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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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 Disconnected

November 15, 2017 v4 p54

I’ve been trying to figure out where my prayer life needs to go.  Last week I think I discovered that I definitely have to make sure I stick with it.

Things have been a little hectic lately.  I recently started going to a chiropractor to try and get my back pain eased.  It’s added some extra things for me to do during the week.  I’ve had to dedicate my lunch breaks to going to those appointments.  That caused me to have to rearrange my schedule some.  Because of that I didn’t take my lunch break on Thursday and go to Adoration like I had been.  There were some things that I had to attend to that I had put on hold so I could keep my appointments.  I did kind of feel like I was missing out on something the rest of that day.  I had a feeling that it was something to do with that, but didn’t put things together right away.

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Last week my family brought home the “Chalice for Vocations” from our church.  This is a gold chalice that families have been taking home for a week at a time and praying about.  There are a bunch of different prayers for families to choose from throughout the week.  The purpose of the prayers is to support those who have chosen a religious vocation for themselves.  That would include Priest, and other Clergy, Nuns, Deacons, and any kind of support staff.  Some people who have had the opportunity to go through this have been called to new vocations themselves.  I know of one family who took it home for a week and one of their children was trying to discern whether or not he should enter seminary and answer the call to be a priest.  It was during this week that he made the decision to follow that calling.  We didn’t experience anything to that level while we had it, but I could definitely feel our prayer life as a family strengthen.

Last weekend I attended a campout with my son and his Boy Scout Troop.  It was a lot of fun and kind of relaxing because I was able to sit by the fire all day to make sure we had heat to keep warm.  It was really nice to see how the Scouting program works again, and how the boys are learning and growing.  It was especially great to see my own son stepping up to help out in areas that other boys weren’t willing to.  It reminded me of a lot of the leadership principles I learned through Scouting.  As I laid in my tent at night I was able to go through my nightly Examen prayers.  It was a little strange going through it myself.  My wife and I usually sit together on the couch right before we go to bed and say them.  Laying on the ground in my sleeping bag was a little different.

Normally every morning I read a chapter in The Bible, currently I’m going through the Gospel according to Luke.  I didn’t have my Bible with me on the campout and no cell phone signal meant that I couldn’t pull up the next chapter on my phone app.  I had anticipated that and didn’t think it would be much of a problem.  My plan was to say my morning prayers before I got out of the tent that day.  It was pretty cold Saturday morning and as I rolled over and woke up the cold air I immediately had to use the bathroom.  There are no bathrooms in the tent.  So I was up for the day and started right in on getting the fire going, finishing setting up camp for the rest of the day, and before I knew it there wasn’t any time to get back to my prayers.  The plan for Sunday was to pack up right away and head home so my family and I could get to breakfast at church before Mass.  As we were pulling out of the campground my son mentioned that he thought we could make it to the service before breakfast if we hustled when we got home.  The thought of being home for the day before 11:30 a.m. was inviting, so that’s what we did.

I was able to say my normal prayers before Mass when we got to church, but I still didn’t get my chapter of The Bible read.  For the first time in a while I felt like my prayers were off.  I have had a feeling where my prayers feel stale, but I’ve always gone through them.  This time was different.  They didn’t seem the same.  As Mass started I to understand what was going on.  I could feel myself being brought back.  As culminated Mass in the Eucharist I was filled with the realization that the off feeling I had during my prayers earlier was a disconnection.  I had spent three of the previous four days not making sure that I was putting my faith first.  I had a renewed spirit for my prayer life.  As I kneeled to pray after receiving the Eucharist I felt renewed.  I knew what was missing.  I knew what I needed to do moving forward.

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One of the priests that I follow on social media has a saying, “No Bible, no breakfast.  No Bible, no bed.”  I always liked that, but never felt how much of an impact it would have until now.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

This Post is Fallen

October 11, 2017 v4 p44

As I get more into learning about my faith I am really beginning to understand just how much I didn’t know.  The more my faith grows, the more I wish I had been able to learn this earlier in life.

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I am what is known as a “Cradle Catholic.”  I was Baptized shortly after my birth, I’m trying to find the exact date so I can make it a more prominent date in my life.  I was always brought to church on Sunday, and during the school year attended Sunday School, what is more commonly called Faith Formation in today’s church.  I wasn’t ever really given a good reason as to why I was Catholic.  I was never really told what it meant to be Catholic.  I always just knew that I was Catholic.

Graduating from high school and moving off to school meant that I was more in control of my own schedule.  It meant that if I was not home for the weekend I could sleep as late as I wanted and not have to attend Mass.  It meant that if I went home once a month or so I could justify that as being enough church.  I still went to Christmas and Easter services, but I was never more than a “Creaster” or a “Church CEO.”  That meant that I only really attended Mass on Christmas and Easter only.  I used to believe that these were the most heavily attended services throughout the year because I there were often a lot of visitors from out of town.  In reality it was because of all of the “Creasters.”

When my wife and I became engaged and made the decision that we wanted to be married in the church we knew we would have to go through some kind of marriage preparations through the Church.  We fulfilled our obligation, but I think barely enough so the Priest would sign off on our classes.  We discussed this the other night, about how much differently we should have handled those prep classes.  Our wedding was a Catholic wedding, but now we’re both kind of wishing we had held a full Catholic Mass wedding, instead of just the portion that would be enough.  We fully believe that we have created a Covenant with God, and I’m the story of our marriage supports that.

Part of the problem with my faith in my younger years is that I didn’t really fully understand why my parents told me I had to go to all of the church functions.  I was only told that I had to go.  That caused me to check out when I attended events.  Usually when you tell a kid that have to do something and you can’t give any better reason than that, they won’t try to find a reason.  They’ll just go through the motions.  They’ll end up looking forward to being away from home and being able to set their own schedule for Sunday mornings.  They’ll become “Creasters.”

One of the things I noticed right away when I returned to my faith was the demographics.  I looked around during Mass, at Parrish functions, and within the different groups from my church and I saw something kind of disturbing.  I saw a lot of older couples.  I saw a lot of younger people.  I saw a pretty active group of middle school and high school kids.  What I didn’t see was a very present or active group of couples, parents, or adults close in the same age as me and my wife.  As we’ve attended more events and services over the past few years I’ve begun to see more people who fit that demographic, but there is probably the smallest demographic representation of my age group or generation.

I knew there was a pretty large number of people who left the church more or less the same time I did.  Some for other reasons such as scandal, change in beliefs, or another unknown reasons that were different than mine.  I had reconnected on social media with a lot of the people I went through my faith formation with as a teenager.  I noticed that a lot of them were attending Christian Churches of other denominations besides The Catholic Church, or they weren’t attending church at all, as far as I could tell.  It never really dawned on me until after I made my own return that this had happened.  I found it refreshing that they were still active in faith.  At the same time though it made me wonder what had made them stray away from their Catholic upbringing.  Had they left The Church because of those scandals?  Had they moved to a different denomination because of a spouse?  It was rather interesting to me.  Now the more I learn about my own faith, it interests me even more.

There are some pretty significant people in my life that are Catholic as well.  One has always attended Mass with his wife and family through his entire adult life.  I’ve shared some of the resources I’ve begun using to grow my faith and I he has thanked me and told me it’s made a difference in his faith.  My brother was raised a “Cradle Catholic” as well, but strayed away for the most of the same reasons I did.  I can see in his life where he could benefit from some of the same resources I use.  The hard time there is I’m the little brother, so I have a difficult time telling myself that he would be willing to listen.  A third person that fits this description is my niece.  She was received fully into The Church later in her life after he parents had been through a pretty messy divorce.  Shortly after her Confirmation the continuation of her faith was kind of put on hold.  I’ve found out that she is attending church, but I’m not sure which denomination that is, or how often she’s attending.

I feel a calling to reach these types of people.  Having received grace after living in sin and returning I can testify to the fact that it is not only possible, but that there is no greater experience someone can have than returning home to The Father.  What really interests me is to find out why these people left in the first place.  I would like to hear from these people.  Whether they went through faith formation with me.  Whether they have been attending their whole lives and feel like they could be getting more.  I’d like to hear your story.  I’d like to share more of mine with you.  It’s been a great adventure.

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I don’t claim to all of the answers.  What I do have is a lot of resources I’ve found on my journey, and the will to listen.

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.