holiness

Train

the rosary beads and gun

Last year I wrote about my discernment on whether or not to conceal carry. Here is the post if you are interested: Babies, Guns and Jesus. After the experience mentioned in that post I did a lot of thinking, praying and discussing with my wife. I spoke to lots of people about this subject. Some were experts in weapons training, police officers, military, priests, friends, neighbors, etc. My wife and I made our decision and I spent quite a bit of time training, learning and familiarizing myself with the safety and use of firearms. I still have a long way to go. On average I train every month or two with live fire and do dry fire drills at least 3 times a week. I know that many people do not feel the same way about guns and that’s fine.

This post is really not about guns.

Most of the guys I do weapons training with are very much convinced that they are doing this for the safety and welfare of their families. I wholeheartedly believe that. One guy got teary eyed as he shared how much he loved his family and how he wanted to be ready for anything that could potentially harm them. So do I.

I try really hard to listen, read, and follow the guidance of men and woman who are wiser and holier than I am. I especially try and study how to be a better man, husband and father. I find it so easy to want to be selfish and focus on my own desires and ignore my family—individualism is all about that. I have to constantly check myself and refocus. There is a certain discipline, training if you will, that I have to take on for this.

A few weeks ago I bumped into this video that really spoke to me about the importance of men training to defend their families. The video was not about weapons or hand-to-hand combat. The video was about prayer.

Prayer is the ultimate training that all men must take on. St. Padre Pio once said, “Prayer is the best weapon we posses.” Prayer isn’t something a weak man does. Prayer is something that a man who understands his place in the world does; a man who knows his limits, capacity, and potential; a man who recognizes that ultimately God is the one we need to turn to for our families protection and for them to become what they are meant to be.

Real men pray.

So here is the challenge I put to myself, and the men who read this blog. Pray. If you want to defend your family there is nothing more powerful than prayer. Here are some suggestions:

  • Get up earlier than your family does and pray for God to guide their path towards holiness for that specific day.
  • Pray with your spouse that God may lead both of you to be holy and help each other to grow towards that holiness.
  • Pray with your spouse for your children to be godly men and women.
  • Pray with your children and spouse before and after meals. Have each member of your family go around the table during meals and share how they saw God work in their lives that day.
  • Pray over your children. Literally put your hands above them and ask for Gods blessing to be poured out upon them. Not only is this good for the kids to see, hear and experience, it is also your duty as father to bless your children. (See Numbers 6:24-26 as one example)
  • Take time to pray alone. This is absolutely crucial. You can’t lead your family to pray if you don’t know how to do it. There are tons of devotionals, apps, scriptural guides, etc. that can be used to do this.
  • Go to confession and take your family with you. (Obviously for the Orthodox or Catholic folks)
  • (Again for Catholics and Orthodox folks) Take your family to adoration once a month. Have them sit before Jesus for 15-30 minutes (it will depend on how old your kids are, etc).
  • Read books that will inspire you to grow in holiness.
  • Surround yourself with other men who are training to grow in holiness.

I really enjoy shooting my guns at targets and training for scenarios, but lets be honest; there is a small chance that I will ever need to draw my weapon on anyone (thank God for that). However, if I am ever in that situation I’ve done all I can to be ready. I am more likely though to be tempted sexually, to be greedy, selfish, to be dishonest: insert your potential situation here. Praying for God to transform you and to guide you when those situations come (they will come) is important training. How will you respond to those situations if you have not prepared yourself?

Praying for and with our families is absolutely necessary. This world is filled with situations that if we are not actively “training” for we will get eaten alive. I pray every single day. Sometimes it’s short and rushed due to my daughter or other things outside of my control. More often than not I spend quality time in prayer. I need it. I cannot become whom God intends me to be if I am not communicating with Him. Communicate with Him. Encounter Him.

I want to protect my family and myself. I want to be ready for whatever this world is going to throw at us. I am whole heartedly convinced that there is no better training for a man than to seek the face of God in prayer and to ask the most important question we could ever inquire of Him: God, what do you ask of me?

Categories: being a man, Catholic, christianity, conceal carry, fatherhood, fighting, guns, holiness, manhood, prayer, protecting family, training, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let Them See

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Claire watching me shovel our neighbors house

Snowmaggedon 2016 has come and gone and we have survived. We have shoveled our way out of 20+ inches of snow, which depending where you are in the world may be laughable. Here in the good ole state of Virginia, 5 inches is enough to shut us down for a while; 20+ inches set a new record and may possibly have us stuck in our neighborhoods for a week.

From Friday afternoon to right about at 2:30pm this afternoon we were buried in. Our back deck had snow coming up to the window. Our dog that loves to run in snow wouldn’t go out because he needed to take a running leap to clear the 20+inch wall of snow that had collected against the French doors. Apparently relieving your bowls isn’t really worth all that trouble.

My daughter was super exited to see snow. For whatever reason, she was also excited by the fact that “Papi” was going outside to shovel the snow. I went out to clear the snow off the porch and driveway when my neighbor yelled out, “Good morning. Want some help?” “Yes. Yes I do.” The words came out of my mouth before my neighbor could complete his sentence.

For the next several hours, my neighbor and I cleared each other’s driveways and vehicles, and 3 other neighbors’ driveways. Another neighbor joined us a few hours in. It was one of those great moments where neighbors unite and make life easier on each other.

While all this snow shoveling was going on, my daughter was watching. Claire saw her “Papi” and other neighbors going around helping each other out. At one point, as Claire was playing outside with my wife, they both came over to the neighbor’s house we were helping. These neighbors had a baby recently, so we wanted to make sure their house was extra clear. My wife grabbed a shovel and Claire helped out as well. Claire’s job was to help me put salt on their steps and walkway. Claire was so excited to help.

My pastor recently wrote in his weekly letter about how important it is to let kids see parents writing checks and placing money into the collection. He speaks of this action as necessary for kids to recognize its importance. My pastor, at one point, wrote, “We watched our parents write the check every week.” The witness of seeing this act of writing a check told my then pastor-to-be that it was important. He ended up giving his whole life to the Church by becoming a priest.

Our kids witness so much in this world. A lot of it is good. A lot of it is bad. What kids witness from their parents sticks most. Your influence on your child is greater than any other. If we want our kids to do good, let them see us doing good. If we want our kids to be holy, let them see holiness in us. My neighbors thanked me for helping them today, but letting my kid see my wife and I helping others is something that I thanked them for.

Let’s show our kids all the good that they can do.

Categories: being a good example, children, church, dad and the kids, fatherhood, holiness, home and family, Uncategorized, working together | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not the Usual

HALLOWEEN

I have never been a big Halloween person. I don’t think its evil, or bad nor do I think that people who celebrate it are crazy. It just has never really spoken to me.

My wife is really excited about this being our daughters first trick-or-treating Halloween. Claire is old enough to enjoy the dressing up and going out. We were given a ladybug costume a while back and I figured that’s what my wife was going to have Claire wear. To my surprise Claire’s costumer was not the usual cute-toddler-costume one thinks of. Claire is going to be St. Clare of Assisi for Halloween.

“Who?”

That was my mothers’ response. When I told her that it was a nun she thought it was weird and that I should have picked something “cuter”. I understand that sentiment. It is definitely not the usual Halloween character. However I am glad my wife decided to chose a saint for Claire’s Halloween costume. There will be plenty of toddlers dress as goblins, ghouls, and other frightening characters. I am sure that there will be plenty of cute ladybug, and butterfly costumes to go around as well. I believe there will be very few children if any dressed as Saints this Halloween.

There is something very depressing about that last sentence.

Saint’s are heroes. Men and women, who struggled, sinned, changed and lived courageous lives of virtue under devastating, sometimes life-ending circumstances. If you have never read about St. Augustine, St. Claire of Assisi, St. John Paul II, and St. Maria Goretti—you are missing out on some of the greatest stories ever told.

When my daughter shows up at someone’s doorstep on October 31st, she will be dressed in an unusual costume. This costume will probably intrigue those who open their doors. It will be an opportunity to share a little bit about a great Saint. My first real blog post on this journey of discovering fatherhood consisted of sharing about my desire for my daughter to become a saint. I guess it is only fitting that my wife dresses her up like one for Halloween.

Claire is a normal kid and so were all those we call saints. It is the not so usual way that they lived their lives that lead these ordinary people to become extraordinary. So my daughter will show up at someone’s doorstep sharing about our spiritual family’s ancestors. Maybe you find this weird, or pushy, and I’m okay with that. It is this father’s humble opinion that we don’t need more goblins, ghouls, butterflies or ladybugs in the world, but we do need more saints. Ordinary men and women who chose to live in extraordinary ways.

Saints change the world, and I believe that we need to discover more about these men and women so that our children as well as ourselves, can be inspired to follow in their not-so-usual ways and be transformed.

 

Categories: costumes, daughters, fatherhood, halloween, holiness, saints | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 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

Fully Alive: Part I

fully alive
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

The Skimpy Costume Dilemma

jackolanternA few days ago I was in a Wal-Mart with my daughter Claire and I saw that they already had Halloween costumes out. There were two high school girls looking at the different outfits and I happened to overhear their conversation. The one girl thought that the costume she was looking at was not “skimpy” enough. Yes, she actually used that word. The conversation ended with them deciding to go to one of those pop-up Halloween stores in town to get something that would be more “fitting” for their needs.

Every year I see some of my Youth Ministry girls’ pictures on Facebook from Halloween parties and I dread the potential of seeing one of them in these “skimpy” costumes. I dread it because:

  1. It hurts my heart to see them dressing in a way that is going to objectify them and have guys thinking all kinds of inappropriate things about them.
  2. I have to call them out on it and remind them that they have dignity and worth that these costumes do not reveal, which is always a tough and sometimes awkward conversation to have—mostly for the girls.

So this is my open letter to my beloved ladies of Youth Ministry. I love you girls so much that I want to say this before Halloween comes around and you buy your costume.
Maybe this year the skimpy, inappropriate Halloween costumes are hitting closer to home because I am a father to a baby girl. Maybe holding Claire as I heard the above conversation had me see her in those two high school girls. Regardless of the reason I don’t think that the skimpy costumes are necessary. So here are this Youth Minister’s 6 reasons why I would advise against the skimpy costumes.

  1. The skimpy costumes are not original: Every year there are tons of girls scantily dressed up as cops, pirates, nurses, etc. I guarantee you that there will be at least one of each at the party you go to. If having the same dress, as another girl at a dance is a no-no, then I’m sure having the same costume, as another girl is just as bad. The skimpy costumes are not original, so be more creative.
  2. Halloween is not a modesty-free-day: No other day of the year would you wear anything remotely skimpy as that costume, so why is Halloween all of a sudden an acceptable day for this? Seriously, if it is the size of a dinner napkin it isn’t modest! Modesty is not something you can put aside for a day even if Seventeen Magazine says so!
  3. You become a target for the wrong type of guy: The skimpy costume is notorious for attracting guys that only want to check you out and potentially go beyond just staring. The skimpy costume is a magnet for jerks, pervs, and guys who don’t want to see the whole you. Who wants that?!
  4. Help a brother out: Our primary sense is our sight. For most guys sight is the one sense that can really get us in trouble. What the eye sees the heart desires. If you have a skimpy costume on that shows off your body, a guy is going to desire it. That’s not to say every guy who stares at you will be thinking inappropriate thoughts, but there is a real good chance they will. Help a brother out by not having them have to deal with that.
  5. Think beyond Halloween:  You might think the skimpy costume was cool, but what about after October 31st? What will people say when they talk about that night or look at those pictures you are sure to post on Facebook? “Wow, I thought Susie was really going to arrest me.” is not one of those things. If you looked skimpy, people will refer to you in that way. The rest of the year you will have to live with what you wore for a few hours of one night.
  6. The skimpy costumes don’t reveal enough: Let me explain. The skimpy costumes may reveal the beauty of your body, but that isn’t all of you. You are a person with a soul, with intelligence, dreams, talents, gifts, personality and most importantly dignity. A dignity that is yours to uphold, protect and reveal to the world. The skimpy costume only puts focus on your body, and as beautiful as that body is, it only reveals a very, very small, tiny, bitsy piece of who you are. You are so much more than just flesh!

There are so many cool, creative non-skimpy costumes out there that can highlight your creativity, intelligence, gifts, talents as well as your beauty. My challenge for you is to not get sucked in by the worlds desire to make you into a thing, an object, a means to an end.

You are holy. You are sacred. You are precious. So be all of those things.

Categories: costumes, dignity, fatherhood, fathers, God, halloween, holiness, modesty, Parenting, Uncategorized, youth ministry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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