This Post is Addicting

August 2, 2017 v4 p30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Won’t You Join Me?

July 27, 2017 v4 p29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 241st Birthday!

July 4, 2017 v4 p26

Today we celebrate the Fourth of July, the 241st anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.  If the Founding Fathers were to look at our country today, would it be what they envisioned?

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The First Amendment to the Constitution outlines some of the most basic freedoms that our country ensures.  Those include the freedom to establish and practice religion, the freedom of speech and the press, and the freedom to peaceably assemble and petition the Government to change laws that they don’t agree with.  The Declaration of Independence states that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Both of these documents are the framework that our country was founded on.  Over the course of nearly 250 years, they have stood the test of time.  It is what holds our country together, and it could also be what ends up being the downfall of our great country.

There is still a big push for the separation of church and state.  There should never be laws enacted that prevent any person from worshiping in whatever manner they see fit.  There should never be laws enacted that force people to believe or worship things they don’t believe.  But is there a need to remove God, or faith, from the way we govern our lives?  Over time there have been many forms of government that have tried to force their ideology on its citizens.  Following World War II the Russian empire set up Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe.  Many of those governments tried to force the Russian Orthodox religion on their people.  Most countries didn’t have the ability to fight against their religious oppression.  It was Pope St. John Paull II that led the way in his home country of Poland to fight and ultimately bring down Communism.  He repeatedly fought for his fellow countrymen to be able to worship how they wished.  Despite opposition from Russia he was able to visit his home country and hold numerous events.  These lead to concessions by the Communist government to allow the people of Poland to worship as they did.  That was followed by the eventual downfall of communism in Poland.  That was followed by the rest of Eastern Europe and most of the U.S.S.R. to break apart from Russia and begin to worship freely.

In the Old Testament of The Bible we are told over and over again of stories of tyrants trying to force their beliefs upon people of faith.  The Jews were punished for their sins and exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon.  It was during this exile that their faith was tested repeatedly.  In the Book of Daniel we are told the story of his three friends.  While King Nebuchadnezzar was forcing the Jews to worship him, there were three who refused.  They were sentenced to be burned at the stake for their disobedience.  It was through their faith in God that they were saved and not harmed once the furnace was set ablaze.  The King recognized that it was their God who had saved them because of their faith.  From that point on the Jews were allowed to peacefully worship in their own was without fear of harm or persecution.  This lead to the eventual release of the Jewish people and them being allowed to return to their homeland of Jerusalem.

What does all of this have to do with the United States?  I have seen a disturbing trend happening in our country over the past five years.  In a country that was founded on Christian values, we are living anything but that.  In Galatians 3:28 we are taught “So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free men, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”  This does not mean that we should persecute others for believing differently that we do.  This does not mean we should force our beliefs on others.  In John 13:34 we are taught “And now I give you a new commandment: love one another.  As I have love you, so you must love one another.”  That’s pretty plain and simple.  Jesus wasn’t speaking in parables when he said this.  He not only told us that this is how we should treat each other, but he lived it as well.  It’s something we have all gotten away from lately, even though this same basic principle is taught in every religion, and applies to those who don’t believe in faith.

There needs to be a shift in the mindset of most humans.  It is rare today to find someone who is willing to step out of line and address this issue.  We’ve become a society of people who are immune to what is happening around us.  We’ve taken an attitude of not wanting to get involved in anything if there isn’t any benefit to ourselves.  That isn’t what Jesus taught us to do.  He taught us to take the time to help others.  He taught us to go out of our way to help others.  He taught us that the way to Him is through our love for one-another.  We need to focus on more of that.

If we truly are a State that separates government and faith, then why is God so rooted in our government?  The Pledge of Allegiance states that we are “One Nation under God.”  One of the most popular patriotic songs about our country is “God Bless America.”  On our money is printed the phrase “In God We Trust.”  Every once and a while I will see posts on social media referring to the removal of the “under God” portion of the Pledge of Allegiance.  I see that this is an issue from time to time.  What I don’t see is protests or bills being introduced in State or Federal Government to make that happen.  If this is such a big issue of keeping God out of our government, then why isn’t it happening?  And if this isn’t such a big issue, then why aren’t those who wish to keep God, or faith, in our government doing more to make sure it stays?

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While you’re grilling with friends and family, enjoying a few adult beverages, and watching fireworks this weekend, ask yourself if we’re still what our founding fathers envisioned 241 years ago.

I’d like to finish with this prayer:

Father, how wonderful it is to enjoy the privelages available to those who live in a free country.  We give thanks for those who enlisted and served in our military, fighting for and maintaining our independence.  And how glorious it is to enjoy freedom from sin, thanks to the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus, on our behalf.  Our lives, once enslaved to sin, now enjoy the freedom from that which once held us captive to Satan’s bondage.  We live in victory because You have set us free and we are now free indeed.  Thank You, Father, for delivering us from the domain of darkness and transferring us into the kingdom of Your Son in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins!


What I Belive – Part 5

April 27 2017 v4 p17

The more I study my faith, the more I become aware that I am heading in the right path.  I’m learning that I really believe a lot differently than I used to.  Here’s a start to what I’m talking about.

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Just in case you haven’t been following along, I would like to start by reminding you that I am a Catholic Christian.  I was born and raised Catholic, and no, I wasn’t brainwashed by my parents or the church into those beliefs.  I did question our faith growing up, more about why we were Catholic and not some other sect of Christianity.  The answer my parents gave me didn’t cause me to want to change that in any way.  To sum it up, they explained how the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus, and that while the other Protestant sects believed in Christ, they didn’t always agree on things with the Catholic Church.  At that young age I knew that I wanted to follow Jesus in his original church.  Even during my early adult years when I was away from my faith, I always answered the questions about my faith with a firm reply that I was Catholic.  Even though I wasn’t practicing.

Some arguments may be made that not everyone has the same view point as Catholics, so their sect of Christianity is still right.  I certainly can see why someone may have that point of view.  Here’s where we start getting into the meat of this series.  One of the resources I have found to aid me in my faith formation is a priest from Minnesota, Fr. Mike Schmitz.  He is the director of Youth Ministry for the Diocese that Duluth MN is part of.  He is also the priest at the Newman Center on the University of Minnesota at Duluth Campus.  Where I found him is through Ascension Press, a Catholic Media group.  He hosts a weekly pod cast that has short five to ten minute videos that really hit home with me on a wide variety of topics.  And one fun fact about Fr. Mike is that he made it to the final cut of auditions to play the role of “Robin” in the movie “Batman Returns.”  He is one of my major sources for my faith formation over the last couple of years, so I will often reference what I have taken away from his speeches.

When it comes to the difference between Catholicism and Protestantism he uses the analogy of a large boat.  After Christ was resurrected and ascended into heaven there was one Christian Church.  So picture everyone on the same boat, and it sets sail.  Over time some people feel that there are parts of that boat that they don’t like, so they decide to build their own boat.  But, they’re out in the middle of the ocean.  Where are they going to get their materials?  Those must come from the original boat.  So over time, numerous different “boats” have been built out of the original one.  How do I know that Catholicism was the original boat?  If you trace the history of the Pope back to the very first one, it is St. Peter.  In Matthew 16:18 we are told “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”  I’m not sure how much more clear that can be.

Does that mean I feel your point of view is wrong?  No, what it means is that we have different points of view.  Is that ok?  Yes, if we all thought the same way there would be no variety in the world.  Everything would be beige.  And while Jim Harbaugh’s wardrobe would fit in well, but I don’t think too many other people would.  This is where the problem lies with political ideologies such as Communism and others similar to it, but that’s a whole other tangent I would like to stay away from.

The Parrish mission of the church I attend is stated as “We are called as a family to know, love, and serve God.”  Every time I leave the church, whether it’s after a meeting, or service, or I just stopped by to say a quick prayer, I am reminded of that as I leave.  There is a sign on the way out of the parking lot that reminds us that we are entering the mission field.  This church mission is directly in line with the directive of the Catholic Church.  The Vatican mandates that as Catholic Christians we must treat all human life with compassion, dignity, and respect.  This includes all human life.  Whether born or unborn.  Whether Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, etc.  Whether you are a murder, drug user, alcoholic, or a member of the LGBT community.  That’s all human life.

I’m sure most of you have had an encounter with a Catholic person that doesn’t match up with that directive.  It really doesn’t surprise me if you have, and would actually be more surprising to me if you haven’t.  I have had that same type of experience with fellow Catholics and I didn’t really think they were in the right.  That isn’t the Catholic Church that I was raised to know.  In every form of religion though, there are extremists.  Examples would be ISIS, or the Westboro Baptist Church.  Groups that do things to the far extreme of what they feel is right.  By doing that, you are doing exactly the opposite of what Christ was trying to teach.

I can confidently say that I haven’t had an encounter of that type with another Catholic since returning to my faith in January of 2015.  In fact I will be the first to tell anyone who is willing to listen how much of that compassion, dignity, and respect I have seen from my fellow Catholics.  I try my best every day to treat everyone with compassion, dignity, and respect.  I say that I try my best because as much as I study the scripture and pray, I’m still a sinner.  I still have faults.  I still fail God every day.  One of the parts of my nightly prayers before bed is to look back to see where I have failed to treat people in those ways.  This is part of an Examen Prayer that was discussed this spring during our Parrish mission speech.  It causes you to look back on yourself on a daily basis, it’s very introspective.  The longer my wife and I have been doing this to end our day, the quicker I have become at identifying when I have that failure and I know that I need to ask for His forgiveness.

I’m not telling this story because I’m trying to convert anyone.  If you’ve read something here that has caused you to want to convert, great!  If you’ve read something here and want to ask me some questions, I’m willing to answer the best I can, or try to point you in a direction to find an answer (I’m still “young” in my faith formation).  If you’re willing to take some time on your own, I would encourage to you go on YouTube and check out Fr. Mike Schmitz.  He has a lot of 5-9 minutes podcasts, but if you search far enough you’ll find a lot of speeches he has given at various conferences around the country.  Those are the ones where I find the most value.  They usually range in time from 20 minutes to up to a couple of hours.

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There is a huge misconception about the Catholic Church in our country.  All that I ask is that you give me the same courtesy as a Catholic that I give everyone else regardless of who they are or what they believe.

What I Believe – Part 4

April 20, 2017 v4 p16

As I returned to my faith I knew I had to do more than just show up, I had to understand what all of it meant to me.  It didn’t take long to figure out which sect I belonged to, and what I needed to study.

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There were a few instances after my wife and I returned to our faith that really showed me that I was heading in the right direction.  There was the obvious one when we first went to Mass.  There were some other times when the Gospel readings and the Homily delivered by the priest felt almost as if he had written them specifically aimed to me.  There was the instant connection my wife and I had with the priest.  The more we got to know him on a personal level, the more we knew that this man wasn’t the same type of priest we had grown up around.  I could tell at an early time that I needed to serve the church more, but I didn’t know how.  Shortly after I began praying for guidance on how that I was supposed to serve it was revealed.

I was approached by one of the other gentlemen from our church at a breakfast one weekend between the early and late Sunday Mass.  He explained to me a little bit about the Knights of Columbus and joining them was something that had immediately came to mind when I returned to church.  However, I knew that before I could join I needed to make thing right between myself and the Lord.  It had been nearly 23 years since I had been to confession, something that is required of Catholics to do on a yearly basis.  My wife and I found the time to go and we began to make atonement for the sins of our early adulthood.  After that first confession I almost immediately knew that I had received His grace and mercy.  There is not greater feeling than when that happens.  I love my wife deeply, but the love I feel for and receive from God is like no other.  I can’t describe it, but I know when He shows it.

Shortly after joining the Knights I discovered that one of the things Catholics are called to do is evangelize.  Again, this not like what the corrupt mega-church pastors (not all mega-church pastors) do.  My first thought was to start attempting that through my blog.  There were two things that held me back.  First, I didn’t have a great knowledge of what I believed, I just knew that what I was doing felt right so I kept doing it.  Second, I was afraid that writing about that subject could cause problems.  I might lose some friends, I might get dragged in to some conversations with people and end up chasing rabbits down a hole (I’ve written about it before).  So I decided that if I was truly going to do that I needed to know what I was writing about.

During the Advent season, then again during Lent and the time following Lent our church provided some small books.  These were short, daily readings that tied into that day’s scripture and a little bit of guidance.  During the reading of those books the first season I began to follow more Catholic groups on social media.  This is where I really began to see what direction my faith formation needed to take.  Once I completed those short books, they were about 45 pages each, I began to read a book that our Parrish had provided to the entire congregation.  This was about another Catholic gentleman’s journey through his faith.  While his was much stronger through his entire life, I found many similarities in my own life, things were really starting to come together.  It was after I finished that when my faith formation really took a precedent over everything else in my life.

At the end of each daily reading the pages close with, “Spend some quiet time with the Lord!”  It was at that point when I first started to kneel and pray on a daily basis.  I had never done this type of thing before so I didn’t know if I was doing it right.  I started off praying for guidance and blessing for my family.  I would then finish with the opening pray sequence to The Rosary.  As time has gone on that has become a daily activity.  I still pray for those same things, as I have seen how my prayers have been effective.  There are things that I add for certain time frames, such as when the Knights of Columbus call for a Novena.  There are other things that I have added that will always be in my prayers.  I still finish with the same opening sequence of The Rosary.

About a week after I had finished that book and had started back to reading my professional development books I started to notice a change in my life.  My attitude had been different, my focus was off, it felt like something was missing, or had gone away.  I began to look inward and discovered that the only thing that had changed over that short time was that I wasn’t getting the daily reading that I had been.  What a huge difference it had been, in a really short time.  That’s when I knew that I needed to get back to reading the scripture more.  So in early June of 2016 I picked up my bible and started at Genesis 1:1.  When I read for professional development I read 10 pages every day, no matter what I’m reading, so I figured that would be a good place to start.  Well, I don’t know how many bibles you’ve ever looked at, but the print is pretty small in most of them, and 10 pages is probably closer to the equivalent of 15 pages in a normal book.  None-the-less, I made it my new morning ritual.

This put a damper on my professional development reading.  I didn’t want to rob myself of anymore sleep than I already was, so I put that to the side.  What I ended up doing was finding a few evenings here and there when I could get that professional development reading in.  It slowed down my pace, but I knew in the long run that it was what I needed to do.  There are some pretty tough spots in the Old Testament to read.  In the book of Joshua it speaks a lot of how the Holy Land was to be divided.  There are portions of it where it almost reads like a real-estate manual, describing by landmarks where certain tribes were to make their stake in the land.  I could feel myself getting a little discouraged.  At some point during this time frame I began following a social media page that would post the daily Gospel reading.  So after a tough reading of the Old Testament one day I decided to look up the Gospel reading again.  What Google gave me was another avenue for my faith formation.  The first page in my search was for the daily Mass readings as specified by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.  Here was a new part of my daily reading.

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It took me about six months to finish the entire Bible, and it had changed me.  It had changed what I knew, and explained why I believe in the Catholic Church.  This has been a long route to get to it, but my next post is where I will begin to “unpack” some of that.

An Open Letter to my Son Zach

April 14, 2017 v4 p15

This year I will be attending The Easter Vigil service for the second time in my life.  This year I will attend to see my son be received fully into the Catholic Church through Baptism, Confirmation and Communion.\

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Denise Baughman

My wife and I really don’t like to do things the conventional way.  That was never done by design, but it’s been the way things have always gone for us.  One of the things we didn’t do was have our children Baptized as infants.  During the time that both of them were born we weren’t involved with our Faith.  This is something that has always been in the back of my mind since we decided to make that return.  We allowed our oldest son to make his own choice.  At this age I’d rather he not get forced into something that may turn him away from it entirely, or for a much longer period of time.  Our youngest son was very inquisitive about our faith and actually requested that he be Baptized.  This is one of the differences between the two boys.

I would like to take a few moments to offer some words to my son Zachary as he enters the next phase of his Faith journey.  The first thing I’d like to do is apologize.  I’d like to apologize for not bringing you into this journey earlier in your life.  I never understood what it really meant to go through this journey until I started it myself.  I wish that I had a chance to go back and engage my faith at a younger age, like 11.  That makes me jealous of you.  To see that you have that much of a head start in your journey than I did starting at age 39.

Another thing I’d like to mention is how much I and everyone else can see His spirit in you.  Every day I see something in your actions or words that show me that He is with you.  I’ve seen this before in you, but never really fully understood.  For me to see this is great.  For me to have so many others come to me and your mother and tells us that they see it too, is beyond what words can describe.

The third thing that I’d like to mention is that I hope that all continues.  I hope that as you fully engage in the Church, you begin to see what it is that I see.  I have no doubt that you have the strength to do what you already know that you need to do.  Whatever path you choose, I will support.  But I truly believe that He will do great things through you.

Lastly I’d like you to know that I pray for you daily.  I will continue to pray for you until I can no longer pray.  To see you fulfill my prayers is the greatest thing I can receive as your father.  I am very proud of you and wish to help you along on your faith journey.

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Our Lady of Sorrows Church

Your mother and I love you Zach!  We are always here to guide you and help you in any way possible.  Never be afraid to ask.

What I Believe – Part 3

April 6, 2017 v4 p14

As I learn more about my faith I feel more compelled to pass it on, or to evangelize.  Don’t think of Jimmy Swaggart or Tammy Faye Baker when you read the word evangelize either.

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My last post left off with me leaving my job that was causing a lot of stress and taking too much time away from my family.  After I took a few days to rest and relax it was time to start job hunting.  After a few interviews for jobs I thought would be a good fit I ended up taking a job as a fork lift operator at a recycling warehouse to make ends meet until I could find something more permanent.  Although it was nice to show up at the start up my shift, put in eight hours, and then punch out on time to go home I knew that job wasn’t a permanent solution.  One morning while I was waiting in my car before my shift I came across a post from an old high school friend that the company he worked for was hiring for shipping and receiving.  I immediately reached out to him for details.  That turned out to be the first time I had used social media to make a connection for anything other than personal matters.  The further I went through the hiring process, the more I knew I needed to land this job.  I could tell this was a place I could retire from.  When I did a half day “ride-along” I was able to tell my friend that this was 95% exactly what I was looking for, the other 5% was the lack of air conditioning in the warehouse (minor details).

One of the big things the company I work for focuses on is personal and professional development of their employees.  Having been promoted to leadership positions in almost every job I’ve held, this one didn’t feel any different.  In fact, my manager was integral in pushing me to put that down as one of my goals.  So I started doing what was needed to work towards that.  One of the things I did was find some professional development/leadership bloggers that I could follow and receive tips from.  There have been numerous people who have filled that role for me over the years, but three of them have become a mainstay, Jon Acuff, Michael Hyatt, and Darren Hardy.  A common theme that all of them speak about is faith.  Not necessarily in a religious sense, but that isn’t excluded either.  I was beginning to take all of what I was reading or watching on daily videos and put them all together to figure out what was going to work best for what I wanted to accomplish.  Then one of my monthly one-on-one meetings with my manager he asked if I had ever been involved with a church.  I found it humorous because I had actually been thinking about returning to church on my own.

After a couple of weeks of contemplation I told my wife that I was planning on starting to go to church again.  I told her that she was welcome to join me, and I would prefer it, but due to how things had shaken out before I would understand if she decided not to.  We weren’t exactly sure where this path was going to lead us, but we knew it was a path that we must go down.  We decided to start at the church I had grown up attending.  This was closer to our home than the one we had been going to years prior and would offer more flexibility as to what time we want to attend.  A few years prior we had attended a Christmas Eve Mass there because it allowed us to get home and prepare for her extended family to come over for the annual Christmas party.  She really liked the church, and the fact that it was the Children’s Mass helped too.  We had planned to start there, try a couple of other local Catholic Church locations and then if we still hadn’t found a home we would try some of the other denominations around the area.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.

When we went to our first Mass the priest was also new to this Parrish.  I’m pretty sure I’ve told this story before, but it’s worth repeating.  When they announced his name my wife and I both looked at each other and were a little apprehensive.  This was another priest of Vietnamese decent, and the heavy accent of the other one is what started to turn us off the last time around.  Fr. Loc, however, was not difficult to understand at all.  There was still an accent, but it wasn’t so heavy that you couldn’t understand him.  The Scripture readings and his Homily both spoke directly to us.  The theme of everything at that service was being ready to listen when God is ready to speak to you.  We both knew that our journey was over.

Never before in my life had I felt the kind of connection with my faith as I did that day.  It really has been truly life changing for me.  In connection to my professional development habits I knew right away that I had to continue to study my Catholic faith.  This was now part of my life, and in fact, it has probably become the main focus of my life.  I knew I needed to learn more so I could fully understand what it was that I believed.  It may be difficult to understand for someone who never has had faith before, or hasn’t had the kind of connection I did.  And to have my wife get the exact same connection as I did really just validated what I believed.  The more I spoke with people that I already knew at this Parrish and as I met more people I could see that they had made the same connection that I had at some point.  This connection really started to show itself more in my everyday life.

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I’ve written about most of this story in one form or another in the past.  My next post is where I plan to start digging in to what it is that I believe.