This Post is a Do-Over

February 19, 2018 v5 p6

I had almost an entire post written last Friday about the mass shooting in Florida, I put it to bed for the night with the intent of writing the couple of paragraphs on Saturday.  Then I saw some social media posts and decided against it, here’s why.

If you’ve been following along with me lately you know I’ve been on a faith journey.  I don’t hide any of that.  I’m pretty open about it.  I’m willing to talk to people about it.  I’ve probably shared a lot deeper part of my life than most people are willing to.  All of this has lead me down a path that has proven to be a major transformation.  I mentioned earlier in the year that I wasn’t setting any resolutions, but that I had a pretty big goal for myself, to become a stronger person.  That includes in my faith, my family life, my professional life, and my public life.  This is something I have to do for all of the people listed in there, and for myself.

Last fall I had lunch with a friend.  We’ve only known each other for a couple of years, but sitting down to a meal with this man is kind of like sitting down with someone I’ve known far longer.  He presented me with a book that he had acquired an extra copy of, “Kill the Spider” by Carlos Whittaker.  This is the story of the author’s journey through some intense therapy.  One of the stories early on is about how his father explains that if you have cobwebs to clear out of your mind, you have to kill the spider, or the cobwebs will just comeback.  This hit home.  I started to reflect on my past and how I had ended up where I was.  I could see that I was just doing exactly that.  I would move on from one issue and not clear up the cause for that issue.  I was running away.  I still haven’t identified what that spider is so I can work on killing it, but I’m much more aware of what’s going on in my own mind.

A few years back my wife and I started a Christmas tradition of giving only four gifts from Santa, this was when our youngest was still a believer.  In order to keep spending down we gave gifts that were “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.”  This year my wife found a book for me that was similar to that last one I mentioned, “Killing Kryptonite,” by John Bevere.  This book has really transformed me.  It points out how a person can put the things they want in front of what He wants for us.  When we do that it weakens us, like kryptonite weakens Superman, and if we continue it will eventually kill us.

Every time you are putting your wants and desires in front of His you are committing a sin.  The more you sin, the more you die.  It may not be physical death, but you begin to stop being what it was He designed you for.  This is just like in Genesis 3:4, But the snake said to the woman: “You certainly will not die!”  While not a physical death, Adam and Eve were no longer allowed to stay in the garden, no longer allowed to receive the gift God had given them.  It certainly isn’t the easiest thing to do, but I have to try.  I have to change my ways so I can be a better disciple, become a saint, help my wife get to heaven, be a better husband and father, and be a better man.

How does this apply to the tragedy in Florida on Ash Wednesday?  The more our society takes God out of its view, the more this type of thing will happen.  As I’ve written before, there has been a trend away from modesty.  There has been a trend toward doing what it is that we want.  The more those trends start to become the normal situation, the more we tend to slip.  We’re on a very slippery slope, and momentum is starting to take us down.

There have been a lot of “solutions” that I’ve been seeing going around social media of late.  Some of them have some merit.  It’s pretty obvious that our current system to vet gun ownership is broken.  I’m not calling for a total ban of guns, that would be worse than the current state of affairs.  However, there must be changes.  It can’t be as easy as it is for almost anyone to get their hands on a weapon.  Another argument is that it isn’t the fault of the AR-15 rifle that was used in the shooting.  While technically correct, you have to ask if a rifle designed to look like a fully automatic military machine gun is something that needs to be made available to the public.  These guns are not being bought for hunting.  Yes, responsible owners are buying them for personal protection.  I have to ask the question though, if it’s this specific rifle being used in the mass shootings, is it necessary?

There is a vast amount of arguments that could be made on either side of this case, but when it boils down to it there is really only one way to go about handling it.  As a society we must be better to each other.  We cannot attack each other for our differences of opinion.  Positing and arguing on social media accomplishes nothing.  You aren’t going to change any one’s mind, you’re only going to make others upset and cause yourself a lot of wasted time trying to defend yourself against others.  That goes on until something else shiny comes along and grabs your attention.  Then all of the outrage starts up again when the next tragedy happens.  Unless you’re willing to take action by helping to hold our elected officials accountable to their constituents instead of the PACs, you’re not doing anything.  Openly mocking the beliefs of your fellow humans on social media doesn’t make your point any more right or wrong than anyone else.  All it does is prove that you’re aren’t as open minded as you claim to be.

In the meantime we can all use a little less kryptonite and a lot more love.  From the Gospel reading today in Matthew 25:40 we are reminded “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Advertisements

This Post is Spartan

January 26, 2017 v5 p4

I really don’t know where to start.

I’m at a loss for words.

I’ve tuned in to tonight’s Michigan State University Men’s Basketball game, and on most evenings that wouldn’t really be much of a shock.  Even though my personal allegiances are more for Michigan I enjoy watching college basketball, even if it is my favorite team’s biggest rival.  Under normal circumstances I probably would have tuned into this game tonight anyway because there isn’t really any good programming on television on a Friday night in January.  Tonight isn’t normal circumstances.

I don’t think the old normal will ever return.

The news that comes out of East Lansing at this time of year is usually about the basketball team.  Most often it involves their results on the court.  While the team is in the news as usual, the coach and a larger part of the university have been dominating the national headlines for the past couple of weeks.  With the sentencing hearing of Larry Nassar taking the brightest spot on the stage, a different focus is being put on the school.  I don’t think this is anything that anyone on the banks of the Red Cedar wanted, or expected.

Unfortunately it’s what they face.

The amount of fall out from the Larry Nassar case has been pretty big.  I don’t think it’s over, nor to do I think it will be over any time soon.  Here’s a quick rundown of what’s happened in the last week.  One of the members of the Board of Trustees released a statement last weekend that he was personally withdrawing his support of President Lou Anna Simon.  Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40 to 150 years in prison, one year for each victim to file a police report on Wednesday afternoon.  A couple of hours later President Simon resigned according to the terms of her contract.  This came among growing public outcry for her to be dismissed by the Board of Trustees.  Today Athletic Director Mark Hollis retired, also among growing calls for his firing.  Shortly after that announcement ESPN’s investigative reporting team released a story detailing a culture of cover-up on the Michigan State campus.  Reports started flying that head football coach Mark Dantonio and head basketball coach Tom Izzo would retire within a week.  Reputable sources and Mark Dantonio himself have since refuted those claims.

This is just the list of people involved from the school.  There is a growing list of agencies who will embark on their own investigation of the school.  These include the U.S Congress, the U.S. Department of Education, the State of Michigan Attorney General, and the NCAA.  The Big Ten Conference has announced that they will be closely monitoring all of these investigations.  The Governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, announced today that he will look into whether or not there the Board of Trustees acted properly through this whole ordeal.  It would be my guess that before this is all said and done there will be a few law enforcement agencies joining in to do their own investigations.  This story isn’t going to go away for a while.

While this tragedy at Michigan State may be heinous, it certainly isn’t new.  It was only two short years ago when the Baylor University football program went through a similar situation.  The university had been found to have failed to take action in multiple sexual assault cases.  In 2011 Penn State went through a scandal of its own.  This involved the sexual assault of several boys by former football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  In the Penn State and Baylor case there were multiple people involved in covering up these assaults.  This is what the initial investigation at Michigan State will begin with.  Who knew what and when.  So far we have heard that the first victim of Nassar to report assault to a university official occurred in 1997.  The ESPN OTL group has discovered that a lot of assaults were not properly investigated.  I don’t think we’ve heard everything from them.

These stories are all tragic, but I don’t think that this is the end.  I don’t mean just for these three schools.  I mean for this topic.  I believe that this type of activity and cover-up is happening on campuses all around the nation.  While reading through comments on social media this afternoon I saw a few from people who were athletes at the collegiate level that mentioned they had heard of similar activities happening at their schools.  The one that mentioned which school was from a smaller Division I, or Group of 5, conference schools.  This leads to the question of how much beyond the Michigan State/Baylor/Penn State incidents does this investigation need to go?  It seems to me that it needs to touch all of the schools.  While that would be expensive and time-consuming, if we are to have any hope of ever stopping this type of thing, it has to happen.

So how did we get to this point?  If you read my last post you probably already have an insight into what I think.  This is a classic example of how people are getting their priorities all out of line.  The football programs at all of these universities are major money makers.  As the saying goes, money is the root of all evil.  When you make money your number one priority it becomes very easy to compromise your morals and integrity.  When you excuse behavior because those people generated a lot of revenue for your school or business, then you are no less guilty than the people who performed the initial act.

I would prefer that this investigation goes beyond just Michigan State University.  I know that may result in findings that could involve my favorite team.  It’s much more important that the evil actions that are taking place are stopped and the victims are allowed to heal.  It would be a greater tragedy for there to be another case like that of Larry Nassar.  I would hope that one would never get to the level that his case did, but if we aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to correct things now, we will most certainly end up with another one of these tragedies.

The only way to stop this problem is to expose those who are committing these crimes.  Everyone can do their part by stopping this type of behavior in their personal lives.  When you see others do it, stop them.  The time of inaction for whatever fear has to end.  We won’t be able to get past any of this if we don’t change ourselves.

It’s tragic and disgusting what has been happening in East Lansing and Hollywood.  I hope this trend of no longer being silent spreads and continues.

This Post is Resolved

January 3, 2018 v4 p1

This is the time of year when everyone makes New Year’s Resolutions, but I don’t.  I used to make them, and like most other people, I failed at them.

Image result for resolutions
taylorintimedotcom

The history of New Year’s Resolutions can be traced back to ancient Babylonia over 4000 years ago.  They also used to celebrate the new year in Mid-March at the time that they planted that year’s crops.  This all centered around a massive religious celebration where they would crown a new king or pledge their loyalty to the current one.  They would also make promises to their gods in hopes for them to be given riches, power, or good health.  Those certainly sound like resolutions to me.  Throughout history there are other examples of people making resolutions around the beginning of the new year.  In more recent times resolutions have become more of a secular ideal.  People make resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking, eat healthier, exercise more, and other things like that.  They are most often geared toward improving themselves.  While this is a practice that isn’t overly bad, it is one that is overly failed at.   Ultimately humans are creatures of habit and for them to change those habits is very difficult.

The main reason most people fail at the annual attempt to change something about themselves is that they set their expectations too high.  I’ve learned a lot about this through the reading I’ve been doing at work the past few years.  One example of this is people who want to start exercising more.  They set out at the beginning of the year with the goal to lose 20 pounds for example.  They go out and buy all of the latest workout gear, find a gym that they like and sign an annual contract.  Then on January 2nd (be honest) they head to that gym and start working out.  At the end of the first week they step on the scale and don’t see it move a whole lot, which dampens their spirit.  This routine continues for a few weeks and eventually the majority of people give up.  If you go to the gym regularly you’re probably familiar with what I like to call resolutioners, people who start at the gym in January but are generally gone by Valentine’s Day (and that’s being generous).  I think this is why that major gym chain that promotes not judging you is so successful.  They don’t have any contracts so people can easily cancel that monthly fee coming out of their bank account.  I would guess that people who join a gym that are forced to pay for the whole year if they sign a contract have a lower percentage of people who drop out.

The other problem people have with keeping their resolutions is don’t understand they must replace the habit they are trying to break with a new habit.  One of my bad habits is that I smoke cigarettes.  I have never smoke a lot, I think at the height of habit I going through about 12-15 per day.  That doesn’t sound like a little amount, but when you consider that some people smoke upwards of three packs per day.  That’s roughly 4 per hour if you’re awake for 16 hours per day, so they’re basically chain-smoking.   I get that nicotine is an addictive chemical, but I don’t feel like I’m addicted to it.  I can go most days at work without craving a cigarette.  On the weekends I don’t start to get jittery or angry if I go too long without one.  The problem I have with smoking is the habit.  When I get in the car to start driving to or from work, the first thing I usually do is smoke a cigarette.  If I don’t have any cigarettes to go out and smoke I generally don’t take a break, this was especially more evident when I quit for a time while I was working at an automotive manufacturer.  When everyone’s scheduled break times would come up I would generally just keep going.  My current job doesn’t have scheduled breaks so I can take a breather whenever I feel it’s needed.  The hardest part I have with quitting smoking is replacing that habit.  In the car, after a meal, before bed, or while I’m having a beer, these are all times I habit smoke.  If I don’t replace that habit with something else then it becomes increasingly easier to fall back into those old habits.

So what am I trying to get at with all of this?  I haven’t set a New Year’s Resolution in years.  Over that time though I’ve set and accomplished a lot of goals.  They sound like the same thing and pretty much are.  The difference is I don’t tie them down to only starting in January.  Goals can be set and worked on at any time of the year.  Because of that you are much more likely to accomplish those goals that you set out to complete.  Goals are usually also tied to something much more significant like your career.  I’m not sure why it seems more important to set goals for your job than it does for your health.  Honestly, if you aren’t healthy then you can’t do you job, which may be a foreign concept to some.  What needs to take importance is what you want to accomplish.  No goal is too small if it’s important enough to you.  And the best thing about small goals is that they are usually pretty attainable and can be completed quickly.  Once you complete one then you start on another and before you know it, you’ve plowed your way through 4-6 of your small goals.  Those all have a compounding effect, like a snow ball rolling down the hill in a cartoon.  The more you complete, bigger that snowball gets.  It move faster and faster, and eventually is moving on its own and nobody can stop it.

Image result for goals
ronalvestefferdotcom

I’ve set some pretty amazing goals for myself this year, both personally and professionally.  I think those goals are going to be my focus for this year’s blog posts so stay tuned.

This Post is a Killer

December 21, 2017 v4 p61

We all have something in ourselves that holds us back, if you don’t think so then you’re probably not ready to accept it.  Pinpointing what it is that holds you back isn’t quite as easy as you think.

Image result for guidance
shareyouressaysdotcom

A few weeks ago, I met up with a friend for lunch because he had a book for me.  This didn’t really seem out of the ordinary because I know how much he likes to read, and I know that one of his favorite things to do is gift books.  I didn’t quite know how to accept this gift because nobody had ever don’t this type of thing for me before.  I found out that the way this friend is able to gift books like this is because he is often on pre-release lists and gets extra copies.  The fact that he didn’t pay for this gift in no way makes it any less meaningful.  I was extremely touched to know that he had thought that I would be able to get some benefit from reading this book after he had read it, twice.  This particular book is titled “Kill the Spider” and is written by Carlos Whittaker.  It’s a story from the author’s own life and goes into detail about his journey through some therapy.  To be honest, we could probably all use a little therapy.

The premise of this book is that we all need to kill what it is inside of us that holds us back.  One analogy used is that people often state they are going to clear the cobwebs.  There is a slight problem with that.  What happens when you clean the cobwebs in your house?  In a week or so there are new ones.  Why?  Because the spider that is making the cobwebs is still there, making new cobwebs.  So you can’t just address the problem, you have to figure out what the cause is and change that.  This book really hit home.  It came to me at exactly the right time.  I was in a pretty tough spot in my professional career, not really feeling like I was getting the things done that I needed to in order to continue on the path I had set for myself over the past few years.  I was having some doubts myself and my ability to grown into the leader that my company needs me to be.  Coming to this realization was a big step in the right direction.

I thought it would be easy to identify what my spider was that caused all of my self-doubt.  I tried to pinpoint it on my dad.  Growing up he wasn’t the greatest father figure in the terms of leadership.  He always did what was right, or at least tried to.  His heart was in the right place.  He was never one to be too big into sharing his emotions though.  This kind of made me feel like we could have had a closer relationship, one on a different level than we always had.  I tried to pinpoint it on my older brother too.  Growing up I always looked up to him, as most younger siblings do, but the more I look back at that relationship I realize that he wasn’t interested in taking on the role of being the big brother example for me.  So I can’t nail my spider of self-doubt down to just one of those two, there has to be more to it.  Then the holidays really started to get into full swing.  My schedule got busy and this discovery process kind of worked its way to the back burner.  I think just realizing there was an issue to figure out kind of cleared up some cobwebs, but as I mentioned earlier, that doesn’t get rid of the spider.

I’ve been praying for guidance on a daily basis for over a year now.  It kind of seemed to me that maybe I wasn’t getting that guidance I needed from those prayers, so I started to focus my prayer a little more on that.  I added a little extra to my prayer over the past week or so to try and ask for more clarity in what it is I’m being called to do.  I feel like I’ve been heading in the right direction personally and professionally but I think it really became obvious to me earlier this week.  The other day when I woke up I got pretty frustrated with something at home first thing in the morning.  By first thing I mean before I had even started to make my morning coffee.  Well, as most people do, I let that five minutes of bad attitude turn into a whole day of bad attitude.  It really ruined my whole day.  It wasn’t until almost the end of my work day when I realized what I had done.  That made me remember that there was no way I was going to get anywhere with this company by letting that insignificant of a thing end up ruining my whole day.  At the end of the day when my wife and I were going through our examen prayers I asked for His forgiveness for my discretion.  I had to.  If He didn’t know I recognized my own faults and I needed forgiveness, how can I expect anyone else to give me any?

So while I still haven’t figured out what my spider is, I now have a renewed sense of how to kill it.  The past two days have really been different.  I feel myself moving through my day with more confidence.  The end of the year is coming and we have some holidays when work won’t get performed so it kind of escalates everything.  We’ve had some pretty high profile shipments I’ve been having to deal with over the past two weeks, and our customers kind of freaked out yesterday.  My buyer was feeling the pressure from them, but I was able to handle all of her concerns without issue.  It’s moments like that when I remind myself of how high of a level I can perform at that help me take swings at that spider, even if I’m kind of doing it blindfolded right now.  Maybe I won’t need to take that blindfold off until I’ve killed it though.  I have come to realize that with Him aiding me in my fight, there is nothing that I can’t overcome.  I just have to trust in Him.

Image result for guidance
thebalancedotcom

I’ve been unknowingly fighting this battle for years, and the past few have started to give me the right tools for the battle.  It was just this week that I discovered that I had the greatest ally with me in this war all along.

This Post Looks Different

December 12, 2017 v4 p60

If we all do the same thing as everyone else, we lose our identity.  Our identity is what makes us unique.

Image result for spongebob normaL
nickelodeon

A lot of people are afraid to go against the grain.  They are afraid to stick out and draw attention to themselves.  I get that.  There’s part of me that wishes I could just go with the flow.  It would be so much easier to just fit in.  But I’m not wired that way.  I never have been and I don’t think I ever will be.   When I did try to act like everyone else I found myself divorced, living with my parents, and at the bar more nights than not.  If I wasn’t at the bar I was probably at home drinking, or in the midst of some other self-destructive habit.  It wasn’t leading me down a very good path.  When I finally realized that if I would spend more of my money on rent than beer I could afford an apartment with an extra bedroom for my son when my parenting time was one thing that helped me get out of that rut.  Since I only had him for three nights per week that left four others that I could still be self-destructive.

My wife and I reconciled and she moved in with us, which helped control some of those behaviors even more.  My life had turned from being a part-time single parent and part-time single guy to being a full-time family man.  There were a lot of bad habits that I had developed over a three year period that I thought I could hide from wife.  I thought I was pretty successful, but really I was just ignorant.  In my ignorance I ended up creating a huge mess.  Through nobody’s fault but my own I was driving my wife away, and my family apart.  I thought I could continue to ask for forgiveness and keep doing what I was.  All that did was drive my wife into a depression that was totally my fault.  It took some pretty major events to change my perspective.  My parents both passed away, she left her job, and we lost our house, all within the span of about 10 months.  When the dust all settled from that I started to change.

At my last job I did a lot of the “going with the flow” stuff and didn’t really push back against my boss.  I showed up every day and did my job to the best of my ability.  That ended up getting me promoted into lead positions.  Along with promotions comes more money, so I was never in a place to turn them down.  What I didn’t realize was that because of the increase in pay the management thought that meant I could be given more responsibilities that two people could handle.  As the amount of work I was expected to perform increased I started to let things slip.  Although I was doing things in the same manner my manager was, she didn’t like it.  If I took the same short cuts she did it was unacceptable.  When I reached the point where I was averaging 65+ hours per week I started to push back.  They didn’t like that.  Everyone else that they tried to do this type of thing would just accept what was being forced on them and went about their day.  I was trying to get the culture changed, they didn’t like that.

Ultimately I left that toxic environment because I was starting realize that if I continued I wouldn’t get anything changed and would only be stressed.  After a couple of months on the hunt I found my current job.  Over the last five plus years with this company I have grown more personally and professionally than I ever have.  It was my first manager here that encouraged me to return to my faith.  That has been the single most vital thing that has happened in my life in my professional life, in my family life, and in every other area of my life.  Returning to my faith has allowed me to find peace that I had been missing throughout most of my life, probably dating back to my days in middle school.  It certainly has changed how I look at things, and I would guess that if you ask my friends they would say that it has changed how I look from other people’s point of view.  That has really become evident as of late.

As I am scrolling through my social media on a daily basis I’m constantly reminded of the life I used to live.  I shake my head almost constantly and wonder if having a social media presence is even worth the stress.  I seriously think about deactivating my accounts on a weekly basis, but then I remember how my timeline has changed.  One of the features on Facebook is to see your “memories” which is just a different timeline of what you posted on that specific date over the years that you’ve had an account, I’m sure you’re familiar with it.  There are two distinct differences in my Facebook history.  The first one comes from anything posted in Mid-May of 2012, when I left the toxic job, and the second comes in early 2015, when I returned to my faith.  There has been an even deeper change that has occurred over that last six months, but that isn’t viewable through that option.  If someone were to scroll through my personal timeline they would see it.

A few weeks ago it really hit home how much different I have become than most people.  I really don’t like getting into conversations with some people because I know it’s going to lead in a direction that I’m not interested in.  I see all of the sexual innuendo posts on social media and in people’s conversations and I try my hardest not to get drawn into that.  But as they say, old habits are hard to break.  I’ve come to notice now how I’m not leading the life I want to when I get drawn into those types of conversations.  It’s almost an immediate thing for me, like when a light bulb appears over a cartoon character’s head.  I began to reflect on whether or not I wanted to look that much different than everyone else.  It didn’t take me long to answer myself with a resounding yes.  If I don’t look different than everyone else then my children won’t either.  I don’t want them to head down the paths that I did.  There’s no hope in that direction.

Image result for different
archleaguedotorg

In Matthew 5:11 the disciples are told “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”  If I lose some contacts or get insulted because of my faith, then that just proves that Jesus was right.

Connecting the Dots

November 1, 2017 v4 p50

There are times in our lives when we think we have all of our ducks in a row and that we have everything figured out.  Then something inevitably comes along and completely throws all of that out of whack.

Image result for middleville MI
northcountrytraildotorg

When my parents died and my wife and I made the decision to move back to my home town I thought I could see the direction I was supposed to go.  I used to think that living in a larger city meant that I wouldn’t be able to make a big difference.  When I moved home I was in a much smaller community where I felt I could be a pretty significant influence.  The first thing I did was pick up a leadership role in the Cub Scout Pack that both of my parents had a hand in leading throughout my time in Scouting as a youth as well as for many years after that.  Not too long after that I joined the local Lions Club, following in my footsteps.  These were two areas where both of my parents had been leaders in this community, I felt I needed to honor them by following them in their footsteps.

Before we moved back my wife and I had become active in The American Cancer Society Relay for Life events in the area we were living.  Moving didn’t change that participation, it just changed the event we were a participant at.  This was a new area for me to show my leadership, one that my parents hadn’t been involved in.  It allowed me to use the leadership skills my parents had instilled in me through their example and through the Scouting experience in a different way.  It felt right.  It felt better, but I didn’t really know why.  Over a couple of years I realized that I was still able to honor my parents by leading in different areas of the community that my parents weren’t involved in.  My schedule became very full between Scouts, Lions, Relay for Life, and coaching my children’s sports teams, something had to go.  The easiest one to leave was the Lions Club.  Not because I didn’t believe in the mission but because at the time we were not financially stable and the only family member me stepping away would have an impact on was me.

I stayed active in Scouting after my oldest son left the program because my youngest son was about to join as a first grader.  I needed to stay active in between the two, about two years, to ensure there would still be a program for my younger son to join.  When he did I tried my hardest to take a different role.  For the previous three years I had been the administrative head of the program, the Committee Chair.  I tried to find someone to take that position when my son joined so I could be his Den Leader.  If you’re unfamiliar with the program each grade is set up in a “Den” and they do all of their advancement together.  I really wanted to be able to impact his experience with the program by leading that group, but nobody would step up to take my other job.  In order to support the rest of the organization I stayed in that position.  My son has since moved on to the Boy Scout program, older boys, and I no longer have a child in the Cub Scouts.  I’m still working to get someone to replace me before the end of 2017.

In the spring of 2012 I walked away from my job.  I didn’t have anything lined up to replace it but I knew that I had to leave.  I was working 60+ hours per week and there was no end in sight to the overtime being reduced.  There was also a factor of a 45 minute commute one, so an hour and a half in total each day.  Combine all of that with a toxic work environment that was fostered by the leadership of the company I worked for and I finally broke down.  At the time I didn’t have much of a relationship with God, but I had hope that I had enough to put my trust in him.  After a few weeks of struggling to find anything I took a temp job to pay the bills, it wasn’t the best, but it paid the bills and it was nice to be able to punch in, do my work, and punch out.  One morning as I was waiting to punch in a connection on social media from high school posted that he was hiring.  I asked for the details and applied.  As soon as I got off the phone with from the initial phone interview I told my wife that I knew I had to get this job.

Image result for dream job
daytonlocaldotcom

Getting hired in to the company I work for isn’t the easiest thing to go through.  It can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to go through the entire hiring process, depending on how urgently the need for the position you are applying for is needed to be filled.  Your company doesn’t get voted to all of “Best and Brightest” award lists by hiring without thoroughly vetting its candidates.  Your company doesn’t organically grow fast and stronger than any other company in your industry without the right team.  Everything about the company I work for is done for its employees.  The company vision is tied directly to helping the employees grow.  When it looks at expanding or starting new ideas it applies how those effect they four core objectives of the company; employee engagement, revenue growth, margin retention, and customer service.  Probably the biggest one of these objectives is the employee engagement.  By concentrating on helping your employees grow and that they are happy, they will in turn do their best work.

When I started working in the warehouse there were only four of us.  We were pretty small yet, and with four employees we were over staffed.  Through meetings with my manager and company updates I could see the growth plan for the company would warrant the need for a manager over just the warehouse.  I had always worked hard at my jobs which have always ended up in me being promoted to leadership.  I had put this goal down for my manager to see so that he could help me work towards it.  We read some books together that would help, and they did, and we had some discussions about what other things I could do that would help me achieve my goal of becoming the warehouse manager.  During one of our monthly meeting he showed me a path that I had already begun to look at.  One of the common threads among all of the leadership gurus I had begun following was a faith element.  My manager asked me if I had ever been involved in a church.  We talked a little about the faith I grew up in, and he suggested that I take a look at getting back to that.

Here was another source telling me I should add this element back into my life.  I told my wife, and she wanted to join me on this journey, which made it easier.  I’ve written more in detail on my faith journey before and those posts are available in my archives, check them out if you’d like.

As I’ve grown more in my faith I’ve been trying to discern a better idea of what it is that I’ve been called to do.  Through prayer and contemplation there are three things that keep coming to me.  I feel a calling to serve God, to serve my family, and to lead others, specifically in a return to their own faith.  I’m finding it easier to serve God and my family, but something has been holding me back in that third part.  I really didn’t know what it was that could be holding me back.  I’ve been writing about how my faith has been helping me.  I’ve been trying to get through to some people I know who have shown that they need a stronger relationship with God, or just a relationship with Him to begin with.  But there’s something that is holding me back yet.

This leads me back to some of those books I read with my now former manager (he moved on to a different position in my company).  We read a book called “Start: Punch Fear in the Face” by Jon Acuff.  I began following Jon on social media and it was that book that actually started me writing this blog.  I had written a post about one of the 5k races I ran and shared it within his private group.  Another member who lives in the area read it and we became connected on social medial.  Over time we’ve had some very good discussions about leadership, and more often faith.  Although we are members of different denominations of Christianity, we seem to have a pretty similar view of how faith should play a role in people’s lives.  One of us posted something a couple of weeks ago and he mentioned that he had a book for me.  We finally worked out the details and met up at the local Chick-Fil-A for an ok meal and a great conversation.  The book he gave me was “Kill the Spider” by Carlos Whittaker.  It’s a story of the author’s journey through therapy to help him get through what was holding him back.  I can’t say that I’ve had a harder time putting a book down.

Without revealing too much of the book, I’ve spent the last five days on a journey of self-reflection.  I’ve come to realize that not feeling like I can really have an impact on people to strengthen their faith journey is just like the lack of self-confidence I have to lead in my professional life.  This is the basis of the metaphor in the book.  I’m not quite done with it, but I already have discovered what some of the reasons are that I’ve been holding myself back.  I really see that this is something that I need to work on.  I need to identify what is at the core of my lack of confidence.  I used to blame the undermining from my toxic manager at my old job, but it was there before.  I’m starting to see that this lack of confidence goes back further into my life.  I’m still unpacking all of this, and I’ve discovered that all of this is part of why I have trouble letting go of anger and resentment that I hold against people.  I have a new journey.

Image result for connect the dots
spoonflowerdotcom

As I move from dot-to-dot in my life I’m starting to see why things connected the way they did.  I start my 43rd trip around the sun with a new perspective on how my next set of dots are going to be connected.

This Post is Inviting

October 17, 2017 v4 p46

There are some times when the weekly readings at Mass don’t have as big of an impact on me as others.  The readings from this past Sunday was not one of those times.

Image result for wedding banquet
keywordsuggestdotorg

When Jesus was with us on earth he did a lot of teaching.  He taught his disciples.  He taught the poor.  He taught the sick.  He taught the sinners.  He didn’t pick and choose who he taught, because He loves everyone equally.  What He did do was teach everyone in different ways.  When the disciples were taught it was in a straight forward manner.  This was because they believed.  This was because they followed.  They did this without question.  When He did most of his teaching it was through parables.  In Matthew 13:13 Jesus explains using parables because, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”  This week’s Gospel reading discusses the parable of the wedding banquet.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this parable here’s a quick recap.  The King had prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He invited many guests and they didn’t arrive.  After a second invitation and refusal the King had them killed.  He then sent His servants out to invite all that they encountered.  Many attended but when the King came to one attendee who was not dressed in his wedding attire, he had him bound and expelled into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  There are more details in the story, but for sake of drawing this post out too long, there is the “Cliff’s Notes” version.  I’ve heard this parable taught a few times before, but it wasn’t until this past week that it showed itself in a different context to me.

There is a lot of tension in our country as of late.  It’s causing a lot of violence and hate towards each other.  People who were once good friends are finding that they can no long put aside their differences.  Family members are alienating themselves from each other and tearing each other down and apart.  If I were to look at the United States from the outside I would almost think that we were in a civil war, it has escalated to that point.  It really pains me to see the way some people treat each other.  It really pains me to see how people are so centered on themselves and what they want.  It is difficult for me to understand how a person could be like that.  I really can’t fathom it.

What I really have the hardest time dealing with is how everyone seems to think that their way is the right way.  That belief is usually followed by the thought that if your opinion is different than theirs then you must be the enemy and they must hate you.  Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this.  It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you sit on, I’ve seen both do it.  I don’t claim to be innocent of this myself.  There were times, as recently as three years ago, where I wasn’t always able to see things from a different perspective than my own.  The more time I’ve spent in prayer and studying my faith, the clearer it has become to me how much of a sinner I was and still am.  What I have done is made a conscious effort to change.  I still catch myself trending towards that type of behavior, but I can now recognize it better and stop myself.

So how does that parable tie into all of this?  The king in the story is God.  He invites all of us to feast at the wedding banquet of his son Jesus.  This is an invitation to enter His kingdom, Heaven.  If we don’t except that invitation, well, you read my synopsis.  But what about those of us who decide to attend the banquet?  Should we just show up however we would like?  When you are invited to a wedding do you just show up?  No, you dress appropriately for the occasion.  So if we “just show up” to the Father’s banquet for his Son, are we really giving our best?  There needs to be more.

If you go to church on Sunday but don’t live the life you are called to live the other six days of the week then you are one of those who “just show up.”  I’m thankful that when God sent his only son, Jesus didn’t “just show up.”  He showed us how to better love Him, and how to love one another.  So many times we forget that in order to live to what the fullest of what He wants we need to remember how we were taught.  In Matthew 22:37-39 we are taught “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  So many do the opposite, they love themselves before God and they don’t even think to love one another.  It’s leading our country and the human race down a very steep, and slippery slope.

We are all invited to this great banquet.  It’s up to you decide which role in this parable you’re going to play.  Are you going to be someone who ignores the invitation no matter how many times is comes, someone who “just shows up” or one of the guests who enjoys the great offerings at the banquet?  One of the greatest things God has done for us was to give us free will.  You are free to choose which of those roles you wish to play.  Because of that freedom though, you must also be willing to accept the consequences that come with the role you choose to play.  I know which role I’m going to choose to play.

invitation

I don’t claim to be without flaws, but I’m working on correcting them and trying to better show love to God and others.  I’m doing my best not to lose my invitation, and I hope more people join me at this banquet.