in this case what we can’t acknowledge as a verifiable event.  Our need to remember as a matter of acceptance is paramount to believing in anything.  There are even those people who could witness a miraculous event and still deny it ever happened.

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In the purpose of the priest who dramatically recreated the events, at least in action, of a miracle Jesus completed, he achieved a point of discussion thirty years later.  I still remember his points, I still remember the miracle, and what it means for all of us, and I still have a nuanced understanding of how those miracles big in their presentation relate to our lives which are diminutive in comparison to the overall all spectrum of human events.  The command to be “opened up” carries an awesome explicit and implicit direction.  The divine has commanded us to be open, and create an openness with everything we do.  A closed action, mind, or emotion prevents us from truly loving our neighbor.  A closed soul if you will, stops us from truly understanding the motives of another, and keeps us poised for disagreement and strife at any level.  As a man, I feel like this is very hard to accomplish, I don’t want to be open, especially if I’m not receiving a reciprocal action from another individual.  It’s very difficult for me to accept anything than what I see before me.  If someone is behaving poorly and I detect this, my man-o-meter (not to be confused with the liquid/pressure measurement tool) says, “don’t’ budge, let them make the first move”.  Pretty stubborn, but this is how my mind works.  Though, being open means to make the first move.  Men are pretty good at this, we are traditionally more aggressive, and it takes almost no effort to walk across the line and be open.  Now, I’m not suggesting we be ignorant of a tense situation or walk into certain danger.  What I mean more, is having an ability to see, where we are being deficient, as it relates to any relationship, and make it right.

As a husband, I also fight to truly be “opened up” with my spouse.  I can talk all day about anything, just name the topic.  Though, this isn’t what I truly mean about being “opened up”; having an ability to open one’s self to listening and understanding our spouse, carries with it an immeasurable amount of love.  Many times, I want to fix what is broken or not working right, and this also means any issues or problems my spouse has.  Often like a bull in a china shop, I want to fix her issues.  She doesn’t want this for two obvious reasons, she’s incredible intelligent, and she knows what she wants she just wants me to listen and affirm for her what she already knows.  On the surface of my last sentence, this just sounds like “yes” or “no” type of response and it very well could be without one distinct understanding.  How much trust must you put in someone to tell them what you think and truly care about their opinion?  I think this is a mountain of trust she places upon me to help her know, based on the revelation of her feelings and thoughts, what is best for her and if her decisions will be received well.  I really can’t think of anything I would rather be doing than getting her approval and trust as it pertains to my relationship with her.  As a husband, I must be open to everything which creates a more loving and accepting relationship with my wife.  One conduit of acceptance, is our faith, we hold the same fervor for a faith in God, and as one, we teach this fervor and belief to our children.

As a father, being open to my kids helps me in more ways than I can possibly imagine.  In the past when I was unwilling to be open with myself and to anyone around me, I found my rigidity was something I relied upon, and expected everyone to follow.  It was going to be my way or the highway mentality.  What I’ve discovered over the years, is in this conditional world I lived in, I presented a conditional case without realizing it.  I implied to my kids, my wife, and anyone near me, I was a conditional person who is easily disrupted and offended.  I was morosely unhappy with life.  I always believed in God, and I always understood the concept of love as best as I could grasp it, but I just didn’t know how to practice it, as it came to understand and being open to people I’m involved with.  I was creating my own hell, as it were, and people were running away in droves.  When at a low point, I considered myself, and at the words people spoke to me in righteous anger, I realized I was the problem.

Are you the problem?  Have you, as a father, husband, or man become so rigid within your understanding of life, you’ve failed to be open?  Are you open to the good will of another by the goodness of yourself poured out selflessly?

If you answered, “yes” to anyone of these, then you probably are where I was at for a very long time.  The great news is, redemption is always being offered to you in every which way you can imagine, your spirit must be willing to accept it when it comes to you though.  Be open to accepting love where you least expect it.  This may come in the form of a gesture which seems rather innocuous, but in a string of actions tied together, becomes an unbreakable chain of the strongest unconditional love possible.  This is what I struggled with for some time, was an ability to recognize everything ties to something else, and only looking at the here and now, without a recognition of past efforts is foolish and selfish when dealing with a loved one.

Because I spent so many years worrying more about myself than anyone else, I have a regret about the amount of time I wasted being so selfish.  I probably over correct now in my attention to detail, and I probably annoy my spouse more than anything when it comes to talking.  Though, this is something I should learn the ropes to.  Being willing to put ourselves out there and literally will the good of the other, is extremely hard for me.  I’m not any different than anyone reading this, and I know all of us have at one point or twenty points, dealt with someone who causes us all sorts of grief.  These people seemingly go out of their way to make our lives difficult.  They, like our siblings, find what creates the most turmoil and in their most passive aggressive or generally aggressive ways continue their contrivances annoyances.  In one most recent event for me, I was dealing with someone, who in their general insecurities, created an adversary of me on everything I did.  They talked down to me in a most condescending way, and then changed their mind after I fulfilled their wishes.  To say the least I was frustrated, my relationship with this person was affecting my general health, and causing a great number of sleepless nights.  When I spoke with my wife about how this was affecting me, she gave me the greatest advice, “you never know what someone just might be going through, pray for them, because you might be the only person willing to pray”.  When she said this to me, you could have knocked me over with one touch.  For me, this advice was an 8.5 on the Richter Scale, it shook me all the way down to my foundations, and I was forced (in a very good way) to rethink everything I ever thought about any of the adversarial relationships in my past.  If I’d just spent a little more time, thinking and praying on those people who were misaligned with me, I may have had a better relationship altogether, or at the very least accepted them for who they are.  Willing the good of the over, means just this to me.  Of course, willing the good of the other involves a distinct understanding of charity, but charity usually has meant giving to those who needed in the past.  Needed to me, was a matter of money or clothes or food, but charity never meant prayer.  The foundational change came for me as a matter of perspective, charity is giving something to someone who needs a kindness to fulfill a need.  I never looked at prayer as being a need.  However, prayer is a definite need, prayer is something all of us need.  We need to give it as often as we can and we must be open to receive it as often as possible.

Prayer, for me, is the best way I know to be open with everything I do.  When I can pray, I can meditate and think on the issues of another, but opens the door to a more understanding and compassionate man, father, and husband.  Men must be strong of will and moral character by my estimation, it’s the way we were created and it is our role as handed to us, out of love, by God.  Willingness to accept this is willingness to be open to life and the people in our lives.  We don’t get to pick and choose how to be open though, when we do, we begin to live a close and unjoyful life.  Be open, love with every ounce of your being, and this mean even those people who give you the most problems, you may be the only person willing to pray and love them back.  When we will the good of the other, and we choose to love them no matter what, we won’t live with regrets.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!

 

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What Am I Truly Focused On?

God gives us the strength and courage to stand in opposition to our problems, and the recognition to focus on what’s important

Let me begin, by saying this is my third attempt to write this sentence, so my focus has started off poorly.  However, this serves as a good jumping off point for my points.  With all said and done these days, is there any wonder why we can’t seem to stay focused for any longer than it takes to accomplish one task item, and then we begin to wander, either figuratively or a literal walking away from what we’re doing.  At once, I begin to imagine all the aspects of society and their benefits and just how this would have been any different if those responsible for their creation were as unfocused as I am.  Are we getting worse with our focus, than say someone of the early twentieth century? Has technology created a paradigm of mediocrity, due to a general lack of focus, except with what technological means are placed before us?  Perhaps, these are true, but also perhaps like anything we look to the worst representations as a pedagogy regarding our life’s perceptions and trainings.  We may tell ourselves, why do I need to try as hard, if my results are bound for failure.  We teach ourselves, in a manner of speaking, to only go in the direction of the sure thing.  How many times have we heard the phrase, “failure is not an option!”?

Failure is always an option, perhaps not the best option but an option nonetheless.  Failure is needed to become better at what we do, and without failure we have no benchmark for success, or the pitfalls which surround us daily.  As I’m referring to failure, I think it should be clear, failure is what you think failure should be.  For me, failure is my inability to accomplish what I tasked myself to do, or not doing what I know the “right” thing to do is.  Nothing more, but with a critical eye, I consider what I’m doing and have done to get better.  This applies with my relationships, my job, tasks at hand, and my overall person as it relates to my faith.  In fact, my failures as they relate to my faith, are always forefront of my mind, and not as a nature of piety, but as I am a sinner and my failure to recognize this will be my undoing.  So, it is front and center of my mind always.  Don’t you have anything with which you regret, regarding the way you treated another, or where you could have done more to benefit the situation of another?  This is really all I mean.  If our focus is on God, and we want to have a relationship which grows closer each day, then our ability to focus on what matters is paramount to our salvation.

In my normal day, when I wake up, I have just enough time to shower, shave and dress for the day’s work.  I wake my children up for school, and sometimes I have time for breakfast, while the car warms us, and other days I’m rushed from the second I wake up till I arrive at work.  There is very little room for error, and when I have something, unforeseen and time-consuming, I tend to handle this poorly.  I become moody and for lack of a better expression, I’m hard to deal with.  Though, when removed from the stressful situation I think to myself, I could have woken up earlier, or be willing to accept those things which I have no control over.  Almost anything would have been better than the attitude I had when it came to the people of whom I love the most in this world.  So, where was my focus?  Plainly, it was on me!  This is a bitter pill for me to swallow.  I ask myself the question, how can you be so selfish?

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For the longest time, I was focused on myself and what I wanted, but gave myself and the people around me the general delusion, I was just working on myself and I was sorry I didn’t give them more of my attention.  From a duplicity standpoint, they saw right through me, and I’ve permanently lost relationships because of my behavior.  This failure of mine, is painful but telling of a better future where if I can put my selfishness to the side and focus on God, and becoming a reflection of his light for others I have a real chance of allowing another to enrich my life for the better.  Charity should be my number one focus, in everything I attempt to do.  Take for instance, when dealing with my kids, if I am in any way attempting to be charitable, I will listen and be patient with them.  However, I give them goals they can accomplish, but goals, much like myself, intended to challenge them.  No one ever said, “I really respect you, because you made things so easy, I never had to try”, at very best people appreciate not working hard, but can’t truly respect this behavior either.

My daily focus, how do I accomplish this, and how can I be better?  Matthew Kelly, of Dynamic Catholic, always asks his readers, “are you being the best version of yourself?”.  This is such a wonderful point of view to have, although it appears to be a simple platitude at first, it truly isn’t.  Within a couple of minutes of asking yourself this question, I think you will realize the answer is, “no”.  Not that you won’t be the best version of yourself as you sit and read this right now, but as you attain a new understanding, much like a corridor of doors, you open a new door to a new world.  A world where we are woefully deficient in our understandings and general pursuits.

There are some people who choose, as their focus, to open those doors which open to rooms of varying width and sizes, but rooms which can be measured.  When we focus on God, we open the door to worlds of understanding, which can neither be measured or fully comprehended with one look.  This is what my focus on God offers me, a world of love, and one which I am ever learning.  I’m always learning to be more compassionate, more understanding, and one which helps me gain the insight needed to move up the proverbial mountain we must all climb in this life.  I believe, since I’ve opened the door to this world, so-to-speak, I’ve found within myself, by the grace of God, a new desire for all.  I’ve found a certainty of appreciation as it pertains to my surroundings.  My daily focus, should be, and isn’t always because I allow life to step in the way from time-to-time, those people and places which can either influence me or I can influence them.  As a father, my focus is my kids and what is best for them.  I see some fathers who are truly friends to their kids, and on some level, I find this inviable, but on a focus of family, I find this disconcerting.  Now, I don’t ever want to give a sense of judgement over anyone.  I’m no better than anybody, but I’m trying and where I see potential pitfalls, I do my best to avoid whenever possible.  In the case of being a father, and my focus to do better has shown me, my kids don’t need a friend, they have plenty of those.  No, instead, what they need is someone to lead them, and in vein of truth encompassing all children, all kids need parents to lead them in to right choices.  Without our moral teachings, and without our general actions as they pertain to our kids and life, kids are forever left to wander.

Now, I purposely make the point regarding our kids today, a generation which needs our focus and discipline more than anything I can think of.  Of course, they are our future, but they also deserve a future and one which they can take a hold of, regarding actions and perceptions.  Right choices are far more important than successful outcomes (though I will take successful outcomes associated with right choices any day), and teaching our kids the difference should be our legacy.  My wife and I sound like broken records to our kids, regarding what they choose to tell us as things happen in their life.  Though, I want them to be self-reliant, at least to the point where they can enter their thought stream and truly look back at their parent’s teachings to help them answer difficult questions.

As my focus pertains to my wife, my friend, someone whom I love more than myself.  This is just it.  In less than twenty words, I listed my general goal and focus for the woman who shares my covenant with God.  She is my everything, and we determined over two decades ago, we would be devoted to loving one another, and trying (although, I’m a boob and need her to show me better ways of doing things) to create a life of focus on God, our kids, and our now.  This is where I think we got things wrong in the past.  We always focused on our future together, rather than the here and now.  We talked about building the house of our dreams, while we lived in a shack, with no other means of fixing our personal problems at the time, we were willing to delude ourselves into thinking it was our age and lack of knowhow.  In our case, we’ve overcome many things, much like a typical couple, and we are the better for it, but without God’s blessings on us, we would never have had the strength to tackle those issues which were the hardest.  God, doesn’t fix our problems for us, God gives us the strength and courage to stand in opposition to our problems, and the recognition to focus on what’s important.  Our only problem as two married people, young and inexperienced, was we thought we could do it alone.  We were wrong, and so is anyone who carries the same referential point of view.  We need parents who are married and stay married, because they worked their problems out, as a measure of an example in our own lives.  How hard is the focus for a new generation of young people, choosing to get married, when they see over sixty percent of the people around them divorced, or divorced at least once?  Where does this leave them when hard times hit, because they will hit, and will be woefully unpleasant?  This unpleasantness mixed with poorly realized goals, and nothing as a point of reference, spells disaster.  Mixed with an entire generation dealing with this model, there are rough times ahead.  I often tell people, if you want a better society you must do four things.  First, believe in God, there is too much evidence for us to explore which otherwise presumes there isn’t a God.  Two, family is second only to God, we are our family and our family looks to us for guidance.  We are the heads of our families, so act like it and move forward.  Third, education, how can we ever hope to provide for our families or help prepare them without a proper education.  Either in college or in a trade, our families must be educated to work, and educated in life to function properly and be the best they can be.  Fourth, community, we all live in communities.  Within these community’s we possess our material items for one, but more importantly we keep our precious friends and family close.  When we allow people to infringe upon our community (i.e. gangs, drugs, anything of general detriment), we indicate two things, we want someone to answer our problems and we are unwilling to sacrifice for the betterment of anyone.  If you live in a community, it requires your sacrifice of either time and effort, or of will.  This is the foundation for setting up a proper generation, and without this, we will continue to spiral downward into a secular hell which provides nothing past your person wants and needs till those no longer satisfy you.

When we look at our daily focus, are we applying a litmus test, and if so, does this test have an objective point of view?  I am sure most everyone today, has a bevy of items marketed to us which allow us an ability to do anything we want.  There are painting classes with friends, karaoke, dog parks, anything virtually anywhere on our phone, streaming entertainment choices, and shopping.  When was the last time, you heard anyone say, “hey let’s do something meaningful with our lives and put our focus on prayer or helping others!”.  When were you last challenged to do anything whereby you knew the fruition of your focus would not be realized for years or perhaps ever?  I would venture a guess, a very long time ago, when you were a child and were made to focus on what your parents wanted, or absolutely nothing in the recent past.  It’s funny how we as adults’ rebel against something our parents made us do, more over because to the way they made us do it, and less about the general enrichment it provides for our lives.

Overall, I am closer to where I want to be than when I started, but I am nowhere close when I picture myself accomplishing my goals.  We have big issues in our world, which require all of our attention to fix, and I don’t mean politicians who say things which cause the jaw to drop, or lie to our face and we act incredulous, even though we knew they were a liar the whole time.  We carry with us a power to set and change anything we desire.  The hardest part of doing this is, we may never see it pass, but deep down in those quite places of your heart, where only God speaks to you, you know this to be the truth.  You know by your unselfish actions to raise children, be a good spouse, a devoted follower, and someone people can look towards to lead them, this is the path to walk.  It’s very hard, and you will fall constantly at first, but as time moves forward, you’ll see it isn’t any less difficult, but you have set your will to focus on its complexity and your goal is to achieve the glory which will come.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!!!

 

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Is My Perception The Right One?

Are we focused on attaining the truth, or are we focused on attaining our truth?

How do our perceptions color our world?  Are our perceptions right all the time, and if not, what is the measure by which they should be considered right?  Since so many people are in this world and influence us daily, is any perception right, or is a matter of relativism as it pertains to our western culture acceptable if people don’t bother us?

I think these are relevant questions, especially in pertinence to the world we live in right now.  Take any debate from politics to abortion and back again, and everyone has a perception, usually based on a personal experience or an anecdotal story, sometimes told as a third-person omniscience.  At any rate, people think what they think for a reason, right or wrong.  Sometimes these reasons for no other explanation, other than it has always been done this way are used, and in other situations a person’s reason is an example of the novel of Dorian Gray and how in pursuit of a beautiful exterior, the grotesque truth was just a matter of looking within the proper context.  For Dorian, the picture which held his age and exterior being in its truth was this proper context, and this picture was hidden from all eyes but his own (he knew his truth even when others did not, and he was willing to do anything to protect it).  Perhaps this is what we as people do daily, and the effort is keeping people from looking at our own picture of Dorian, that truth which will place us in a completely different context (e.g. Bernard Madoff).  The question is, what do we truly have to hide from anyone?  Are we so worried people will judge us for being flawed (some probably do), or are we worried because we will be forced to look within ourselves and confront above anything else, the truth.  I would argue, it is the latter.  Our truth is not a truth at all, objective truth is a truth which carries a baseline of exactness, one which holds us accountable for our actions.  Even if no one ever knows who we are, truth still exists, staring us in the face and cold about our decisions.  Time is much like truth; time continues to move forward no matter how much we wish it would stop.

So where is our perception as a barometer of the truth?  Are we focused on attaining the truth, or are we focused on attaining our truth? Is it more a matter of “you’re ok so I’m ok” attitude we should have, is this what the Golden Rule actually meant?  In today’s mainstream talk and social political climate, we are confronted with such euphemisms as social justice.  I use this example, because it is such a bastardization of a word as I have never seen.  We’ve taken a word which in its own context stands for everything we as people intend to do, to put things right which were once wronged, and pursuit of the objective truth in action as we live day-to-day.  Though in this highly charged political climate, we see people push to insert their political objectives, subjective truths, misaligned cultural values, and at the very base of everything, their selfish desires.  So where does this leave us? How do we fix something which has become so aberrated by personal subjective truths, we don’t know our ankle from our ass anymore?

When I first started thinking about this social issue, I was perplexed, and would ask myself questions for hours with little or no headway at all.  I would ask, “are they right, are the platforms they take valid?”, and in truth on a surface level they seemed so.  However, I perceived a weakness in their argument and this lead to the conclusion there was a simple logical fallacy in their points of view and the context with how they pursued their goals.  I couldn’t put my finger on just where this fallacy was occurring, but it was there, and still is when you listen to many people argue this misguided perception.  In Malcom Gladwell’s book, Blink, he presents a theory of something called “thin slicing”, and in short, it’s an ability to look at something, anything, and know in an instance its “truth” even when we don’t know why.  His example was based on a piece of art which was unearthed in the middle-east and presented as the “real deal” when sold to a museum.  Thing about it was, it wasn’t real, or at least not what it claimed to be.  It was still very old, and still uncovered in an excavation, but what was the most remarkable was there were people who looked at it, and were capable in an instance, to distance themselves from its claim.  They knew it was a fake, but they didn’t know why they knew it to be fake.  Turns out, they were right, and they could base this on an acute level of experience attained and utilized without even realizing what they were doing.  These people were experts in their field of archelogy and artwork as it relates to the middle-east, seeing thousands of artifacts both fake and real and yet they still had trouble pinpointing why they didn’t like what they saw.  However, Gladwell, points out we are all capable of this ability, regardless of the context if we have some experience with whatever the said topic is.  This won’t preclude people from making decisions based on poor judgement, or stop anyone from creating their own paradigm which is contaminated by their own preconceived notions and desires.  Which leads us back to social justice.  What is the pursuit of social justice?  What are they hoping to attain from their efforts?  Generally, anyone can spend five minutes looking at self-proclaimed “social justice warriors” (SJWs) and see there is no real cohesive argument among any three persons who espouse for a world with more social justice.  This is an opportunity to learn within themselves and ourselves as we look for an objective truth.

So, in a quick synopsis, I’ve found social justice, according to Wikipedia, is “justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society.”  So, now we come to the meat of the matter, perception.  Within the context of trying to live in a utopian society, people are willing to force others to live a happy life.  The very context of this statement belies everything justice stands for as a matter of objective truth.  Also, within the context of the definition, we force everyone to be the same as it relates to certain socioeconomic standards.  Dr. Jordan Peterson states “It was no longer specifically about economics………It was about power. And everything to the postmodernists is about power. And that’s actually why they’re so dangerous, because if you’re engaged in a discussion with someone who believes in nothing but power, all they are motivated to do is to accrue all the power to them, because what else is there?”  In this context, where does our perception lead us?  Do we have anything which will prevent people who eventually will gravitate to Dr. Peterson’s point of view of a corrupt ideology?  We’ve seen this before, time and again, people who with purely beneficial motivations in the beginning, become changed somehow, when levels of power are exuded over the masses.  Stalin killed millions of his own people because he had the power to do so, and they had no power because of their prescription to make everyone the same.  Now, I’m not suggesting this is what is happening, but even with the fabric of where we are now, I’m not sure it takes a huge leap of faith to recognize the discontinuity with some of the social ideologies floating around now.

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The answer to the questions I posited to myself were simple, and yet complex at the same time.  Simple in their nature, and complex in their derivative steps to place into action.  The truth in its simplicity was, God is love, and from this love, justice flows through acts of kindness, charity, and acceptance of all.  Within the context of the acts we see where people get mired in th