Prayer Before an Election

I urge everyone to humbly pray for wisdom and discernment in voting for the candidates. Voting is a right and a privilege that cannot be taken lightly. Take a moment before entering the ballot box to ask for clarity of selection for the candidates who will best serve office and upholding the dignity of human life at all stages: from womb to tomb and every stage in between!


Lord God, as the election approaches,

we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country,

and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.

We ask for eyes that are free from blindness

so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,

one and equal in dignity,

especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.

We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned,

Men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.

We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.

We pray for discernment

so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word,

live your love,

and keep in the ways of your truth

as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles

and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Fortress Mentality—Why Creating a Stronghold Keeps Negativity at Bay

Growing up, I enjoyed constructing blanket forts in the living room or playing under the deck with my siblings in our dirt-laden bunker. Something about forts invokes nostalgia. Security and strength also are words that immediately come to my mind when I think of fort [and fortresses]. Over the past few years, I have noticed an increased anxiety, not only from myself, but from society as a whole. Americans enjoy the pleasure of living in a wealthy and free society—privileges not afforded in other places and times. My aim here in this post is not to analyze the causes for the increased angst. That I will leave to professionals in psychology, medicine, and psychiatry. Instead, I am going to share a couple reasons why retreating to my cerebral citadel as opposed to actively engaging the stress inducers has worked for me for the past month. Please be aware, that while this approach may work for me I am in no way endorsing a fortress mentality being a miracle-cure method to fending off fretfulness for everyone.

1. Defense Beats Offense Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote,

Negativity can only feed on negativity.” From personal experience, I know that negativity only grows when you give attention to it, too much attention will lead to negativity consuming your life. Fighting negativity with an offensive attack does not work. I came across this anonymous quote that stuck a cord on this subject, “When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the fire department generally uses water.” Different approaches are necessary when battling stress and negativity in your life. An image of a faucet comes to mind when complaining controls my life. Last month, I allowed my emotions to get the better of me: both at home and work. Frustrations about unmet expectations caused grievances which poured out like water running from an open faucet.

To combat my weaknesses, I simply went to source—my words and shut off the valve of verbal complaints. This month instead of vocally sharing my grumbles aloud, I created a laconic lock for my tongue. According to James 3, the mouth and tongue act as a gateway for various despicable behaviors. Keeping our words bridled is key to stopping negativity.  The Apostle writes in James 3:2-5,

If anyone does not fall short in speech, he is a perfect man, able to bridle his whole body also.a 3If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. 4It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot’s inclination wishes. 5In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions.

2. Fortifying not fleeing: The brilliant Albert Einstein once declared, “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” Sometimes turning away from the stresses and negativity going on in life gets equated with running from your problems. Withstanding the temptations to give into the negativity that surrounds you displays strength.

Known as fortitude, courage is the foundation upon which virtue and the ability to withstand the assault of pessimism is built on. Author Maya Angelou succinctly states, “Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can’t practice any other virtue consistently.” Shifting my mindset toward stoicism and fortress-like greatly helped me weather the storms of stress.

Becoming more self-aware of my vocal complaints, grumbles, and murmurings prevented me from stumbling into the sea of stress. Distancing myself emotionally from the “bad” or “negative” experiences I faced in the workplace or at home helped me to move more quickly onto the next task or event of the day. The image of a fortress best represents for me the virtue of fortitude and ability to block negativity.


“But you, O man of God, must flee from these things; and strive for uprightness, godliness, good faith, love, fortitude, and a forgiving temper.” –1 Timothy 6:11

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.2 Timothy 1:7

Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today. In keeping with the words of the great Doctor of the Church St. Catherine of Sienna, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

While my sins wound me and damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity, I petition for intercession from the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze from the gutters of the troubles of my life to gaze upward to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother* and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.”n 27Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

Despite the failings, trials, and doubts that surround us, be assured that peace and joy canbe found in uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times

Writing Prospect—Answer to Prayers

The great American advice writer Ann Landers once wrote, “Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” As someone who started consistently writing for a few years now, I realize that fruits of my labor normally take time to ripen. My father grow up on a farm so I always found growing and collecting plants as a solid analogy to relate to the development of my thoughts as I write them down.

Anticipation of harvesting [and organizing], information into a clear and systematized message is one of the more fulfilling things I enjoy in this life! At least twice a week I read Zinnia’s Flower Garden by Monica Wellingtonto my children before bedtime. Along with snuggling with my children and reading books in general, this title especially holds special meaning to me as I tend to view my personal blog and writing endeavors as a cerebral orchard of my thoughts, fears, hopes, joys, and dreams. This week I was able to reap the real fruits from the watering of my labors, tears, and graces from God. Like a farmer who plants crops despite the uncertainty of weather, some of the posts that I plan to write don’t actually come to fruition. Taking chances necessarily involve the possibility of rejection. Whenever fear or doubt grip me I am reminded by the words of hockey legend Wayne Gretsky, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take!”

Over the course of the past several years, I received plenty of rejections [or worse yet—no responses] on inquires for various websites/magazines that I contacted to write for. God certainly possesses a sense of humor as the most surprising [and even greatest] blessings in my life arrive almost immediately after chaotic and stressful periods. Reaching out to the founder of EpicPew.com, I intrepidly, but confidently, asked about the possibility of contributing to his wonderful Catholic site. I prayed for a breakthrough into the Catholic writing scene—collaborating with this website was on my writing wish-list for the longest time! I received a reply that asked about my availability and when I could start. If I was not so tired, I noticed this early in the morning, I would have jumped for joy! I am so incredibly thankful and even more so humbled by this new writing opportunity.

Together with the excitement of furthering my professional written arsenal, this new opportunity to work spreading the Gospel message in the 21st century ultimately will provide me another way for me to increase in holiness.  St. Josemaria Escriva stated, “Add a supernatural motive to your ordinary professional work, and you will have sanctified it.” The Second Vatican Council also reminded Catholics in the mid-20th century of the importance of work as a means for sanctifying oneself. According to the document Apostolicam Actuositatem paragraph the Council Fathers clearly stated this fact,

Since Christ, sent by the Father, is the source and origin of the whole apostolate of the Church, the success of the lay apostolate depends upon the laity’s living union with Christ, in keeping with the Lord’s words, “He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is nourished by spiritual aids which are common to all the faithful, especially active participation in the sacred liturgy.(5) These are to be used by the laity in such a way that while correctly fulfilling their secular duties in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate union with Christ from their life but rather performing their work according to God’s will they grow in that union. In this way the laity must make progress in holiness in a happy and ready spirit, trying prudently and patiently to overcome difficulties.(6) Neither family concerns nor other secular affairs should be irrelevant to their spiritual life, in keeping with the words of the Apostle, “What-ever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).

Thank you Lord again for this amazing and providential opportunity to write for EpicPew.com. I am appreciative for all those individuals past and present who helped me grown and learn as a writer!

Mentality Agility—Joy of Calm Mind

Are you feeling sluggish? Groggy? Quick-tempered? Do you struggle to move on from a trying situation despite your best efforts? If you answered yes to at least one of the questions, or even all of them, please know that you are not alone! I often struggle with keeping up in an ever-changing work-place and quickening of life in general. I struggle to handle difficult and frustrating situations with grace and patience.  What is the solution?

Experts, educators, doctors, psychologists, and scientist provide a panoply of tips and methods to improve people who suffer from anxiety and feelings of constant lack of energy. My goal today is not to replace or compete with any of those already tried and true methods. Instead, I want to share my personal experience living with and dealing with ADHD and anxiety. Although ADHD stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, it sort of is a misnomer—people with this diagnosis do not always fail to pay attention. Rather, I go through periods where I actually hyper-focus. What this means is that I tend to fixate or zoom-in on a particular subject/hobby that I am passionate about. When this happens I tend to lost sight of things happening around me—my wife or children asking me a question or other perspectives at work.

Shifting my focus to and from various things in the day is tough for me, but I discovered a few strategies that help me form a habit to more agilely more from task to task throughout the day.  The advice below comes from things that worked for me personally to limit my anxiety and increase my ability to move from trying situations easier and more positively.

1a. Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry: Saint Padre Pio, a 20th century mystic and stigmatist, was a man whose powerful presence captivated a multitude of people. “Pray, hope, and don’t worry,” he exclaimed. When I first heard this statement in high school, I always thought it was a pious saying that overly religious people told you when things got tough. Certianly, I did not believe praying, hoping, and simply not worrying actually had a basis in reality.

After nearly a decade of being a parent, I have since learned that prayer is effective. Hoping even amid a seemingly hopeless situation is effective. The last part of DO NOT WORRY is a part that I struggle with mightily, but at least I am aware of my deficiency. Padre Pio continues to provide comfort to me. He reminded me the importance of the presence of God even when you cannot feel it,

Jesus is with you even when you don’t feel His presence. He is never so close to you as He is during your spiritual battles. He is always there, close to you, encouraging you to fight your battle courageously. He is there to ward off the enemy’s blows so that you may not be hurt.

1b. Remind Yourself to be Thankful: For those of you who are observant or a formatting nerd may notice that this point is not numbered 2 but rather 1b. Equally important as praying is reminding yourself to be thankful. In fact, among the most common prayer is that of gratitude for the blessings in one’s life.

Forming a habit of shifting my mindset to reflecting on the blessings in my life took time and work. Ultimately, this habit has paid off! I found a direct correlation with the frequency of thankful thoughts with my ability to more quickly navigate between stressful situation Former NFL quarterback and devout Christian Tim Tebow spoke of thanksgiving in this way, “I pray to start my day and finish it in prayer. I’m just thankful for everything, all the blessings in my life, trying to stay that way. I think that’s the best way to start your day and finish your day. It keeps everything in perspective.”

As someone with diagnosed ADHD, I struggle with honing in on the trees of the forest instead of stepping away to notice the beauty of the forest [or life] as a whole. Jotting down a few of my blessings everyday on a Post-It note is an easy way for me to daily remind myself to continue an attitude of gratitude.

2. Exercise with Exorcise Your Personal Demons: My favorite philosopher Aristotle [sorry Plato!] wrote about the importance of developing a regular routine, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” Along with filling myself spiritually and emotionally with prayer and a thankful mindset, frequent exercise combats my inner demons of impatience and anger that get pent up after a stress-filled day at work and home. Running calms my mind and provides me energy. St. Paul uses the analogy of running frequently in his letters, but among my favorite quotes comes from 1 Corinthians 9:26 when he writes, “Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly.”

Jogging intermittently or aimlessly does me no good in the long run. Frequent jogs at least three times a week for 2-3 miles provide me the best defense against my personal vices of anger, bitterness, impatience, and judgmental thoughts. After a fulfilling 5k, I almost immediately experience a sense of joy and relief. Any lingering anxiety from earlier in the day disappeared. Focusing on a landmark or sign throughout my jog helps motivate me to push past any exhaustion or temptation to take a break.

Forming a healthy habit of prayer, thanksgiving, and exercise [mental and physical] will not happen overnight. The key is to acknowledge your progress and pick yourself up when you fall—believe me falling and failing is guaranteed. Good habits take time. Practice makes progress. Soon you will be able to encounter a difficult situation and more easily able to overcome.

Little Steps to Big Success!

Humanity in the 21st century live in a time defined by the age of social media, instant gratification, and spirit of one-upmanship. Listening to sports radio the other day, I learned that baseball—the traditional national pastime in the United States—is on the declined. Players focus on hitting grandiose homers and run the risk of striking out. This all-or-nothing principal, typifices our high-risk/high reward culture. Put another way, Hollywood actor Jason Statham, “Every sequel needs to be bigger and better!”

As a member of the human race at this particular time period, I too struggle with the appeal and temptation to reduce my worth—as a writer, employee, and father—to be equal to how “big” or “flashy” my success look like. According to the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” His words seems to be penned for me in particular. I often insist on taking the more glamorous, but more complicated, route in life. The same is true when it comes to my blog posts. I try to think of a superbly clever topic and feel like I need a particular word count—the more the better—in order for a post to be considered successful or relevant to my audience.

Being pinched for time lately, my desire for the pizazz and ambitious adjective littered prose hit a wall. I simply cannot write 1,000+ word posts three times a week. Perhaps it is a season; regardless of the specific reason it is good to be reminded that the frequently and sheer amount of articles I procedure do not equal quality. I am reminded of the words of St. Therese of Liseux, “Remember that nothing is small in the eyes of God. Do all that you do with love.” The littleness of the French saint’s way really leads to big success [both in holiness—and when applied to practical living].

Focusing on little acts of love at home [and even little acts of efficiency and politeness at work] provide the foundation for greater growth and potential for increased sanctity and success. Without rambling on too much, I will leave you today with a few quotes from the Little Flower—I hope you find hope in this little way!

The value of life does not depend upon the place we occupy. It depends upon the way we occupy that place.

Perfect love means putting up with other peoples shortcomings, feeling no surprise at their weaknesses, finding encouragement even in the slightest evidence of good qualities in them.

My vocation, at last I have found it; my vocation is love.

Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love

Containing Joy—Rainbow Baby After Miscarriage Maelstroms

rainbow baby1

Life events such wedding your best friend, celebrating an anniversary, graduating school, overcoming major illnesses, and learning to overcome addictions normally lead a person to joy. Usually such cathartic experiences bring incredible joy—joy that cannot be contained! However, I am currently struggling to bring myself to seize the joy of the anticipate birth of my fourth child. Let me provide a little background to clarify my hesitancy.

Dating back to late 2017 and beginning of 2018, my wife and I lost two children due to miscarriage. Because of the previous loss, and the insane amount of pain associated with it, I conditioned my heart, mind, and soul to be cautious. In fact, I guarded my expectations to prevent possible pain of future loss so much that I am neutral, stoic, non-responsive to the current joy in my life!

burying a child

Sifting through writings, thoughts, and quotes about miscarriage I came across profound wisdom from the great C.S. Lewis,

If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing that she may still hope to “glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.

While I am not a mother, the Christian apologist’s words still pertain to me and my fatherhood [really any father who suffered the misfortune of having a child not survive pregnancy. A lot of my writings over the course of the year relate to my suffering, pain, distress, worry, and ultimate purgative experiences with miscarriage. Along with the pain and memory of hope dashed, I struggled mightily with letting my guard down to feel joy, to reacquaint myself with happiness of a birth announcement, and to re-orient myself toward hope.

According to Bishop Robert Barron in his book Catholicism, “We say something is beautiful—a face, a painting, a golf swing—when it hangs together as one (it has wholeness), when all of its parts work together in consonance (it has harmony), and when it shines forth as an archetype of what such a thing should be (it has radiance).” A family missing a member(s) cannot reflect the truth and power of the Holy Trinity. I sense that same is true for my family now.

God-Is-Always-In-Control-2

Gazing at my three children playing at the park and helping each other go up the various climbing apparatuses or going down the slides, I imagined a fourth playing. Difficult to describe this scene it occurred more in the inner recesses of my heart that actually a physical vision or daydream.   During my wife and I’s engagement we talked about being open to life, raising a larger family, and we both seemed to desire [at least open to the desire] for at least four children. I cannot quite fully articulate this desire into words expect that I believe God’s Providential plan is at work in my life.

I pray for continued support, strength, and opportunities to unleash the joy of the Gospel during our family’s time of anticipation and cautious yearning for a safe birth and delivery of our child!