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My Encounter with God at the Local Pool

Summertime is pool time and for those of us with young children it is a time of mixed emotions. We are excited to see our babies and toddlers get their first experiences of the cool, crystal clear water and yet there is some level of trepidation as we know the myriad of ways that their first pool experience could go horribly wrong. Many of those ways are real, physical dangers to the child (e.g., swallowing too much pool water), and some of them are emotionally traumatic dangers (e.g, the seemingly near death experience of being splashed in the face with cold water). These experiences can make it nearly impossible for us to get our children to trust the great body of blissful relief from the sun that a swimming pool can be once we have conquered our fears.

At my most recent experience at the pool, my wife and I diligently lathered up our 2 year old with sunscreen, strapped on his Coast-Guard-approved floatation device and got into the pool before beckoning for him to come in with us. Since this is already near the end of June, our son has gotten used to this routine by now and willingly lets me gently set him in the water. However, this time, I was beckoning from a few feet back and challenging him to jump into the water. I assured him that I would catch him and that he could do it. I assured him that his life vest would help him to float to the top, too, if he did land in the water and I told him, that no matter what, I was going to be there.

12019505252010042226In that moment, while my son was still standing on the ledge unsure of whether or not to jump, I encountered God. I knew that in many ways in my life, I was that little boy, standing on the edge of the pool not sure if I trusted my Father to catch me if I jumped. I pray often for the Lord to reveal to me his will for my life and I ask him to grant me the courage to follow it, but when it comes down to the moment of decision, when I see before me the path he has planned for me, I get a little apprehensive. I start thinking things like, “That looks hard. I can’t do THAT! Even with the stuff you have given me, I know I’m going to fail; I know I’m not going to like this.” And all the while, God stands there encouraging us, telling us “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine (Isaiah 43:1),” and “It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit (John 15:16).”

In the next moment, my son jumped into my arms and with a great big smile he swam off, happy to have learned a new skill. As I reflect on that accomplishment I realize a few things that were in place that made it possible for my son to jump:

  • He was equipped for the jump
  • He knew that I loved him
  • He trusted me

God has given us all that we need to fulfill the mission he asks each of us to accept and he will continue to provide the grace necessary for us to persevere in that mission. It is up to us to come to know Him well enough to really know His explicit love for each of us. We must also trust that He knows what is best for us and He will not lead us from that. In order to do that we (myself included) must spend time with Him on a daily basis, reading His Word, and allowing it to permeate our lives. In the end, we still need to make the decision: we can either trust our loving Lord and jump or stay standing on the ledge where our fears leave us baking in the hot sun.

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

It’s Not Hard to Obey

It is not hard to obey when we love the one whom we obey. - Ignatius of Loyola

I just saw the amazing quote above from St. Ignatius of Loyola while I was doing my morning scroll through the office twitter feed and I just had to share it here. I believe that when St. Ignatius had this thought he most likely was thinking about obeying our Lord and doing the will of God. No truer words could be said about that. When we love the Lord, we trust the Lord and we believe that what he asks of us is only for our own good. Therefore, obeying that will is easy. Of course, there are going to be times that DOING the will of God is not easy because he will often ask us to do things that are not possible on our own. In fact, everything the Lord expects of us is not possible to accomplish without his grace. But I digress.

What struck me about this quote is the way it is reflected in my life as a father trying to raise children and help them to their ultimate home in Heaven. What is the one thing anybody with children complains about the most?

“My children just don’t do what I ask them to do? They don’t listen.”

I remember as a little guy myself, I had my own problems listening and obeying my parents. However, what I’m hearing from St. Ignatius today is that, perhaps, my children struggle to obey me because I don’t show them as clearly as I can that I love them. They don’t see day in and day out, in the good times and in the rough times, when they have done everything perfectly and when they have made mistakes, that I love them. How do I respond when things aren’t done perfectly in my house? How do I handle having to pick up their toys and clothes and shoes every single day? Am I showing them love and patience and mercy as the Father has shown me? Am I making it easy for them to love me or am I simply seeking respect?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that by showing my kids more patience and love and mercy they will automatically obey my every word. I don’t do that in my relationship with God! I do believe that if they know how much I love them and want what is best for them and that I am trying every day to help them to get to heaven, then, perhaps they will be more likely to trust that, even when I’m asking them to do things that are difficult, they can obey me and there will be a good result for them and for our family. If I can be the type of person that is easy to love, and not the type of person that is easy to fear, then, perhaps,  my children will find it easier to obey.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Tired of Boring Sex?

I was driving down the interstate yesterday with my wife and 5 children and as I often do, much to my wife’s chagrin, I was reading the billboards. One billboard in particular stuck out to me because it had only five words and a jarring question: “Are you tired of boring sex?” It was an advertisement for an “adult toys” store and I was blown away by the audacity of the company to put something so direct on a billboard that pretty much anybody over the age of 6 (and probably many 6 year olds) can read even at speeds of 60 mph or higher (let alone during rush hour traffic when the little ones might have time to sound out the words).

Thankfully, none of my children saw the billboard and I had to tell my wife what I had just seen while simultaneously silently exploring my own reaction to it. My first thought apart from the utter disbelief, was curiosity. “What is so boring about sex?” Maybe it’s just me, I thought, but “boring” has never been a word I would even think of to describe sex. So, I asked my wife, who confirmed my assumption that she wouldn’t either. So, why would this company choose that question as the only words on it’s advertising campaign? The answer the company is expecting to get from lots of consumers is, “YES!! I’m sick of boring sex! I need more spice in my sex life?” And that’s when the light bulb came on; sex isn’t about the beautiful union of flesh, the physical representation of the marital union promised on the day of the wedding. It isn’t even about a relationship anymore; sex is simply a form of entertainment. Sex is just another activity, like riding a bike or stamp collecting, that eventually, if you do it often enough, it just gets boring. And what a sad statement that is to make about our culture. How much our culture is missing out because we have diminished one of the most miraculous gifts God has given us, into something so benign as collecting spoons (no offense to those who still find great excitement in spoon collecting).

God has given us the ability to participate in creation! Can you believe that?! I mean seriously! Just stop and think about that for a minute. God, the creator of all the universe, the creator of you and me, he has given us the ability to participate in his creation. We for a few brief moments get to be the instruments of God’s creation! And what an awe inspiring gift that is and, when you think about it, what a terrifying responsibility. You know, it’s kind of a big deal to create something, especially when that something has a purpose and a plan given to him by God.

And that is why the Church is so concerned about sexual purity. The great gift of our sexuality is just that and should be treated as such. It is a great GIFT and not some cheap form of entertainment to be found online for low monthly payments or in some “adult toys” store. The word boring should never be used to describe sex because that is the consumer mentality. Gifts are meant to be enjoyed, certainly, but they are also meant to be used appropriately. Nobody receiving a GPS watch for Christmas would go start using it to hang pictures. Just like that watch has a purpose, so does sex. Sex is meant to be reserved to a man and woman, within the bonds of holy matrimony, pouring out the love of God to one’s spouse in an intimate union that allows God to work through that moment too and when that gift is put to use for its purpose, you find the word “boring” far from the lexicon of that experience.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Family is the Reason for the Season

Okay, so perhaps that isn’t exactly how the saying goes and I, like author Steve Pokorny, certainly don’t want to downplay the importance of Jesus’ birth as the linchpin to our entire Christian faith and especially this Christmas season, but Jesus was born into a family, a pretty awesome one if I might add. But don’t let me tell you, it’s already been said:

While it’s true that Jesus in his divine nature knows all about love because He is Love, we cannot simply whitewash the fact that because Jesus was also 100% human (remember, He’s true God and true man), He had to learn about human love from somewhere and someone(s). That somewhere was during the silent time in his home in Nazareth, hidden away from public eye. And those someone(s) were Mary and Joseph – one sinless, and one a sinner with incredible virtue.

It was in the home of Joseph and Mary that Jesus learned the meaning of love. From the moment of his divine conception, he was received as a gift. Jesus would grow up seeing how Joseph treated Mary, how he interacted with others, how committed he was to taking care of his family. Jesus watched Mary, the most pure of all women, the one whom He had selected from all eternity interact with her husband, of how she fulfilled Proverbs 31 before his eyes. Through their love, He witnessed how their marriage and family life quietly impacted the lives of those around him.

Go here to read the rest>>>

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Children, fatherhood, Uncategorized

 

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Confession with Dad

Astonishingly enough, my boys, from time to time do things that are not nice and on occasion they don’t do what my wife or I ask them to do.

I’ll give you a little time to get over the shock….

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Okay, you with me again?

The other day while driving in the van one of my sons was apologizing for something he had done wrong and I accepted his apology and asked him to then sit quietly for a couple minutes without any music (torture for this one, I’m telling you). He then proceeded to repeat the wrongdoing about 5 times in a row during the next 60 seconds and after each time apologized.

Now as you might or might not agree, at this point, I’m really starting to not believe his apology and here is where the revelation of the wisdom of the Catholic Church came to me and I proceeded to explain what true contrition really is (of course, I used little kid words).

True contrition can only be recognized when three things are in place: you recocognize that what you did was wrong, you feel remorse for what you did, and you will TRY not to do it again. You may end up doing that thing again (several times) but you must promise to TRY not to by avoiding the situation, finding different words to express yourself, taking a deep breath before responding, etc. When one of these three things isn’t there, it is sensible to believe that you are not sincerely contrite. I think we recognize this pretty regularly in society. When someone hurts us and then apologizes, we expect that he won’t repeat that hurt over and over again. We tell him to “say sorry like you mean it.”

This all plays out beautifully in the sacrament of Confession. When we go to confession we begin with the sign of the cross and then proceed to tell the priest all the things we can remember doing wrong since our last confession. The priest then gives us a little counsel and then gives us some form of penance to do. Finally, he asks us to say an Act of Contrition. In that little prayer, and there are many variations, we say three things: I’m sorry for what I’ve done, I will try to do reparation for those failures, and I will try not to do it again!

The Church in Her wisdom gives us this opportunity to publicly make amends for what we did. It allows us the opportunity to tell someone that we truly are sorry and that we promise, with the help of God’s grace, to avoid that sin in the future. If we fail again, we come back again and again until we get it it right. The point is our real sorrow, and our real struggle to kick the bad habit out of our lives so that we can truly be closer to God and his entire family.

In that car ride home, I got to be the priest to my family once again; the counselor and the forgiver of sins. For a few more years, my wife and I will get to stand in that role and what an awesome responsibility and privilege that is. Our children will be going to confession with Dad (and Mom) and, hopefully, will get to see in us the mercy, forgiveness, and justice with which God treats each and every one of us. We will fail (perhaps miserably at times most of the time) at reaching that level, but that will give us the opportunity to experience that mercy, forgiveness and justice ourselves.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Children, Discipline, fatherhood, Uncategorized

 

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Learning about Love

When I think about this blog and what it is meant to be, very often I think about how I have failed at this blogging enterprise (and for the sake of drawing in a following and making a name for myself, I have) but then something like this article comes along and I am reminded that this is the purpose of this blog: to remind me, and anybody who stops by, of what it means to be a great husband and father, and what it takes to truly love, and live, and serve as Joseph did for Mary and Jesus.

Today’s bit of wisdom comes from the exceptional blog, Speaking of Scripture (really, you should read everything they post!). Peter Williamson sets up a little story of two disciples walking with Jesus wanting to learn about Love. They simply ask him, “What is true love?” Here is just a snippet of what he had to say:

“If a man and a woman find joy in one another’s presence,

if they can scarcely keep themselves apart,

if to her,

He is like the sun rising in its strength and beauty,

if she loves to hear his voice, to look at Him and to feel his arms around her,

and if to him,

She is like the moon and ten thousand stars shining on a summer’s night,

or like the fragrance of roses at dawn….

if her touch is like magic and her kisses sweeter than wine,

if they love to laugh together, sing together, dance together, cry together—

this is a gift from God, it is good.

But, I tell you solemnly, this is not true love;

it is changeable, and you cannot rely on it.”

Such a beautiful expression of what society would tell us is true love. A couple who enjoys spending time with one another and wouldn’t dream of spending one day out of the presence of the other without an aching heart and yet that is not enough! It is almost unfathomable anymore that more would be expected of us and our relationship with our spouse. So often we get caught up in the emotions and the ‘feeling’ of love and we fail to seek true love, which is described later in the story.

“If a man chooses to love his wife as Christ loves his Church,

if like Christ, he lays aside his pride and sacrifices himself for her—

putting her needs before his needs,

her happiness before his happiness,

if he will care for her and take thought for her,

if he chooses to keep loving her

when their interests diverge,

when her youthful beauty fades,

when she doesn’t speak sweetly

and when he doesn’t feel ‘loving’….

“And if a woman chooses to put her husband first,

to follow his lead as the true Church defers to her heavenly Bridegroom,

if she is patient with his failings (those he sees and those he does not),

if she encourages him and forgives him,

if she respects him even when his faults are obvious or she must pay the price for his mistakes,

if she has the courage to tell him the truth in love,

yet stand by him through it all….

 I love this explanation and yet, I still find it wanting (practically speaking). The student in me still says, but what does that really look like? I mean, that sort of sounds exhausting and somewhat depressing: “her needs before his needs, her happiness before his happiness” and “she respects him even when his faults are obvious or she must pay for his mistakes.” How can there be true joy and a strong marriage when she gets everything and I get nothing; when I have to pay for his mistakes? But then I would be missing the point. Marriage is about MUTUAL self-sacrifice! Love becomes an act of giving. If I have it, it is yours; if I want it, you may have it; if I need it, it is for you. And in that giving, you take away all the superficial stuff that can change or decay and get in the way of true love and you find yourself united forever to an eternal soul, whose Source will forever feed you with life, peace, and joy.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2011 in All In, Uncategorized

 

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