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.

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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.

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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.

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This Post is Third

October 4, 2017 v4 p42

One of the many things that I learned from my parents was that I needed to help other people out.  That seems like common sense, but it’s not just about helping, but serving.

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Many people know how active I am in my home town.  I have been heading up the Cub Scout program for nine plus years.  I continue to do that even though my own children have moved on from it because their ages have forced them to move on to Boy Scouts.  I have been coaching my younger son’s soccer team since he began playing back in first grade.  I stepped back into an assistant role one year, but came to the conclusion that it wasn’t going work.  I wanted to be able to teach my son and his teammates in different ways than the coach I was assisting, so that only last one year.  Working with elementary aged kids can be really fun.  It can also be really trying at times, luckily the fun times are greater.

Part of the reason I stepped up to volunteer in these two positions is because I wanted to make sure my son had an enjoyable experience in both areas.  Having been a registered Scout since I was in first grade and having played soccer for just about as long I was confident that I could make that happen.  It has taken me some time to develop my ways of leading in these two areas, but I can confidently say that I have been successful in both areas.  When I see the boys who have gone through the Cub Scout program under my leadership attain the rank of Eagle Scout, and how much they worked to get it, I can tell I had an impact.  When I can see the skill level of my son’s soccer team improve dramatically from the beginning to the end of the season, I can tell I had an impact.  When parents are requesting to have their children placed on my team because they know I will coach them right on the field and off, I can tell I had an impact.

Ultimately that is why I do all of that, to see the impact I make in those young men.  That isn’t the only way that I serve.  I try to do my best to serve in everything I do.  At work I show up and do the best I can to make sure my coworkers have everything they need to get their job done.  I also show up and work as hard as possible to make that happen.  In every job I’ve ever held that is the attitude I went in with every day.  That’s what my parent taught me to do.  Because of that in every job I’ve ever had I have always been given more responsibilities, which have come along with more pay and often times promotions.  The only time I was ever placed into a leadership role during employment without “climbing the ladder” was when I was hired as a Department Team Leader for Meijer.  At that point in my life I hadn’t held any leadership positions in a job, but the Store Director who interviewed me was also an Eagle Scout (still is), and knew with that and their training program I could be a success.

As I’ve grown in my faith over the past few years I’ve been able to find new ways to serve.  I joined the local Knights of Columbus Council at my church.  That has afforded me the opportunity to create some great connections to other Catholic Gentlemen.  We do all of that through service to the church and the community.  The best part of that group is that I’m way at the back of the line of a bunch of men who have the same service mindset that I do.  It’s a refreshing change to just show up and be a worker bee sometimes.  I’ve begun serving my family through my faith too.  I have been living my faith life in a way that it is visible to them.  I try to show my son how to be a better follower of Christ.  My wife and I watch speakers on YouTube in the evenings more often than we watch broadcast television.  That has helped us strengthen our relationship and our family.  There are so many things I wish I could go back and do.

The more I do all of the volunteering I, the more is taxes my personal time.  There are many days, especially in the early fall, where I often don’t get home until 8pm.  That means I haven’t had dinner until late, and it’s almost always by myself.  That’s not good because I’m losing time with my family and because eating that late during the day, close to bed time, isn’t good for a person’s health.  It’s usually about this time of year when I start to get burned out.  In the past I was able to sleep in on or take a nap on the weekends.  Then I started to realize that doing things that way wasn’t allowing my body to recover properly.  Because of my desire to make sure my kids are getting the best program they can I continue to be the one who steps up.  This burn out point is where most people usually end up walking away.  Sometimes I really wish I would be able to just walk away like that, but it always causes an internal conflict.

The time has come for me to walk away though.  For the past nine years I have held the position of Committee Chair for the Cub Scout Pack in my home town.  As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t had a child in that program since February of this year.  I am committed to fulfill that position through the end of 2017.  At that point I intend to move into a different position that I currently already hold, Chartering Organization Representative.  That is the communication line between the Scout Unit and the supporting organization.  I would still be available on a consulting basis because I don’t think I will find a replacement that would have the knowledge on how to run the Pack that I do.  Whoever would take the position from me would then face the same situation I am in and need replacing.  It’s really a vicious cycle.

Just because I would be stepping away from that position doesn’t mean I would stop serving.  Stepping away would allow me to serve in a different way.  The more I’ve been studying and learning about my faith, the more I feel called to serve more within it.  This isn’t something I think that I feel.  There is a definite pull in that direction.  I’m not sure what that serving would like at this point in time, but I never will if I don’t answer the call.  I’ve always gotten satisfaction from the secular volunteering I’ve done in the past, but it doesn’t compare to what I get when I serve in my faith.  Serving in that manner gives me more than satisfaction, it gives me a sense of fulfillment.  It shows me how to receive His grace and mercy.  As much as I want to lead young men to be better leaders, I want to show others how to better live their lives for God.  How to receive His grace and mercy in their own lives.  Colossians 3:17 tells us, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

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I worry about what will happen to the Scouting program in my town if I step away from the program in the capacity I currently serve.  But I worry more about my family and myself more if I don’t make Him first, my family second, and myself third.

This Post is Objective

 

September 26, 2017 v4 p40

I’ve been really trying to focus on writing about my faith for the most part, but in light of recent events I’ve felt compelled to give a response.  I wrote one on Sunday that you can read here, but decided to only post it to my page instead of publicly because it didn’t really convey my message how I wanted.  Here’s my take on the whole Colin Kaepernick/NFL/President Trump issue.

Truth can be defined by two simple words, what is.  There are two kinds of truths in the world.    One type of truth is subjective truth, where something is true about a subject. The other type of truth is objective truth, where something is true about an object.  An example of a subject truth would be the statement that I prefer Coke over Pepsi.  For me Coke tastes better.  For someone else Pepsi may taste better.  Does the fact that I prefer Coke to Pepsi in my cola choices make it any less true for someone who believes Pepsi is better?  No.  This type of example can be applied to a lot of different ideas.  An example of an objective truth would be that the colors of the American Flag are red, white, and blue.  That is an objective truth that cannot be changed.  If you change the colors of the American Flag, then it is no longer the same thing.

So let’s apply this principle to the situation that is currently the hot topic on social media.  Former NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose to protest police brutality by sitting during the National Anthem prior to an NFL preseason football game.  After a couple of weeks and consulting a former NFL player turned Green Beret, he decided it would be better for him to continue his protest by kneeling.  Over time more players showed their support by doing the same thing, in the NFL and other sports.  Over time the total number of players continuing this protest was down to four during week two of the NFL season.  Did Colin Kaepernick have the right to perform his protest in this manner?  According to the United States Flag Code, Section 9 (http://www.military.com/flag-day/us-flag-code.html) he did.  The code only specifies that non-military personnel should stand during the hoisting, lowering or passing of flag.  The key word in here is should.

On Friday September 22 President Trump remarked at a speech and then posted on Twitter the following day that players who don’t stand for the National Anthem should be fired.  The President of our country does not need to be concerning himself with the personnel decisions of a private entity.  According the United States legal code, that is in fact illegal (U.S. Code > Title 18 > Part I > Chapter 11 > 227).  The list of public officials mentioned in that code that cannot influence employment decisions by private entities list everyone, up to, and including The President.  I’m pretty sure this is being overlooked for the time being.

A lot of arguments are being made that it is a person’s First Amendment Right to protest by kneeling during the National Anthem.  A lot of counter arguments are being made to state that right is not protected while performing your job.  I have seen multiple social media posts of screen shots of the NFL rule book regarding the playing of the National Anthem.  It states nothing about the players being required to be on the field.  It does say players on the field and bench area should stand at attention.  There’s that key word again, should.  It goes on to state that players violating this rule are subject to discipline.  I cannot recall anytime a player has been disciplined for kneeling during the National Anthem.  A lot of people have pointed out that the First Amendment isn’t protected in your workplace.  Based on the lack of discipline from the NFL and their response to President Trump last weekend, I’m going to guess that they are going to allow their players to exercise that right.

So where does the truth come in to this whole issue?  A lot of people feel it is disrespectful for these types of actions to go on.  That doesn’t change the fact that the objective truth about the matter is that unless the NFL forces it’s players to stop the protests, they will be allowed to continue.  The President has no right to force any person to stand for the National Anthem.  That has gone on in places like Nazi Germany and present day North Korea.  Our country has always been a democracy, not an authoritarianism.  Another way the truth has to be applied to this whole subject is whether or not it is disrespectful to the U.S. Flag, our military personnel (both currently serving and veterans), and to our country.  According to the law it is not, that is an objective truth.  That cannot be untrue just because of how you feel.

In response to the NFL’s show of unity an increased number of players and their team owners took a knee or simply just stayed off the field during the National Anthem on Sunday and Monday a lot of people who are against this protest have begun to find ways to show their patriotism.  One of the ways they are doing that is by adding a U.S. flag border to their social media profile pictures.  Since everyone was so enraged by a citizen exercising his First Amendment Right by “disrespecting” the flag I thought I would take a look in the U.S Flag Code for some answers.  Paragraph Eight of the code is entirely dedicated to respect for the flag.  I speaks about how the flag should never be displayed upside down, touch the ground, or be carried flat, or horizontally (the NFL may want to take a look at that one).  What it does go on to describe is how it shouldn’t be used in advertising, profile pictures are advertising you.  It also speaks about how it shouldn’t be printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard (Paragraph 8, Article I).

That last point really raised some questions in my own life.  I thought about whether or not I owned any clothing with the flag on it.  I wondered how many times I used a napkin at a Memorial Day cook out, wiped my dirty face with the U.S Flag, crumpled it up and threw it out.  Then I started seeing all the people who were denouncing the protest as disrespectful on Sunday, and noticed that more than a few of them had clothing with the flag on it.  I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to be treating that clothing the same way they would the flag.  When the clothing becomes too worn to wear anymore, would they hold a proper retirement ceremony and burn them?  Probably not.  In the flag code it states that any form of mutilation of the flag is a misdemeanor punishable by fines of up to $100 and 30 days in jail.  I know I’ve been guilty of that on more than one occasion, but my ways will change.  This is the letter of law, another objective truth.

While I don’t agree with Kaepernick’s protest, I do believe in his right to perform it.  The main reason I don’t agree with his protest is because he isn’t accomplishing anything towards the subject he started protesting about, police injustices against minorities.  If he truly wanted to invoke change in this matter he would do more than just kneel during the National Anthem.  He chose to take this stand and has paid the consequences.  A lot of people believe that the main reason he isn’t an active player on an NFL roster is because of the protests.  I wouldn’t be surprised if that were true, but it’s hard to prove that after the response from the league last weekend.  I’m not in favor of the protests myself because I choose to stand during the National Anthem to show my respect.  If you or anyone else chooses protest in the same manner, I believe you have that right.  I cannot change that, but I also won’t have to deal with the consequences that come forth following your display.

All of this bickering back and forth on social media really doesn’t accomplish anything.  The only thing I see it doing is causing division between friends, family, and our country.  The last thing we need right now is for us to be more divided.  We have fellow citizens in the Gulf of Mexico who face the prospect of not having electricity for multiple months.  Most of us have a difficult time going without it for hours, let alone days.  Try not knowing when it will come back on, or if it will at all.  In times like this we must be reminded of what Jesus tells us in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  I don’t see a whole lot of that going on in our country, not just related to the issue with the flag.  It’s becoming a problem.  It almost seems as if we are in the midst of our second civil war.

I don’t claim to be perfect.  In fact I am a terrible sinner.  But I’m making a conscious effort to change my ways.  I’m making a conscious effort to evangelize the word of Christ in hopes to help even just one person change.

Matthew 7: tells us “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is your own eye?”

Or maybe your closet.

This Post is Forgiving

September 19, 2017 v4 p37

Christians are called to forgive those who anger or offend us.  This week’s readings at Mass were a clear reminder of why.

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I’ve been trying my hardest to remember that I must forgive my fellow man.  It’s been a something that I had trouble with in the past.  Before returning to my faith I would make sure that I would go out of my way to try to get back at those who would did things to cause me difficulties.  I felt that I should just do the same thing to them that they did to me.  What I was forgetting was that if I considered myself a Christian, I still had to live a Christian life, even if I wasn’t attending church.  Ultimately what that would cause ended up being worse than the original offense.

As I started to learn more about my faith I began to see how wrong I was in the past.  I began to forgive people that weren’t really involved in my personal life.  Driving is a perfect example of this.  I used to get road rage really quickly, and really bad.  Every one of us, including myself, is guilty of driving like an idiot.  I really believe this is the root of a lot of problems in our society.  Almost everyone starts their day by having to drive somewhere.  Whether it’s to work or to drop the kids off at school, we’re in our cars.  It is rare lately that I go somewhere and I don’t see someone else do something on the road that really makes me shake my head in disbelief.  It’s not just texting or other distractions, although those are a big cause of it.  Too many people just don’t care that everyone else on the road has somewhere to go as well.  If you’re in such a hurry that you must drive in such a manner that you cause others anger, then maybe you need to plan your time better to allow yourself more time.  This way you don’t have to drive so fast.  If you needed to drive that fast then your vehicle would have lights on top and sirens.

More times than I can count I have gotten places and have been so riled up by the way other people have treated me on the road that my attitude has really gone sour.  That sets the tone for the rest of the day.  Nobody tries to go out on the road and be a jerk to everyone, if you do then you’re just a jerk.  Unfortunately too many people have been treated like jerks, get to their destination, and then treat other people like jerks.  I’ve learned that nothing I can do, on the road or afterwards, is going to change whatever reason people feel it necessary to act so selfishly when they drive.

On a personal level I’ve become much more adept at knowing when I need to forgive people.  There are still occasions where I have a tough time forgiving people.  Through my learning I have discovered that I don’t always have to give people the forgiveness they deserve right away.  I am allowed to be upset about how people have treated me, and try to figure out if there is something I’ve done that could have caused it.  I’ve been known to stew on things for much longer than I should.  It’s those times that I must turn to my prayer life to find it in myself to forgive.  Only after that can I truly put the incident behind me and move on.  Sometimes I’m not always able to get away and into that prayer that I need, and it causes me to hold onto that anger longer than I should.  I’m finding ways to get to a place where I can pray quicker, because holding onto the anger is never good.

In Matthew 18:22 Jesus tells us that we must forgive our brothers “Not seven times, but seventy times seven times.”  That doesn’t mean literally 490 times.  It means that we must always forgive our brothers.  I had a former coworker who really showed this to me.  It was on a weekly basis, sometimes daily, that his actions warranted me have to forgive him.  He didn’t necessarily do something directly against me, but his actions and words continually would cause problems.  I would often come home and complain to my wife about it.  Unfortunately when I did that she felt that I was yelling at her, not directly at her, but I would get so riled up over things that I would be raising my voice in disbelief of his actions.  I would then forgive him and finally be able to move on.

It was during some of my studying about my faith that I came across this passage in scripture that I realized how I needed to change.  I would continue to forgive him but I couldn’t understand how long it would have to continue.  I would start to ask my wife why anyone would continue to act in these ways and not see how it was effecting everything around him.  Then I realized that he wasn’t going to change, but wondered if I needed to continue to forgive him.  I don’t remember what resource it was that I was reading on this passage in Matthew’s Gospel, but it finally clicked.  I was going to have to continue to give forgiveness as long as this situation was a part of my life.  There would be no end to it, and if I didn’t continue to forgive, then there would be no end to my frustration.  After I realized that I found it easier to deal with the poor attitude and actually found enough confidence in myself to try and find a way to point out to him what his actions did, without flat out calling him a jerk.  Eventually his poor attitude ended up being his downfall.

I’m still faced with the need to forgive my coworkers because of their attitudes.  For the most part everyone I work with is great and will go out of their way to do things right.  There a few who have a cynical outlook, and really don’t care if they offend others.  I don’t have to deal with them much on a professional level so I am faced with the need to forgive less than before.  This past week however it did come up, and it wasn’t about anything work related.  As I heard in last week’s Gospel reading, I went to him and he wouldn’t hear out what I wanted to say.  Others agreed that he wouldn’t change.  So as I learned in Matthew 18:17 if he still won’t listen, then I should “treat him as a pagan or a tax collector.”  I said my prayers, gave him the forgiveness I needed to and decided that there is no need for me to talk to him unless it had to do with something work related.  Doing anything else will only continue to cause me problems.

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Forgiving someone who sins against you is sometimes the hardest thing to do.  Maybe if everyone tried harder to forgive then there would be less need for it to begin with.

This Post is Clear

September 13, 2017 v4 p35

In the Old Testament Elijah is told to listen to for the voice of God.  There is a fire, an earthquake, some thunderstorms, but he doesn’t hear him in any of those.

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Over the past couple of months I was kind of getting a stale feeling in my prayer life.  Through the faith studying I’ve done on my own I’ve learned that that is going to happen.  That wasn’t really a surprise to me, because I’ve had the same type of staleness happen in my professional and personal life.  What I also knew was that I needed to continue on the path I was following, because so far it’s been the right one.  After some time I began to see my prayers being answered.  That again told me that I was going in the right direction.  I was still getting a stale feeling though.

Out of the resources I had found to study my faith I began to struggle to find new content.  The videos I was finding were just the same ones I had already watched.  It’s not a fault of the speakers.  I was only able to find speeches online from the same year, just at different events.  I would liken it to an author out on a speaking tour.  They would give the same speech at every bookstore they appeared at.  Generally the audience is different, but the subject matter is the same.  So I began looking for older videos to watch.  That didn’t really produce much content.

At some point I stumbled on some new speakers though.  They came to me by looking back at the events I had watched videos for that featured the speakers I was initially looking for.  YouTube is great for that.  It really made me thing about how many possibilities I could come up with because the people I was listening to initially clearly weren’t the only speakers at those specific events.  Especially the ones I knew were multiple days long.

For the most part my wife and I were watching mainly male speakers.  That was partially because the first people I started looking toward for teaching were priests.  We watched a lot of general session speeches, and men’s session speeches.  I thought that they all had great content that was applicable to everyone, but that maybe my wife would enjoy listening to some female speakers.  I’m always trying to soak in as much as I possibly can too, so a different perspective if always refreshing.

One of the best sources we’ve found for videos to watch has been the ones produced at The Steubenville Youth Conferences.  These are a series of conferences around the country that are geared toward bringing the message of the Catholic Church to teens.  There were 25 total conferences in 2017.  Although these are geared towards high school aged kids the content is still great.  Does it really matter what age the audience is when you’re speaking about faith?  It applies to young and old the same way.  That goes the same for men’s sessions versus women’s session.

Not only is that message important to all ages, but I feel it especially hits home for me.  It was in my early high school ages that I really started to drift away from my faith.  So for me listening to the speeches is kind of picking up where I left off.  I still attended Mass on Sunday and went through my faith formation classes all through high school, but I wasn’t engaged.  I was pretty much only there because I was told by my parents that I had to be.  That wasn’t the right way for my evangelization to occur.  I have a feeling that a lot of the people that I went through faith formation were experiencing the same thing.

The other day I finally came up to a video of a speech by a priest at the Grand Rapid’s Diocese Men’s Conference.  He was pretty brash, and really didn’t hide it.  He also didn’t care if you didn’t like his attitude.  I totally get that though because his message was completely on point.  I immediately started following him on social media and shared the video with my best friend, another Catholic.  I mentioned that the video was filmed in Grand Rapids at the conference neither of us could find time to attend.  He replied a day or two later that he had watched it and stared following him on social media as well.

I went and searched out more videos from that same priest.  He actually gave two talks at the conference in Grand Rapids, and in the second one he mentioned one he had given earlier in 2017 at a conference in Atlanta.  I found that one pretty quickly and put it in my que.  Before watching that one I had some time to contemplate what his message was.  I was beginning to see that he was going to be a good source for me to study.  I could start to see that I needed to listen more.

I put a post out on social media about starting to get messages clearly and that I needed to be a better listener.  I watched that third video by the same priest yesterday and it really hammered home what I was being told.  I’ve always knew that I needed to continue to strengthen my faith actions, but I’ve always been afraid.  I’ve been afraid of what others will say, which is kind of strange since I don’t seem to have any difficulties writing blog posts about it.  I will admit the first few that spoke so much about my faith did kind of make me feel a little naked.  But now I was receiving the clear message that what I thought I needed to do is exactly what I need to do.

I had another moment of clarity this morning during my morning prayers.  I’ve been kinda-sorta practicing Lectio Divina prayers.  I read the daily scripture readings, but haven’t taken too much time to meditate and pray on them for whatever reason.  Today however was different.  Not sure why or what prompted it, but did the meditation portion.  Today’s readings seemed to fit in with what the video I watched yesterday was saying.  During my meditation and prayer I was shown the next steps I must take in my faith formation, and I’m ready.  For those of you keeping score I am planning to take my lunch break on Thursdays and drive to my church for Eucharistic Adoration, I am going to fast on Friday’s (not just during Lent), and I want to begin praying the Liturgy of the Hours.  That sounds like pretty insignificant changes, but only if you don’t truly know what each of those entails.

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Sometimes He shouts at you from the mountain tops, other times He comes through as a softer whisper after a huge storm.  All that I know is right now I’m hearing and listening clearly.

This Post is Eye-Opening

September 5, 2017 v4 p33

When I started writing this blog almost three years ago it was to share my opinion about the University of Michigan football program.  I always wondered if that was the right platform for myself, and that answer became clear to me last week.

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Over the years I’ve touched on a few different subjects.  I’ve written a lot about sports.  I’ve written about the death of both of my parents.  I’ve written about parenting.  I’ve written about my faith.  I’ve written about fitness, and I’ve written about leadership.  So it’s really been a wide range of topics.  The subject matter that has received the biggest response is my faith.  So that’s where I plan to continue to put my focus.  A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how I was rebuilding the four pillars of my life based on the most important one, my faith.  Most likely I will continue to write about most of these topics, but just like rebuilding my life based on faith, most of my posts will be built around how they are tied to my faith.

When I do write about sports it will most likely be about college football.  In my mid-twenties most of my personal life was centered on sports.  College football has always been my favorite, followed by college basketball.  I would watch the NFL too, but not with the interest I had in college football.  Once March Madness was done I would begin to pay attention to the NHL, then the NBA, as that was the order those leagues would finish their season.  After that I would kind of half-heartedly watch Major League Baseball.  When the Tigers began to turn their team into a contender I started paying more attention earlier in the spring.  As time has gone on I’ve just become less interested in sports other than college football.  I pay just enough attention to the NFL to be able to know what’s going on with my fantasy football team.  College basketball is still something I enjoy watching, but it’s been narrowed down to the last couple of months of the season, after football is over.

It’s hard to tie college and professional sports back to faith.  You always see athletes praising God for their touchdown, or home run, which is good, but they should be praising them in their everyday lives, not just the contests that they compete in that allow them to make millions of dollars.  It’s rare to see athletes take that praise into their personal lives.  When they do, they are often ridiculed for it, for example Tim Tebow.  He makes no attempt to hide his faith and always praised God for his talents, not just his results.  Yet a lot of “fans” think he should keep that to himself and off the playing field.  I would guess that there are more athletes and fans that support Colin Kaepernik and his protest of injustice than Tim Tebow and his show of faith.  While Kaepernik is doing nothing illegal, it is certainly causing a problem in his career as he is currently being passed over for open positions in favor of less talented, retired players.

As I’ve grown in my career and my faith my life priorities have changed drastically.  I’m now more interested in growing myself in my faith and my leadership.  I began telling God I was ready to do His will last winter and things have really changed in my life.  My career has taken a major uptick.  My faith has begun to follow that same path.  I continue to tell Him every day that I’m ready to do His will.  I pray for knowledge to see the path He has chosen for me, the wisdom to choose that path, and the strength to complete the journey.  It really has been a game changer for me, to borrow a sports cliché.

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I’m going to continue to my weekly analysis of college football because I really do enjoy it.  It’s hard to tie it to my faith though, other than the fact that Jim Harbaugh is Catholic.

This Post is Wobbly

August 15, 2017 v4 p31

When you aren’t standing firmly on all of your bases, your life gets a little wobbly.  Lately I’ve noticed that I haven’t been firm on all four of my basis, and it has become noticeable.

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For the longest time I thought I only need three footings to build my foundation on.  Those were family, friends, and fitness.  I have always put my family first.  When my oldest son was born I did everything for him.  When my wife and I reconciled, I did everything for her and our son.  When our youngest child was born I did everything for all three of them.  I tried to maintain a social life through that period, and really only ended up with a few very close friends.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  There are people from the past that I still maintain contact with, but it’s not at the level of friendship that those close friends have.  There are some people that I don’t maintain contact with that I wish I did get in touch with more often.  But we’ve all gone our separate ways, and when we do reconnect it is always good.  My fitness wasn’t really a big focus for me other than not really eating too poorly.  I certainly didn’t follow any specific diet, but I tried to maintain a fairly balanced diet.

A couple of years after we moved back to my hometown I began going to the gym.  That really had an impact on me.  Fitness was now the number two focus of my foundation, and I actually dropped to weights that I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.  It felt nice to be able to put jeans on that were smaller than the size I wore in high school.  Granted I think the fashion industries measurements aren’t the same as they were 20 years ago.  I hadn’t felt that trim since I was a teenager.  Then I began running.  That doesn’t sound like something that would cause weight gain, although it isn’t uncommon if you’re training for long distances.  What running led to was injuries.  That always led to excuses.  Which in turn, would lead to more injuries.  For the past five years I’ve started a solid workout routine, only to injury myself and have to take weeks off.  That is always followed by a tough time getting back in to a routine.  This is where I’m at right now.

Then my manager encouraged me to reconnect with my faith.  It was the single most life changing event in my life.  The more I allowed myself to follow where I was supposed to go, the easier everything else became around me.  I’ve seen in my own life how the power of prayer has worked.  That’s why I continue to pray every day.  Sometimes I feel like my prayers are getting a little stale, or that I’m praying for the wrong thing.  Then, as He always does, He reveals to me that I’m praying for exactly what He wants for me.  That is always enough to remind me that no matter how stale my prayer may feel, it’s always enough for Him.  I never thought that anything would become a more important footing for my foundation than my family.  I truly believe that my faith is the most important of those footings.  It is the basis from which all of the other footings are formed.  I brought my family with me, and began making more friendships at my church, building a strong foundation.

Then I read “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey.  Of all the professional development books I’ve read, this is a top three influencer for me.  One of the last principles that Covey speaks about is the four parts to your foundation.  This was an eye opener for me.  The first one he speaks about is your faith.  I’ve put that first already.  Then there is your family, they are what drives me and encourages me to do what I need to get done.  At the time I was going to the gym five days a week, so that was covering my fitness foundation.  With all of that going on it didn’t leave much time to build on those friendships.  I’ve made a few that I fully hope will become stronger, but nothing yet like the ones I have with those few close friends from my early adulthood.  Between church, sports, and scouts almost all of my evenings were booked up.  It didn’t leave a lot of time for socializing.  My wife and I didn’t get much of a chance to go out without the kids, and some of the other socializing went by the wayside.  So I knew it was that area that I needed to work on.

I still haven’t figured out how to fully transition to a four footing foundation.  While always concentrating on my faith and family, I tried to focus on friends, and that has caused my fitness to fall off.  Well, at almost 42-years-old it doesn’t take long for your fitness level to drop off.  I rehabbed my recurring injury and was able to start running again.  I continued with the simple strength exercises that I had learned through PT and was able to run at a good pace.  I trained for and ran a 5k last October.  Then I stopped.  Not sure why, but my GPS watch tells the story.  There was a four month period where I was running three or four days per week.  Then nothing.  I started back up in the spring some, then twisted my knee coaching my son’s soccer team.  Again, nothing.  The stress of having your oldest child graduate from high school and then get ready to go off to college is really starting to show.  It’s starting to show every time I look down.

I’ve always had a hard time controlling my eating.  In the past I didn’t eat a lot of junk.  There were always donuts, and ice cream, and candy bars.  Before I would have only one of those three in a month.  Lately I haven’t been doing so well.  Then there is the issue with my portion sizes.  About 10 years ago we made the conscious decision to switch to the seven inch plates in our cabinet for dinner, unless we were having a big holiday meal.  That helped some.  It still doesn’t stop me from piling the spaghetti higher, or getting a second helping.  A few weeks ago I started doing some speed and footwork drills with my youngest son to get ready for the soccer season.  We do those two days a week, then run around the neighborhood three days a week.  After the first week I determined that my knees are going to hold up to that schedule, so I started adding more distance to my running.  Last weekend I was able to go two miles without stopping.  It was the slowest two miles I’ve run on pavement in six years.  I don’t like it.  This may be the kick start I need.  If I can get my diet straightened out it will help a lot too.

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I started rebuilding my life on my faith foundation.  I’m almost done rebuilding my family, and I’m just starting to rebuild my fitness.