fully alive

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

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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.

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

Awe, Wonder & Fear: Vacuuming at our Home.

Photo Jun 13, 6 08 29 PM

The vacuum cleaner starts and Claire goes on alert. Claire stands by watching to see where I am going to go next. There is healthy mix of fear, excitement, and wonder as the vacuum zooms by. As I pass Claire retreats with a concerned look and then closes in behind me to see the vacuum at a safe distance. There’s a little smile as she peaks around the corner of the room.

I love seeing my daughter’s reaction to scary things. The awe, wonder and fear that she experiences keeps her on her toes, but it doesn’t keep her away. Every time I watch this Claire vs. vacuum interaction I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in her mind. “Is it a monster? A beast that dad somehow has tamed? Both?”

It is inspiring.

Most of the time when I encounter something that is frightening I am not chasing after it and certainly I’m not in awe or wonder of it. I think many of us react this way. There is a level of practicality that makes us turn away from situations filled with fear and risk. Yet, I cant help but think how much more fun and unpredictable life would be if we chased after the “vacuum cleaners” in our lives. Would we discover that there really isn’t anything to fear after all? Would we see past the fear and find something better, something worth chasing?

At two years old there is still a lot of world to see and it can be scary. When Claire finds something that she hasn’t encountered before she pauses. I am reminded to pause as well and experience this new encounter with her. What I find in these moments is a new respect for life and recognition that things and people can be scary, but that there is a potential for something beyond fear.

Claire pauses as a frog passes by. She isn’t sure what to do. It jumps and she hides behind me. The frog continues to jump and Claire walks in front of me and begins to jump with the frog. I pause and look around. People stare. I begin to jump after Claire.

Categories: discovering, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fear, fear of household items, fully alive, living in the moment, new things | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fragile

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Recently at my church a young pregnant woman passed away. I won’t say how or names in order to keep their personal information private. I did not know this woman or her family, but they are a part of my faith family so it hurts all the same. My wife and I have been praying for them as have hundreds of others. I can’t help but keep thinking of the husband and what is now before him in raising the kids while dealing with the loss of his wife and unborn daughter.

In a moment life ended…

It stopped…

Gone…

When I was growing up I went to a rough school and kids died due to violence there, and in that area. I have experience death before but never as a father. Fatherhood adds a whole other dimension to death. The solidarity that I am experiencing with this families pain is tangible, and I don’t even know them. I think of the husband and my stomach gets tight and I feel sorrow. I keep thinking about how fragile life is. Sacred Scripture says our lives are like a vapor: here for a while and then gone.

I take so much for granted! Why? I do not know. Especially since life is a vapor. As the news of this families struggle has been shared via our Church family I have been holding on to my wife and daughter a little longer and a little tighter. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Today—now is all we have. Yet I take it for granted. We all do. Then death comes and reminds us. Someone else’s tragedy speaks to us and we come out of our delirium and appreciate what we have a little more.

But how long until that fades? How long till we go back to taking for granted?

A vapor. Here one moment and gone the next.

Categories: complacency, death, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fully alive, living, living in the moment, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fully Alive: Part II – Waking the Dead

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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

Fully Alive: Part I

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There are so many things to fear in this world: death, being mugged, losing a loved one, loss of financial stability, cancer…the list goes on.

I fear never becoming the man God has called me to be.

There is something incredibly frightening at the idea of someday standing before God and Him saying, “What happened? I gave you everything you needed to be what I called you to be, and this is what you did.” Maybe this isn’t the thing you fear the most, but I think its something worth looking at.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from a man named Saint Irenaeus. St. Irenaeus lived in the second century and died in 202 A.D. St. Irenaeus is known to have been a hardcore Catholic man who fought some nasty heresies in his time. He wrote lots of great works, but the quote below is one that has always struck my heart.

“The glory of God is man fully alive.”

When I first encountered this quote I found it curious and confusing. The glory of God is man fully alive? How is that possible? Man fully alive? What does that even mean?

In a simple way it means that God rejoices when man is being his truest self. A being that lives in grace and embraces love, uses his talents, and is willing to be a total gift of self to others. There are so many ways to try and describe or interpret this quote, but I think that these examples help explain the heart of it.

Claire recently started eating pureed foods—it gives me great joy seeing her take this next step in life. I guess you could say, ‘The glory of Dad is Claire eating her pureed food and growing into a toddler’.

Or

A Dad is teaching his son to ride a bicycle without training wheels. The son starts to peddle and Dad lets go. The son is riding alone. ‘The glory of Dad is his son learning to ride his bike.

We could say in these examples that, ‘The glory of Dad is his child being fully alive.’

If you have experience similar examples you know exactly what I’m talking about. That moment when you see the full potential of your child reached—and it is glorious.  You stand proud at his/her achievement and you can’t help but light up. As Father I rejoice when my child is living to her full potential. We all do. God, as Father does as well. He knows us through and through so when we are fully alive He is in glory. He beams with joy at seeing His children living to their full potential, just as we do.

The question is how many of us are fully alive?

I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like I am fully alive. I know many people who feel the same way. We read the above quote and wonder how is this possible? Have I ever been fully alive, fully me, fully what God has called me to be? There are moments when we brush past this fullness; we get a glimpse and do a double take.

I recognize in my life that the reason I am not fully alive is because of complacency. Complacency is that terrible, insidious vice that tells us, ‘its okay just the way it is’, ‘we’ll get to it tomorrow’,  ‘someone else can take care of it’. Complacency is a cancer to the heart of man and it leads us to being fully dead. The worst part is, we chose to be complacent.

If the glory of God is man fully alive, then the glory of Satan is man fully dead. Complacency is Satan’s favorite strategy to get us to live lives that are not full.

Complacency is what leads man who can be great to settle for good. When you are meant to be great, good is never good enough. Complacency allows a man to recognize that he must love his wife more, but lets that recognition slip away because it is too difficult, or will demand change on his part and so the love continues to fade. Complacency allows a man to sacrifice his goal of health and fitness to eat the cheeseburger because it’s fast, easy and tomorrow he can run an extra half hour.

Complacency kills us…slowly…and silently.

For many, we recognize what is happening too late. We go from somewhat alive, to fully dead. Maybe this is why the whole zombie phenomena is so attractive to us. We recognize in zombies what we see in ourselves—the walking dead.

Yet something deep in our hearts tells us that this quote is true. It may not be true in our daily lives, but we recognize its reality, its tangible-ness. Pause for a second and read it again. “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Does not your heart burn as the words enter your mind?

Fully alive…what a glorious thing to be.

Complacency has stolen our hearts. We have lost the realization that we were never made to live lives that tip toe the surface and never dive in. I know it, you know it, we all know it—but we sit in the shame of knowing this without doing anything about it. We pretend no one sees it, but deep inside our hearts we want this quote to be true in our own lives. We want to be fully alive, because to not be is the greatest fear and failure of all.

So if complacency has stolen our heart, then how is it that this happened, and more importantly how do we get it back?

Categories: best self, complacency, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, fully alive, God, holiness, Jesus, living, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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