Why I Love My Marriage (at 4 months)

March 9, 2014 3 comments

I have many reasons to be grateful for my life — certainly many more than I deserve. I have my health, my faith, a well-compensated job that I find rewarding, and have been blessed with great friends and family and memories of wonderful experiences all over the world. Yup, My life is pretty good. To be honest, it always has been.

Sure, I’ve had to deal with failure, rejection, pressure, negative influences, injury, nearly getting arrested (a story for another blog), loneliness and  burning out, but no matter how bad or depressing my life has been, I have always been able to fall back on realities that were more important, more permanent, and more positive than the negatives of those times. No matter where I was in the world and no matter how well or poorly the temporal things were going, I was grounded in the knowledge that my family would be there for me and my God loved me and was in control (making all things work together for good for those who trust in him [Romans 8:28]). It didn’t mean that I never had a bad day, or that I didn’t let things get to me, but when things did get to me, I could step back and choose to be grateful (even when every bone in my body was reacting with fear or depression.

None of that has changed since I have been married. I still have those same reasons to be grateful, but now I have another one. In fact I have dozens more reasons to be thankful and I have a beautiful, living, breathing reminder of those reasons constantly before me. Here are just a few reasons why I love married life:

– I wake up every day knowing and experiencing that a person has CHOSEN to love me freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully for a lifetime. The love of my family has been amazing  and constant throughout my life, but they were kinda stuck with me (and I’m so glad that they were!). In some ways, the same is true for God. Sure, He loves me more and better than anyone in this world (including my wife) ever could hope to, but that is true for everyone. My wife, on the other hand, made a commitment to me that she will not make with anyone else even though she could have chosen whoever she wanted. What an amazing experience.

-I get to fall asleep every night holding the woman of my dreams and realizing that it’s not a dream at all. After all the lonely nights praying and hoping and trusting that God would introduce me to the right woman in His time, it is such a sweet experience to lay down and rest with my arm around my wife and tangibly feel the completion of a void that I felt for so long in my life.

-Its not about me anymore. Given, it was never about me to begin with, but having another person intertwined in every aspect of my life has been a great reminder in so many ways that my decisions don’t just affect me, and my wife is such an inspiration to me both to lead the family and grow personally. Sure, there are moments that seem purgatorial (in learning and experiencing her expectations of facial care, for instance), but the sight of my wife and the ring on my finger are physical reminders of the calling that I have to lay down my life in love. Some might consider this the downside of marriage; the ball and chain, the forfeiture of freedom, but I think they are missing the point. As a human being, God made me because He loves me, built a need and desire for love and self-donation into my spiritual DNA. I will never be happy in this life until I’m taking the skills, talents, passions and gifts that God has given me and using them to give back to the world.  I discerned my vocation to marriage through prayer and recognition that the specific skills, talents, passions, gifts and experiences which God blessed me with were better suited toward devotion to one woman, and through that one devotion, bearing fruit to love and serve many more.

-I get to learn a whole new set of my own weaknesses. Once again, not a statement that most people jump up and down about in excitement, but it really is a pretty exciting and wonderful thing, because it’s the only way that I will truly grow. God loves me as I am, but he loves me way too much to let me stay there. In the invitation to marriage, God is allowing me to experience life from a completely different perspective. It’s almost like moving to a new country or starting a new job; you can ask people who are over there, and you can read books and study but in the end you will never really know what it’s like until you get there. Sure, finding some good books, and good mentors go a long way to make sure you choose the right location/job and are properly prepared, but there is always a learning curve. Even though that curve is painful and frustrating at times, It’s making me into a better person than I could have been had I not made that commitment.

-Every point that I wrote above is equally true for my wife, and I get to have the unique and irreplaceable role in this world of walking with her on that journey… our journey. Being invited to play such a pivotal role in the life of someone who I care so deeply for could not be a greater compliment or a greater incentive to step up to the challenge.

-We both saved sex for marriage, and now the act has so much significance to our relationship because it is a sign of everything we are sharing and aspiring to be for each other and for the world. The physical pleasure pales in comparison to the relevance of the embrace.

-We can (and do) talk about everything and anything. Sometimes, we don’t talk at all and we just share silence.

-We laugh SO MUCH. I don’t think I have ever laughed as regularly in my life as I have since my wedding day. Neither of us are comedians and it’s not like we are laughing all the time. But we know each other, and we can see and appreciate the ridiculous in so many of our daily activities and situations that we can’t help but laugh at the comedies of errors or irony along the way.

I can’t help but think that God is smiling and laughing with us 🙂

AMDG

these 2openhands have a new permanent accessory

these 2openhands have a new permanent accessory

Remember You Are Dust… Even Now

March 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Even though Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, it is often more crowded than Sunday services. I don’t know what inspires so many people who don’t come to mass when it’s expected of them to come to celebrate the one day out of the year when someone intentionally puts soot on their face, but I have an idea… and that idea gives me hope…

I think everybody who walks into church has a unique history and motivation which has brought them there, but I have a suspicion that more of those unique motivations find their way into the pews on Ash Wednesday because they long for something that those ashes offer. Some of the people may not be a practicing Catholic while others are. Some of them may not care what is expected of them as a Christian while others do. Some of them may have gotten too busy for weekly mass while others haven’t. What is different about Ash Wednesday though, and maybe what they remember about it that keeps them all coming back, is the stark reminder that it offers of something that we all know. This life doesn’t last forever. Once a year, we allow a man to put the burnt remnants of palm branches on our foreheads and remind us that we will die. “Remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”

We long to hear this though and we need to hear this, but we need it with the perspective that only Christ can give. This undeniable reality is present every day in our lives and in our media. It is portrayed as a tragedy or as a statistic or even as entertainment, but our Church reminds us that the reality of this “dust” is a sign of hope and an invitation. The first reading from the second chapter of the book of Joel is a prime example.

“Yet even now,” says the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil.

Who knows whether he will not turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, a cereal offering and a drink offering for the LORD, your God?

Blow the trumpet in Zion; sanctify a fast; call a solemn assembly;

gather the people. Sanctify the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.

Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare thy people, O LORD, and make not thy heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, `Where is their God?’

Then the LORD became jealous for his land, and had pity on his people.”

The last few times that I have heard it or read it, all of my attention for the better part of the day was wrapped around two words at the very beginning — “Even now”. Joel was talking to a people who were on the brink of disaster, who had gotten themselves into a pretty bad place with God, but his message was not condemnation, but invitation. He was telling the people, “IT’S NOT TOO LATE! EVEN NOW YOU CAN STILL BE FORGIVEN! EVEN NOW GOD WANTS TO MAKE YOU WHOLE. EVEN NOW GOD WANTS TO RESTORE THE RELATIONSHIP THAT YOU WERE MADE FOR.” And that is exactly what happened. There is plenty of death and destruction in the Old Testament, but God is always looking to save His people. The same is true now. Christ invites us “even now” no matter where we have been to return to him, not so that he can save us from death and destruction in this world, but so that he give us eternal life with him in the next.

Lent isn’t about finding a way to make yourself miserable for 40 days. It’s about setting your priorities: God first, everything else later. We make sacrifices to God as a reminder that He is more important than the things we sacrifice. Moreover, it becomes an opportunity for us to unite our sufferings with Christ who sacrificed his whole life because he loved us and he loved the Father that much.

Ash Wednesday is an invitation. Each person decides in their own way how or if they will accept, but it brings me hope to see so many people in the pews listening to God’s offer and bowing their heads to be reminded of their frailty.

AMDG

P.S. Another great example of that invitation is the song that is probably most synonymous with the service. I challenge you to pray the words of this song…

1. We rise again from ashes,
from the good we’ve failed to do.
We rise again from ashes,
to create ourselves anew.
If all our world is ashes,
then must our lives be true,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

2. We offer you our failures,
we offer you attempts,
the gifts not fully given,
the dreams not fully dreamt.
Give our stumblings direction,
give our visions wider view,
an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

3. Then rise again from ashes,
let healing come to pain,
though spring has turned to winter,
and sunshine turned to rain.
The rain we’ll use for growing,
and create the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

4. Thanks be to the Father,
who made us like himself.
Thanks be to his Son,
who saved us by his death.
Thanks be to the Spirit
who creates the world anew
from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

2nd Ammendment

February 7, 2013 1 comment

There’s been a lot of discussion about how to control gun violence here in the US. Some say we need more guns in the right hands, others say we need less guns in general. The only thing I would remind everyone is that our second amendment rights exist not for sport and hobby but for “a well regulated militia.” Our founding fathers felt it necessary for the security of the state – for the security of freedom – that its law abiding citizens be armed (or at least have the option). They knew first hand that when the government had no reason to fear its citizens, they would not respect their liberties. 

With this in mind, I wrote the following email to my representatives in government: Read more…

Growth vs change

October 12, 2012 Leave a comment

There is often discussion of how the Church needs to change its teaching on this or that, but we must realize that Truth doesn’t change with time. It is only our understanding of that truth which can grow and fill various situations. I think Saint Vincent of Lerins said it best (taken from today’s office of readings):

Is there to be no development of religion in the Church of Christ? Certainly, there is to be development and on the largest scale.

Who can be so grudging to men, so full of hate for God, as to try to prevent it? But it must truly be development of the faith, not alteration of the faith. Development means that each thing expands to be itself, while alteration means that a thing is changed from one thing into another.

The understanding, knowledge and wisdom of one and all, of individuals as well as of the whole Church, ought then to make great and vigorous progress with the passing of the ages and the centuries, but only along its own line of development, that is, with the same doctrine, the same meaning and the same import.

The religion of souls should follow the law of development of bodies. Though bodies develop and unfold their component parts with the passing of the years, they always remain what they were. There is a great difference between the flower of childhood and the maturity of age, but those who become old are the very same people who were once young. Though the condition and appearance of one and the same individual may change, it is one and the same nature, one and the same person.

The tiny members of unweaned children and the grown members of young men are still the same members. Men have the same number of limbs as children. Whatever develops at a later age was already present in seminal form; there is nothing new in old age that was not already latent in childhood.

There is no doubt, then, that the legitimate and correct rule of development, the established and wonderful order of growth, is this: in older people the fullness of years always brings to completion those members and forms that the wisdom of the Creator fashioned beforehand in their earlier years.

If, however, the human form were to turn into some shape that did not belong to its own nature, or even if something were added to the sum of its members or subtracted from it, the whole body would necessarily perish or become grotesque or at least be enfeebled. In the same way, the doctrine of the Christian religion should properly follow these laws of development, that is, by becoming firmer over the years, more ample in the course of time, more exalted as it advances in age.

In ancient times our ancestors sowed the good seed in the harvest field of the Church. It would be very wrong and unfitting if we, their descendants, were to reap, not the genuine wheat of truth but the intrusive growth of error.

On the contrary, what is right and fitting is this: there should be no inconsistency between first and last, but we should reap true doctrine from the growth of true teaching, so that when, in the course of time, those first sowings yield an increase it may flourish and be tended in our day also.

AMDG

“Offer It Up”

September 11, 2012 2 comments

It seems to be something of a catch-phrase in modern Catholic culture, but what do we really mean when we say “offer it up.”? It’s more than just a religious way of saying “Suck it up” or “Quit complaining” (although that’s implied). It’s also more than a simple invitation to prayer. Those three words are an invitation to PARTICIPATE in the gospel.

It’s easy for us these days to read the bible or hear stories of how God worked in the lives of people long ago and think that it no longer applies to us. It can feel as if we got the short end of the stick. It’s tempting to think, “In the old days they had Peter and Paul and JESUS showing them the way face to face; explaining the mysteries, performing the miracles and demonstrating the example of how to live the Christian life. Now we have a book that tells us everything we missed.” What a bummer.

The reality however, is something entirely different. God lives outside of time. Jesus is Christ outside of time. He did not choose one specific instance in time to join us here in this world so that every other generation could realize what it missed.  Instead, he inserted himself into humanity after it had fallen away at juuust such a point when the example of his life, love and teachings could be fully exemplified, documented, transmitted AND PERPETUATED… That’s right, perpetuated.

The gospel is perpetuated through the written word of God in the bible, it is perpetuated in the Sacraments that Christ instituted; it is perpetuated through the Tradition of the Church; and it is perpetuated through our lives.

One of the consistent themes that we see through the gospel is that Jesus does not want to be crowned as king (on this earth) and he did not want the miracles that he performed to be publicized (before the ascension). If you cited the fact that he was “meek and humble of heart” as a reason for this you would be right. If you cited the fact that his “kingdom is not in this world” you would be correct as well. But you would also be missing something.

Jesus kept his miracles and power on the down-low because he knew that they would attract the wrong crowd. You will notice that in EVERY instance of Jesus performing a miracle; it was as a result of faith ALREADY present or a result of compassion distinct to the person or people who he was helping. It was NEVER an attempt to win believers or disciples. “Why not?” you might ask. It certainly would have been effective. Even when he was trying to avoid it, the miracles and authority with which he taught brought many to him, but I suspect they were the same that left him when his teachings became difficult to accept.

The Jews had experienced centuries of pain and subjugation at the hands of foreign rulers and they had been promised a messiah who would be their redeemer and savior. We see those terms very spiritually and theologically now, but to most Jews of Jesus’ time, they were very physical and legal ones. Much of the Old Testament is filled with a circular theme: God’s people turn away from him; He warns them and then allows them to fall into bondage by a foreign nation; they repent of their infidelity; God rescues them and brings them prosperity (until they fall away again and the cycle continues).  Each time, when His people turned back to Him, God redeemed them and saved them from their bondage in a physical way. When Jesus walked the earth, Jews were the subjects of the Roman Empire and they were greatly anticipating a savior, redeemer and king who would overthrow the Roman government, establish peace, freedom and prosperity in Jerusalem free from pain, hunger and disease. They were missing the point…

This cycle of bondage and redemption that we observed in the Old Testament was only the symptomatic outbreak of a much more pervasive disease – their bondage to sin.  The peace and prosperity that the Jews were looking for (and all of us are looking for too if we are honest with ourselves) cannot exist in a world that is still in bondage – a world that isn’t free to love. This is the subjugation which Christ came to save us from and the freedom which he came to redeem us for. Jesus consistently pointed to the fact that he wasn’t here to remove our suffering – he was here to remove our sins (which causes our suffering). God could have chosen to remove the suffering of His people as He had done in days past. Instead, He did something much more profound – He gave it value. He took Satan’s currency and placed the image of His son as a seal on top of it.

As a result of the Crucifixion, our suffering isn’t gone, but it has meaning – or at least it can. Christ demonstrated by suffering on the cross for our redemption that it is possible for the pains we encounter in this life to be applied as grace to other people or causes greater than ourselves. When we suffer, we have two options: (1) Complain and ask God to make it go away, or (2) thank God for the gift of His son and unite our sufferings to His for the redemption of the world or any specific cause in union with His holy will. Christ said, “Anyone who wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Saint Paul invites us to, “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to the Lord.” He also mentions how he “makes up what is lacking in the cross of Christ.” All of these statements point to the same reality. The Gospel is not just a series of books, it’s an invitation to a transformed life that participates in the good news of our redemption.

That transformation will show itself in every aspect of a genuine Christian life, but it will shine most brilliantly in the way that we handle suffering: Do we see it as a burden or an opportunity? Are we focusing on ourselves or on God? Is it a chance to complain or a chance to grow in humility, virtue and appreciation of the cross? Will it cause us to worry or to trust, to hate or to love? Will it bring tension to our relationships or union with Christ? Will we allow Satan to claim that instance in our lives for his purpose, or mark his coins with the image of Christ crucified and place them in heaven’s treasury?

 

If this is a foreign concept to you and you want some practical steps or suggestions here is a quick step by step:

  1. Recognize an area in your life which is not ideal.
  2. Pray: Thank Jesus for the gift of his life and offer your inconvenience, pain or suffering in unison with his cross for any cause which he puts on your heart (possibly someone else’s wellbeing, your vocation, a virtue etc.).
  3. Quit complaining: Resist the natural urge to be unhappy about your situation and instead reflect on the cross and be grateful for the spiritual currency to affect your cause. Choose to be positive regardless of how you feel.
  4. Make it a habit: As you go through your day and your life, start conditioning yourself to take every situation that is less than ideal and offer it up in thanks to God for the good news of our salvation and the opportunity to grow closer to Him.
  5. Don’t give up: you may not see results immediately (or ever in this world) for the causes that you are offering up. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that is the end of the story. Remember, God’s timing is much better than ours.

 

That which we desire least has the power to unite us with Him who we desire most. The suffering in our life has the ability to unite us more closely to Him who suffered everything for love of us. I pray we don’t waste the opportunity…

 

AMDG

 

What Do You Care About?

July 15, 2012 Leave a comment

It is rather easy these days for me to find myself concerned with a myriad of priorities at work, among friends and with hobbies that I pursue along the side. I keep my days pretty busy because there is just so much that I want to get done. Work exhausts me during the week and on the weekend I do everything that I can to recharge through all the activities that I enjoy the most. I keep a pretty packed schedule, but I think the part that bogs me down the most is all of the little frustrations, side-bars and trivial pursuits (not the game; I think the game is awesome) that I intermix with the bigger things.

It seems like I could relate my mind to a computer. I may have one or two applications open on the screen, but I keep about 20 hidden on the bottom task bar running in the background and slowing down the processing. 20 is actually a pretty accurate, if even small, number when regarding my mind (or my actual computer). The problem is that I never end up giving my full attention, my full “processing power,” to the task at hand. Even when I’m done with the computer, I don’t close the applications, I just “hibernate” so that when I turn it on again, the processes are all there running and ready for my attention. Similarly, at the end of the day, I usually go to bed and “hibernate” for the evening, only to wake up in the morning concerning myself with all the same nonessential background processes.

When I notice this reduction in processing power in my computer, I usually save and close out my applications and reboot the computer.  With my mind, I can’t just choose to stop thinking about things and temporarily shut off my brain. The attempt would probably not have the intended affect… What does help me though, is a little perspective. One of the things that I love about being a Catholic is that I have 2,000 years of heroes to learn from. Not only do I have the example of their lives to guide me in my struggle to live a holy life, many of them have left a legacy of their written and spoken wisdom to help me gain the perspective that I need to reinvigorate my attempts. Here is a pearl from one of those heroes (A heroine in fact and a Doctor of the Church)

“Remember you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be a great many things about which you care nothing.” ~ St. Teresa of Avila

These words are a piercing reminder that many of my regular pursuits are, in fact, trivial; that many of the items and activities which I spend my brainpower (and willpower) on are, in fact, much less important than I make them out to be.  That there are a great many processes which my brain can close and be none-the-worse. There are a great many things for which I SHOULD care nothing.

This doesn’t necessarily close those applications in my head and in my heart, but the more I think about and process the truth of those words and the effects of them, the smaller and smaller those other things become in my life and less of my attention is distracted from the truly important things which are usually not things at all…

AMDG

AMDG

June 14, 2012 Leave a comment

I wrote this a little while ago. I would like to say that I am a better man now, but I think the only honest assessment I can offer is that I am still a man struggling to give God glory. Each time I sin, I miss that mark. I pray this post will give my brothers and sisters in faith who read it some perspective and strength in their own struggle…

I’m a hypocrite.

I love God. At least, I say I do. I think many times I do. I want to.  But how far is my mind from Him sometimes! It struck my like a 2×4 across the face and I had to just put it in writing….

Every letter I write, every note I post, every email, every journal entry and everywhere else I can think to insert it into my life, I put the letters “AMDG”. They stand for Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. Latin words meaning “For God’s Greater Glory” or “For the Greater Glory of God.” It’s a saying that I borrowed from Jesuit tradition that I think is important for keeping perspective. I want everything that I do, say, or write to bring God glory. It’s a fitting footnote to everything in my life, because if it isn’t giving God glory, it has missed it’s mark. If you read something of mine and it doesn’t give God glory, you have either misread it, or I mistyped it.

I put it everywhere and I’m sure people see it and associate me with it, but it is the farthest thing from my mind in all of my sin, but especially with my lust that occupies so much of my thoughts. All my distorted fantasies, all my daydreams and ill-motivated internet searches. When I look into my soul and am honest with myself, it’s all for MY greater glory. I know what will give God glory, but I choose what I think will satisfy me instead. I put my “gratification” ahead of God’s glory. I know in my head that it will only bring me more emptiness, but my heart still falls for the lies. I am God’s creature,  made for His glory. The only satisfaction that I will ever find in this life is when I accept my place as His praise-giver, His servant, His son through Christ. He showed me the meaning of love when He sent His son to rescue me from my sin. He came down to my level and showed me the way home, gaining nothing but the cross for it. The King of Kings chose a crown of thorns. Immortal God accepted death. The very Armor of God is poured out and passed on to us through His pierced side. To love someone is to lay your life down for them. To put them ahead of yourself. To CHOOSE them even if you want – especially if you want – something different for your own benefit. A selfless allegiance of the heart, formed and solidified by the will.

That’s the real question I have to ask myself when I’m confronted with temptation. Do I care about my glory or God’s? Who’s it for?

AMDG

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1COR 10:31