3 Ways I Encountered God on a Playful Thursday!


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on June 13, 2015.


Yesterday, I encountered God and reflected on his majesty during three rather sprightly activities: lifting weights at my local fitness center, reminiscence of my childhood through classic youth books, and playing a game of cornhole toss in my basement with my toddlers.

cornhole toss

 

 

 

 

 

Encountering God through Exercise

After eating breakfast, I went to my local fitness center to do my daily 45 minute exercise routine. Since Thursdays are chest/back exercise-days I bench-pressed. I have been lifting consistently for a while and I started to notice that I improved on my weight goals. Great. But how does this relate to God?

Well, a motivational quote posted on the mirror in the weight room stated, “If it does not challenge you, it won’t change you!” This means that if I want to get stronger I have to increase the amount of weight I lift. From the eyes of faith I interpreted this as “While God is everlasting and eternal, he sent his Son in the world to give us a path to change humanity for the better. This is known as the way, the truth, and the life and it is preached by the Catholic Church.” Just as reaching a weightlifting goal is challenging, so too, living a life of love and forgiveness is challenging.

Discovering the Creativity of God in Books

Secondly, I noticed the creativity of God during my time of scanning through classic books I purchased from a local used book store. Authors like Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, and Jerry Spinelli were just some of the many writers that I recalled from my childhood as I peered over the yellow-paged, but still nicely preserved copies of Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Ramona Qumiby, and Maniac Magee. Here I realized that the genius of these mere human writers pale in comparison to the Author of the Universe–who composes each and every one of our stories. Nevertheless, it is through human ingenuity that God can be glorified.

God did inspire human authors to write out his love story to humanity and that collection of books would be canonized as the Bible. In other words, the brilliant human mind–in this case, I noticed it in children’s book authors– is a reflection of the creativity found most perfectly in God. Genesis 1:1-2 states, “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters”. A more literal translation Genesis 1:2 has the “might wind” rendered as the “spirit of God”. This matters because the creative power of God the Holy Spirit has in fashioning the universe in 6 days [stages]. I refer to this passage because the first biblical image of God, as creator, highlights his creative energy.

toddlers reading

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding Joy in a Lawn Game

My third and final example of how I encountered God through play this Thursday occurred during my afternoon cornhole toss game with my children. For my readers that live outside of the Midwest, cornhole toss is lawn game with a objective similar to horseshoes– one must throw an item to score points. In this case, there is two inclined wooden boards with a circle in the top. The boards are placed 20 feet away from each other and two teams compete at trying to reach 21 points by tossing beanbags either onto the board itself of into the hole. That is the game in a nutshell. If you want more information I check out the American Cornhole Association’s website [yes this is a thing and the website is AWESOME].

To get back on track, cornhole toss is a remarkably simple activity and people of all ages can play. While playing this game with my children I realized that there is a certain type of beauty to cornhole toss–that although is is an incredibly simple game I could play it for hours and still be captivated. Analogously, God is a simple being do the fact of his remarkable unity and oneness. God is not composed of multiple deities but rather simply one Lord over the whole universe. Like cornhole toss, I can contemplate the beauty of God for hours on end.

Related Links

A Thankful Thursday and a New Opportunity

Another Thankful Thursday!

A Third Thankful Thursday!

How Playing Paper Football Led to Prayer

Thank you for sharing!

Rocks, Monkey Socks, and Toy Cars—Joy Found on a Summer Morning!

Simple Joys

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post originally published on June 7, 2019.


“I love the simple things in life. They tend to get overlooked.” This anonymous quote captured the entire theme of a morning at my home last week. Waking up early, my children itched for an opportunity to play outside and enjoy the warmth of the sun before the humidity set in.  Almost immediately, they rushed to the edges of my backyard to collect and play with rocks.

My son and daughter definitely received their geological glee from me—for a period I seriously considered majoring in geology! Noticing the different colors, sizes, textures, and hardness of the stones captivate their attention. If left to their own devices my oldest children would remain outside for hours and bring inside cartons of rocks.

Joy of a child

Joy of a Child

Along with my children’s joyful “jewel” collecting, their imagination was in full force as well. Albert Einstein once declared, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I most certainly need to pay more attention to my kids’ imaginative play as my thirst for knowledge has been stymieing my joy lately. The creative juices flowed greatly in the mind of my daughter. “Look dad!” she exclaimed, “Look at this. Taken aback at what I saw I asked, “What are you doing?” Proudly she exclaimed, “I am a monkey! Look at my monkey-socks!” She covered her feet with a pair of garden gloves I bought for her at the local home improvement store. Immediately, a grin spread across my face. Next, I just laughed—not a forced chuckle, but a natural, healthy and joyful guffaw!

Treasuring Toy Cars

Toys Cars

 

 

 

 

 

The final thing that brought joy to me that summer morn was my youngest son’s continual love and obsession over his toy cars. Being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in late 2017, we discovered that his obsession and impulsive playing with toy cars is part of what makes him unique. Carrying a plastic vehicle at all the time provides him relief amidst daily stresses of toddler life and living with rambunctious siblings. No less than a couple hundred times do we hear our two-year old say, “A car, a toy car! Look a car!” His enthusiasm and unbridled joy at the simplicity of a toy car reminds me of a spectacular point G.K. Chesterton made in his masterpiece Orthodoxy. He stated,

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.

The Joy of Daily Work

Meaningful Work

 

 

 

 

 

Repetition, work, and habits don’t infringe on our ability to grow. On the contrary, finding joy in the simple matters of life and completing “monotonous” tasks regularly with joy instill true life in us. Days where I focus on my vocation as a husband and father with love are the days where my vocation does not turn into drudgery. The same is true when it comes to my daily work.

My dad displays this simplicity and adherence to his vocation as husband and father in an exceptional way. Rarely, did I hear him complain about his family duties. Weariness of parenting did not see to wear on his face—at least from what I remember! In terms of spiritually living, my father is “younger” than myself. This is because his obedience and joy in his vocation is anchored in the Pre-Existent God more deeply than my spiritual life is at currently!

I will leave you today with a few simple and profound quotes that I hope with awaken or sustain your spiritual life. I hope you discover the simple joy that children seem to naturally possess.


“What I know of the divine sciences and the Holy Scriptures, I have learned in woods and fields. I have no other masters than the beeches and the oaks.” —Saint Bernard of Clairvaux

“Laugh and grow strong.” —Saint Ignatius of Loyola


Related Links

Finding Joy–My Accidental Discovery of St. Philip Neri

Cardboard Boxes, Zoo Animals, and Creative Joy!

How to Develop a Thankful and Joyful Mentality— Be Grateful for Everything!

 

Thank you for sharing!

Finding Joy–My Accidental Discovery of St. Philip Neri

Saint Philip Neri

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 4, 2018.


The great Italian saint Philip Neri once said,

“We are not saints yet, but we, too, should beware. Uprightness and virtue do have their rewards, in self-respect and in respect from others, and it is easy to find ourselves aiming for the result rather than the cause. Let us aim for joy, rather than respectability. Let us make fools of ourselves from time to time, and thus see ourselves, for a moment, as the all-wise God sees us.”

How easy it is for us to perform acts of charity in hopes of the reward? I struggled with this temptation recently– instead of serving others out of love of God and neighbor, I oftentimes think of the long-term benefits I may receive—the favor may be returned, customers act nicer towards me, work is lessened in the time-run, etc. Seeking the results, the cause [as Philip Neri put it] leads to joylessness.

I started this blog bring joy into my life and into my readers lives as well. Pursuing my daily feed, I came across a post about the patron saint of joy—Philip Neri. His name and patronage stuck with me throughout the workday. “I need to learn more about this saint of joy!” I thought to myself driving back home from work.

As soon as my wife went to bed, I google searched Philip Neri and discovered the along with being the patron saint of joy he is an advocate for humor and, interestingly enough, U.S. Special Forces!

I’ll be incorporating more quotes, writings, and wisdom from St. Philip Neri over the rest of the year. I am excited for this journey to deepen my relationship with God through the witness of Philip Neri this year.

joy image

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will close with a prayer to incorporate into my spiritual arsenal (and I hope you do too!):

Prayer to Saint Philip Neri

Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice! (Phil. 4:4)

O holy St. Philip Neri, patron saint of joy, you who trusted Scripture’s promise that the Lord is always at hand and that we need not have anxiety about anything, in your compassion heal our worries and sorrows and lift the burdens from our hearts. We come to you as one whose heart swells with abundant love for God and all creation. Hear us, we pray, especially in this need (make your request here). Keep us safe through your loving intercession, and may the joy of the Holy Spirit which filled your heart, St. Philip, transform our lives and bring us peace. Amen.

Related Links

Want to be more joyful? Pray this prayer to St. Philip Neri

3 Reasons Philip Neri Should Be Your Patron Saint

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A Close Encounter of the Whimsical Kind 😜


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on February 15, 2018.


Disclaimer: There is a sixth dimension that oftentimes interacts with mankind. It enters time and space unexpectedly and usually leads to mirth. Sometimes provoked by science, other times by faith, these experiences usually arrive in the mundane. This is the dimension of imagination. It is what I call…the Whimsical Zone!


“Laugh and grow strong,” St. Ignatius said; and to one of his novices, “I see you are always laughing, and I am glad of it.” Humor is a quality I don’t usually attribute to saints, let alone to God. Of all of my defects, perhaps my greatest involves being too serious. Sometimes, I let the stress of daily work and family life hinder my ability to laugh and enjoy life to the fullest. I have often written about how Wednesdays seem to be the highlight of my week.

laughter_health_benefits_smiley_face.jpg

This Wednesday I experienced a whimsical and encounter with wonder yet again— this time through the simple joy of reading the Wizard of Oz to my daughter. Our journey to the magical land of Oz Began several weeks ago as I started to read a chapter from L. Frank Baum’s Book each night to my daughter. To quote Andrew Bernard from The Office, “I wish you had a way of knowing you were in the old of days before you left them.” I certainly had that sentiment as I cuddled with my 4-year-old on the couch and told her the fantastical journey of Dorothy’s motley crew toward the Emerald City of Oz.

moses burning bush

 

 

 

 

 

Discover God in the Unexpected

Divine encounters always seem to occur in the most unlikely of places and manners. In the Old Testament, Moses encountered God in the guise of a burning bush. During the book of Acts, the Gentiles learned about God through the witness of Peter and the rest of the Apostles. My children as fruits of the sacrament of Matrimony—the tangible experience of God’s love and laughter in my life.

Reading about Dorothy’s quest to see the Wonderful Wizard, I witnessed the delight of whimsy and wonder in my child’s eyes. Telling her about the cyclone, Kalidahs—hybrid bear-tiger creatures, yes these are actually a thing that the movie left— (maybe that’s where the ♫ Lions, and Tigers, and Bears…oh my! ♫ came from Person Shrugging on Apple iOS 11.2), and the encounter with the Witched Witch renewed my own spirit of wonder and awe.

lions tigers bears.gif

🦁 🐯 🐻

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Laugh Your Way to Holiness

Saint Mother Therese spoke of laughter by saying, “Joy is the net of love by which we catch souls.” My whimsical encounter with wonder pulled me out of despair. Sometimes it takes the simple joys in life—in this case, reading to my child a classic book— to remind me that it is okay to laugh and possess hope during my pilgrim journey towards holiness. I need not always be austere in order to follow God’s plan of salvation. God wants us to enjoy the simple joys and wonders this world has to offer!

P.S. Please see my past articles for a brief history of encountering silliness in the middle of the week:

A Whimsical Wednesday Encounter with Wonder

Another Whimsical Wednesday Encounter with Wonder: At the Pizzeria

Thank you for sharing!

When I Had an Encounter with Divine Reality


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on January 13, 2019.


The legendary Italian artist Michelangelo once purported, “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” I once traveled overseas on a college trip around Europe. One of the stops our tour group was in Rome. Seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel certainly allowed me to encounter the mysterious and awesome presence of God.  My sublime experience in Rome lasted only a few minutes and occurred over a decade ago. I am extremely grateful to have seen with my own eyes one of the greatest and most beautiful works of art in all of human history.

sistine chapel.jpg

Fast-forward ten years and a lot has changed in my life: I am married with four children, and in the workforce. While life brought me many struggles since that moment in Italy, my Catholic faith is stronger and more real because of those trials. Throughout much of 2018 I wrote frequently about my wife and I’s struggle with despair, loneliness, and sadness at the loss of our unborn children. Losing a child, you never could hold takes an indescribable toll on a person’s mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.

A Christmas Miracle Child

This Christmas season our family was blessed with the healthy birth of our daughter. From the onset of the pregnancy complications developed. God interceded and saved our daughter from being miscarried. He accomplished it through the power of prayer and healing graces of the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Our parish priest administered this sacrament to my wife. In my post, Containing Joy—Rainbow Baby After Miscarriage Maelstroms – The Simple Catholic, I talk about the struggle be joyous throughout the pregnancy. Hope always permeated our thoughts, but we tempered our joy just in case our daughter did not make it to term.

rainbow baby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

God’s Peace in the Pain

After my wife’s contractions got frequent enough for the delivery doctor and nurses to arrive, a calming presence overcame me as I gazed into my wife’s eyes between her painful contractions. An otherworldly peace entered that delivery room. Joy, peace, and confidence radiated from my wife’s eyes in the moments before our daughter was born.

Skeptics may doubt Divine Providence had anything to do with our experience in the delivery room. All I can speak of is my experience and that was an encounter with a reality, call it what you will, whose origin is not of this earthly existence. Long anticipation of seeing, hearing, and holding our daughter seemed to have time at a standstill those short minutes before the arrival of Avila.

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Bishop Robert Barron once stated, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” Our joy-filled yet anxious laden pregnancy delivery began with the beautiful―the news of the conception of our daughter. That beautiful news led to the good. Good through the form of good friends, family, and priests praying for us on this 9-month journey.

Finally, the good of fellowship and prayer led my wife and I to the truth― this reality is not the sole mode of existence. The God who is above humanity’s total and complete comprehension decided to reveal himself in the material world. God became man in the person of Jesus Christ on Christmas Day in Bethlehem, and I had the privilege of encountering the peace of the Holy Spirit that early morn in the hospital room before and during the birth of my daughter!


“The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”

 

Thank you for sharing!

How God Continues to Bring Joy (Out of a Sorrowful Miscarriage) on All Souls Day

Below is a letter I wrote to my unborn son Jeremiah who left this life on All Soul’s Day 2014.

Read the letter here: A Letter to Jeremiah

We picked the name Jeremiah because of the comfort the prophet found in God despite his suffering and it matched the rhyme pattern of our older kids (Noah and Amelia).

I just discovered something that HAS to be from God.

As I was looking up the New American Bible translation of the Bible verse below I realized the header above the First Chapter of Jeremiah reads:

“Oracles in the Days of Josiah”

Why is this significant???

Because in 2015 sometime in June I was continuing to battle depression and told my wife, “I just want something good to happen in my life”(in hindsight I know God already surrounded me with Jenny and my older two kids but despair limits our vision).

We found out a couple days later she was pregnant and we disagreed on names (she wanted Isaiah while I preferred Elijah).

Somewhere/somehow I was nudged toward the name Josiah.

Josiah my rainbow baby 🌈 who brings us joy wearing his carwash brush costume. 🙂

Two things I didn’t know about the name when I discovered it:

❤️ Name literally means “healer”

❤️ Josiah was referenced a few verses before one of the passages that gave me comfort in the wake of losing Jeremiah (again I only learned this five minutes ago from writing this post)

🤯🤯🤯🤯🤯

I thought the miracle of Jeremiah and Josiah was already amazingly connected but God keeps adding to the mystery of this memorial of suffering for my family.

It is both sorrowful and joyful.

God truly does work everything for the good (because He loves you)!

Please pray for the repose of Jeremiah’s soul and all other unborn babies who died before mother’s and fathers could hold them.


“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
—Jeremiah 1:5

Thank you for sharing!

How Dr. Pepper and Gratitude Lead to Joy

Nothing in life is guaranteed except for death, taxes and the deliciousness of Dr. Pepper.

When you approach things from an entitled mindset all the successes you achieved slowly topple over

An ungrateful person is a prideful one.

Pride, in moderation can help you gain confidence. But in excess it’s a problem.

And it leads (eventually) to a life of hopelessness.
Life is a gift— everything is gift.

Your wins. Losses. And boring practices.

Gratitude changes everything

Gratitude helps to color life. Thankfulness leads to color instead of black/white/grey drab living.

Give thanks to someone in your life.

I’m incredibly thankful for an amazing and understanding wife.

My Catholic faith has ensured me something additional— hope and that my suffering on Earth can be redemptive when united to the Cross.

Nothing is guaranteed except death, taxes, and deliciousness of Dr. Pepper.

But let’s add something to that list

Joy is guaranteed when you approach life with gratitude.

How do you foster a spirit of gratitude in your work and home life?


Dr. Pepper meme

P. S. I’m thankful for the Dr. Pepper meme because it’s tied for the meme that makes me laugh no matter what. Yoda dying of Luke’s questions and the kid figuring out Santa isn’t the real Santa are the other two giggle guarantors (not sure if that’s the right word but I’m an alliteration addict☺) .

Thank you for sharing!