Which playground game is God’s favorite?

best game ever

I will begin today’s post by comparing the structure of the Catholic Church to a somewhat “elementary” thing. Let me give you some word clues. Hopscotch. Foursquare. Kickball. Red Rover. Before I confuse you anymore please let me briefly explain the context to why I am talking about children’s playground games and religion in the same paragraph.

During this past year I worked at a Catholic high school and taught Old and New Testament. On the day we discussed the epic first century saints Peter and Paul, I gave my students a simple analogy. A healthy Catholic Church is likened to a game of tetherball. To better help you understand what I mean precisely with that example please let us first discuss why Peter and Paul are important to Christianity.

Stability of the Rock

Matthew 16:16-19 has Peter clearly stating the identity of Jesus Christ and thereafter he is entrusted with the “keys to the kingdom of Heaven”. Catholics interpret this passage as hard and fast proof for the papacy. To cite Fr. Robert Barron in his book Catholicism [referring to Peter’s special insight], “And this knowledge did not come from Peter’s native intelligence or from an extraordinary education…It came as a gift from God, a special charism of the Holy Spirit.” (p. 121). Thus, God chose a pope from the very beginning to be that stability upon we, as Catholics, can rely on. If the Church had multiple heads its teachings would devolve into something ugly–like the multi-head monster in Greek myth– the hydra. In a similar way, the center-post in a tetherball game provides stability for the game to happen.

Creativity of a Theologian

creativity
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Now let’s turn our attention to St. Paul. While the popes enjoy the office of St. Peter and provide stability to the Catholic Church, having this Petrine element alone would make Her teachings dry and rocky. Thus, to balance out the papacy there is a need for theology to make the Church healthy.

 After Paul’s conversion in Acts 9 until the end of the book, the saint is literally always on the move. As I told my students, “Paul does not have biblical ADD, but rather he was the spark of life that started the early Christian churches”. Citing from Fr. Barron again, “Paul stands for mission, the engagement of the culture and proclamation. Every missionary, teacher, preacher, and theologian, is, in this sense, a son or daughter of Paul.” (p. 141). Paul represents an archetype within the Catholic Church to adapt to different times and cultures. He represents the spunk that enlivens the Church. Going back to the tetherball analogy the rope and ball provide the excitement for the playground game.

always on the move

Structure + Flexibility= Healthy Church

A healthy Church needs both structure (papacy) and flexibility (theology). So too does a tetherball game needs the center-post= [representing the papacy/Petrine element] and the rope and ball= [representing theology/Pauline element]. The schoolyard game would be pointless if a center-post did not exist to keep the ball close for the players to bat around, but at the same time a game consisting of only a metal pole would be stagnant and boring– similar to what would have to the Catholic Church without the dynamic element St. Paul brought in the first century and whose memory represents today.

tetherball

To answer the question from the title: Which playground game is God’s favorite? I would imagine that God has all the time in the world to try them all and find them equally enjoyable, but if I had to venture a guess I would pick tetherball! 🙂

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On Polish Horseshoes, Karol Wojtyla, Accordions, and Other Possibly Polish Things

Polish up on Polish Facts

Polish Flag

To be honest, I never really thought much about my Polish heritage until a couple of years ago. Two momentous events sparked my interested: the reading of a biography of John Paul II and discovering my favorite lawn game Polish horseshoes. I have now come to realize that the game’s namesake is a misnomer and has no origin from Poland at all.  I unknowingly created the poles to mirror Poland’s flag—white on the top half and red on the bottom half! Fun fact: Can you name the two nations whose flag is the inverse of Poland’s flag [red on top and white on the bottom]? If not that is alright, I will provide the answer at the end of today’s post!

John Paul the Great!

John Paul II

The second reason I got intrigued more and more about Poland is after reading Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert. After finishing this biography I felt a closer connection to the great saint. In fact, the grace I experienced in reading this book and through the intercession of St. John Paul II were instrumental in helping me get through one of my darkest valleys of desolation I ever experienced. I highly recommend this biography and any of the Polish pope’s writings for summer reading.

According to Accordions

Accordion gif

Finally, I will describe my connection to third “possibly Polish thing”—accordions. My mother actually owns an accordion. She occasionally playing  when I was growing up. Now that I have children of my own, I am blessed to see her lug out the dusty accordion box and play a quick tune for my kids. It is on my mom’s side of the family where I have Polish ancestry. I hope to one day have both the time and the energy to do some genealogical research and create a family tree especially in relation to my Polish descent.

Until then, I urge you all to learn more about the sanctity housed in the great nation of Poland over the course of the last century. Both St. Maria Faustina and St. John Paul II were born in this Eastern European country. And I almost forgot the answer to today’s trivia question above is Indonesia and Monaco!

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5 Reasons to Jump for Joy—with Jump-roping!

The great American founding father Benjamin Franklin once said, “To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” Well, I re-discovered a life-altering opportunity that I want to share with others—the joy of jump-roping!

jump-roping gif

Yes, you heard me right—my rediscovery of jump-roping infused joy into my weekend unexpectedly. Along with the clear health benefits and incredible low-cost to purchase this classic children’s toy, I found five reasons how jump-roping benefitted me [and can benefit you!]. In case you are interested in the various cardiovascular and other fitness provided by regular jump-roping please check out the following link: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/benefits-jumping-rope-you-probably-dont-know.html

Jump to Save Time

After only 7 minutes of jump-roping, I felt as if I ran a few miles. Frequent exercise through jump-roping for 3-4 twelve minutes sessions a week will be the equivalent to running several miles. Plus, you may enjoy the workout from the comfort of your living room, basement, or outside on the patio/lawn.

nostalgia

Jump for Nostalgia

The second reason why I found jump-roping profoundly jubilant and uplifting is due to the sentimental memories it stirred up. In elementary school, our third-fifth grade classes annually completed Jump Rope for Heart. Not only was this a good charity to raise donations and awareness for cardiovascular health, but I made amazing memories. Jumping rope in the gym with friends and playing games became an event I looked forward to and cherish those memories.

Jump for Versatility

Besides swimming, I cannot think of a more flexible exercise than jump-roping. Using the standard speed jump-rope promotes cardio-vascular health and increases one’s endurance for running. Along with excellent aerobic benefits, utilizing a weighted jump-rope helps to strength multiple muscle groups—legs, arms, and core. Finally, the portability of the jump-rope makes it an easy exercise tool to use at home or on the go!

remember to have fun

Jump Because its Fun

Jump-roping allows for fast-paced and fun exercise. Enjoyable both by yourself or within a group—see following link for fun activities: https://www.todaysparent.com/family/activities/6-fun-ways-to-jump-rope/

Jump to Build Memory

The last point I wish to share with my re-discovery of the joy of jump-roping is that this can be an easy and simple summer activity to enjoy with your family and friends. I cannot wait until my children get to the age where I am able to share in this joy, count our jumps, try various jumping styles, and create joyful memories to last a lifetime!

jump for joy

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3 Reasons Why Children are Good Teachers

schoolhouse

George Washington Carver once stated, “Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” Over the course of the centuries education has changed, developed, and evolved. As a society we are becoming more aware of the benefits of education, both at an early age and at later stages in life. Continual learning past the traditional high school, college, and even post-graduate levels is essential for living a healthy and fulfilling life.

Learning is Life!

As a husband of a special education teacher and a former educator myself, I am attune to the importance learning holds for a person both professionally and personally. Having earned a Master’s in Theology, I once thought myself to be an expert, or master, in that particular field–the study of God. My vocation as a father proved this arrogant premise to be contrary to what I once believed. Children–my three incredible adorable and sometimes obstinate offspring–are in fact good teachers in the school of life.

children teach

“Knock, knock who is there?”

Eight o’clock at night arrived in my household. Both my wife and I were scrambling to get our older children to bed. My son and daughter finished their evening snack of a cheese-stick, clothed in their pajamas, and teeth brushed. We prayed the Guardian Angel prayer before shipping them off to the bedroom. I thought we were in the clear when I heard my daughter asking, “Daddy, can I get a book? I don’t have one in my bed!” Begrudgingly, I harped, “Yes, go quickly into the living room and pick one off the shelf.”

Oddly enough–or maybe not so oddly– my daughter grabbed a joke book filled with riddles, knock-knock jokes, and other corny puns. As I tucked the blanket around her, my daughter insisted I read a few jokes. I conceded and read a couple knock-knock jokes. Her eyes lit up and dimples appeared in the corners of her smile. Reflecting upon this seemingly mundane experience now, I realized that laughter is okay–even during bedtime routine. My children taught me that lessening my serious demeanor will not kill me. Instead, laughter enlivens my spirit. New life is breathed into me as I gaze at the humorous antics within my home.

pinky swear gif

Keep Your Promises

Our oldest son is a “rules kid”. What do I mean by this? He is quite bright, detail-oriented, and observant. I am convinced he possesses a photographic memory. My children taught me that the stakes for making–and breaking–promises exponentially increase when you become a parent.

During the hustle and bustle of daily living, I sometimes say things to assuage my son’s persistent pleading. I am not proud of it. As a member of the human race, I suffer from original sin as much as anyone. My promises do not always get fulfilled. Oftentimes, I fall short of the expectations my son and daughter have for me. What parenthood has taught me is that I need to be honest when I break a vow. I need to continually strive to be better at keeping my promises. Most importantly I have learned that children are fairly quick to forgive– I have learned forgiveness is key to becoming a better father.

little things calvin hobbes

Joy in the Little Things in Life

 Our youngest son was recently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Daily life is frequently tough as he struggles to communicate his needs and wants effectively. Meltdowns and tantrums occur regularly. Despite his struggles and limitations, my son teaches me everyday to look for the simple joys in life. For instance, he finds an inordinate amount of joy in anything containing or resembling the shape of a circle. If we go grocery shopping, his eyes light up whenever we pass a helium-filled balloon or whenever he gazes up at the round light bulbs in the store ceiling. Similarly, at house he plays with the same toy cars and trucks without getting bored. Although he has a social-communication disability, in some ways my son has a special ability– to see joy in the seemingly mundane.

Fatherhood reminds me of the words of Aristotle, “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Personal growth and learning take time and oftentimes are painful. By focusing on mere snapshots of my parenthood journey I fail to see the fruit that family life fosters. I am incredibly grateful for the life lessons of humility, humor, and joy that my children taught me. I pray that I continue to strive towards being an open and honest student!



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3 Joys You Can Experience Through Play

Yesterday I got to experience something for the first time in 2019playing catch with my oldest son! The type A personality that I have, I normally would schedule playtime or have certain parameters on the activity. This time felt different. Natural. Organic. Unplanned. Time ceased to exist.

Have you had such a serendipitous experience? Pregnant with possibilities, that playful experience with my son gave birth to so something I could not have created on my ownjoy! C.S. Lewis wrote, “Joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Because joy does not originate from within us, we often hear joy referred to as an experience, a visit, or encounter. Along with the initial joy experienced playing catch with my kid I want to share three additional joys originating from the first: togetherness, collaboration, and simplicity.

Togetherness

The old adage “the apple does not fall few from the tree” applies 100% to my son and I. Every single person who has seen childhood pictures of me and see my son always say “Wow, Noah looks exactly like you!” Our similarities don’t end with the physically. My son acquired my strengths and weaknesses. Parenting him cause me to realize my own failings. I seek control of most situations. I like to be prepared. Such control stymies the possibility for the unexpected.

Playing catch provided an opportunity to simply spend time together. Togetherness without control. Togetherness not forced. Togetherness that also extended to myself and my other kids as wellwatching they go up and down the sidewalk on their bikes!

Collaboration

A second joy flowing from the simple activity of catch was collaboration. Collaboration has been a buzzword in the professional sphere, but it should be every part of domestic life too. According to St. John Paul II, “To maintain a joyful family requires much from both the parents and the children. Each member of the family has to become, in a special way, the servant of the others.

The joy found in playing catch reminded me of the joy in teamwork. Working together my son and I sought to catch the ball. Little words were exchanged, yet collaboration came forth organically. I experienced the joy of my son helping his siblings in need as well.

Simplicity

Chinese philosopher Confucius reasoned, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” Through my pride I think I need to make the simplest things in life better with ‘complex innovations’.

The third joy I encountered through the joy of playtime with my son was simplicity. Simplicity is a joy because I realized life does not have to be perfect to be special. Simplifying play with only a ball and mitts led to an incredible spring morning. A morning that I will remember for the rest of my life.

Seek out the simple things in life. Be open to interruptions in your pre-planned day. If you allow the unexpected to occur God with grace you with immeasurable joys. Thank you Lord for the joy of togetherness, collaboration, and the simplicity of playing catch with my boy!

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