This Post is a Do-Over

February 19, 2018 v5 p6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This Post is Slippery

January 24, 2018 v5 p3

There has been a lot of tragic and disturbing items in the news lately.  While those are difficult to deal with sometimes, the reaction to them may be even more tragic and disturbing.

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In November of 2011 a Grand Jury indictment was brought down on former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.  In August of 2016 The Indianapolis Star released a report into allegations of sexual complaints, which lead to the recent news of Dr. Larry Nassar abusing over 150 girls.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave without internet (if you are, how are you reading this?) then you’re most likely familiar with these stories.  I really don’t want to go into the details of what both of these horrible men did.  All that would do is bring more attention to the sick men who perpetrated these crimes.  That isn’t what I want to focus on with this post.  In order to help illustrate what the point I’m trying to make I need to mention these stories.  What led these men to do such horrible acts?  I don’t know.  I don’t want to try and speculate about it either.

The top goal I have set for myself this year is to strengthen my relationship with God.  I have come to realize that by doing that I will be able to take all of the lessons I’ve learned in my past to be a success in everything that I do.  In Philippians 4:13 we are reminded “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”  This has never become more evident to me than it has in past couple of weeks.  I’ve been praying for His guidance for some time now and I wasn’t really sure that I was hearing what he had to say.  When I realized that I wasn’t doing what Priest I gave my last confession to told me to do, I decided I should at least start there.  After I started the first thing I was told to do it made me realize that it was God who told me what to do through the Priest.  I knew this was how confession worked, but for whatever reason I wasn’t putting it into practice.  Immediately my prayers began to come to life again, they had gotten stale for a couple of weeks.  I didn’t change anything about them, but they certainly changed.  So I continued to do more of what I was told during confession, and more has been revealed to me.

I have always had a problem doing what I knew I should be.  Not really in a sense of my faith, because if you’ve been here for a while you know that really wasn’t a part of my life for a long time.  I would always procrastinate on doing things I knew I should.  I would push timelines to the very last minute, and then stress myself out as I was forced to finally sit down and take care of what needed to be done.  Once everything was completed on time and in a glowing manner I would always look back and say to myself that I just need to pressure of the deadline to do my best work.  That was never true.  I never did anything any different in those last minute rushes than I would have if had started a project weeks in advance.  I was always more interested in what I wanted to do rather than doing what I had committed to.  It’s also not like I didn’t want to commit to these tasks when I made the commitment, but as time went on I would always find something else instead, and it wasn’t always something productive or better.  A lot of the time I wasted was spent on the couch on weekends napping.  I can excuse away those naps in a 1000 different ways, but they were never better than working on what I committed to.

My wife gave me a book this past Christmas which is proving to be one of the best I’ve ever read.  It’s really been eye opening to how I’ve been living my life up until now.  I thought I established a pretty deep relationship with Jesus over the past three years since I returned to my faith, but in reality I’m just scratching the surface.  The section I’ve been reading through over the last few days is all about idolatry.  When most people hear that word they think about the worship of idols.  Idols come in many forms, and for the most part they aren’t small statues that you put on a pedestal and burn a candle in front of.  Anything you put in front of your love of Him becomes and idol.  When you choose to spend money on stuff instead of donating it to a charity, you’re making the money and idol.  I don’t mean you have to give all of your excess money to charity, but if you have some it’s, His preference that you give some.  It’s things like this that are leading us down a slippery slope.

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So you’re probably trying to figure out how this ties to the two sexual assault cases I mentioned at the beginning.  These are both pretty extreme examples, but this is where the slippery slope leads to.  The more you worship your idols, the more you take yourself away from Him.  Those idols then begin to take control of your life.  When idols begin to take over your life you no longer have the free-will that He has given you. In 2 Peter 2:19 we are told, “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”  You become a slave to that idol and begin to make more decisions the appease that addiction.  Eventually you begin to tell yourself that what you are doing is right.  It then becomes easier for you to add in more or different idols to your life.  If we don’t start changing our ways then there can only be one result, and it won’t be pretty.  If you look back through history to other examples of when people have allowed these idols to take control it never ends well for those people.  If you’d like a biblical reference, just refer to the story of King Saul.  He was told to completely destroy the Amalekites, leaving nothing behind.  Instead he kept the best of the cattle, sheep, and lambs.  He took Amalekite King, Agag, hostage.  He did all of this so he could give his soldiers the best animals for sacrifice, making them remember what Saul did for them instead of God, making himself and idol.  Because of this disobedience Samuel was instructed to annoint a new king.

I have really focused on removing the idols from my life that have lead me down that slippery slope in the past.  I’ve gotten a pretty good foothold, and am ready for the long treck back to the top.

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.

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.