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.

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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.

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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.

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This Post is Festive

November 29, 2017 v4 p58

This Sunday marks the first week of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas.  I’ve already started to see people begin to decorate, but I hope they remember what this holiday is truly about.

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I remember one of my aunts would always send me and Advent calendar when I was growing up.  It wasn’t anything special to me other than a way for me to count down the days until Santa came.   I remember waiting for it to arrive as soon as Thanksgiving was over so I could start counting down.   It also signified that it was time for me to start making my wish list.  Those calendars weren’t anything too special.  I remember them as a Christmas scene of a house usually, with little flaps that you opened every day to see what was behind them.  I never really understood what the meaning of the pictures behind the flaps were because, as a child, they didn’t make a seamless connection to the birth of Christ.  While I knew what Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, I was really only focused on how soon I could begin opening my presents.

I’m not exactly sure when those calendars stopped coming, but I’m guessing it was sometime around the age of nine or ten.  It was around age five when I discovered that Santa wasn’t real though.  That was my dad’s fault indirectly.  The local Lions Club in my hometown sponsors the Christmas parade every year.  One year in particular I remember sitting on Santa’s lap afterwards and noticing his watch.  It was the same watch my dad wore!  How cool, my dad and Santa wear the same kind of watch!  I mentioned that to my older brother a little later that day, who would have been nine if I were five.  He clued me in as to what was up, but was smart enough to tell me not to let Mom and Dad know I had figured it out, and to not let the rest of my classmates in on the secret.  He didn’t want me to ruin Christmas for anyone else.  That may have been one of the only times my brother had actually looked out for my best interests.

So it was pretty early in my childhood when I discovered that Santa wasn’t real.  All that meant to me was that I knew my parents were the ones who were buying me all of these gifts.  It was pretty easy to make the connection to them doing it as a way to show their love for me.  Unfortunately that made me feel like I should test how much they loved me.  As I got older my wish lists began to grown.  Not only in length but in cost.  Later in my elementary school years I figured I would just make my Christmas wish list an extension of my Birthday wish list.  With my birthday coming only weeks before Christmas shopping season it only made sense to not make two lists.  I would write a smaller amount of things on my birthday list and post it on the refrigerator about the middle of October.  I would then proceed to add to it every time something new would come up, mostly after the toy catalogs would arrive.  All of this would pull me further away from the true meaning of the holiday and the true meaning of why my parents would go out and buy me all of this stuff.

This behavior went on throughout my teenage and early adult years.  The more I wrote larger items on my list, the less I received what was on there.  The only exception to that was the Christmas before I built my first house.  My parents knew I would be needing a lot of tools and stuff for that so they used that as an opportunity to help me out with that stuff.  I distinctly remember my brother getting upset that day because the physically biggest gift in the room, my toolbox, was for me.  What he overlooked was that my mom had taken enough care to make sure she spent close to the same amount of money on both of us, and then wrapped everything so we would have the same amount of packages.  Clearly this was not what the holiday was about.  His actions really made me see how greedy I was being and I was completely humbled by my parent’s generosity.  This was the first time that I really started looking at Christmas in the way it was meant to be celebrated.

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In the years following that Christmas I began to ask for different types of gifts, especially from my parents.   One of the things I would ask for was tickets to sporting events, either for the University of Michigan or the Detroit professional teams.  The request for these tickets was for a pair, so I could take my son with me to these events and experience them with him.  Every year my wife loves to make Christmas goodies.  Every year she is kind enough to make extra enough for me to share with my coworkers.  We aren’t talking just a plate to set in the break room for everyone to share.  We package up individual plates for everyone, based on how many people are in their family.  Both of my places of employment where I have brought these in, they ended up being something that my coworkers look forward to, and usually begin asking me when they’re coming around the 10th of December.  Every year my wife’s extended family gets together on Labor Day and exchanges names for people to buy gifts for.  There is then the great exchange of wish lists as I like to call it.  It kind of makes me sad to see men beyond retirement age hand a multipage list of “gift ideas” to their younger generation relatives.  Especially when it includes items you should be embarrassed to buy publicly on your own.  Personally I usually ask for a gift card, or $25 in single beer bottles to add to my collection.

One of the best things I’ve gotten from returning to my faith is a different perspective on holidays like Christmas and Easter.   My perspective was so screwed growing up, that I didn’t understand how Easter was the bigger holiday in the eyes of The Church.  It was one of the first things that dawned on me.  Yes, the birth of Christ is important, but it was his death and resurrection that proved everything and started The Church.  Both holidays usually include giving gifts.  It is considered a tradition of Christmas that was started by the “Three Wise Men” who came to see the Christ child while he was still in the manger.  It is considered a tradition of Easter as a way to honor the gift the Christ gave us when he died on the cross for our sins.  Both viable reasons to give gifts, but the old saying is that it is better to give than to receive.  This is where things have become skewed.  When we make Christmas more about what or how much people are giving us, rather than how much we can give others (not just in physical gifts either), we start to lose the true meaning.  Jesus was sent to us to better show us how to better love God and each other.  The only commandment he gave us is found in John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

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This message isn’t anything new when speaking about the holidays, but it’s never been more vital to get out.  I will be spending time this year reviewing this with my kids so they can pass it on to their’s.

Showing the Path

November 22, 2017 v4 p56

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling disconnected from my prayers because I was letting my scheduled get in the way.  Last week I made sure to refocus my priorities and right on cue, things came to light.

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It was a little over a year ago when I started telling God that I was ready to do His will in my prayers.  It was a couple of days later that my manager at work let the warehouse know that he would be moving on within the company and that someone else would be taking his position as Supply Chain Manager.  He had told me this a few months earlier, before it was public knowledge to the rest of my co-workers.  He was able to do that because he could trust me not to let it out, and that he knew of my desire to move into management at my company.  By no means did I think that his moving on would mean I would even be considered for that position, but I know that he told me ahead of time so that I could be prepared to lead my department through the transition.  I do believe there was some connection between me telling God that I was ready to do his will and the timing of my manager’s announcement.  I’m not exactly clear on what that connection is, but I know it’s there.

I’ve continued to include my desire to do His will in my prayers.  There have been times when I thought that I knew exactly what that is.  Usually I end up realizing that I may not be right, or that if I am right, the time may not be.  It was about a month after my manager’s announcement that I let him know that I had an interest in the position that was opening up.  I made it clear that I didn’t expect to get the position, but that I really wanted the experience of seeing what going through the process within my company looked like.  That would be extremely valuable in my career.  At just about the same time I had reconnected with an old family friend, and it was actually by accident.  I realized that I must have clicked on the “send a request to all of your contacts” link on LinkedIn.  We were already connected on other social media platforms, but this one led me to reach out more to him.  It turns out that my friend is a C-level executive in Procurement/Supply Chain for a major world-wide manufacturer.  This was the mentor my manager had asked me to seek out a couple of years ago.

Through that mentoring relationship I had started on a course of professional development that was geared more towards my work and a little less on leadership principles.  This was an area I needed to grow.  I had 20+ years of supply chain knowledge, all gained through work experience.  I knew some of the terminology and the basic principles of supply chain leadership, but not a very deep understanding of how they operated or how to implement them at my company.  I did some self-guided studying on a couple of different process improvement initiatives and actually read through the course materials for a professional certification program that my mentor consulted on.  All of this gave me a completely different point of view on the entire supply chain process.  It also showed me that some of the ideas I had going on in the back of my mind were exactly what I could see needed to happen at my job.  The biggest questions I had now were; how do I begin to implement these changes, would the new manager come in and try to change the new things I was implementing, and how did I get over my lack of self-confidence to follow through with all of this.

As I was continuing to pray for guidance, I thought there were other areas I was being called to go towards at the same time as trying to get through this transition at work.  The more I thought I was doing the right, other things, the more I was getting frustrated at work.  Then we brought home the Chalice.  As a family we had a strong week of prayers, then I went camping and fell away slightly.  I was really eye-opening how much just one day of missed prayers would affect me.  As I refocused my prayers the following week I went to one of my go to sources for guidance.  One morning I had four different videos brought to my attention that all spoke to me about what I was going through.  I came to the realization that I was trying to get guidance in too many different areas.  It helped me realize that the one area I really wanted to focus on the most was the only one I needed to focus on right now.  Once I have that area figured out it should be easier to begin to focus on the others, one at a time.  That has allowed me to realize that my job is where He is calling me to excel.

In the past few days I have been able to think clearly about what needs to happen at work to get things in order.  It has allowed me to be calmer when faced with people at work who aren’t yet on-board with what needs to happen to move my department forward.  I have a clear vision of how things need to be handled.  I have regained some of my self-confidence in my vision.  When the warehouse was going through the management transition I was really excelling in my job.  Things were starting to change and people were seeing things the way I had hoped.  When the new manager came in, it allowed my self-doubt to creep in.  Nothing anyone said at work reversed that.  It was my prayers and my inward reflection that led me to that.

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This wasn’t a case where my prayer for something broken to be fixed was answered by a physically evident result.  This was a case of my prayer for guidance being answered by being shown how He has discerned this for me.

This Post is Praying

November 8, 2017 v4 p52

One of the things I’ve learned about prayer is that sometimes it can get stale and you have to push through it or change it up some.  What I wasn’t prepared for was a call to change my prayers to something completely different.

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I only started a daily prayer routine a little over 18 months ago.  I didn’t know if I was doing it right.  I didn’t know if praying for my own intentions was selfish.  I didn’t know much of anything about prayer.  I hadn’t been really shown how to pray while I was growing up.  I used to blame my dad for not properly evangelizing me while I was growing up.  I was always told that we go to church on Sunday because that’s what Catholics do.  Come to find out, I think my dad was brought up the same way by his mother, so he probably didn’t have a good way to explain it himself.  We used to say grace before dinner every night while I was younger, but at some point we stopped.  I’m not sure when or why, but it was probably when my dad started sitting down to the table and filling his plate and eating as my brother or I was still bringing the food out of the kitchen.  I know that this wasn’t my mother’s favorite act.

Prayer for me first started off by asking for God’s forgiveness, and it still does.  I would always finish up with the Our Father and a Hail Mary.  That eventually expanded to the opening sequence to a Rosary, the Our Father, three Hail Mary’s and a Glory Be.  I had picked that up from my Knights of Columbus meetings, it felt powerful.  I started to feel selfish by only asking for my own forgiveness.  If I was truly going to put myself third, I had to have prayer intentions for others.  I started praying for my wife and children.  As more and more of my friends and family became stricken with cancer, I added them to my prayers.  I’ve prayed for coworkers who were struggling with lost pregnancies.  I pray daily for the leadership of our country.  I pray for all of the people who have chosen religious vocations for their life.  The part of my prayers that were for my own intentions were quickly becoming the smallest portion of my prayers.

That routine had been pretty standard for a few months, and it felt like I needed it to change.  It wasn’t a feeling like it needed be different, just enriched.  One morning as I was getting ready to finish with my sequence of the Rosary I wondered to myself how much longer it would take to complete a whole decade of the prayer.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Rosary there are five decades made up of an Our Father, ten Hail Mary’s, and a Glory Be.  It didn’t seem to make any difference to me, so that had become my new part of my daily prayer.  The Rosary is often dedicated to the different mysteries of the Catholic Church.  Each day is dedicated to a series of mysteries, and each decade is dedicated to a different mystery that makes up that part of the series.  Every morning after reading the daily scripture readings from that day’s Mass I read and meditate about the mystery for that day.  It helps me to focus my decade while I say it.  For example, one of the mysteries is about the scourging of Jesus on the pillar.  As I prayer my decade I think about what I have done to put the whip in my hand and lash across His back.

For a long time I wondered why people would pray daily.  I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I started a daily routine.  I felt that if so many people throughout the earth were doing it, there must be some validity to the whole process.  I haven’t had any huge moments where I heard God’s voice, but I have definitely felt his presence.  A month or so ago as I was going through my decade I felt an overwhelming pull backwards.  I fought against it and then felt a pull forwards.  I fought that too, holding myself straight up on my knees.  The more I recited my prayers the louder it seemed to get in my head.  By the time I was finished I felt like I was almost having to yell over a strong wind in order to be heard.  In reality the only sound in the room was the clock on the fireplace mantle going tick-tock.  When I finished the decade I collapsed to the floor and was completely out breath.   I wasn’t sure what had just happened, but it was something.  Other things have happened that have lined up with my prayers, but nothing to this magnitude.

All I know now is that I must continue to pray.  I have been attending Eucharistic Adoration on a weekly basis for a little over a month now, trying to find some clarification as to the direction I need to take to better serve Him.  The signs are starting to show themselves.  I still haven’t “heard His voice” but I am getting a clearer picture.  There are times when I’ve been wondering if I’m understanding things right and then I come across a blog/podcast/video from one of the people I follow that point back exactly to what I understand that I’m being told.  It’s kind of an affirmation.  So lately I’ve been hearing that I need to pray more.  Not for different things, but more.  I’ve been finding different ways to accomplish that.  My wife and I pray together at the end of our day, and examination of our conscious.  This week is my family has been praying for religious vocations.  This is through a program our church has set up.  It was our son who reminded us we needed to do our daily prayer before he went to bed last night.  That really warmed my heart.

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I didn’t know what I was doing when I started a regular prayer routine, or if I was doing it right.  I do know that I have to continue to grow my prayer life.

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 Addicting

August 2, 2017 v4 p30

There were a lot of things I was looking forward to when I returned to my faith.  Coming face-to-face with my worst faults wasn’t one of them.

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I began looking for more content about my faith a couple of years ago.  I came across a bunch of different speakers on YouTube.  Fr. Mike posts all of his podcasts there so I put his name into the search bar.  It returned a bunch results that weren’t his weekly podcasts.  It seem that he is a speaker in high demand around the country at Catholic Conferences.  I started listening to his talks at some of these conferences while I do my inventory control work, where I’m out in the warehouse away from the rest of my team.  It is something I look forward to every morning.  My wife and I started watching them together after the kids go to bed and they turn control of the TV back over to us.  There are a lot of the other speakers from those events who have their talks posted as well.  They are all great, and very insightful to me.  There are two besides Fr. Mike that I listen to regularly.

After a few months I started to notice something in common among most of the male speakers I listen to.  Almost all of them have admitted to having an addiction to pornography earlier in their lives.  That really hit home, because one of those faults I wasn’t looking forward to meeting was what I’ve now come to realize was my own addiction to porn.  This has been a significant thing for me to come to grips with.  I’ve listened to the speakers describe how the women are usually drunk when performing, forced into performing, and generally treated as a slave.  It help me put together that by watching porn I not only backed the people enslaving the performers, but I was more or less treating all women the same.  It really made me think about how I treated sex in my own marriage.  I’ve apologized to my wife for the way I approached out sex life.  It’s allowed me to take my faith to a whole new level.

There are some pretty astonishing facts about the porn industry that actually shocked me.  The porn industry in the United States makes more sales than all four professional sports leagues.  The average adolescent boy has seen a pornographic image by the age of 11.  I was way ahead of the curve on that one, thanks neighborhood high schoolers.  So it’s out there, everywhere.  It’s never been as easy to access it as it is right now.  There was a report done on the local news on how a teenager could access porn in less than 10 seconds on their mobile devices a few weeks ago.  It showed how simple it is to find it on search engines.  We do image searches to see what kind of parts we’re looking for at work.  The joke used to be how far you would have to scroll down on the results before you came across a result that was NSFW.

It’s starting to make its way into mainstream media as well.  As people become desensitized to what they see in private, it takes more for something to grab your eye in public.  That has caused marketing teams to gravitate towards more immodest advertising.  Clothing industries start making their clothes smaller.  Sports media groups start publishing magazine article with athletes posing nude.  It’s hard to go on the internet and see articles that show how little a celebrity wore to the beach.  Which famous person is in the latest sex scandal.  These images are the biggest struggle I have with my addiction right now.  I struggle to not click on the articles or scroll through the slideshow in the magazine article.  To help combat that I don’t do much surfing on the web.  I spend more time on the internet than most people because of my job, and that help’s too.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched what most people would consider pornography.  Unfortunately I have many images stuck in my head that I have to struggle against for the rest of my life.

I gain the strength to fight this addiction from my faith life.  The speakers I listen to.  My deepened love for my wife, our marriage, and our Covenant with God.  My daily prayer life is centered on asking for forgiveness.  I have been to confession for this, and it was at that point when I began to feel the His forgiveness.  It also lead me to more introspection about myself.  Through that I have been able to be more of the man my wife needs me to be so that I can fulfill my Covenant by making sure she makes it to heaven.  I have come to realize that is what I am here for.  Through all of our past I always felt that it was still meant to be.  We took a tough road to get here, but I hope my wife can see how I have changed and trusts that I will do everything I can for her.  I can never say I’m sorry enough for the pain I put our family through due to my addiction.

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They say addicts are never really fully cured.  I guess for now you can say that I’m “on the wagon.”

Won’t You Join Me?

July 27, 2017 v4 p29

One of the first things I knew when I returned to my faith was that I needed to be more involved than I was growing up.  I have been trying to figure out how to do that ever since.

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When I made the decision to return to my faith I wasn’t sure where it was going to lead me.  I’ve shared that whole story a couple of times I believe.  After a few months I began to get the feeling that I needed to serve more in my church.  I began to pray to God and let him know that I was ready to serve in whichever way he wanted me to.  It didn’t take too long for that way to be revealed to me as I was approached about joining the local Knights of Columbus Council at our Parrish.  I had figured I would end up joining them anyway before I started those prayers because I could see how they were active in both the church and the community, much as I am through Scouting and was through the Lions Club.  It was pretty much a no-brainer.  I joined and immediately felt welcomed to the Council and began volunteering whenever I could.  The older members have been more than appreciative for my support.

I was told a few months later that it didn’t take long for my name to start coming up for leadership positions.  That doesn’t surprise me.  In every job I’ve held I have showed up and done my job to the best of my ability.  That has always resulted in me being given more responsibilities, and ultimately promotions.  All of that coupled with all of the other leadership positions I’ve held in volunteer organizations explain to me why those conversations were happening.  I had hoped it would be a couple of years before I was approached about taking a leadership position, but I kind of knew that I could only delay the inevitable for so long.  I stepped up this year to take on the role of treasurer, which I’m sure is the first of many positions I will hold in this organization.

One of the directives of the Knights is evangelization.  I’m fairly certain that this is tied to the Pope’s call for a new evangelization of the church.  I began sharing some of the Catholic blogs that I have been following with my wife and some fellow Catholic friends.  They have all found them very helpful.  But those are the easy people for me to evangelize to.  They are already active in their faith, and while everyone needs to continue to grow their faith, there’s a different audience I would like to reach.

I know a lot of people that were involved with the Catholic Church growing up.  Most of them, like myself, strayed away throughout their late teen and adult years.  During that time is when the Catholic Church began to fall on hard times.  There were multiple sex scandals, the beliefs and teachings of the church were skewed in the public eye.  There really wasn’t much of a reason to stick around.  That’s not why I left my faith, but I am fairly certain those may be some of the reasons that some of them did leave.  These are the people I would like to reach.  These are the people I would like to share more of my journey with.  These are the people I would like to be a part of their journey.

One of the biggest factors in my faith formation as an adult was reading The Bible.  Not just a few of the books, or specific chapters.  I read then entire Catholic Bible, from cover to cover.  After I finished it I tried looking for a different way to continue my faith formation.  I tried simply reading the daily scripture readings, something I had picked up during my first reading.  It was nice, but I was feeling like I still needed more.  A few months ago I decided to read all of Letter’s from the Apostle Paul, in chronological order.  That’s been pretty insightful.  I’m almost through all of them and need to figure out what area I want to read next, I’m leading towards the Psalms.

Aside from reading my Bible on a daily basis there are a few Catholic speakers that I get a lot of good content from.  One of them is Fr. Mike Schmitz, a younger priest from Minnesota.  Most of the rest of the speakers that I’ve listened to have mentioned him in their talks.  He seems to be the unofficial face of the new evangelization.  He is very well spoken and is very engaging.  I have shared a few of his posts on social media and get a positive response from Catholics and Protestants alike.  Another one of the speakers I started following early on is Jeff Cavins.  He is a former Protestant Pastor who was raised Catholic, left the church in his late teen years, only to be called back to Catholicism by The Lord.  His journey is a really fascinating story.  Both of these speakers publish their podcasts through the Catholic media company, Ascension Press.

Along with their weekly blogs they produce faith formation materials.  They range from studies of The Bible, adult and teen faith formation, and historical studies of the Catholic Church.  During some of the podcasts I subscribe to from Ascension they run short ad spots for their study programs.  In each of them they mention that some of them are free if you get a group of four or more to participate.  I haven’t looked too far into that but this is where I feel my calling to evangelize is leading.  I’m looking for a deeper understanding of The Bible.  The program I’m particularly interested in going through is “The Bible Timeline.”  This study takes the participants through the entire Bible and dives deeply into each period of salvation history.  There are multiple ways to read The Bible, and chronologically is one I’d like to try.

This is where you come in.  If you’ve been interested in deepening your faith and understanding of The Bible, I believe that this may be one way for you to do it.  If you’re looking to get back to your faith, Catholic or Protestant, this may be one way for you to do it.  I’m not looking to try and convert anyone to Catholicism, but if it happens I will support you any way I can.  What I hope to get out of this is a deeper understanding of my own faith, to help other people gain a deeper understanding of their faith, and possibly strengthen some families or friendships.  Feel free to reach out to me if you’re interested in joining me this fall.  I don’t know what the study group would look like yet, but that’s something I will figure out along the way, much like I have the rest of my faith formation.

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So if you were Catholic, have always been Catholic, are interested in learning more about the Catholic Church, or are a Christian looking to strengthen your faith, please consider joining me.  What have you got to lose, except everything you could gain by participating?