Thursday, July 29, 2010

Life Lesson from Canoeing

I spent Monday through Wednesday last week with the youth from Holy Family in Noel, MO boating on the Elk River. Monday was a one hour raft ride and Tuesday was an 8-mile, all day canoe trip. It took us probably about six to seven hours and during that time I had several thoughts.

The first was about how nature seems to be proof itself in the existence of God. It's not like we were in the middle of no where, or hours away from civiliatation. Heck, I don't think we were ever more than a quarter mile away from the nearest road. But, we were far enough away sometimes that we were afforded brief glimpses of seclusion and for the whole 8 mile course we were able to be in nature.

I wonder how anyone can look at nature and not see God's fingerprints all over it. The peacefulness and serinity. Looking into the water you see thousands of rocks, fish, turtles, and others creatures. The trees line the side of the river offering protection and habitats for other animals. Looking towards the heavens you can see the clouds and the sky and wonder what was beyond.

I think those who prefer to think that creation was made by accident simply don't want to believe in God because he is presented as an authority figure. After all, the orignal see is thinking that we don't need God. This is the only way that I can figure how someone can look at nature and see how everything co-exists and think that everything was put there randomly and not think that God had a plan.

The second observance I had was seeing nature and how some people treat nature and how it somewhat reflects on how we treat our own souls. We would be floating along, enjoying the scenery and then you would come upon a beach littered with beer cans and other trash. People have the nerve to go into a beautiful place and just trash it. I was disgusted and then I realized that we all do that with our very own souls. We are created in the image and likeness of God. We are created truly good. But, we come along and trash our souls by sinning. We take something good and tarnish it. Fortunately, we have reconciliation and are able to clean up the beaches and rivers of our soul and make it beautiful again.

Finally, I noticed how hurried I was. We were down there for three days. The main canoe trip was all we had to do on the second day. No one was expecting us. We had no plans except for that canoe trip. Yet, I kept wanting to finish it just for the sake of getting it over instead of appreciating where we were and what we were doing. Fortunately, Heather Neds, youth director extraordinar, had been there several times before and she kept a good pace. We stopped when we felt like stopping, swam, jumped off of rocks and relaxed. No hurries.

I need to do this in my every day life. Not that I'm always rushing places. I'm just always waiting for things to get done. I'm excited about my oldest daughter starting high school. I can't wait until my younger ones are old enough for high school and then to have the all graduate so we can get them out of the house!!! I look forward to Christmas only to want to get it over with so I can get to summer, only to look forward to fall. I go to baseball games and want a nice quick pitching duel so the game will end quickly (I think this comes from working Royals games for 10 years)

We need to stop and appreciate where we are. Enjoy our kids while they are kids. They will grow up soon enough. Enjoy those who we are with. Take time to enjoy our happy times. Take time to appreciate our struggles. After all, God never gives us more than we are able to handle so those times of struggles are times when He is helping make us stronger and we can probably even find something good out of those times.

A six hour float trip---lots of time for reflection. Lots of time to enjoy nature and God's creation. Heather better let me go back next year!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


"Monster" by the group Skillet in a song that works so much better when the volume is cranke (that means up to 30, Abby--not 15) and it's one that just speaks to me. The opening lines, "the secret side of me, I never let you see. I keep it caged but I can't control it" some how resonates within in me. Sometimes I feel like I have a facade where I put on a smiley face and crack a joke but inside there is something darker--a spiritual battle where I am trying to break the chains of sin.

The song continues saying how the beast is trying to break out and as soon as it comes out it can't be controlled asking for someone to make it stop and help it end. I know that if I allowed my sins to go unchecked that would take over me and I wouldn't be able to do anything because sin would control me. It's only through the grace of God that I will be able to beat it and truly be free.

I hear the song and not only do I realize that it sounds like the spiritual warfare that challenges me and rages inside of me every single day but I realize it's sort of like the modern day equivalent of what St. Paul was saying when he wrote in Romans 7: 19-20, "For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if (I) do what I do not want, it is not longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me."

This is one of my favorite Bible verses because it's St. Paul--who know, the guy who wrote most of the Bible--talking how he wants to do good but some how he fails because of the "Monster" that dwells within. That's how I feel. It's like sin is just entrenched deep inside of me, yet it's right there beneath the skin and it makes me feel like a monster. And I hate what it makes me.
I know my failings. I know where I am tempted. That's why I become so frustrated with myself because like Paul, I know what I want to do but yet I fail to do it and do that which I don't want to do. I love confession but sometimes I hate it (which I should) because I feel like I can just say to the priest, "yeah--those sins I confessed last time?? Yeah---I did them again. I know I said I wouldn't do them again but I did."

Then the song says, "it's hiding in the dark" reminds me of what Jesus says that all of our sins are in the dark and it's not until we desire to live in the light that we can live without sin. That's why I like the end of the video where it shows the people walking out of the labortory and walking into the light. Even though I let this monster out of it's cage, I know that through the sacraments I can do better and more importantly, that I will be I will be forgiven when I show myself for the monster I've become. I'm forgiven and Christ shows me that I'm not a monster, but someone who is made in the image and likeness of God and who He loves so much that He gave His life for.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

5 Tips on How Not to be a Jerk

My mom and sister think that I'm a jerk (their favorite phrase is "butt-head" but I was afraid of offending people). And they probably deserve to think so. They probably see it more than anyone. (You people who work for me---yeah--you need to be quiet or else I'm going to put you on paddy wagon duty!) But yeah, my mom and sister probably see it more than anyone. Even more than my wife. After all--if Abby ain't happy, ain't nobody going to be happy. The cool thing about Christianity is that it really is the ultimate self-help program. We are all trying to better ourselves in order that we may become more holy and pleasing to God. So, while the title of the blog is "How to Not be a Jerk" it could easily apply to whatever fault you have.

1. Acknowledge that you are a jerk. Probably the best time/place for this is at night before you go to bed when you do an "examination of conscience." This is where you look back on your day and think about what you have done and what you have failed to do. Did you act like a jerk. Did you treat others like a jerk. Did you gossip or belittle people? Did you fail to take care of people?? Did you leave people in your wake thinking, "what a jerk!"

2. Reconcile with God. Whenever you are a jerk to people you aren't just being a jerk to them but you are being a jerk to God by sinning. Get your jerk rear-end to confession and be reconciled with God. Not only will you be in a state of grace but you will receive graces that will help you to not be a jerk.

3. Reconcile with others. If you go to confession and reconcile with God for being a jerk but you don't reconcile with those you were a jerk to then you are . . . well . . . a jerk. The cross is both vertical and perpendicular. We cannot only work towards spiritual perfection vertically and try to be pleasing to God because we will fail. We also have to work towards spiritual perfection horizontally and love others. We must take care of others. We must ask those who we have wronged for forgiveness. The prodigal son said, "I have sinned against you and against God." Go to those you have wronged--whether it be a daughter, a son, a sibling, a spouse or a parent. Tell them you have been a jerk and ask for their forgiveness. It's not good enough to tell someone else that you are a jerk. Tell it to the person you were a jerk to. It will help them heal

4. Work on not being a jerk. Throughout your day, be conscience of your actions. Put that filter on your mouth and don't say everything that pops into your head. Try to see the other person's viewpoint before dismissing them. There is a saying, "it's better to keep you mouth shut and seem like a fool than to open it and remove all doubt." That can be changed to "it's better to keep your mouth shut and to look like a jerk than to open it and remove all doubt." Be aware or people's feelings.

5. Start all over again. Damm it, you screwed up. You told your subordinate, "If you were any smarter I'd teach you to fetch." Or you told your friend, "Hey, the 80's called--they want their wardrobe back." Maybe you said to your co-worker, "I'm trying to imagine you with a personality." Maybe you tell the skinny lady walking down the street, "Yellow makes you look like a #2 pencil. " Yep . . . you are doing it again. You are being a jerk. Go back to the beginning. No one ever said it would be easy! All we can do is try and try again. Eventually, we will get it. We may not notice it but people will see a change in you and see God working through you.

My mom likes to quote HER mom as saying, "If you can't say something nice then don't say something at all." I keep thinking I need to follow her advice. But then my sense of wit and sarcasm gets to me and I break and I tell the guy, "You're so dumb, blondes tell jokes about YOU." or I tell the drunk guy, "You're a couple knights short of a Crusade there buddy, a couple Brady's short of a bunch!"

Well, I'm a jerk. I acknowledge it. When is confession?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening

The frustration is only beginning I think. I'm barely into my diaconate aspirancy and I have so many doubts. Fortunately, it is only the beginning. I have a long LONG time left to make a final decision but yet every day I wonder if the diaconate is for me. To be honest---I could totally walk away and be perfectly happy. But certain events in my life are occurring that make me really feel that this is where God wants me and that I could help a lot of people by being a deacon. It while it just doesn't seem comfortable I think it's important that I follow God's will and not my own. I just have to figure out what God's will is.

I realize I'm not alone. I realize there are people all over the world trying to discern God's will. Should they be a priest? Should they become a religious sister? Maybe they are just sitting there asking God, "How do I find my way?" Heck, there are even people who bring God into all their life decisions, "Lord, what shade of beige should I paint my house?"

How do you know what God wants you to do? Obviously, if you came here looking for answers you came to the wrong place or else I wouldn't be struggling so much over my own discernment. I wish it was as easy as when Samuel told Eli to just say, "Speak, Lord, your servant is listening." Maybe it is that easy for some people. Maybe discernment for some is very easy and their decision just makes perfect sense to them. Maybe they actually do get a clap of lighting or maybe a huge storm that makes it feel like their house is coming off of their foundation.

As for me, it seems that God is speaking to me in whispers as opposed to a roaring wind. Perhaps I'm not realizing that he is speaking to me. Like I said, certain people God has put in my life make me feel like He wants me to be a deacon. Like I said, I realize that I have a long road a head of me and a long time to decide. I know that I need to shut up, sit back, and listen but wouldn't it just be so much easier if God said in a thundering voice, "Jamie, I want you to ______."

The Versatile Blogger

My baby sister (who happens to be pregnant with a baby) has her own blog over at From the Heart. Well, even though I'm a butt-head to her (aren't big brother supposed to do that?) she gave me a little Blog award. She game me "The Versatile Blogger Award."

The rules to this award are simple.

1. Thank the blogger who gave it to you: (Thank you, Margaret!)
2. List 7 things that people may not know about you:
3. Pass the love to 15 deserving bloggers (geeez---not sure I can find the award who haven't gotten it!)
4. And let them know you gave them an award. (this may have to wait until tomorrow--it may take research and I'm tired)

So the 7 things you may not know about the Roman Catholic Cop

1. I once got in-school suspension because I took a smoke bomb to school, gave it to someone, who three days later lit it in the boys bathroom.
2. I went to Saudi Arabia while I was in the Marine Reserves for Desert Shield/Storm where I got to spend my war time on guard duty and mess duty.
3. I ran for Student Body president and at the speech, instead of telling everyone all the great things I was going to do--such as more pop machines and stuff---ended up TRASHING my opponents. I didn't win.
4. For our honeymoon, Abby and I went to Reno, NV and stayed at a casino. I spent most of my time in the video game arcades instead of the casino.
5. I've met my father once in my adult life.
6. I got caught making out with a girl on a retreat at Conception Abbey by a priest. (That's why I'm suspicious of all the kids at youth events!!!
7. I enjoy good Broadway musicals--especially "South Pacific."

Now--for my seven favorite blogs. Some of these people may have already won it before but I don't care damm it!

Okay--seven--that's what I got. The others are the "big boys" who really don't need traffic driven to them.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Deep Gash of Sin

I responded to help officers who had come across a lady covered in blood and screaming uncontrollably. On the way en route, I was wondering if she had been assaulted, shot, maybe stabbed? What was going on? After I got there, we determined that the lady was a "cutter" and was high on drugs. I'm not a doctor so forgive me for this crude explanation. A cutter is someone who is emotionally disturbed and deals with their problems by cutting themselves--literally. They take knives or glass or whatever type of sharp object that can get and cut themselves. The paramedics arrived and the lady explained to the medic how she feels better when she cuts herself.

A person's first reaction was, "why in the heck would someone do that?!?!?!" But in a way, don't we all do this? Aren't we all cutters at heart? Maybe not in the physical sense. We don't literally take a knife or a piece of glass and slice up our arm. But spiritually that is what we do when we sin. We do harm to ourselves spiritually. We do harm to ourselves and we convince ourselves that it's because it makes us feel better. We slander. We harm. We lust. We covet. We are greedy and envious and lazy. We do this and we feel good about it while at the same time we are ripping ourselves away from God. We sin and we are so delusional that we often don't see the harm in it.

But God is there. He's like that medic who took the woman and cleaned her arm up. Washed off the blood and bandaged up her wounds. Except instead of cleaning us up in the back of the wagon he does it in the confessional. We are cleansed, the gunk is washed up and we are healed by these words, "through the ministry of the church you are absolved of your sins" and through the grace that we receive in the sacrament. The thing is, just like the lady who walked to the ambulance and asked for help, we have to take the first step and ask for forgiveness.

I don't know how long the lady had been harming herself but gauging by the scars on her arms it was for several years. We too are scarred by our sins. It leaves gouges and scrapes on our souls just as much as the knives had left scar tissue on the lady's wrists. We are forgiven for our sins but the scars remain. And it is only through purgatory what the wounds from those scars completely go away and we are purified.

An interesting thing about the lady. The paramedic knew her. She didn't recognize her at first but after a moment she did. It had been awhile since she had run a call with her and attended to her wounds. But the lady was back again. Sometimes confession is like that. It seems like we have to return time and time again because we continue to sin and sin again. Now knowing the harm we are doing but we are still convinced that it makes us feel better.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Me?

Yeah, I'll brag about it. I don't think I'm being prideful about it a bit. I have a heck of a good life. I have faith. I have an amazing family. A smoking hot wife who always makes me smile. Good kids. Amazing friends. A job that I love going to. And it's not prideful because I haven't done a single darn thing to earn it. I flat out don't deserve it. I constanly ask myself, "why me?" Lord knows I've messed up pleanty in my life. I'm a sinful man.

The question is especially difficult when I see other people who are much better than me suffering. They suffer heartache and sadness. They undergo illness and pain. Injuries and debts and the sinking feeling that no matter how hard they swim they are always going upstream and will never find that light at the end of the tunnel.

Why me? I mean, life isn't perfect for me but it's not like the sufferings of others I see. I suppose it goes back to the age old question, "why do bad things happen to good people?" I'm sure there are some theologians out there who can give a decent explanation in a class room and explain how redemptive suffering works and how those who suffer enter into the suffering of Christ and become more holy and it sounds all great until you are trying to actually explain it to someone who is suffereing.

I think an easier explaination may be that we always have to remember that we are in an exile. You see, this world isn't as God desired it to be because of sin entering into the world. We have to remember that Heaven is the desirable home for us. We have to remember that we will never be completely happy until we are there. We have to remember that Earth is good because it was created by God but it pales in comparrison to what we have in store for us if we get to Heaven.

I suppose it's easier for me to look at the lives of the saints. So many of them suffered. Not only were there the martyrs but there were many who suffered illness and had diseses. There were many who felt heartbreak and lonliness. Many even felt the torture of feeling as if God wasn't in their lives. But they all kept turning to God and today are in their eternal reward.

It doesnt' make sense I expect---especially to those who are going through pain and torment perhaps. Perhaps they understand it much more than me. A story I always enjoyed was of St. Therese of Avila who was riding in a carriage one day when the cart hit a rock or a pothole or something and Therese was knocked out and landed into a huge mud puddle. She sat there and said, "Lord, if you treat all of your friends in such a way . . . no wonder you have so few."

Even if we follow God we will face our trials and tribulations. We are going to see and experience sufferings. It's just a fact of life. What is important is that we never keep our eye off of God. We don't lose hope. And someday we won't experience suffering anymore.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Family Reunion

This weekend my family and I ventured to the tiny little town of Tightwad, MO (population 63) for our annual family reunion. This year was really special to me because I almost had to miss it. I know what you are thinking, "You had an excuse not to go to your family reunion and you didn't take it?? Are you crazy?" Actually, my family reunion is one of the two favorite events every year (Christmas being the other) and I was very upset when I thought I was going to miss it.

Why? Well, for a guy who grew up with a single mom and one baby sister who is 14 years my junior--my immediate family is HUGE! My mom had six brothers and I have 27 cousins. My mom and I grew up with my grandpa for the first ten years of my life so family was always around. Christmas in a double wide trailer was CRAZY. You want to talk about your packed houses. If the town I grew up had fire codes (and I'm not sure they do) I'm pretty sure that little place was over capacity.

In 1986, my grandpa died. At his funeral the priest made a comment that often after the second parent dies the big families like ours tend to drift apart. My Uncle Alan took this as a challenge and has done what he can to prevent this from happening. He started a family bulletin that he compiled and put together every month, then every other month and eventually every quarter or so (our family tends to procrastinate) We had a family reunion in 1995 but we didn't really get together as a family until 1998 when my oldest uncle, Bud, passed away. It had been so long since we had gotten together even though we still kept in touch using the website "" So, the next year arrangements were made to have a family reunion at Hickory Hollow Resort in Tighwad, MO.

We have gone there for 11 years now. It's a nice place. Every family has a cabin with a kitchen area. There is a pool. The week-end is usually the same pretty much. A weenie-roast on Friday night which ends up in drinking around the camp fire until the morning hours. Saturday everyone does their own thing. Saturday night we have a dinner, some sort of activity and then drinking around the campfire until the wee hours of the morning. The past several years we have had different themes such as St. Patrick's Day, Christmas, Halloween etc etc that we can make extra activities out of.

Themes don't really matter to me. My favorite time is the bonding time around the camp fire. My family has some of the most important people in my life and it saddens me that I only get to see some of them once a year or sometimes every other year. We don't have to spend time catching up or anything. We just . . . visit. As if we see each other every week. It's a very comforting place to be and to relax because of the love that is in that place. This year the three remaining "Magnificent Seven" were there and 17 of the remaining 27 cousins and how knows how many second cousins were there.

Sadly, the family reunion is the last place I've seen several of my relatives. Marilyn, Mick, Dave, Bob . . . the last memories I have of them are sitting around that campfire because they passed away before the next one. (Although--our family knows how to have a good time at funerals too) Yes, sadly the Magnificent Seven has dwindled down to the "Unholy Trinity" of Alan, Steve and my mom. But hopefully we have several more decades of them there with us.

My family kicks butt. We may bicker sometimes but we don't fight. We all enjoy laughing and making a good joke. In fact, I believe my image of heaven is me sitting around that campfire at the family reunion. Until next year . . .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mass: What an Experience

It's not uncommon for me to see my friends post Facebook statuses that say something to the effect of how amazing their church service was that day or afternoon or whatever. I alway smile and move along, while thinking in the back of my head, "It may have been nice but it didn't have the Eucharist." But it got me to thinking, we DO have the Eucharist. Why don't we ever leave mass going, "WHOOO!!!! Mass was AWESOME!!! HIGH FIVE!" Why don't we do that? Probably because most of the time we are kind of bored.

There, I said it. Mass is often boring. That's not to say that there haven't been times that I've come out of mass pondering a good homily. There are even times when I go up for communion and I'm practically in tears. Other times afterwards I'm just spiritually drained. But there have been pleanty of times I've sat there thinking, "Is this homily EVER going to end?" (not with my priest. My priest gives great homilies (hear that Fr. Matthew?)) Or I'll drift off and think about the previous night or what I've got planned for the day. It's real difficult for me to keep a train of thought.

I think the problem of why we commonly get bored at mass is that we are looking at it purely from the PHYSICAL perspective. This is undertandable. After all, so much in mass appeals to our physical senses. The smell of the incense, the physical positioning of our bodies either standing, sitting and kneeling. The sights. That's why grand churches were built--in order to make us look up and to help us. The thing is, as physical beings, it's difficult for us to see beyond the physical and to see the spiritual. It's difficult for us to see the spiritual stuff thats IN the physical--such as the divine presence in the Eucharist.

Our challenge at mass is to punch through the physical sights that are in front of us and see the spiritual sights that are there. You see, mass is heaven on Earth. Get yourself to mass early and open yourself to prayer before hand. Shut out the sounds of those people around you catching up on the gossip for the last week and anticipate what is about to happen. I imagine a great curtain seperating Heaven and Earth being lifted up as the opening hymm begins. We can see not only the guardian angels who are with us always but also all of the angels in Heaven and all of the saints. All of our loved ones there----with us--to join us in the worship of God.

Sink into the scriptures. Listen to the homily and appreciate that even though it may not seem to be speaking to us that perhaps it's speaking right to the person behind us. Send up our prayers during the prayers of the faithful. Listen to what you are saying during the Nicine Creed and don't just say it in a rote manner. And then get ready because the best is about to come.

The liturgy of the Eucharst---the second part of the mass. Listen, appreciate what the priest is saying. Realize that you ARE singing along with the choirs of angels when you sing, Holy, Holy, Holy. Visualize what is going on during the consecration---recreat the image of the Last Supper going on in front of you as the priest says the words. Realize that we are transcending time and space and we are present at the foot of calvary in that moment.

Get impatient---not because mass is almost over but because it's almost time for communion. You are about to have the body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ placed in your hands in order to nourish you. In order to feed you and give you that spiritual nutriontion that you need. Let that sink in . . . God, loves you so much that he not only became human in order to become the perfect sacrifice so that we can have eternal life but made it so that He can be physically present to us to take care of us everytime we go to mass.

As we return to our pews, we kneel down and pray--and what a perfect time for prayer. God is never closer to us than he is when we partake in the Eucharist. Speak to Him. Listen to Him.

The priest offers us the final blessing as well as to command to take the gopsel out to the world. As the final hymm is prayed, you can almost imagine the curtain coming back down as mass is over.

Appreciate what you just participated in. You didn't have to be a lector, an extrodrinary minister or sing in the choir. You may not have even taken communion. Perhaps you aren't Catholic. Maybe you aren't in a state of grace and need to go to confession. Maybe you just are in a station in your life where, for whatever reason you cannot take communion. You can still participate. And what we particpiate is whoa so much more amazing than some church service where there is merely good music or preaching.

So, I expect all of you, next Sunday, to post on your Facebook about what an amazing experience you had at mass this weekend.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Spiritual Dryness

I noticed yesterday that I seem to be going through a period of spiritual dryness. This is where spiritually I just feel--meh. I don't feel like doing this. I don't feel like praying. I don't want to read any spiritual books. I don't want to read scripture. I just want to sit around, watch some Deadliest Catch, eat, sleep and go on with my life.

I suppose this happens with pretty much everything in our lives. I think it's human nature to get bored with things and move on to other things that seem more enjoyable and then maybe come back to the first thing. The problem with not focusing on your spirituality is that it's just like not constantly focusing on a diet or a work out program. If you aren't always on your game you will not only not be getting better or improving but you will start losing ground. If you aren't watching what you eat or going to the gym you are bound to lose fitness. You are bound to gain weight or lose physical abilities. It's the same with spirituality. You constantly need to keep focus and keep your eye on God and striving to become closer to Him.

There is an added issue when you lose focus spiritually. When you don't keep your eye on God and you aren't focusing on Him you are liable to miss the mark. When you miss the mark spiritually you are sinning. When you start sinning, you open yourself up to attacks from Satan and you fall further and further away from God. Spiritual warfare is a constant battle and you constantly have to be wearing the amour of God in order to be on the defense of the "wickedness and snares of the devil."

I know what I need to do. It's the same prescription that you have to take after you miss a couple of workouts or eat a couple meals at fast food joints. You have to get back on the horse. You need to sit down in prayer. Spend time with God. Ask him for help and grace to help you out spirituality. Going to confession is another great place to start. It's a great place to get spiritually cleansed. Mass--receiving the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Chris---can't go wrong there can you??

Still, it is difficult for us who are spiritual infants just as getting enjoyment out of going to the gym is difficult for those of us who are not athletic and out of shape. I'll admit it. Prayer has never come easy for me. It's difficult. I wish I was on of these people who can just jump into scripture and enjoy it like a favorite book. That's not me. I pray that some day it will be but right now it's not.

So, until it is, I'll keep plowing along. So if you will excuse me----it's time for morning prayer.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Beauty From Pain

Over the years, I have accumulated a fair amount of music from Christian rock groups. The groups I like tend to be more "hard" and often times, until you really slow down the message and listen you may not realize what the message is because you are too busy pounding your fist or banging your head. (I'm a product of the 80's--I apologize) So, I thought that once every couple weeks or so, I would take a song that I enjoy and break it down and explain what I get out of the song. It may not be what the group intended or what you may hear from it--but what I get.

The first song I picked, "Beauty from Pain" sung by the Christian rock band Superchick really intrigues me. It's slow medley conveys the pain of woman going through difficult times but with hope in God and the knowledge that God will take this suffering and turn it into something better--some way, some how. This is a message that we all need to remember because being a Christian is not easy and we are challenged to pick up and carry our cross daily. We, like the singer, need to remember that in our suffering we enter into the suffering of Jesus and beauty comes forth from this.

The singer talks about how everything is crashing in on her. The darkness is starting to settle in on her. She never says what is going on her life which makes the song more applicable to each and everyone one of us. Perhaps it's a lost love. Maybe she is having financial troubles or suffered a death in her family. I think we have all been there at some point where just life just sucks and you don't know how you are going to make it. You question God and ask yourself why he is making you go through this pain.

She someone still maintains hope though. I pray that I would be like that--to be faithful and hopeful when all you want to do is die. She knows that some day she will look back and be able to see how she was made better through all this. She knows she will survive even though the pain has no sign of the pain going away. And it's all because she clings to God that she knows that things will get better.

We need to do this whenever life has crumbled and it seems like nothing will ever be right. We MUST remember that God loves us and will turn beauty from our pain.

The lights go out all around me
One last candle to keep out the night
And then the darkness surrounds me
I know I'm alive
But I feel like I died
And all that's left is to accept that it's over
My dreams ran like sand through the fists that I made
I try to keep warm but I just grow colder
I feel like I'm slipping away

After all this has passed
I still will remain
After I've cried my last
There'll be beauty from pain
Though it won't be today
Someday I'll hope again
And there'll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from my pain

My whole world is the pain inside me
The best I can do is just get through the day
When life before is only a memory
I wonder why God lets me walk through this place
And though I can't understand why this happened
I know that I will when I look back someday
And see how you've brought beauty from ashes
And made me as gold purified through these flames

After all this has passed
I still will remain
After I've cried my last
There'll be beauty from pain
Though it won't be today
Someday I'll hope again
And there'll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from my pain

Here I am at the end of me
Trying to hold to what I can't see
I forgot how to hope
This night's been so long
I cling to your promise
There will be a dawn

After all this has passed
I still will remain
After I've cried my last
There'll be beauty from pain
Though it won't be today
Someday I'll hope again
And there'll be beauty from pain
You will bring beauty from my pain

lyrics from

Friday, July 2, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Mrs. McAdams

A friend of mine recently asked me, "Do you know how lucky you are?" The answer to that is a resounding yes. You see, seventeen years ago, my wife Abby and I were married. To put it simply, Abby is the love of my life and I could never imagine in a million years that I would somehow land someone as perfect as Abby or life without her.

One way I could describe my relationship with Abby is that we are two puzzle pieces who fit together just perfectly. We are not the same. There are many differences between us. She is refined. I'm brash (as her mother said when she first met, "he could use some polishing" ) She thinks about what she says before she says things. I have a t-shirt that says, "I'm sorry for what I said. It wasn't supposed to be out loud." She is classy. I'm goofy. Those differences do not matter. When you put us side by side we fit together perfectly (and I don't mean in the marital embrace--HEY-O!!) But like those two puzzle pieces that are are opposite in many ways but when you put them together they are perfect together and make something bigger.

I do my best to be the best husband I can just I like try to be the best Christian I can be. But just like I constantly screw up as a Christian and tick off God, I constantly screw up as a husband and tick off Abby. Fortunately, Abby is merciful and forgiving just like the Big Guy and looks past my imperfections and forgives me.

I think one of my favorite things about Abby is her sense of humor and her laugh. She can just CRACK me up sometimes. And when she is reading something or watching something that tickles her and she starts laughing I just can't help but to smile. That is just the main thing. Obviously, you can't be together for 17 years without having a laundry list of things that are pleasing to each other but I won't bore you with that. I'll save it for tonight when Abby and I are at dinner.

Abby Mcadams---I love you more!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Creative Minority Report: Gilligan's Island and the 7 Deadly Sins

An interesting religous perspective on Gilligan's Island:

Creative Minority Report: Gilligan's Island and the 7 Deadly Sins

Did You Hear . . .

There are few absolutes. One of them is that there are no secrets on the police department. For a bunch of adults we certainly act like a bunch of high school kids. People are always talking about each other. "Did you hear about so-and-so?" is a common phrase. Or "Do you got any good gossip?" is another. Some units are worse than others due to their proximity and centrality while other units are more out of the loop.

One reason, I believe, that gossip is so prevalent with the department is the competitive mentality. Everyone wants to do better than the other person. They want to make the best arrest. Get the most dope. Get the most guns. Have the best supervisor (which the guys in Watch I, 130 sector happen to have.) Sometimes this mentality to be the best leads to gossip and complaining. Instead of working to be better than everyone else it is easier to put everyone down via either complaining or gossip. Sometimes it's frustration because they are tired of doing more while someone else is slacking.

The truth of the matter is complaining and gossip (even if it's true) is a sin. It's goes against the 5th commandment "Thou shall not kill." This may make you step back and say, "I'm not killing anyone!" But when you speak ill of someone, whether it's true or false, you are killing their spirit. You are harming their reputation. It doesn't mean that the person has to hear you. The story may even be true. But you are still harming them. Anyone who has been on the other side of gossip could attest to how harmful it is. Harming someone is not loving and goes against what God wants.

One of my favorite stories is from "Diary of a Little Flower" which is the story of St. Therese of Lisieux. She tell the story of a nun who is just mean and spiteful. Evidently, she was very mean to the future saint. St. Therese, in turn, treated the sister very well. She always smiled and always had pleasant things to say to her even though she just couldn't stand this lady. Well, one day the good sister stopped St. Therese and asked her, "Therese, why do you love me so?" The lady treated Therese bad and Therese could very well have spent her time complaining about her to the other nuns in the convent telling them how she was wronged. She could have showed contempt to the nun. Instead, she didn't complain and was loving and kind and helped the nun feel God's love.

Being kind to your enemy's may be a stretch, even if we are called to do this by Jesus. But maybe we can start by not causing harm to them. Heck, the truth of the matter is that often times the people we are gossiping about aren't even our enemies. Often times they are our friends!! So, my challenge for you today, if you choose to accept it, is to hold your tongue. Instead of complaining, instead of gossiping, treat your fellow man with respect. Tell your co-worker, "Nope, I don't know anything and I don't want to hear anything.