Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Children of God

I was looking back at several of my last few postings and they really seem to be downers:  Spiritual Dryness, Hating God, Why Am I Here?  I can imagine someone looking over my blog titles and thinking, "this whole Christianity thing is for the birds!"  I can understand that and perhaps I have been remiss and focusing too much on the "pick up your cross daily" aspect and not focusing on what we are really commanded to go out and preach about--the Good News.

I suppose it's very easy to focus on "Good Friday" and not on "Easter Sunday" since sometimes it can seem like every day is a battle in spiritual warfare and that we are constantly under attack from Satan and his minions but we really need to step back and realize everything we have going for us and not what we have going against us.   After all, through baptism we are no longer just creations but we are in fact the adopted sons and daughters of God.  We ARE the brothers and sisters of Jesus.  If realizing that relationship doesn't give us hope then I don't think anything will.

Too often we see God in generic terms.  People have even tried to strip away the titles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit that He has given Himself in scripture and instead call  Him, "creator, redeemer, sanctifier."  How sad.  That strips away the description of the of relationship we have with God.  He isn't some abstract concept.  Religion isn't about a bunch of rules to make God happy so we can go to Heaven.  No, it's about a relationship with Him.  Sure, we can sever that relationship through sin but God is merciful and allows us to reconcile with Him. Not sinning can be difficult because of our fallen nature but God is loving and gives us the grace we need not to sin.

So, put on a smile.  Keep your head up.  We are children of God and God takes care of His children. 

Monday, September 27, 2010


When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was He said, "To love the Lord with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul."  He then said that the second commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself.   Too often in life we seem to get these commandments out of whack and fail to follow them because we put lesser important things first.  Sometimes we catch it ourselves.  Other times we need hit upside the head with a 2x4 to get it though our thick skulls that we have our priorities askew.

Obviously, the first thing we always need to do is to put God first in our lives.   It's not a guarantee that things will always be perfect but things certainly aren't going to go well for us if we fail to put God first.  After all, everything we have, everything we own, everything we are, is a gift from God.   It is only through His grace that we will put everything in order and keep ourselves on track.   If we don't put God first, it's all too easy to get off track and then start to get our other priorities mixed up.  

Our second priority should be to our family.  Catholic speaker, Justin Fatica, made a comment on The Catholic Guy Show (Sirius 159/XM 117) last Friday that really struck home with me.  He said that if you fail as a husband or you fail as a father than you fail at everything.   This struck home for me.  It was as if he was talking directly to me.  I'd gotten my priorities askew and had put other things ahead of taking care of Abby and the kids.   Justin's quote was a PING from God directed right at me.  Our family must always come first because they are your foundation here on Earth.   Jobs come and go and true friends will understand that family comes first.   But  if you screw up your family life then you really are lost.  

Too often our priorities get messed up for one simple reason.  We become too self absorbed.  I'm not saying you are necessarily selfish.  You may be doing selfless acts of charity and taking care of other people but if you aren't putting God first or you aren't taking care of your family then you are too absorbed into other things and need to step back.  Too often we are just plain selfish though.   We become so ingrained in hobbies or other things that are pleasurable to us that we forget those things that are most valuable.   We become so wrapped up in television shows, working out, fantasy football, or other addictions that we fail to focus solely on those things that we should always be focused on.

Think to yourself today, "am I truly putting God first.  Am I doing everything to I can to fulfill my spouses and my families needs?"  If you aren't you need to ask what are you putting in front of them and fix it.  

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Am I Here?

One of life's most pondered questions is "Why am I here?" or "What is my purpose in life?" We imagine guru's sitting on mountain tops meditating to those questions. Ironically, the answer used to be taught to elementary kids for decades in their CCD classes but we have seemed to have forgotten the answer. The Baltimore Catechism gives the the answer very simply, "God made us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in Heaven". Very simply, God made us to for relationship with Him. We need to remember this and think of it through out our lives.

Too often we go through life seeking happiness without trying to involve God. Too often we go through life seeking happiness while trying to omit God because we don't think our happiness lies with him or more importantly we don't want the answer he gives us. That's so ironic since we are made in His image and likeness and we made for relationship with Him. Rich or poor, married or single, healthy or ill--there is no way that we will ever be truly be happy until we are with Him. St. Augustine put it very well when he said, "My heart is restless, oh Lord, until it rests with you."

What does this mean for us? It means we need to involve Him in our lives and not just an hour at week when we are at church. We need to ask for his assistance and guidance in all of our life decisions. We need to ask Him how or why things are occurring. Ask, "Lord, is this the job for me, is this the man or woman for me, why is this happening to me." Involve Him in even the small decisions of our lives, "Lord, help me to spend money wisely as I go shopping today." Most importantly is the prayer, "Lord, let your will be done and not my own."

When we ask that God's will be done and not our own we trust in God. Considering He created the world out of nothingness that is a good place to put our trust. If we don't seek relationship with God we are only going through the motions. We are just simple animals seeking out life's pleasures--seeking out what makes us happy for the moment. We weren't made just to participate in life. We transcend life--we have a high calling and that is why we should always put God first in our lives.

This is sometimes difficult.  I'm not dumb.  I know that it's difficult to always put God first and to try to do His will because God's will is not always what we want.  Heck, I'm the poster boy for pushing God aside to do what I want.  And I really have no excuse. God's been good to me.  Yet, I seem to mess up my priorities and put a million and one things ahead of God.  I haven't prayed yet today, but I made time to watch the season premier of "The Office" on DVR.   I have a book on meditation that is screaming at me to read but I'm going to go clean the refrigerator.   If cleaning the fridge isn't pushing God aside I don't know what is.

So why are we here?  If we keep that answer in mind . . . to know God, to love God, and to serve God in this life and to be happy with him in Heaven then the real question to ponder is, "How is this going to help me find holiness."  Is what you are doing know going to make you a holier person?  Is this person you are with going to help you get to Heaven?

We all have purposes in life.  We all have different vocations.  I believe that God has different missions for us and we have different life encounters in order to fulfill those missions.    But we must always stay focused on our ultimate mission to love God with all of our hearts and all of our souls.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hating God

The story goes that St. Therese of Avila was riding in a carriage one day when the carriage hit a pot hole and the saint was knocked out of the carriage and into a mud puddle. St. Therese looked up towards the Heavens and said, "Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few." That statement resonates with me as I discuss God with friends who have been knocked into their own puddles of mud in their lifetimes. How can you present God as loving and merciful when their lives have been so difficult through no fault of their own?How do you say "God is good" when all they see from God is pain--physical and emotional? How do you say little quirky lines such as, "let go and let God" when their lives are currently upside down? If you say that be prepared to get, "F#@k God!" thrown back in your face. Be prepared to suffer a diatribe of hatred towards God, "Why would a loving God do this to me? I had plans. I don't deserve this. I wanted babies. I just want to be normal. How much suffering should one person or one family have to undergo? God isn't real--a loving God wouldn't have done that to my mom!"

Be prepared to sit there feeling about two inches tall. You'd better be ready to say a quick prayer and say, "Come Holy Spirit!" and not try to respond on your own lest you give a pretty sound theologically correct but not a very pastoral statement such as "well, you know, God wouldn't put you through anything he wouldn't put himself through---after all, He died for you and for me on the cross." For someone who is hating God right then, the thought of Jesus dying 2000 years ago on the cross is too abstract. And if that doesn't get you cussed out saying something like, "Well, God never gives us more than we can handle" certainly will. Say that and you will probably get you chewed out royally. "Are you kidding me? Why don't you try walking in my shoes, having to have someone help you go to the bathroom! I've suffered so much. Why can't he just give me happiness for awhile! I'm a good person. I've never hurt anyone. I don't deserve this."

What do you say to someone who has been hurt so much by God that they are hating the Lord or that they have lost their faith. Well, if you are smart, you aren't going to say anything. Hopefully you shut up, pray, and let the Lord do the talking through you. There is nothing you can say that will make them feel better or bring them closer to God. The only thing that can help them is God's grace. There is a good chance that this person has a long road to ho before they find their way back to God and just like you can't convince one person to forgive another one, you won't be able to convince this person to forgive God. They have to allow themselves to be infused with God's grace and do it on their own.

But, if you are like me, and just have to try to fix everything because it's your nature as a cop then be simple. First, invoke the Holy Spirit and ask the Lord to guide you. And from there . . . I don't know. I mean, I understand that God's ways aren't our own and that we sometimes can't understand His will. I understand that. But when you aren't the one who is hurting you feel helpless. All you can do is pray, offer some sort of mortification in order to relieve some of their pain, so that they find it easier to turn to the Lord.

Prayer, prayer is the answer. If they won't do it then pray for them.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My Cursillo

"My name is Jamie, I'm from Holy Family Parish in Kansas City, MO. My cursillo was #241, September, 2010 and I sat at St. Peter's Table."

That sentence was repeated by me several times this weekend as I was at the Sisters of St. Francis Retreat Center on my Cursillo weekend. How was it? I hated every moment of it . . . . until I was home. Once I was home and unpacked I realized how much I had gotten out of it. The reasons I didn't like it really had nothing to do with the Cursillo itself--it was more personal. I had only had one day off for the last two weeks prior to attending. I had no idea what to expect. I didn't want to be there. I had spiritual battles going on already before I went there so really . . . the only place I wanted to be was at home. This morning when I awoke, I realized how glad I was that I went.

I think I would describe a Cursillo as sort of a spiritual boot camp. Thursday night everyone came in, kind of nervous because we didn't know anyone and we didn't know what to expect. The first day you look at yourself and for me that really broke me down. The next day I was build back up and on they third day I was sure I could go out and be the next St. Paul on my "forth day." During the Cursillo you learn how to use a three prong approach of piety, study and apostolic action in order to become saints for ourselves and to go out and win souls for the Kingdom of God.

One of the things I really realized from my Cursillo was how many wonderful pious lay people there are out there. All of the team leaders that gave the talks were just amazing. And the group wasn't what you'd normally expect at a gathering of Catholic men. There was every walk of life there, from mechanics to realtors to pipe fitters to well, . . . police officers--and all wonderful pious people (well, maybe not the cop--he was rather tarnished)

Another thing I learned is that I really need to involve God in more things in my life and go to him in prayer more often. I'm horrible in prayer anyway so thinking about calling on the Holy Spirit prior to doing things is kind of abstract for me. It seems rather fooling though, not to ask him to guide you when dealing with difficult situations or difficult decisions. Why wouldn't you want to involve the designer of the universe prior to designing your kitchen? Before you go in to have have that personal discussion with someone who works for you, shouldn't you ask He who knows the heart of everyone for guidance.

I realized my purpose for being there when I realized how much they were talking about friends, how important they are and how we should help our friends get to Jesus. Well, one of my prayers is that the Lord help me to be like the friends of the paralytic who carried their friend to Jesus. I don't think God has great aspirations for me. I'm a simple husband, father and friend but my life's biggest goal is to make sure I get my friends to heaven. And I realized that the thing is I can't give what I don't have so I can't give my friends the Holy Spirit is I don't have the Holy Spirit in me. I need to work on that aspect so that I can lead my friends to God.

I would highly recommend anyone attend a Cursillo weekend, and I AM going to attend my closest friends and family to attend one.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot . . . . DE COLORES!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Spiritual Dryness

It's been about a week and a half since my last post. I wish it was just because I've been busy but unfortunately, I've been going through a bit of spiritual dryness. Spiritual dryness is basically when you go through a phase where you do not receive any consolation, such as relaxation, awe, elation or release, in your prayer life. You just aren't feeling God's presence. There are a number of reasons this may happen.

I wish my reason was because God is trying to draw me closer to Him but I fear it's more because of me pushing Him away. Let's face it, growing in the spiritual life is hard work. It takes dedication, time, sacrifice, willingness to pick up your own Cross and die to yourself. And to be honest, I really have not wanted to do all of that. I've been busy these past few weeks. I haven't gotten nearly the amount of sleep that I need. In fact, I think last week from Monday morning to Friday afternoon, I had gotten like 13 hours of sleep. When you are constantly on the go, it's normal for a person's prayer life to suffer if they weren't attentive to it and for me, prayer doesn't come easily anyway so it was very easy to let it slide.

I'll admit, I've been lazy. I've felt that it'd be easier just to go the past few weeks without having to answer to God. Just let me do what I want. I don't want to take precious moment to spend in prayer when those moments could be better served on Facebook. I would rather call that guy a jerk or to spew my anger instead of being Christian to my brother. To be honest, I haven't wanted God imposing on me. The thought, "I have free will and by-golly, I'm going to use it"seems to have been my mantra. I recognize that this has probably been due to spiritual attacks on me. Yes, Satan is real and he does whatever he can to take us away from God, and I think I've been allowing Satan's attacks to work on me.

Fortunately, I think what has been saving me is a healthy fear of the Lord, fearing the fires of Hell and of offending God. That's been my reason for going to confession regularly, for going to mass even when I really wanted to do anything else but spend an hour at church. A friend's been making me go to adoration regularly which has helped also---nothing like quiet time in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The problem is that I haven't gotten the consolation that I seek. I haven't had that sense of relief after reconciliation or great feeling of love and joy after receiving the Eucharist and once I'm done with my Holy Hour and outside of the church I feel like Secular Jamie--back to cussing out the guy who is driving the speed limit in the passing lane (jerk).

Hopefully, relief is at hand. Thursday night I am going on a Cursillio--a retreat--until Sunday morning. I'm really hoping that a few days with no worries of kids, bills, work and other stresses and focusing on God will get me back in the saddle and come back next week recharged and ready to go. We'll see.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Five Ways That Life IS Like a Race

One of my favorite analogies in the Bible, and one that I think seems to help me the most in my spiritual life, is when St. Paul compares life to a race. He says that we must rid ourselves of every burden and sin so that we may win the race (Heb 12:1.) He also reminds us that not all runners win so that we must run to win the prize (1 Corr 9:24). I like this analogy because you can get so different ideas from it.

The spiritual life is a race and not a spontaneous event. Some believe that to win all they have to do is to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. That's like saying all you have to do is to strap into the starting blocks. It's a great start--and but it's only the start! You have a long race ahead of you, buddy. Many things can change between the starting line and the finish line. Some people get bogged down by sin and don't finish. Some people quit all together. You have a long race ahead of you. Don't get too excited because you started the race. You have to endure until the end and Satan is going to do his best to try to make you lose.

There are many strokes we can use to use to get ahead. In swimming there in the butterfly, the breast stroke, the backstroke as well as others. Swimmers may be better at one stroke than the other. We have many different devotions that we can use in order to help us get closer to Christ. Some people really enjoy the rosary while others may enjoy the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Some people have a devotion to one certain saint or another. It doesn't matter what you do. You don't even have to anything but realize that there are these devotions out there that can assist in helping you get closer to God.

We must stay on course. In the swimming pool there are lane dividers to help keep the swimmer in their lane and keep them from going off course. Hopefully, in our own lives we have people that serve as our lane dividers and keep us from going off course. Our family and friends are there to keep us on track and on course. Sometimes we are paddling so hard that it's hard for us to see that we are messing up and we need that friend to point out that we are doing something wrong. We need that spouse to tell us that we aren't acting correctly. We need these people in our lives to help guide us and to stop us when we are screwing up so we know when to take a step back and get back onto course.

The sacraments can boost us right up to the front. There are times in this race when we start falling behind. Sin is dragging us down. We are in the back of the pack and we are losing big time and it looks like there is no way we can possibly win. Going to reconciliation can be like a shot of nitrous oxide and just shoots us right up to the front. You will go from being loaded down with sin and sinking in the pool to free and clear and flying on top of the water. Going to mass and partaking in the Eucharist gives us the nourishment we need to keep us at the front. If you are at the back of the pack then get yourself back to the sacraments now!

We never know when the race may end. In a race, you may sign up for the 100m, 400m or even 800m race. You know how far you have to go until you reach the finish line. In life though, we don't know how far away the finish line is. I'm 39 years old. Hopefully, my finish line is at least another 40 years away. But I must always be realistic and keep in mind that today may be my last. I want to be winning the race whenever that yellow tape comes up. I can't be slacking, sucking wind and getting my butt beat. I have to be always on the top of my game and winning this thing.

The most important thing that we must remember in this race is that we can't and won't win it alone. Yes, we need the family and the friends but most importantly, we need God in our lives in order to win this race. We need prayer, the sacraments and we need Jesus along with us ever step of the way. So don't try to leave without Him.

Friday, September 3, 2010

I'm a (Future God)Father!

My baby sister, Maggie, gave birth yesterday morning to Joseph Eric Edward Crawford yesterday morning. Little Joseph was 8lbs, 15.2 oz (maybe he's big Joseph) and 19 inches long. And Maggie and Ryan asked ME to be the Godfather! What an honor!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Be a Martyr

Looking back through church history, it’s not difficult to find stories of people who have literally given their lives for Christ. From the Acts of the Apostles up through modern times, there are numerous examples of people who died at the hands of an executioner for not denying their Lord. It makes me wonder if we would be willing to give our lives for the name of Jesus.

It’s seems kind of obvious, while still remaining admirable that yes, of course we would give our lives for Jesus. We look back at the first centuries and see how the first Christians were tortured in order to make them deny Jesus. They were decapitated, burned alive, skinned, drowned and even crucified upside down. We read these stories and think to ourselves (at least I do), “well, of course they died for Jesus! That’s an easy decision! Boy, martyrdom would be an EASY way to go to Heaven! We all have to die sometime.”

The interesting thing is that Christians are still being martyred for their faith today. In different countries around the world Christians are literally dying because they will not deny Jesus. Can you imagine that? It today’s world, people are being tortured and killed because they are trying to evangelize or in some cases just living a Christian life. Just for trying to go to mass they are being killed. It makes you feel like a wimp for not wanting to fast during lent doesn’t it? An interesting thought is that for some reason, I read these stories today and I wonder to myself, “Why don’t they just deny they are Christian? Jesus will understand. That way they can go back to their families. They don’t really have to stop believing!” What is the difference between looking up to the early Christians for giving their life and questioning the modern Christians for giving up theirs?

Here is an interesting thought. We actually have opportunities to be martyrs on a daily basis—just not in a bloody way. How many times a day are we presented an opportunity to live our lives in the way Jesus wants us to even though doing so means not doing something that we don’t want to do? We have an opportunity at that point to die to ourselves, pick up our own cross and become a martyr. We have a chance to not gossip, not get angry at our kids, not to check out the attractive brunette. We have the opportunity not to bad mouth the co-worker or poke fun at someone. What do we do though? Do we do the right thing and die to sin or do we help nail Jesus to the cross? Martyrdom isn’t as easy as it sounds, huh?