Friday, April 18, 2014

Breathing---My Cross to Bear

My family has a history of bad lungs.   I've had uncles who have won the fight against lung cancer and I've had uncles who have lost their fight with lung cancer.   I've seen yet another uncle wither away due to emphysema.  I remember watching my grandfather have to use a breathing machine when I was kid.   So, while their lung problems may have a lot to do with smoking, I've certainly seen relatives with lung problems.

I also have lung problems, although nothing as drastic as lung cancer or emphysema. I do have to deal with exercise induced asthma though.   The only time it really bothers me is when I'm working out.   And if you look at this amazingly sculpted body, it's no secret that I work out.  Occasionally.   When I do work out, I enjoy doing CrossFit---constantly varied, functional movements done at high intensity.   It's great because no matter how good of shape you are in---it's going to kick your butt.   

It does get frustrating for me though because my lungs do not let me go as fast as I want.   Sure, some workouts muscle fatigue hits me too, but nearly every workout my respiratory capacity slows me down and I have to pace myself so I don't "red line."   And, I know I'm not supposed to let my ego get in my way, but it does suck always being one of the last ones to finish.   Fortunately, all of the other people in the gym cheer me on and encourage me.

It sucks not being able to breath.   It sucks feeling like you are suffocating or drowning.   You think to yourself, I could be home on the couch.   A thought came to me one day as I was praying the rosary (I took it up as my Lenten obligation, and did a good job for the first couple of weeks too).   The rosary is a form of prayer where, as you say certain prayers, you meditate of different parts of Jesus' life.   There are different meditations for different days of the week.  So, for instance, this day was Friday so I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries.  So for a certain set of prayers, I would meditate on the "Agony in the Garden" and then the "Scourging at the Pillar," for another set of prayers, then the "crowning of thorns," followed by the "carrying of the cross" and finally the crucifixion.

As I was praying on the crucifixion, I was contemplating the agony that Jesus as going through as he hung up on the cross.   The  mode of death for people being crucified is actually suffocation.    With the arms outstretched and the person hanging there, the lungs are compressed making it very difficult to breath and the person eventually dies, sometimes hours or even days later, buy suffocating.   In fact, during our Lord's passion, the Romans broke the legs of the two criminals on either side of Jesus. They did this so they could not use their legs (which were nailed into the cross) to lift their bodies for a few moments so they could breath.   By breaking the legs, they could not lift themselves up to breath and their death was hastened. 

I imagined what a horrible way to die that would be.  Then I thought of what a wuss I must be when I feel like I'm gasping for air and breathing heavy just a few minutes into a workout.    I'm doing the workout for my betterment.   I'm doing it so I can be in shape and look good for my wife.    I'm going it for me.      Jesus went through all of that, for me.  He suffocated and He died for me.  Because of my sins.  Because He wants to spend eternity with me because He loves me that much.

It's one thing to contemplate that while siting in a pew at church.   It is quite another to have that thought pop into your head in the middle of a workout.  While you are doing burpees and just slugging it out---throwing yourself down and picking yourself back up, cursing out the trainer who made up this workout and you realize that Jesus went through worse for me.    At that point, all you can do is suck it up and push on and offer up the pain you are going through.

As an aside, my gym posted this great workout for today--Good Friday---The Jesus WOD!!!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Discernment Can Be Frustrating

Discernment is the act of making a decision and basing that decision on what we believe God wants.   That's not a definition out of any dictionary or anything---it is straight out of my own head so feel free to criticize it.    Normally when we think of someone discerning something, we imagine a young man or woman trying to determine whether they should go down the road to the religious life as a priest or brother or as a nun for the ladies versus pursuing the married life.    But in reality, we should use the act of discernment in any major life decision we face and even in our daily run of the mill decisions.  After all, if we base our decisions on what God's will it we should end up pretty good.

The problem with discernment is that we cannot ever really be too sure that the decision we come to is ours or God's.    It is not very often that God appears as a burning bush and explicitly tell us what to do.   He gave Moses a couple of tablet with His rules and He told Noah the exact specifications on how to build the ark.   No, for us we pray and hope that God gives us the grace to make the right decision.

I understand the rationale----God does not come right out and say, "Jamie, I want you to do <blank>" because He wants to give us free will to make our own decisions and not be mere robots.    He want us to love Him freely.

But what about when we freely want to do His will.   "Here I am, Lord, I'm here to serve you.  Tell me what you want.   Just stinking tell me what you want already!   Whatever it is, I'll do it."   It can be downright frustrating.

I've been told that when you've come to the right decision you will have a feeling of peace.  I can understand that.   I have no doubt that I am where God wants me in life is because one of the places on Earth that I feel the most safe, secure and happy is when I'm with my wife, Abby.   I'm at peace.

But what about when you make a decision and you are at peace with it and you are happy with the decision and you have no doubt that this is what God wants from you and you have obstacles thrown in your way.  "God, I thought this is what you wanted.   Shouldn't the road ahead of me be paved smoothly?  Shouldn't I have smooth sailing?  Why all of the barrier and obstacles?"

I realize that the Devil is the one throwing obstacles in our way just as he is the one that tempts us and lures us to sin.    I realize that you have to have persistence and patience to follow through on the decision you made through your discernment.   But would it be too difficult to give me a little pat on my back or whisper in my ear so I know I'm on the right path??

Friday, March 21, 2014

Don't Let Hate Win

Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church, passed away yesterday at the age of 84.  The Westboro Baptist Church made itself famous by never passing up the opportunity to protest something.   They protested everything from soldier's funerals to concerts to scenes of natural destruction.  And their protests spewed hatred while claiming that they were spreading the word of love.   Unfortunately, even in death, Fred Phelps continues to create hatred--this time towards him and his church.

My Facebook timeline and Twitter feed was abuzz yesterday after Phelps' death.  Most of what I read what the exact same type of hatred that the Westboro Baptist Church delivers.  If there is one thing that Phelps did it was unite people from the left and people from the right in their contempt towards the WBC.   I had people in the military saying, "I hope you rot in hell" and liberal friends who think that everyone should be free to believe what they want saying, "I'll piss on your grave."

Reading all of this truly made me sad because I believe that instead of spreading the word of God they were aiding Satan in spreading hate and Satan loved every minute of it because that hatred was going back to the WBC.  The WBC claims God hates when the opposite is true.   God cannot hate because God IS love and when people hate they are separated from God---just what the Devil wants.  

Everyone has been saying that Fred Phelps is an evil man.  Some even comparing him to Hitler or Stalin.   I'm pretty sure that he did not kill thousands of innocent but I cannot judge how evil he was because I cannot look into his heart and thus I cannot judge the man just like he couldn't just all of those that he claimed God hated.  

I do know this though.   God loved him.   He was created in the image and likeness of God and God desired to have a relationship with him.   I know that Jesus died on the cross for him.  I know that God has called me to love just He loves me.   So, you'll excuse me if I don't hate Fred Phelps and instead, I pray that in the end he found peace with God and is on his way to Heaven instead of Hell.  You see----I won't let hate win in my heart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How Easy is Sin

I have two little prayers that epitomize where I seem to be spiritually.   The first one is one I learned from Mark Hart and it is, "Lord, I grant you permission to remove anyone--or anything---that keeps me from you."    The second prayer is attributed to St. Augustine and is, "Lord, make me chaste----just not yet."

You see, I want nothing more than to be a saint and to spend eternity in front of the face of God in Heaven, yet the lure of sin is so great that I seem to desire it more than Heaven.  I think there are several reasons for this.  

The first is the deception of what sin is, provided by the Devil.  The Devil convinces us that sin is not that bad, and what people tell me is sin probably isn't really.   I mean, who are we really hurting?  And who is making the rules up anyway?  Who are they to tell me that something is wrong.  I'm the one who knows best about what's right or wrong for me.  

The reality is of course, I'm ignorant when it comes to most things much less theology.   Should I really trust my eternal soul on my own opinion when I don't even know how the combustion engine works much less even begin to understand the inner thinking of God, who created the universe?    We are blessed that God gave us the Church to guide us and help us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to become saints.

They second lure of sin is that, lets face it, sin is so much damn fun.   I enjoy a good snarky comment that zings someone.   I enjoy finding the good juicy gossip on someone and I certainly enjoy complaining about someone and telling my friends how dumb someone else.  And don't even get me started on attractive women---they are pleasing on the eyes.   Even when I know things are a sin and understand why a certain behavior or act is sinful it is so difficult to turn away and and do what is more pleasing to God instead of what is pleasing to Jamie.   Those chains of sin are strong and very difficult to break.  But it's not impossible.  As I've matured, I've broken some and the lures of certain sins are as attractive as they once were.

Finally, I don't think that, as humans, we are more in touch with our physical sides and not so in tune with our spiritual sides.   As such, I don't think we are aware of the damage that sin causes us.   When we sin, we turn away from God.   We are walking away from Him.   So, the real price of sin is death.   So, if I die in a state of mortal sin I've destroyed my relationship with God and I've sentenced myself to eternity without His love and without being in His presence.  Fortunately, God loves us and wants us to be with Him.  So much in fact that He became a man Himself and became the ultimate sacrifice for our soul.  Fortunately, He is merciful.  Fortunately, he gave us a way for us to repair that relationship with us in the sacrament of reconciliation.

God knows me.   He knows that I love Him and want a relationship with Him.  He also knows my failings and how desirable I find sin.    He gave me the Church to lead me and to help me better understand sin and not be fooled by the Devil.   He gave me the Church to help me break those chains of sin.  He gave me the Church to that I can receive that sacrament and be reconciled with Him.   So, yes Lord, remove anyone or anything from that keeps me from you---and do it now, because I do not want to ever be separated from you.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Five Love Languages

Several years ago, I read the book "The 5 Love Languages" by Gary Chapman and to this day I think it is one of the most fascinating and eye opening books about love and I believe that every spouse should read it.   It helps you to understand that the way you are expressing your love may not be received in the way that you think it is.

The basic premiss of the  book is that we all speak one of the five different love languages.  The love language that we speak is how we express our love for each other.  It is also the most favorable way that we receive love.   So, a husband and a wife may be madly in love with each other but if they are expressing their love to the other in a language the other isn't speaking then that love isn't being communicated and that person is not feeling loved.    Then problems arise because  that love that the  couple has for each other is not being communicated.  So, the key is to determine what love language your spouse speaks  and communicate to them in that love language, even though it may not be your primary language, so that they more fully receive that love you have for them.

The different love languages are:
Words of Affirmation- Compliments, words of love, verbally expressing your love, appreciation and admiration about the other
Acts of Service--Doing something for the other, especially something that the other person does not like doing
Receiving Gifts--Actually giving something physical to someone such as something that you've noticed they need or something as simple as a card or a love letter
Quality Time--sitting down with the person, eye to eye contact, uninterrupted time
Physical Touch--goes beyond the bed room (but certainly includes it),  holding hands, a gentle touch as you pass by, hugs

An example is the husband who constantly brings home gifts for his wife but she is frustrated because she just wants him to help around the house more often.   He then gets upset because she is fixing dinner instead of appreciating the gift.

It is important to know your spouses love language not only so that you can communicate your  love to them in that language but to hear it from your spouse.

I think a reason I enjoyed this book so much is because my wife and I don't speak the same love languages.   I have no doubt that Abby loves me but there are times when I'm sad and lonely because she is not speaking my language.   I actually have two----"Words of Affirmation" and "Physical Touch."     When she isn't speaking those languages, I have feelings of rejection and my self-esteem tanks.   It is in those moments that it is important for me to hear her communicate in her love language---which is "Quality Time."    So, I realize that her going to the store with me or watching television with me are ways that she expresses her love for me.  And I, in turn, have to make sure that   I plan dates nights and such for her.

We can't alwaysexpress our love for our spouse in the way that only makes us happy.   Buying your wife a bowling ball when she does not bowl (like Homer Simpson did for Marge) doesn't make sense.   Sometimes, we have to get dressed up and go to the ballet.   Sometimes we need to take time to tell her how beautiful she is, or buy him the video game he wants, or hold hands.  Whatever your loved one wants.

If you have not read, "The 5 Love Languages" then order it today.   Download it to your Kindle or Nook and read it tonight.   There are some great ideas in there for showing your spouse you love them.   You can also checkout their website at 5 Love

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More Than Just a Cop

A few weeks ago, my department came out with a new social media policy.  It is a typical social media policy that any professional organization would put into place to protect itself and to protect it's employees.  One part of the policy may be a little different than your employer because it suggests not identifying yourself as a police officer.   Now, this may seem ironic sense I have a blog titled, "Roman Catholic COP" but I really do not have a problem with that suggestion because I do not necessarily like to be seen as a cop.

Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of my profession and I'm proud of all of my fellow officers throughout the world who are professional and dedicated.   I would be proud to have my badge etched into my tombstone when I die.    At the same time, I do not normally volunteer that I'm a police officer.    It always seems to turn awkward.  

It never fails---once someone find's out I'm a police officer the questions start.  "Have you ever shot anyone?"  "How many people have you shot?"  "Aren't you scared?" "What's the worst thing you've seen?" "What's the weirdest thing you've seen?"  "What's the scariest thing you've seen?" "Do you know my cousin, Joe--I forget his last name, but he works for [insert some other agency 100 miles away]"

A lot of these questions are questions that, unless I'm close to you, I may not really feel like opening up about.   Some stories are ones that I may not want to have dragged up and rehashed.   I do have some canned stories that I use just to satisfy people's curiosity and to shut them up.  But, I'm very good at compartmentalizing things and when I'm not at work, I don't want to think about work.

I'm proud of my profession but I don't want to necessarily be put into that box.   I would be much happier to be labeled by my vocation of husband and father.    At the end of my life, if no one remembers me as a police officer it will not be that big of a deal.  In fact, I realized a long time ago that I won't change the world as a police officer and I probably will never realize the lives that I do touch.   But it is much more important that I am a good husband and a good father but I will know how I impact the lives of my wife and my children.    It is much more important to me that they know that I love them and that I do everything I possible do to lead them to God.

Both my profession and my vocation have had negative effects on the other.    I work a lot of overtime and off duty jobs that take me away from family time but it's to provide for my family so they are never wanting.    And on the other hand, I have never put in for any specialized units and I have remained on the overnight shift for most of my 15 year career so that I can see my family during the evenings, take my kids to and from school and not have my schedule messed up.      It's a delicate balance and I think I do a reasonably good job.

Yes, I'm a police officer.  I'm proud to be a police officer.   But if I had to be labeled----I'd rather that label be "husband" or "dad."

Friday, February 14, 2014

Loving and Honoring

Today is Valentine's Day--or more specifically, "St. Valentine's Day."   It's a day of looooooooove!!!   Hearts and roses, chocolate candy, pink and red.   Really, a bunch of fluff.  I think there is something more important to look at when you are thinking of your significant other.  Something that is normally thought of, at least in my mind, in a military manner.  And that is "honor."

In a Catholic wedding, the couple makes several vows, among them are that they are there "freely and without reservation to give [them]selves to each other," and to "honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives" and finally to "accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church."

What does it mean to "honor each other" though?   Honor is to regard with great respect.   I think more marriages would survive if more people worked on honoring their spouse instead of whatever their idea of "loving" is.   In today's society, "love" is thrown around too much and too easily.   People love certain foods or businesses or even celebrities and it's easy to take that mindset into a relationship.   When that happens then love is just a trend.   A tattoo today only to be lasered off tomorrow.

But to honor your spouse means to respect them.  It means to treat them better than you would treat yourself.  It means to want the best for the other person.  It means sacrifice.   It means to go that extra mile to express that love that you claim for them and doing what makes them happy, even if it is something that you may not want to do.

Honor your spouse by not treating them as a lesser person.  Don't talk bad about them in the lunch room to your fellow workers.   Treat them special.

I am very good at loving my wife.  I'm not always good at honoring my wife.  I get lazy.  I get selfish.  It's easy to love.  It's not so easy to honor.

So, this Valentine's Day, don't limit yourself at just loving that person that you are spending the rest of your day with but work on honoring them too.