best self

Four

06-annoying-chores-mow-lawn

A couple of days ago I was outside doing chores. My daughter Claire was out back playing on her playground and running back and forth entertaining her self. At the end of the day before bedtime Claire asked, “I want someone to play with me.” Regardless of how long we play with her, Claire will always want more play time. After Claire went to bed my wife and I reflected on the day and I couldn’t help but hear Claire’s words: “I want someone to play with me.”

Claire turned four a few days ago and it has caused me to pause and reflect on these last four years. What does my daughter see within these four years? Does she see a dad whose engaged, present, kind, forgiving, gentle, calm? I’m not quite sure. I’m those things described above: hopefully most of the time. Still the words, “I want someone to play with me.” echo in my mind and heart. Do I play enough with my daughter? Have I spent the quality time that Claire needs? Am I busy doing things for our life while Claire entertains herself?

Lots of questions now that she is four.

Claire will have a little sister soon. Cecilia. Will Cecilia ask the same question? Will I look back when she is four and wonder; did I play enough with her?

Maybe it’s the realization that my baby isn’t a baby but a little girl. Maybe those thoughts, emotions, etc. are getting the best of me. Maybe I’m doing as best as most dads. Maybe the statement, “I want someone to play with me” is a challenge. Something God is letting rattle in my head. Maybe I need to be pushed to become more, to do less, and play.

Lots of questions now that she is four.

 

Categories: being too busy, best self, dad and the kids, dads, fatherhood, fathers, Parenting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Stuff

moving-boxes

My family and I are moving to a new house in the next week. Needless to say we are in full-blown packing mode. We have only lived in our current house for a little over 3 years and it is amazing how much stuff we have accumulated. You would think that two adults and a 3 year old wouldn’t have so much, but man…there is a lot of stuff here!

What is crazy to me is how often in this packing process I have found things that we should have gotten rid of a long time ago. Clothes, food, toys, random things that I cannot even remember buying, etc. Some things I just shake my head at and wonder why we ever thought it was necessary in the first place.

A few months back there was a smell coming out of one of our lower kitchen cabinets. My wife thought it was the smell of the fish I had cooked the night before that had embedded itself into the cabinet. I figured, like most food smells, it would go away or be overcome by the next thing we cooked. The smell remained. Neither my wife nor I really paid too much attention to it. One day (sadly to say, this was about three weeks ago) I reached deep into the cabinet to get the food processor and amongst the movement of stuff I released a foul smell. I was immediately repelled back by the stank that came out. I recovered myself, took a deep breath and went in to investigate. I pulled the food processor out, some pans, and pots and finally there it was: a really old, really decomposed red onion. Thankfully it was in a bag and I was able to pick it up and throw it outside.

We threw the onion out and right away we could smell the difference in the kitchen. My wife and I laughed about the whole thing, but it got me thinking about how often the same type of thing happens inside of us. We can accumulate so much stuff inside our mind, heart and soul. Things we should’ve let go a long time ago. Regret, doubt, failures, what someone said, what someone didn’t say…the list goes on. Sometimes we don’t even realize that this stuff is affecting us.

Kind of like a decomposing red onion.

At some point I bought that onion and placed it in that cabinet. For some crazy reason I forgot about it but it affected me—it affected the whole household. As a man I recognize the desire to push things that are bothering me away. The “get over it” mind set may lead this, or maybe I convince myself that it really isn’t that big of a deal. The reality is that the serious stuff, the things that bother us do need to be dealt with or else they rot inside and whom are we kidding—it affects everyone we encounter: especially our family.

There is a lot of stuff—red onions—that I have stored up over the years deep inside the “kitchen cabinet of my being”. Some are based on old situations with my dad. Some are insecurities that are common to many men. Some are silly, but for whatever reason have a hold of me. As I continue to find random things in my house that we don’t need to carry on with us I am challenged to reflect on what I need to let go of so that I am not carrying it within me anymore.

Who knew moving to a new house would be such an existential exercise.

Categories: being a man, best self, cleansing, fatherhood, getting rid of junk, home and family, letting go of the past, moving, packing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Call to Battle – Be a Man

So something weird happened when I tried sharing this last week. Somehow I had a different video show than the one below. Anyways, hope you enjoy this video. It is awesome and all men should watch it.

Categories: being a man, best self, Catholic, fatherhood, fathers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Advent: 4 Ways to Become a Better Man & Father this Season.

advent-candles-wreath-photo-3

Happy New Year!

In the Church, Advent commences the Christian New Year. Advent is the season that most retailers miss between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Advent is a preparation in anticipation for the coming of Jesus. Most people focus on Jesus coming during Christmas, but there are two other “comings” of Christ that occur. The Second Coming refers to Jesus final coming in time where He will take His peeps to Heaven and the rest well…you know. The third coming, which technically should be called the second coming since it happens between His birth (first coming) and the final coming at the end of time (second coming) is what I call a daily coming. This is the daily decision to let Jesus come into our hearts and literally reign over all we do.

For many people Advent is completely off the radar and gets surpassed by shopping, planning family gatherings, etc. I want to challenge all men (and women too. I know you read this, but I’m focusing on dads primarily) to use this season of Advent as a way to help you become a better man and father. So here are four ways to let the season of Advent transform you.

  1. Daily Invitation: Does Jesus have a place in your daily life? Is He a Christmas and Easter thought only? If so why? There are many reasons why this could have happened. The question is do you want it to stay this way? If the answer is ‘no’ then challenge yourself to doing some daily reading this Advent. Go online, to a bookstore, etc. and find an Advent Companion. Here are a few: Magnificat, LivingFaith. Maybe you are one of those dudes that don’t like to read, so here is an option for you: redeemedonline.com. This website gives you a 2 minute daily video on Advent that you can reflect on.
  2. You are going to die: Eventually we all do. Advent has us reflect on the reality that Jesus’ Second Coming is going to happen and how we lived will have a huge impact on what happens after you die. The point here isn’t so much to focus on death, but to help you reflect on how you are living so that you are on the right side of this Second Coming. If you dropped dead right now where would you go? Something worth thinking about.
  3. Serve your family: This may seem like a no brainer and something you already do. The question is how can you do this better? Most men are really good at serving their families by working and providing for their material needs. What about other needs like quality time with your spouse or kids? When was the last time you had a good conversation with your son or daughter? When was the last time you did something for your wife so that she could have a few hours of free time? I don’t know about you guys, but I find myself constantly trying to get things my way and this is not ok. Being a man means being able to sacrifice and serve—it is at the core of who we are.
  4. Your family’s overall health: How is your family doing in the following areas: physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually?
    1. Are you all overweight and not eating well? Do you have some way to be physically active? If not, walk around your block once a week as a family, or go to a park and walk together.
    2. Can your family members communicate emotions, feelings, thoughts in a healthy loving, yet challenging environment? Having a dinner or after dinner discussion once a week on how everyone is doing is a great way to check in.
    3. What is your family’s prayer life like? Is it just grace before meals? Besides the fact that Church on Sundays should be a priority what are you as a father doing to lead this effort? How about taking that Advent companion and doing the reading and reflection during dinner and have everyone go around and share their thoughts.
    4. How are you challenging your family intellectually? Do you read articles, books, etc. on things that help them flex those brain muscles? Why not once a week present some discussions on a topic that will make your kids think beyond what they are accustomed to? It could be political, moral, ethical, etc. The key is getting them to think and grow in their intellectual capacity.

I know that these four things may seem like a lot, but the whole point of having a time to reflect and push ourselves is so that we can live better lives. Advent is here and will be gone in the blink of an eye; will you be a better man and father after the fact? Will you have helped your family be better after the fact? Maybe all four of these are too much for some of ya’ll. That’s fine. Do two. Do one, but definitely do something.

Categories: Advent, being a man, best self, Catholic, christianity, christmas, fatherhood, fully alive, God, home and family, Jesus, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

3 Seconds

awareness-3-seconds-300x300
A few days ago I was playing with Claire in the living room. As  usual our dog, Rocky wants in on the action so he forces his huge head in between Claire and I in order to “play”. I usually shoo Rocky away but he is persistent and my patience fades quickly. Finally after several times of shooing Rocky away I whacked him upside the head with a book Claire and I were reading. It was a quick reaction. Whack the dog, and we are back to reading.

The whole thing took 3 seconds.

Claire saw me whack Rocky. Then, she turned and looked at me and began to whack the dog with her book. Rocky ran away and Claire chased him, laughing the entire time as she whacked him upside the head. For the next half hour I am trying to keep Claire from whacking the dog with her book, shoe and anything else she gets her hands on. I distract her, avert her attention and even try to bribe her with food and juice. Finally, Claire is able to focus on other things and leaves the dog alone. Rocky stayed downstairs the rest of that day.

You always hear people say that children are like sponges and suck up all they see and hear. I believe it and am aware of it, so I try do whatever I can to be a good example. Clearly I failed in this instance. After this incident I began to reflect on all the other things that I do that are just “reactions”. Some of my reactions are great, and others not so much. It is difficult to try and change these reactions, because they are just that—reactions. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing them.

One thing that I discovered in all of this is that my daughter is watching and hearing all that I do. What she sees and hears isn’t filtered as a reaction that I can’t help, or as a calculated response I meant to do. Claire simply sees and hears it all. Claire sees my great moments and the moments I chose to settle; when I pray or chose not to pray; she watches when I treat her mother with respect or snap at her; when I talk well about others or criticize; when I eat well or stuff my face with junk. Claire sees, hears and she responds by doing as I do. All it takes is one example, one action or reaction and it is processed and imitated. 3 seconds and I either have a great new habit established or I’m spending half an hour telling her that she shouldn’t do that.

3 seconds…

Categories: being a good example, best self, children, fatherhood, frustration, reacting, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Metamorphosis

20140618-101304-36784599.jpg
I am changing.

I am not the same person I use to be.

There is a change. It is gradual, but noticeable.

When my wife and I first got married sometimes we would have different days off. My normal response was to rent a new video game and play it for an ungodly amount of time, or watch movies, or binge on TV shows. It was ok. I enjoy video games, movies and TV shows.

Every now and then I get a day where my wife and daughter will be away from the house. Sometimes I spend time watching TV or a movie, but most of the time I am thinking about things like house projects: staining the fence, painting the rooms I never got around to, dry walling the basement we had to gut, etc. More often than not it’s smaller things like taking the trash out or going grocery shopping or cleaning the house.

A few weeks ago I notice that I had a four hour window of time to myself and my immediate reaction was to do something for my family. It was strange in a sense. I think most of the time in a situation like this I would want to do my own thing, relax and let it be a easy day. Yet, there is stuff that needs to get done for our family. I recognize that my wife and daughter probably would say, “chill out and enjoy those four hours.”

However, there is this change in me that desires to serve.

“People that know about these type of things” say that most modern men don’t really mature now a days until they are in their mid to late twenties. Maybe I am maturing. Maybe this desire to serve is proof that this man has reached full manhood status. My response: about freaking time! I am 32.

In discovering fatherhood I am discovering who I am called to be – a servant. Not someone that aims to please himself, because although it is okay to use four hours for R-and-R I much rather use them to make my wife and daughters life better. I don’t know if I would have said the same thing a year ago or six months ago.

But today there is this change in me. It is gradual, but noticeable.

Categories: best self, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, growing up, husband and wife, Transformation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dust

lent-7-easter1
Today is the beginning of Lent and in the Catholic Church it begins with going to Mass and having ash put on your forehead with the following words said, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.  It is kind of a weird thing to say, but it is a physical symbol of death. We recognize that we were created out of the dust and that we will die and become dust again.

There is nothing like the reality of death to put things into perspective.

Death is that inevitable elephant in the room that no one really wants to talk about. Death is very real and it will come to all of us. If you have ever spoken to someone who is dying they will usually talk about things like family, friends, relationships they had. Rarely does a dying person talk about wanting to get the latest iPhone or regretting not having more stuff. Death pushes away the junk of life and prioritizes it.

Thankfully I am not dying, but I still need to prioritize, reflect on my relationships—the things that are really worth living for. Lent begins with dust—death—but more importantly Lent ends with life, new life. A life that is better than the one we have. At the end of Lent we have Easter, the empty tomb, resurrection—New Life.

Lent is an intense time of prayer, repentance, sacrifice, reflection, denial, surrender to God, acceptance of our weakness, recognition of blessings, etc. At the end of Lent I should have a new focus, a renewed desire for all that is most important: God and family. Not stuff.

My wife and daughter need a husband and father that is being purified of all that is not good. They deserve the very best of me and I can’t give them that if I don’t take stock of where I am and focus on the important things of life. It’s too easy to get distracted and knocked off course. That is why I love having Lent every year to help me refocus.

I think that if every father took these next 40 days to pray, reflect, repent, sacrifice, deny, surrender to God, accept our weakness and recognize all our blessings we would be better men. The men our families deserve, the men God has called us to be. In the end we will all face death…return to the dust. I hope that we can all face death joyfully, with the understanding that it isn’t the end but the beginning of something great, a New Life.

May this Lent transform us all!

Categories: best self, cleansing, dying to self, fatherhood, God, home and family, Parenting, surrendering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Old Days

advice-lazy-guy

There are moments like today where I miss the calm, ordered, predictable life I once had. I had an apartment that was clean. Everything was placed in a particular way that made logical sense. I got up at a certain time. Went to sleep at a certain time. All was calm, ordered and clean.

Life is not like this anymore and there are moments where I miss the old days.

I miss it because it was easy. When you are alone you can set your own pace. Do what you want and have no one disrupt that. It’s nice because it’s predictable, constant and oh, so comfortable.

Life is anything but predictable, constant and comfortable with a family. Everyday has something in it that you were not expecting that frustrates you, changes your plans, leaves a mess, etc. I currently stand in the mist of toy shrapnel in my living room. It looks like Fisher Price sent bombers and toys blew up everywhere. There are socks (none matching) all over the place. Food is smeared on the baby chair and dinning room table. My wife’s school books are sprawled out on the kitchen table, her own socks lie before the grown and there are at least 2 cups of water lying around in precarious places. Dishes peek over the sink and there is a particularly yellow stain on the kitchen counter that I think just winked at me.

Not predictable…not constant…not comfortable and certainly not clean…

Seven years ago I left the Catholic seminary. I was studying to be a Catholic priest; something I had felt a calling in my heart for a long time. After a few years in the seminary I was hooked and thought this was where I belonged. It was predictable, constant and comfortable. I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. Yet, God had other plans. During my second year I began to get a sense from God that this was a pit stop and not my final destination. I was not comfortable with that. I liked seminary and what it was. Needless to say I left the seminary. Not because I didn’t like it, or had a bad experience or any of the sorts. God had made it clear, that for me, this was too easy. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Being a seminarian and eventually becoming a priest is not easy. Priests have very demanding and difficult lives. Ask to shadow your local priest and you’ll see how not easy it is. However for me, and the way I am wired it was going to be too easy.

This may seem confusing to people. Why not do what feels predictable, constant and comfortable? I thought the same thing until I got married. Pope Benedict 16 has a quote that I love, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” In my life that which is comfortable and easy never helps me to grow. Sure, it’s predictable, constant and comfortable—all things I love. However, these things only help me to live a life that is comfortable and not great. Comfort in this sense is not the comfort one looks for in their couch after a long day of work. Comfort here refers to someone seeking to do that, which is less arduous, and doesn’t demand as much. Comfort in this sense is a lack of living to our full potential—half-assing if you will.

You and me are made for greatness, but a lot of the time we settle for comfort. It’s predictable and constant. But to be who we are meant to be requires effort, pain, sweat and tears—none of which are comfortable.

I stand before a room that is messy; a life that is no longer done “my way”; a life that demands that others be first and myself to be last. There are moments like this one where I miss the old days. Yet, I know that this new life is turning me into the man I am called to be. The lack of predictability, constancy and comfort makes me a better man, a better father, a better husband and a better person all around. It’s like going to the gym and working out. If I only lift weight that my body is comfortable with I will never breakdown the muscle fibbers that will in turn rebuild stronger and bigger muscles, which will make me a stronger and bigger person.

There are moments when I reminisce on the old days, but these new days are better. I have a loving wife and daughter that make life so much better. We can all look to the old days and say they were good. There was a lot of good stuff there that made life predictable, constant and comfortable, “but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Categories: best self, complacency, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, manhood, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Live, Fight, Die

skyrim-fighting-the-dragon

We have a serious problem with manhood in our society.

I recently gave a talk to 8th grade boys on this topic and when I asked them to raise their hand and tell me if they understood what it meant to be a man, most of them didn’t. When I asked them to raise their hand if they have 1-2 adult men in their lives that they think would be considered good examples of men, most of them again kept their hands down.

What’s the deal with this? Why is it that we know how to do manly things like chopping wood, fixing cars and homes, shooting guns, etc. but we don’t know what it means to be a man? Obviously, those things listed above are not enough to make someone a man. So, why is it that a wood chopping, car fixing, gun shooting male can look the part of manhood and yet not be one?

I know plenty of men who outwardly do manly things but are really boys playing the part. I also know men who do none of the traditional manly-type activities and yet are the shining example of what being a man is.

I think discovering what it means to be a man comes down to how men do 3 things:

How we live, how we fight and how we die.

Video games like Skyrim, Modern Warfare and Assassins Creed are really popular. Most guys that play these games do so because these stories speak to the very heart of a man. The desire for purpose, battle and sacrifice are essential to a man. We are wired for that stuff and the video game industry knows it and spends a pretty penny on researching it so that we get hooked on their games.

Take the game Skyrim for instance. The game is about a guy who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and is about to be killed. Nobody knows who he is or cares. You end up escaping and find yourself battling a dragon that, after you defeat it, reveals your incredible power.

You are the chosen one. No longer a nobody. You have gifts and talents, but more importantly, a mission and a reason to live. From there, your character goes on a journey, a battle where you are fighting to save the world of Skyrim. This battle requires incredible strength, mastery of skills and courage. It may even cost you your life. There is another dragon you must battle and it is no ordinary dragon. He is the “world eater”. He is the one that you have been chosen to fight against and it’s very possible you may die in the process.

Men are hardwired for this type of adventure and even though you and I may not find ourselves picking up an axe and shield to go fight a dragon, we are meant to do battle. It is something that we are made for and I would even say that the man who doesn’t do this is finding himself empty and questioning his place in the world.

What do you live for? What are you fighting for? What are you willing to die for?

These are three questions at the heart of what it means to be a man. These are three questions that every man must ask himself and answer. If we have nothing to live for, we have nothing to fight or die for. And if we have nothing to die for, we may find that our lives are not worth fighting for.

As husband and father I recognize that I live to serve God by serving my family. I recognize that the battle I am fighting is primarily against myself—my selfishness (the dragon within). Overcoming myself so that I can serve my family is key to this process. I cannot die (sacrifice, surrender, etc.) for my family if I am not willing to fight, and give all of myself for them. As in the game of Skyrim, I must master the skills needed for this battle. I must master patience, fortitude, temperance, sacrifice, selflessness, and willingness to serve and not expect to be served in return.

My wife is studying to get her masters degree and so it requires a huge amount of time and energy. My job is to make sure that she has the time and energy to work on her studies. I live for her, and my fight is to make sure the house is clean, laundry is done, dinner is ready and our daughter is being taken care of. I don’t necessarily want to do all these things, but I live for my family and I will do whatever it takes for them—even doing most of the chores around the house. It requires a sort of death to self to win this battle, because the dragon within wants to be selfish and inconsiderate and egotistical.

What do you live for? What are you fighting for? What are you willing to die for?

I think that the more men ponder and search the answer to these three questions the more they will find themselves in the path of manhood. The more our children, friends and family see us striving to answer these three questions, the more they will recognize what a man looks like. Our boys and girls need to see this more than ever because what movies, TV and the media reveal about manhood is pathetic, watered down—cheap at best.

So, pick up your battle-ax men. You are the chosen one. You have been given a mission to live out. You have a family to defend. There is a fight before you and it will cost you everything. But it will be the greatest battle of your life.

Live well, fight well and die well.

 

Categories: adventure, battle, best self, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, fighting, living, manhood, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized, video games | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fully Alive: Part II – Waking the Dead

coffin 002

So complacency has led us to not live our lives to the full. Complacency has in many ways stolen our ability to see what this fullness even looks like.  Worse of all, complacency has stolen our heart—the one thing we need to be fully alive.

How did this happen? How is it possible that we could have our hearts taken from us? Here is the thing, our heart is not something that can be taken from us—we give it away.

We hear the phrase, “He/She stole my heart” all the time. The reality is that when we say that phrase what we really mean is that we gave that person access to our heart and they did something with it—good or bad. My daughter has stolen my heart in the sense that I am so in love with her. That love is so strong that it physically feels like she has my heart in her hands. Another example can be a girlfriend who you have given your heart to that breaks it and causes it to ache. That pain is so strong that it physically feels like she has taken your heart but in this case has done harm to it.

We give our heart over to people and things. Some of these people or things never should have had access to our heart and this, is how we lose it. Here are some examples:

  • The man who goes online to watch porn. He gives those images permission to access his heart. He lets them in and those images speak to his heart in a destructive way.
  • The man who chooses work over family because he’s successful there. His heart connects to work more so, and family loses the rightful place of that heart.
  • The man who plops himself in front of a TV connected to a X-box and plays shoot ‘em up games till 4am. His mind tells his heart he is “saving the world” but it’s virtual—fake.
  • The man who has no control over food and eats everything and anything placed before him. His heart longs for pleasure and satisfaction but its disordered.

These are just some of many ways we give our heart away. I’m sure you can come up with others yourself.

To whom, or to what have you given your heart to? And does this person or thing deserve to have it?

I have been thinking, wrestling and praying about those two questions for a long time and the answer is: I have given my heart away to things that do not deserve to have it. Those things suck the life out of my heart and have led me to complacency, this sort of zombie like state I mentioned in my last post.

I recently watched this movie called Warm Bodies. It’s a zombie comedy that has a really interesting twist to the zombie situation.  In the movie a zombie pandemic consumes the whole world. There are a few humans who are surviving and fighting the zombies. The movie follows R, who is a young zombie that really doesn’t know what he is doing, how he became a zombie, or why he is living at an airport. R feels…dead. Yet, he knows there is something out there, something more to his current state.

Eventually R meets a human named Julie and this is where things get interesting. Julie’s company does something to R that begins to change him. R recognizes that Julie is beautiful, strong and that her presence begins to wake him up from the inside out. R starts to become human again. He is reclaiming his humanity and the way he does this is through whom he gives his heart to. R falls in love with Julie and love awakens him. By the time the movie gets to the end R protects Julie from a fall and as they get up they both realize that R has woken from the dead—he is fully alive. R comes back from this zombie-like-complacent-state due to his desire to love the right thing; in this case it is a person—Julie. R reclaims his heart by giving it to Julie and he comes back to life.

Giving our hearts to the wrong things leads to death. Giving our hearts to the right things helps us to be fully alive. This is how we reclaim our heart. We love the right person, the right things.

So what does this have to do with fatherhood?

To be a good father I must be the best version of myself—that is who God has called me to be. To be fully alive is the best thing I could ever be for my family. To be anything else is simply unacceptable.

So rise up men! Reclaim your heart. Wake the dead. Be who God has called you to be.

Because the glory of God is you fully alive.

Categories: best self, complacency, fatherhood, fathers, fully alive, God, holiness, living, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.