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.

discernment

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.

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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.

This Post is Praying

November 8, 2017 v4 p52

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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 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.”