Sam I Am vs. The Devil

Prior to entering the life of youth ministry, I was in sales. I wasn’t a very good salesman, but I did learn a lot about the characteristics of salesmen. The best salesmen are incredibly persuasive. They make you feel good about the item or service that they are attempting to sell you. They are also incredibly persistent. I remember going to a sales training meeting and the sales trainer started talking about the best book on sales he had ever read. All of us in the class got excited about this book as he claimed that if we could carry out what this book is telling us as salesmen to do, then we would be extremely successful. I got my pen ready to write down the name of the author and title of the book and eagerly anticipated that piece of information. Finally, he pulled out an old, worn copy of the book that looked like it had been through years and years of reading and re-reading. The book he pulled out of his briefcase was “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss. The trainer went on to explain that Sam was the best salesman there ever was. He truly did not give up until he sold his wares. He was incredibly persistent and in the end he was able to sell his green eggs and ham.

Although Sam is an incredible salesman, there is one that is better, more cunning, more persuasive, more persistent. That salesman is the devil. Satan pulls out all the tricks getting us to buy into what he has to sell. I see how persistent, persuasive, and cunning he is in my own life. He uses tricks on me like, “It feels good”, or “No one will know”. He entices me with pleasures from this world. He even goes so far as to say, “Come on, you can always go to confession afterwards!” Oh, how easy it is go give into the temptations of sin! As the Lord said to Cain: “Sin is a demon lurking at the door.” (Genesis 4:7) The devil is a door to door salesman, selling his wares to any and all who open the door of their souls to him.

We must not be persuaded! Just as with any big “purchase”, we must go to the Lord in prayer to discuss what the devil is trying to sell us. Only the Lord can help us determine if what we are being asked to purchase is a good and worthy purchase. We must slam the door of our soul in the face of the devil when he knocks. We must drop to our knees at the moment of the temptation to “buy” what the devil is selling us and pray to the Lord for help and guidance.

But, alas, we do not do this. The devil is so cunning and persuasive a salesman that he convinces us that we don’t need to discuss the “purchase” with anyone. He tells us that what we are buying is good, that we deserve what he is selling us.

Heavenly Father, Give us the foresight to look out the windows of our souls and see the devil approaching our doors in an attempt to sell us his wares. Give us the strength to resist opening the door to him. Give us the ability to resist the persuasiveness of the devil. Give us the wisdom to know the difference between what you want for us and what the devil is trying to sell us. Amen.

Published in: on August 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Price is Right!


Can you put a price on life? Some people think you can. I heard a statistic on the radio the other day that stated that, on average, parents spend $200k raising a child from birth through age 17.

My wife and I just welcomed our fifth child into the world. While at the hospital I heard several comments from nurses, after hearing that our new baby was #5, saying that having that many children is expensive. Yes, having children is expensive. But what difference does that really make? Unfortunately for many people, it makes too much of a difference. It is easy to do this when money is our focus in life. When we place the accumulation of money and worldly comforts above God’s will for our lives, then we cannot afford children. They will be too expensive. Our world is so caught up in money and possessions that we see raising children as a liability and not as an asset.

However, life is not a balance sheet. It is not about weighing our assets and liabilities. When considering having children, the question of affordability should not be the main question we ask. It is absolutely a component, as we should not be irresponsible. Adding children to a family should be an ongoing discussion between husband, wife, and God. Prayer is probably the most important aspect of discerning having children. We need to discern what God wants for us and our family. If God does want a married couple to add children to their family, and the couple discerns that through prayer, then God will provide for that family. We have always struggled to make ends meet financially, yet God has always provided us with what we need.

God also knows what is best for us when considering adding children to our families. Let me illustrate this with a real life example. Back in 2007, my wife and I spent quite a bit of time praying about and talking about adding a fifth child to our family. After months of prayer and consideration, we decided to try to have another child. Now, we have never had fertility issues in the past. We always got pregnant within the first month or two of trying. Yet, we did not conceive in our first month. The very next month I lost my job. You see, God knew what he was doing. He knew that He had a plan for us and adding another child at that point was not a part of that plan. We would not have been able to afford another child through my unemployment.

We need to trust God and His plan for us, not just for our family, but for everything. God will continue to provide for our needs if we allow Him to. We need to discuss our plans with Him in prayer and with all those who are involved in the decision. We need to pray constantly to understand God’s will for us. God will provide for us as long as we follow His plan for us, and not our own plan. It doesn’t matter if it costs $200k or $2 million to raise a child, if it is God’s will for my wife and I to add to our family, I trust that he will provide us the means to do so.

Published in: on August 17, 2009 at 5:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Home is Heaven for Beginners

“Home interprets heaven. Home is heaven for beginners” (Charles H. Parkhurst). How very true this statement is! Think about it. Where do you feel most comforted, most loved? Hopefully, you answered home. Home is where we go for reassurance, for intimacy, for guidance, for protection. At least that is what home is supposed to be.

It is unfortunate that we live in a world that has so many broken homes. If home truly is heaven for beginners then no wonder we have a crisis of faith, or as Pope Benedict XVI says, “a crisis of Christian hope.” With so many divorces, so much anger and resentment pouring out of our homes, it is easy to see that we have lost our sense of faith, our sense of hope.

I look at my home and see that I am failing at creating heaven for my children. I’m often short with them and snap at them….not because they are doing anything wrong, but because I’m selfish and don’t want to be bothered by them or the noise they are making. The home truly does (or at least is supposed to) interpret heaven. It is my first (and most important) job as a husband and a father to ensure that my wife and children get to heaven. Am I living that example? Sometimes I do. Other times, well, not so much.

I need to start being aware of this statement. I need to live my life as though not only my salvation depended on it, but the salvation of my wife and children as well. Because it does. I’m responsible for ensuring that they make it to heaven. But I’m not alone in this. My wife, too has responsibilities. She is responsible for making sure I, and our children, make it to heaven. Oftentimes I think she is doing a better job at this than I. We as a family, as a home, must work together to bring heaven, however amateur it may be, into our home.

This quest of ensuring heaven is in our home also extends beyond our family. Anyone who comes into our home, in fact everyone we encounter, must also see heaven. This is a big responsibility. We must live our lives in such a way that everyone can see a slice of heaven in us. Our words and actions must be selfless, must be loving, must be charitable. Through much prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit, we can reflect heaven to others. Doing so will renew that Christian hope that is missing in our world.

Heavenly Father, I desire to be close to you. I desire to reflect heaven to all whom I encounter, especially my family and those closest to me. Send forth your Spirit that I may be renewed in your love and be a light to others. Amen

Published in: on August 10, 2009 at 4:54 am  Comments (9)  

Men Get What Men Want!


“Because you’re a man! And men get what men want!” This quote is from a Pepsi Max radio commercial that runs quite often when my family and I listen to baseball games on the radio. My kids love this commercial and are always quoting it. I started pondering this commercial and particularly this quote. Maybe I think too much, but this is what I thought about….

This quote and commercial are a sad statement about society. It is unfortunate, but too many men have this attitude about life. This kind of attitude contributes to the inappropriate sexual behaviors many men have, it contributes to the backstabbing that goes on in corporate America in order to get ahead, it contributes to the general moral decline of our society. And here we have Pepsi celebrating this attitude, encouraging men to have this attitude.

Life is not about getting what you want out of it, unless what you want is eternal salvation…but I don’t think this is what marketers at Pepsi are talking about. Life is about the pursuit of eternal salvation, which involves quite a bit of self-sacrifice (i.e. not getting what you want). We must be willing to sacrifice what “we want” for what God wants for us. I just hope that I am effectively teaching my children this and they realize that this radio commercial is perpetuating a wrong attitude about life.

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Are You Insecure?

The subject of insecurities has been a hot topic around my house lately. My wife and I have had several discussions about it over the past few weeks. We’ve talked about our own insecurities as well as our family’s and friend’s insecurities. My wife seems to think that I have no insecurities. While this is not entirely true, for the most part I don’t have many insecurities. It goes back to when I was in high school and very insecure. I was the guy that everyone picked on. Well, I woke up one day and realized that I shouldn’t care what anyone else thinks, and from that day on, I haven’t felt strong insecurities like others feel, although I do still have some.

So, why do people have insecurities? While I think there are many reasons for this, I think the root of people’s insecurities goes back to the fall of Adam and Eve. Think about it. Before the fall, Adam and Eve were naked. They were naked physically, but they were also “naked” to each other emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. They were in complete union with each other and with God, with nothing held back. They were completely secure in the love of God. Then they fell. They realized that they were naked and they clothed themselves. They also hid their thoughts and feelings from each other. Through that original sin they were no longer secure in the love of God. They feared what others thought about them and they hid themselves–physically, emotionally, and spiritually–from each other.

How can we get back to that feeling of the security of God’s love? We can’t get it back entirely, at least not while still in this world. But we can seek out the protection of God, seek out His love and His strength. Through God we can have the resolved to not care what others think about us. While we may not be able to get rid of our insecurities completely–I don’t know anyone who has, myself included–we can find some security in the love of God.

Published in: on August 4, 2009 at 7:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Am I Self-Righteous?

Self-righteous and sanctimonious? Someone I respect recently said this of me. It got me thinking, is it true? I write a blog to share my faith with others. I use Facebook and twitter to share my faith with others. But does this mean that I’m self-righteous and sanctimonious? For someone who doesn’t understand why I do what I do, it may seem that way.

So, why do I try to share my faith with others? Do I do it because I’m saying “Look at me! Look at how strong my faith is! I’m better than you!”? Or do I do it because I am truly passionate about my faith and the graces God has given me that it just overflows and spreads to others? Do I share my faith as an evangelization tool, or as a way to attract attention to myself? To do the latter is sinful. Yes, I do admit that I get a sense of satisfaction when people read my blog or Facebook and twitter status updates and comment on them. It does puff my pride up a bit to see people react positively to what I do. But this is not why I do what I do.

My attempt, in evangelizing online, is to share with others the joys and struggles of my own faith journey. Yes, it is far from perfect, but my prayer is that people be encouraged by and strengthened by my struggles and joys. I am always the first one to admit my faults, and regular readers of this blog will see that. I am trying with all my heart to love Christ and follow Him to the best of my ability–and that includes sharing my faith with others as Christ calls each and every one of us to do. We are not in this alone and need the love and support each other in our journey. I’m attempting to use my blog, Facebook, and twitter to do just that. Is that self-righteous and sanctimonious?

Published in: on August 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm  Comments (2)  

American Idol


I read chapter 32 of Exodus the other day. It’s the “golden calf” chapter of the Book of Exodus. Moses was up on the mountain for 40 days talking to God. Oh, how I wish I could spend 40 days in the mountains alone, talking to God……Anyway, when Moses came down from the mountain he discovered that the Israelites had fashioned a golden calf and were worshipping it. I have thought in the past, after reading this passage, that we have come a long way from biblical times. We don’t worship golden calves, rocks, or trees. We, as Christians and descendants of the Israelites, no longer worship false idols….or do we?

Upon reflecting on this last reading of Exodus 32, I have come to realize that we do indeed worship idols. It’s just no longer as obvious as making a golden calf and worshipping it. We now, as Americans, worship money, power, and fame. We worship our own bodies through our obsession with our looks. We worship the bodies of others. We worship our technology–our iPhones, Facebook pages, text messages, televisions; and I’m just as guilty of this as anyone else out there. The lure of this world and the things in it is great, and hard to resist.

Fortunately, we don’t need Moses to go to God in reparation for our sins. Christ has paid that price for us. However, that does not give us free reign to do as we wish. We must not worship our money, our bodies, and our possessions. We must not use these gifts to give glory to ourselves. We must use the things of this world to give glory to God. As St. Augustine said, “Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder is needed by others.” God has given us a free will to do as we wish with the gifts He has given to us. We must choose to use these gifts to build His Kingdom. If we don’t, God might come down and “smite” us.

Published in: on July 31, 2009 at 7:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Where Are You Taking Me?


The current phase of my “adventure to salvation” began two summers ago. I remember it quite well. I was, at the time, an adult volunteer for my parish’s youth ministry program. I volunteered to chaperone the youth group’s annual trip to Atlanta for Franciscan University of Steubenville’s Summer Youth Conference. Having spent my freshman year of college at Franciscan, I knew what a life changing event it could be for the teens that went. What I didn’t know is that it ended up being a life changing event for me as well.

While attending the conference and spending much of the weekend in prayer, I got the feeling that God was calling me to get more involved in ministry than I already was. I came out of the weekend with the resolve to start a men’s ministry. I felt that this is what God wanted me to do, and besides, I was working as a financial advisor at the time for a major national firm and this would give me the opportunity to network and pick up a few clients….at least that is what I thought.

After the weekend, I approached the adult faith formation coordinator at my parish and shared with her what I wanted to do. She had a job for me right away! While it wasn’t necessarily what I was looking to do, she got me involved in leading a small group discussion on the Eucharist with other adults. Still, I felt the call to start a men’s ministry and kept praying for the opportunity to do so.

And then my world fell apart. In October of 2007 I lost my job with that major national financial advisory firm. All of my plans to start a men’s ministry were put on hold while I began the very difficult job of finding a new job. I started my search in the financial services industry because of my experience but opportunity after opportunity closed behind me. After about 5 months of searching with no luck at finding anything, I was starting to become desperate. I started applying for anything and everything. I even applied to be a manager at Burger King. They never even contacted me! (I hope it’s because they thought I was over experienced and not unexperienced!) I also saw an opportunity for a Director of Religious Education at a local parish and I applied for it. I didn’t want to do that job, but I need a job, any job! The pastor of that parish called me a few days later and said that he already had a candidate that would fit the DRE position better than I and wondered if I would be interested in Youth Ministry. I hesitated, not because I don’t like working with teens, but because I feared that I would not be able to provide for my family on a youth minister’s salary. But I agreed to an interview anyway, probably at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

A few weeks ago I returned to Atlanta for my second trip to Franciscan University’s Summer Youth Conference, this time with a group of teens from my own youth group. I spent some time reflecting on what had occurred since my last visit. A lot has changed. God was definitely calling me to ministry, just not what I thought. I wanted to start a men’s ministry. God wanted me in youth ministry. I’ve just completed my first year as a youth director for two parishes in Pinellas County, Florida and I can truly say that I love what I do.

What’s the point of this story? God is talking to you. He is telling you what He wants you to do. You don’t need a Steubenville Conference or a retreat to hear it, either. You just need to quiet your heart and listen. He’s talking to you like he spoke to me. Allow God to reveal Himself to you. I knew that I was going to be in ministry in 2007. It took God a full year to reveal His plan to me. It took a lot of hardship as well. I’m not saying that God’s plan for you will entail hardship, although it might. Pray, listen, and wait patiently for God. Endure whatever hardship comes your way in pursuing God’s plan for you. You won’t regret it. I certainly don’t!

Published in: on July 30, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Comments (2)  

Faith is NOT a Feeling


There is a quote from St. Augustine that has been bugging me for two days now. It is a quote from the Confessions of Saint Augustine: “I sought you, not according to the understanding of the mind, in which You were pleased that I should surpass beasts, but according to the sense of the flesh.” It has taken me a considerable amount of time to wrap my head around this one. Basically, what St. Augustine is saying is that he was pursuing a relationship with God based solely on the “flesh”. His whole purpose in pursing faith and religion was surrounded by what made him feel good. He quickly realized as he aged that pursing a “feel-good” faith is not what God ultimately wants for us and that this kind of faith will not lead to any sort of long-term satisfaction. St. Augustine realized that he needed to understand God in the mind in order to have a lasting sense of deep satisfaction in his faith.

Let me use an analogy to try to explain this. Take a young couple. In the early stages of their courtship, when they first start dating, their relationship is based primarily on their feelings. The young man and young woman are attracted to each other because they make each other feel good. After a period of time the good feelings fade, and the young couple has a decision to make. They can break the relationship off, they can continue to try to find those “feelings”, or they can take their relationship to the next level. Unfortunately, many marriages are based on continuing to pursue those feelings and that is a major reason why the divorce rate is so high. You see, no relationship can be based solely on feelings. The couple needs to get to know each other. They need to take it to the next level by connecting intellectually. It is through this dialogue that they enter into a deeper level of their relationship and develop a deeper, more meaningful love for each other.

What happens many times with our faith is that we never get past the “courtship” phase in our relationship with the Lord. We either break off the relationship after the good feelings fade or we keep pursing more “good feelings”. Our relationship with the Lord will ultimately end up in a broken “divorce” if feelings is the main goal of our faith. We will not find a lasting satisfaction. We need to take our faith to the next level. We need to dig deeper intellectually. We need to try to not only know the precepts of our faith, but understand them. I find over and over again that the more I understand my faith on an intellectual level, the more intimately I feel the love of Christ at work in my life. It is the only way any relationship will work. It is the only way that we can achieve true and lasting satisfaction in our faith.

Published in: on July 28, 2009 at 7:46 pm  Comments (2)  

Story of the Church–Book Review

What a truly wonderful book! When I selected this book as a part of the reviewer program for catholiccompany.com, I was expecting a dry, factual history of the Church. While there is nothing wrong with that format for a history book, this is not that type of book. The author tells the history of the Church through stories, fictional accounts, of life in the Church. He then delves deeper and explains what is going on during each significant period of Church history. I was truly excited to read this book!

The chapters are short and there are questions at the end of each chapter for personal reflection or discussion. If you are a homeschool parent with high school students, I highly recommend using this as a text on Church history for your teens. It is engaging and informative and definitely not “boring”, as some teens find history. Make sure you check out The Story of the Church today!

Published in: on July 27, 2009 at 6:54 pm  Leave a Comment