This Post is Inviting

October 17, 2017 v4 p46

There are some times when the weekly readings at Mass don’t have as big of an impact on me as others.  The readings from this past Sunday was not one of those times.

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When Jesus was with us on earth he did a lot of teaching.  He taught his disciples.  He taught the poor.  He taught the sick.  He taught the sinners.  He didn’t pick and choose who he taught, because He loves everyone equally.  What He did do was teach everyone in different ways.  When the disciples were taught it was in a straight forward manner.  This was because they believed.  This was because they followed.  They did this without question.  When He did most of his teaching it was through parables.  In Matthew 13:13 Jesus explains using parables because, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”  This week’s Gospel reading discusses the parable of the wedding banquet.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this parable here’s a quick recap.  The King had prepared a wedding banquet for his son.  He invited many guests and they didn’t arrive.  After a second invitation and refusal the King had them killed.  He then sent His servants out to invite all that they encountered.  Many attended but when the King came to one attendee who was not dressed in his wedding attire, he had him bound and expelled into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  There are more details in the story, but for sake of drawing this post out too long, there is the “Cliff’s Notes” version.  I’ve heard this parable taught a few times before, but it wasn’t until this past week that it showed itself in a different context to me.

There is a lot of tension in our country as of late.  It’s causing a lot of violence and hate towards each other.  People who were once good friends are finding that they can no long put aside their differences.  Family members are alienating themselves from each other and tearing each other down and apart.  If I were to look at the United States from the outside I would almost think that we were in a civil war, it has escalated to that point.  It really pains me to see the way some people treat each other.  It really pains me to see how people are so centered on themselves and what they want.  It is difficult for me to understand how a person could be like that.  I really can’t fathom it.

What I really have the hardest time dealing with is how everyone seems to think that their way is the right way.  That belief is usually followed by the thought that if your opinion is different than theirs then you must be the enemy and they must hate you.  Both sides of the political spectrum are guilty of this.  It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you sit on, I’ve seen both do it.  I don’t claim to be innocent of this myself.  There were times, as recently as three years ago, where I wasn’t always able to see things from a different perspective than my own.  The more time I’ve spent in prayer and studying my faith, the clearer it has become to me how much of a sinner I was and still am.  What I have done is made a conscious effort to change.  I still catch myself trending towards that type of behavior, but I can now recognize it better and stop myself.

So how does that parable tie into all of this?  The king in the story is God.  He invites all of us to feast at the wedding banquet of his son Jesus.  This is an invitation to enter His kingdom, Heaven.  If we don’t except that invitation, well, you read my synopsis.  But what about those of us who decide to attend the banquet?  Should we just show up however we would like?  When you are invited to a wedding do you just show up?  No, you dress appropriately for the occasion.  So if we “just show up” to the Father’s banquet for his Son, are we really giving our best?  There needs to be more.

If you go to church on Sunday but don’t live the life you are called to live the other six days of the week then you are one of those who “just show up.”  I’m thankful that when God sent his only son, Jesus didn’t “just show up.”  He showed us how to better love Him, and how to love one another.  So many times we forget that in order to live to what the fullest of what He wants we need to remember how we were taught.  In Matthew 22:37-39 we are taught “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  So many do the opposite, they love themselves before God and they don’t even think to love one another.  It’s leading our country and the human race down a very steep, and slippery slope.

We are all invited to this great banquet.  It’s up to you decide which role in this parable you’re going to play.  Are you going to be someone who ignores the invitation no matter how many times is comes, someone who “just shows up” or one of the guests who enjoys the great offerings at the banquet?  One of the greatest things God has done for us was to give us free will.  You are free to choose which of those roles you wish to play.  Because of that freedom though, you must also be willing to accept the consequences that come with the role you choose to play.  I know which role I’m going to choose to play.

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I don’t claim to be without flaws, but I’m working on correcting them and trying to better show love to God and others.  I’m doing my best not to lose my invitation, and I hope more people join me at this banquet.

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This Post is 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 Third

October 4, 2017 v4 p42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Post is Forgiving

September 19, 2017 v4 p37

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Post is Clear

September 13, 2017 v4 p35

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Post is Wobbly

August 15, 2017 v4 p31

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”