Training Wheels Off!

IMG_0003I can remember that as a kid I spent most of my time, dodging homework and doing chores, riding my bike around our neighborhood. Either I was going to my friends or pursing those “glory moments” of knee scrapes and broken arms – but that’s for another blog. Like most kids, I loved riding my bike and going on little adventures.

I can remember, somewhat, when my training wheels came off. Dad positioned himself behind my bike, holding the seat. I can even remember him running behind the bike, while holding the seat until he felt I had balanced and then he’d let go. I’m sure that I fell. I’m sure there were tears. I’m sure dad had to convince me to get back on and try again. But eventually I got the hang of it. Although I had many wipeouts, even after I learned how to balance and steer, I could ride a bike.

The reason for the reflection on riding a bike is that a few months ago we took Jay’s training wheels off. At first he thought it was cool. But then he had a hard time getting started. Stopping. Falling. Getting off. You get the idea. He didn’t want anything to do with his bike. He settled in for riding his sister’s PINK bike – it still has training wheels.

Two weeks ago, after some encouragement, he got on his bike and took off. He looked like he’d been riding for years. But last Sunday he wiped out – bad. In fact the skin from his knee got caught between his chain and the chain sprocket. (Side note: I freaked out more than him). After we got his knee out of chain and bandaged it up, he took off again.

This morning in prayer, the Lord brought up that image of Jay; that image of learning to ride a bike.

When we look at our journey with the Lord (prayer, Mass, callings, trust, vocation) it’s like learning to ride a bike. We start off with training wheels, learning to pedal and steer. Eventually, the Lord will “raise those wheels” so we can begin to learn balance. And then eventually, the training wheels come off.

Unfortunately, I think we get used to those training wheels and never learn to fully ride. Too often we keep those wheels on because it’s safe (or we get on the pink bike since it still has training wheels). But the Lord is inviting us to trust Him. To learn from Him. To allow Him to come and pull our knee out of the chains of our sin when we get stuck there. The life that the Lord has set in front us can only be lived without “training wheels.”

Our spiritual journey, like riding a bike, can’t always be safe. Sure, we can have order and routines (and in some ways those things are good). Or we can take those “training wheels” off; we can trust the Lord to pick us up when we fall. To offer healing to our wounded souls. And it is in trusting the Lord with everything, allowing Him to lead us and challenge us, that we experience the true thrill (Joy) of living.

Lord help us to trust that you are a good dad. That you are there to help. There to encourage and challenge. You there to heal us when we fall. Help us to allow you to be our guide, so that we can truly experience the life you’ve created us for – a life without training wheels. Amen.

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Need the Son

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I was sitting on the swing in the back yard at my in-laws a while back, and I noticed their trees. Now I’ve been going to this house for over 10 years. I’ve looked at these trees countless times, but yesterday I noticed them – something stood out.

In the corner of yard is this cluster of trees – water oaks, live oaks, and a few others. But if you look closely, you notice that most of the branches, from all the trees are stretching towards the west. It’s as if they’re fighting to see who can get out the farthest. In fact, a few of them are leaning – the whole trunk – toward the west.

These trees are literally stretching, fighting the shade of the others, for the Sun. They need the light of the Sun, its warmth and vitamins and life-giving goodness, to live, to grow, to thrive.

As I was sitting on the patio, looking at the trees, it dawned on me, that we are no different from these trees in our need for the Son. Our lives get shaded by all sorts of things. And we are not basking in the light of the Son every day, allowing His rays to penetrate our lives; we begin to get tired and weary.

At times, we separate ourselves from life-giving goodness of the Son and we lose sight of what life is about. Sometimes, we stay in the shadows of life for so long, that we may even forget what life can be like in the radiant light of the Son.

As summer is creeping up on us, and in many ways is here, I pray that we take time to notice that nature is dependent on the rays from the Sun, and our lives are dependent on the rays from the Son. Like the flowers that are blooming and the trees that are stretching out of the shadows, may we be nourished this summer by the light of our Lord, the rays from our Son, who gives us the gift of His spirit to guide us and reveals the love of the Father to us.

We weren’t meant to live in the shadows. We were meant to walk in the light. Happy Summer! May the life-giving light of the Son always bring life to our lives.

Happy Valentine’s…I mean Lent

I can vividly remember Alesha and I’s very first Valentine’s together. Before I continue, it’s important that you know 1- I am a hopeless romantic and 2- when Alesha and I met, I got her number by asking her if she could cook (because I couldn’t). As sad as that is – it worked! Almost a year later, I was making my attempts to learn to cook. My roommate, a good friend and I decided we would go all out for Valentine’s Day.

We prepared a candle light dinner with an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Now before you go thinking how romantic this is, let me tell you what was on the menu. For the appetizer, we had chili queso – romantic, I know. The entrée consisted of pork loin and gravy, green beans smothered in bacon and bread rolls. Finally, the dessert was triple chunk chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream. It was great!

We moved most of our furniture out of our living room. Set the table with place settings, menus, the proper arrangement of utensils and of course candles. We spread rose petals throughout the living room and the table. We got a friend to come over and play guitar while ate. It was truly an epic night! And our ladies, felt like the princesses they still are.

I think it is appropriate that the second day of Lent is Valentine’s Day. A day made for lovers. A season we hopefully come to know our Lord and His love in a new way.

That Valentine’s Day was so fun. Getting things ready. Putting myself on the line (I’m pretty sure it was the first time I’d attempted a rice and gravy). And it was all to make my beloved experience my love for her – how important she is to me.

I pray that, this Lent, while we deepen our love for the Lord; we too could experience His excitement for us. His love for us. The way He looks forward to our “date” this Lent.

The Valentine’s Day before the one I told you about, I was single. My roommate and I sat at a coffee shop until closing. We left the coffee shop and went to the Chapel. I’ll never forget his words to me when we left the Chapel. He said, “we spent Valentine’s with the greatest Lover the world has ever known.”

In this Holy Season of Lent, as we journey toward the Cross and ultimately the resurrection, may we come to know the Greatest Lover, and the love He has for us. This Lent, experience His excitement and anticipation. This Lent, experience His love.

Happy Lent…Happy Valentine’s Day.

Gifts from Our Lord

Momma

Recently I was questioned in regards to a status update I made on December 8th – the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. On that Feast I posted “Mary, teach us how to love your Son.” It is no surprise that the comment would only be fully understood by someone who is Catholic and truly understands Mary’s role in our Salvation.

The person asked me why we would feel the need to ask Mary to teach us about Jesus and not just go straight to Jesus himself. I sent a response. And then I was told that Satan had deceived me. That Mary was insignificant in our Salvation.

Here is my response:

I enjoy having these discussions as well. And you are absolutely correct about Satan being cunning. However, I would argue that I am not the one being deceived. Before I go into that though, I would like to just be clear. Mary is co-redeemer; not because she shed her blood but because of her yes. Without it, we would not have been redeemed because God (the Word- Jesus) would have never become Incarnate.

Secondly, Catholics do not worship Mary in a Protestant understanding of the word. The word worship means to declare the worth (worth-ship) of something. It is to ascribe value. Mary, obviously, has value. She is the Mother of God. That is an unarguable point. Since she is the Mother of God, she has value.

Thirdly, Catholics DO NOT pray to Mary. We, ask Mary to pray for us. The first half of the prayer “Hail Mary” is simply a combination of the Angel Gabriel’s greeting and Elizabeth’s greeting found in the 1st Chapter of the Gospel of Luke. The second half of the prayer is a request for Mary to pray for us. If you want to argue that Jesus is the sole mediator, then my question is why have you asked me for prayers before? Why do you ask others to pray for you? After all, according to your philosophy, Jesus is sole mediator, thus making the prayers of other unnecessary. However, if we are asking others to pray for us, then why not ask Mary, his Mother, who is in Heaven to pray for us? After all, it is found in Scripture (Lk 2:3). Mary presented a need to Jesus so he could help at the Wedding of Cana. She does the something for us. Which scripture clearly states is acceptable (1 Tim 2:1).

As far as the guy who has studied and read scripture for over 23 years, ask him who compiled the Bible? When was it compiled? The answer to that question is simple – it was the Catholic Church. Now I know that you are going to argue that. But the fact is the Church that Jesus founded compiled the Bible, in the 3rd Century, as we know it today.

This brings up some interesting points. If the Bible is the sole authority, what did the Church do for 300+ years? And if the Church that Jesus founded compiled it, then why do people not go to her for a proper interpretation?

Let’s look at Scripture. In Matthew 16:16, Simon Peter professes that Jesus is the Son of the living God. Two verses later, Jesus says to Peter that he has authority and that he will build his Church on Peter (v18). In Chapter 18 of Matthew, Jesus refers to the Church and the Authority of the Church by saying, “if your brother won’t listen, and then go to the Church” (v15). In Matthew 28:18 Jesus gives His power and authority to the apostles – the first Bishops of the Church – thus, giving the Church the same authority as Him. In John 14 He (Jesus) promises to send the Advocate (the Holy Spirit) to the Church (the Apostles) to guide them in the truth (v16) and to be with them always. Then two verses later he promises not leave the Church (v18). Finally, He reiterates this again in verse 26 “…he (the Holy Spirit) will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”

Now, what have we learned? 1- Jesus established a Church on Peter (the first Pope, first leader, of the Catholic Church). If you don’t believe that, then your history is a little off. The Catholic Church is the only Christian Church that can trace her roots and origins back to Jesus through and unbroken line of Popes, starting with Peter and ending with Benedict XVI (the current Pope). 2- He gave the Church authority. 3- He promised to guide the Church in Truth through the Advocate. And finally, He promised that he would never leave the Church He established.

It was over 1500 years after Jesus died before we saw the first non-Catholic Christian Church. So for 1500+ years, the Catholic Church was the teaching authority on Sacred Scripture. For 300+ years they didn’t have scripture. All they had were the traditions of the apostles – the traditions of the Catholic Church – to hand down and teach. That is what Jesus commissioned His Church to do – “go and teach” (Matt. 28:20).

Now, you can continue to learn scripture from a guy who has studied it for 23 years. As for me, I am going to stick with the Church, that Jesus gave the authority to teach it, who taught it before there was a Book compiled to read it. They’ve been doing it for over 2000 years.

But, for arguments sake, let’s stick with scripture as the sole teaching authority. Now mind you, this also assumes that Jesus didn’t establish a Church and we misunderstood His promised to NEVER leave the Church. But looking literal interpretations of Scripture, explain to me John Chapter 6. Because you see, I argue that the devil is in fact cunning and deceitful. He has convinced us that the Catholic Church wrong on everything – Mary, the Saints, etc. I think it is unfortunate that we are left without these people, because they paved the way, set the example and showed us that reaching Heaven is possible. But I guess we can get to Heaven without Mary and the Saints. That’s fine.

But Jesus very specifically says “unless eat my flesh…you have no life” (John 6:53). In this whole discourse, found in the 6th Chapter of John,  Jesus knew the followers understood that they would have to literally eat his body and drink his blood. Yet, he never once made any statement about it being a symbol of his flesh and blood. In fact he continued to make bolder statements. Even when they walked away (v66) stating that this saying was too hard to accept (v60), he still didn’t clear anything up. He looked at his disciple and asked if they were going to leave also (v67). Why? Because he didn’t mean that it would be a symbol. He meant that we, his followers, in order to have a hope of eternal life, had to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. There’s an old saying that you are what you eat. And as we RE-member that sacrifice of Calvary and the last Supper, and we consume Jesus’ Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we become more like Jesus and less like our sinful inclinations.

One of the most amazing miracles of the Eucharist happened in the 700s. A Catholic monk in Italy, who doubted the true presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, held up the Bread at consecration; it turned to flesh and began to bleed everywhere. In the 1500s, atheist scientists tested the flesh and blood. It was found to be AB blood type (the same as found on the Shroud of Turin), and the remarkable thing was that it was found to be living tissue. Today, that flesh is still living. Jesus said “he who eats my Flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54).

So if we need to eat Jesus’ Body and drink His Blood to have life, then it would totally make sense that the devil wants us to believe it to be just a symbol.

I will continue to ask our Lady, the Mother of our Lord (Lk. 1:43), to pray for me. I will also continue to Worship and Adore our Lord in His Eucharistic presence. I do this because I know the gift that both are to us from our Lord. I also know how much Satan doesn’t want us to do either. That tells me something.

I pray that you will at least give thought to all I have said.

Jumpin Waves with Dad

This is the second of three blogs from our vacation last month.

In my last blog about our vacation, I mentioned that 100 yards off the beach, there was a sand bar that I could stand and the water reached me at the knee. On Friday afternoon of our vacation, Jay got a bit cranky because he missed his nap. Ok, honestly, he didn’t miss his nap, we just wanted to spend our last day of vacation on the beach, so we never brought him up to take his nap – I know, we’re selfish parents. So by the end of the day, he was starting to have break downs.

Early in the week, I bought a cheap inflatable paddle raft, thinking that I could load Jay on it and paddle out to the sand bar. Well, that didn’t work so well. However, I was able to load him in it and swim with the raft to the sand bar. When he started getting aggravated from a long day in the sun without a nap, I placed him in the raft and took him out to the sand bar. Once we were on the sand bar, I took him out of the raft. At first he was a little reluctant and hesitant. But he realized that the water reached him at his chest, so he was good.

After a few minutes, he became really confident and began to enjoy himself. As the waves would break on the sand bar, he tried to jump them. After all, isn’t that what you do in the Ocean – jump waves? At first, he made sure to hang on to me. But then he got a bit cockier. And he thought he didn’t need me – “I got this dad!” What I could see though, he couldn’t. Sometimes there were two waves, on right after the other. And although he may have been successful in conquering the first wave, the second would take him out and I would have to grab him and place him back on his feet.

Now, I pretty sure I mentioned in the last blog, this sand bar was surrounded by deep holes. The moment came, as it was bound to, that Jay’s adventurous heart kicked in. He decided he’d walk back to the beach to see mommy. And I let him go (following close behind him of course). I knew he would most assuredly get to one of the holes and not be able to touch. Sure enough, I let him tread water for a moment and then brought him back to the boat.

Reflecting on this, the Lord has revealed how similar I am to Jay. When I first started out in my journey with our Lord, I was a little hesitant. Then I got more comfortable and a bit cockier. I thought I could do it on my own – “I got this dad!” – only to get wiped out by the wave that I couldn’t see coming. And then, I felt I could venture the deep waters of this journey by myself. Thankfully, our Lord, as all loving Father’s do, saved me when the waters go too deep and I began to give out from treading water alone.

It’s a constant circle. God is calling us out into the deep waters of our faith and our journey with him. But we must never be fooled to thinking we can do it without him. The waters can get too active and we better believe there will be waves that we won’t see coming and patches of deep water when we will need the help our dad to get across.

The other thing our Lord revealed to me in this, and probably the most important for me, was that he just enjoys being with us and watching us play. I think in my journey with our Lord, I often get caught up in not disappointing him, that I stop enjoying the journey.

I knew that second wave that Jay couldn’t see, would take him off his feet. I also knew he would get tired of treading water when got into that deep hole. But I was so proud of him for being adventurous. And it was a delight to watch him enjoy himself. I also knew that I was right there to pick him up when he got knocked down or tired.

Invite our Lord to be with you in this journey of life. Know that he is a loving Father who delights in watching you play. And be confident that he is not disappointed in you when the waves of life knock you down. Rather he is right behind you waiting for you to reach out to him for help. And he loves helping you!

He is, afterall, the best dad the world has ever known.