Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Most Ridiculous Commandment

Mark 2:23-28

Thou shalt rest. Thou shalt take it easy. Thou shalt relax, read, spend time with friends and family. Thou shalt spend time with Me for one day before going back to work.

How many of us have ever uttered these words or similar words? - I'm so busy, I need a break, If I only had some free time I would (insert favorite activity here). I always thought the third Commandment was sort of ridiculous. Who needs to be told to take a day off? Who needs to be told to not work? Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get out of work. Yet God, who knows His children best, saw fit to make one of the Ten Commandments tell us to take it easy.

Of course keeping Holy the Sabbath is not simply about being a couch potato. It is supposed to be a day of retreat. It is a day where we can duck out of the world and spend time with God and enjoy His gifts - creation, family, Scripture, etc.

I treasure my Sundays. That is my favorite day of the week. It is a day when we get up early, go to Mass, eat breakfast on the deck, go for a hike or go fishing, and end the day with a campfire or family rosary or both. When we can't get out and about, we institute an "electronics free day" and spend time reading, playing board games, or wrestling.

While some may live for the weekend I live for Sunday. I admit that it often does take some planning since we choose to refrain from shopping, dining out, etc. But I think that makes the day much more enjoyable. If we're going hiking at the state park we make sure our tank is filled on Saturday. If were cooking out or entertaining we get the extras during the weekly grocery trip. Then, come Sunday, no worries. I love it! It's like a weekly retreat. It's recreation in the true sense, re-creation - a chance to be re-created in God's image and likeness. Its a chance to love Him and enjoy His love.

So what was the big deal with what Jesus' disciples were doing? The Pharisees had taken a basic list of things that shouldn't be done on the Sabbath and expanded it to a 39 item list. So a simple command (in it's true sense and spirit) like "do not perform farm work on the Sabbath" becomes a ridiculous and anguish-filled command like "do not walk through a field of grain or even casually pick the grain to munch on for that is considered farm work."

Jesus is teaching the Pharisees, His disciples, and us that the law of charity must trump all other rules. He uses a story that they were very familiar with to prove His point (1 Samuel 21). Man's basic needs must come before ceremonial rules. Jesus shows that it is better that man be fed by picking grain on the Sabbath than starving to death on the Sabbath in order to keep a ceremonial law.

Lord Jesus, help me to truly rest in Your presence this coming Sunday. Give me the strength to deny my worldly interests for one day and focus on You and the gifts You have given for my benefit. Help me to retreat for a day and be recreated so that I might better serve you in the days that follow.

FROM THE SAINTS - "I have always seen rest as time set aside from daily tasks, never as days of idleness. Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals, and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job." - Saint Josemaria Escriva

Monday, January 15, 2018

Newborn for Newborns

Monday January 22 marks the Day of Prayer for he Legal Protection of Unborn Children.  On Friday January 19th, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, race, color, and creed will
descend upon our Nation's Capital in peaceful protest of legalized abortion in our great country.  We should all be praying for the marchers, speakers, law enforcement, politicians, and opponents of life.

Of course being pro-life doesn't end when the baby is born.  We don't revel in another life only to turn our backs on this new life and the mother who bore him or her.  Being pro-life means supporting the choice for life before birth and supporting the mother and baby after birth.

The organization AND - Angels Nurture & Disciple does just that.  They help mothers and their babies in hundreds of ways.  Just some of the things they provide include - emergency housing, financial assistance, education, employment, childcare, spiritual guidance, and much, much more.

Our family feels strongly about the need for care of mothers and children after woman has chosen to keep her baby.  We want to help and we're sure you do too.

You can help by visiting the AND site and donating money, that's simple.

You can help by purchasing diapers for the kids, they'll be shipped via Amazon right to those in need.

You can shop our Real Life Rosary site.  If you purchase any item with the Newborn Twine Color, we'll donate the entire amount of that item to AND.

So, if you buy a Newborn Rosary, Chaplet, Keychain, Bracelet, etc, 100% of that item gets donated to AND.

Buy 10 Newborn rosaries for your Bible Study group, yeah, it all get's donated to AND.  It's what we call Newborn for Newborns and we'll do this until the end of January.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Unanswered Prayers

Luke 1:5-25

Whenever I take the time to look back on my life I am amazed at the goodness of God. Especially so in light of my wandering ways. When I look back at the things I asked for and what was given to me instead I am filled with praise and thanksgiving. Like the country song says, "some of God's greatest gifts are unanswered prayers."

Scripture tells us that God's ways are not our ways and sometimes this just plain stinks! Yet, God is a loving Father who knows what is best for us. He has a plan for us. And His plans, His ways, are always far better than ours.

In my younger days, before my conversion, I dreamed of a life of singing in a band. I dreamed of living on stage, in bars and clubs, and partying till the end. What a stupid dream! In fact, I think I even prayed, in my own twisted way, for these things. Thank God for a great big "NO". If God would have revealed to me His plan at that point in my life I would have laughed and said "thanks" but "no thanks." Now I can't imagine my life any other way. I can't imagine not being married to my wonderful wife and enjoying my beautiful children. His ways are far better than mine.

I am sure Zechariah and Elizabeth had many days to dream of what life would be like with children. I am sure they had ideas in their minds of what they would do with their child. They obviously prayed constantly, even in their old age, for a child. How disappointed they must have been as the years slipped slowly by and no child came. Yet God's ways far exceeded their dreams and ideas. I'm sure they never expected to have an angel announce that they would be given a child. I'm sure that they never thought that he would "be great before the Lord...filled with the Holy Spirit...turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God...or make ready for the Lord a people prepared." Their expectations were met and exceeded beyond belief. Hence the name that God gives - John - "God is gracious."

God has a plan for you today. You may have gotten out of bed early in the morning with ideas in your head of how the day was to go but He has plans that are far better. This doesn't mean that the day will end with all of your heart's desires being fulfilled. Rather, it means that He loves you and wants you to trust Him for He has plans for your good. Your only duty today is a simple one, say "yes" to God. In good and in bad, say "yes" to God!  There is no such thing as an unanswered prayer. "Do not be afraid for your prayer is heard!"

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Pray with or for your family using - Rosary Meditations for the Family.  20 Meditations on Family life through the lens of the Mysteries of the Rosary.  Also includes the Joyful Mysteries of Marriage and meditations for children.  
Available in Paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

Monday, December 18, 2017

An Eternal Family Tree

Matthew 1:18-25

I often like to contemplate the chain of events that brought me to existence. I wonder what sort of things had to happen for my father and mother to meet. Then I dive deeper in grandparents, great-grandparents and on and on. Could one missed appointment have meant my not being born? Could a premature death changed our family's lineage forever?

I also like to think about the people in my lineage. Were they honorable? Thieves? Nobles? Murderers? Servants? Were there adulterers? Kings? Lords? Peasants? In this way, my family history fascinates me.

Today we are introduced to Jesus, Mary and Joseph's family history. Both Joseph and Mary are from the house or line of King David and so we call Jesus "Son of David." It is interesting that, like many of our families, their family was not perfect. Their lineage from Abraham to Joseph is made up of some of the greatest figures in history and some of the lowest. Kings and murderers, heroes and harlots fill their family tree.

Saint Paul reminds us often that we are part of God's family. We are sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of the Christ. Yet, we understand that while here on earth, on this pilgrimage, there will always be problems in our family. Just as in our earthly families we cannot choose our parents or siblings we cannot choose them with our spiritual and eternal family. Our choice is to love all of our relations and pray for them equally no matter how difficult that may be. Saint Paul also tells us that "all things work for good for those who love God." God can turn even the sinful actions of our brothers and sisters into good. We need only look to Jesus' own lineage to understand this.

Lord Jesus, thank You for my earthly and heavenly family. Thank You for the gift of Your Mother who constantly intercedes on my behalf. Give me the courage to pray for my family members that they might come closer to You. Remind me to pray for my ancestors that they might join You in eternal happiness.

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Pray with or for your family using - Rosary Meditations for the Family.  20 Meditations on Family life through the lens of the Mysteries of the Rosary.  Also includes the Joyful Mysteries of Marriage and meditations for children.  
Available in Paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

Friday, December 15, 2017

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Christmas Gift Guide for Dad

Christmas is right around the corner and if you are like me, you are probably reading this on Christmas Eve wondering why Amazon hasn't got that whole delivery within an hour or drone thing going on.  If it is the day before Christmas, I may be able to help you out but I'd suggest bookmarking this article for next year.

Below you will find a list of ideas for dad on Christmas.  These ideas are based on the things that I've received, bought, or coveted over the years.  They may not be right for your dad or baby daddy, or grandpa or baby grandpa (is that even a thing), but then again, they might.  If they are right for you and yours, you are welcome.  A blog post of ideas for mom and a post of ideas for children will follow in the coming days.  We'll start with dad because he's the toughest to buy for, in my opinion.

#10 - A Rugged Rosary from Real Life Rosary - Yes, am starting with a shameless plug for my own rosaries.  I'm not only the owner, I'm a customer.  Seriously though, this picture shows the rosary I carry with me everyday.  These rosaries will stand up to anything dad can throw at them.  They won't snag on stray thread in the pocket, rattle in the woods and spook that big buck, or make you think there's a cat in the dryer if it gets washed and dried.  If it ever breaks, send it back and it will be replaced, no problem!  Where else can you get a rosary that will last a lifetime for $10 or $12 for one with a metal crucifix?

#9 - Nalgene Wide-Mouth Loop-Top Water Bottle - I've had my Nalgene for 7 years and I use it everyday.  It's rugged, I've even used it to roll on when trying to crack my back or massage my legs.  You can put warm or cool liquids in it.  I've put hot coffee in it with no ill effects on it or me...  Even if dad isn't a camper or backpacker, it's great just to have on the desk.  It holds 32 oz so dad can keep track of his daily water intake.  The only thing that has happened to mine is that the lid loop broke.  I bought a new lid for a couple of bucks, good as new.

#8 - French Press Coffee Mug - Yeah, that's right, a French Press MUG!!!  I have two and I seldom drink coffee any other way.  These mugs work just like a regular French Press but it is a mug.  So, put in your coffee grounds, pour in some boiling water, wait a few minutes, stir, put the press/lid on and begin pressing the grounds down, drink, and enjoy.  It makes incredible tasting coffee for one at a fraction of the cost of those sissy Keurig things.  This mug even has a hidden compartment for storing more coffee.  Dad will love it...as long as he doesn't like cream and sugar with his coffee, if that's the case, move along to the next idea....

#7 - Wilderness Expedition with Wilderness Outreach - Does your dad love the outdoors?  Does he love the mountains of the American West?  Does he love his Catholic Faith or growing in his Faith?  Does he enjoy work, asceticism, camping, praying, hiking, and brotherhood?  If so, an Expedition may be something to offer for Christmas. I've been on three expeditions and they are life-changing.  Click on the link to learn more.

#6 - A gift subscription to Audible - I love to read but I love it even more when someone reads to me. I don't always have time to read all the books I want to so thankfully there's Audible so that I can listen to the books while doing other things like walking, driving, or making rosaries.  The audio books are very affordable and yearly subscriptions make them even more so.  Plus, dad can listen on his phone, computer, tablet, or MP3 player!  My Audible library has hundreds of titles that I've purchased over the years.  With over 180,000 titles, dad is sure to find a great book.  I'd recommend The Gates of Fire and The Count of Monte Cristo to start.  Plus, you can get two free books to start!

#5 - Beer Making Kit - I've been making my own beer for 11 years and love it.  It's relatively easy to do with a little patience and a minimal amount of equipment.  Now, these aren't the  Mr. Beer kits that you see at Wally World (I've heard good things about Mr. Beer).  This is genuine, honest to goodness, brewing ingredients.  The kits have been tried and tested over and over so messing it up takes some real genius.  If dad is a guy who loves trying different micro brews, cooking, or is a mad scientist, a beer making kit would be a perfect gift.  You can get him started for less than $100 and that includes some crucial equipment and ingredients.  If you are really not sure if he'd like it or not, there are also small 1 Gallon Batch Kits for around $50.

#4 - A Personal Journal - I know, most dad's aren't going to be jumping up and down with joy when they receive this gift.  However, it's a gift to them that they, in turn, can give back to you. These are more than mere journals.  They contain 12 questions or statements per month to help dad get started on writing down his life, experience, and wisdom.  I'd love to have a shelf full of these from my dad, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on.  He'll see the wisdom and beauty of passing on his memories if you but ask.

#3* - Pocket Knife -  I cannot remember a time that my father did not have a pocket knife.  My grandfather always had a pocket knife as well.  In fact, when he died, they discovered loads of pocket knives and the grandsons each received one.  I now have at least half a dozen pocket knives sitting on my dressing shelf.  Each one has it's own history, personality, and use.  Don't roll your eyes, I'm serious.  Where I'm going or what I'll be doing that day
determines which knife I bring along.  DO NOT CALL IT AN ACCESSORY!!  I'm not a fan of sheath knives, nor is anyone in line at the bank.  Nor am I in favor of pocket knife so big I walk with a limp.  I prefer a compact, old fashioned 2-3 blade knife that is sharp, easy to use, and fits well in my pocket without being bulky.  If you are really trying to win points, have it engraved!  Click here for reasons why every man should carry a pocket knife.

#2 - Of the Month Clubs - Oh my, there are so many awesome "of the month" clubs I don't even know where to start.  You can see some  great ones here but I'll list two of my favorites.  A) Taster's Club: Great Whisky Every Month and Learn all about it.  This is awesome.  I love whisky and I love learning about whisky and other drinks.  Each month they send you not only a bottle of whisky (bourbon, scotch, etc) but also an educational piece on How to Properly Taste Whisky, How Whisky is made, and more.  B) Mystery Tackle Box - do I really need to go into detail on this one.  Each month you get a box packed with lures, baits, and more.  Of the month clubs are a great gift that keeps on and on and dad remembers you each time that shipment arrives.

#1 - A Handwritten Note - This is probably the least expensive gift on the list but one that costs us the most.  It may not be easy to do but it will be worth it and you won't regret it.  Take time to write dad a note.  Tell him what he means to you, how much you appreciate all he has done for you.  Recall wonderful memories and jot them down for him.  Chances are he may not even remember the event or think it was significant and will be moved to know how it affected you.  I've spoken to too many people who regret not doing this simple act with a pen and paper.  Even if your father is no longer with you, write the note.  If your father wasn't the best, write it to a father figure in your life - a priest, grandfather, cousin, co-worker, etc.  Tell a the man/father figure in your life that you love him, admire him, and are praying for him.  We dads need it, even if we act like we don't.  Merry Christmas!

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Violent Take It By Force

Thursday of the Second Week of Advent

Matthew 11:11-15

Today's Gospel reading doesn't seem real...well...festive or Christmas like. John the Baptist is in prison and Jesus is speaking of violence.

We must, however, understand the attitude of the day. The Jewish people are awaiting the Messiah and many rumors have been flying about for the past 3 decades since Herod went crazy killing babies gunning for the "newborn king." There is a belief that the time for the Messiah is now. The prophets point to it. However, the idea at the time is of a religious-political Messiah. He will be one who is from God or chosen by God to lead the Chosen people to not only freedom but complete victory over their enemies. There was also, at the time, an understanding that Elijah, who was taken up into Heaven, would return to announce the eminent coming of the Christ (Malachi 3:23). Yet God's ways are not our ways!

In the previous verses, Jesus challenges those following and listening to Him and John's disciples. He asks them what they went out to see when they went to see John. He asks if they went to see some soft preacher talking about love and peace or one who may be Elijah or even the Messiah. He knows of their longing and tells them that yes, they were going to see a prophet and indeed that is what they saw. He tells them in fact that not only did they see a prophet, but if they will accept it, they saw Elijah  This had to be incredible for them to hear and we can imagine the mixed reaction from the crowd. For if John was Elijah that sets up Jesus as the Messiah.

But what about the violence thing? The Jews at the time were waiting for the Messiah but they were waiting passively. They were waiting for it to happen to them. It was an entitlement mentality. When the new era was ushered in they would claim it by right as descendants of Abraham.

John the Baptist, as the prophet Elijah, ushers in the new era but it was not what they expected. It is time for the Kingdom of Heaven but this Kingdom is not given only to the descendants of one family but to the entire world. In addition, it is not simply given but it must be accepted. In fact, it must be taken. One must strive for this Kingdom, "seek to enter by the narrow gate", and fight to keep it, "fight as to win". With John's message of repentance the violence begins. The Kingdom of Heaven is within and the battle too is within each soul. The violence is repentance. The violence is turning away from sin and fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil in our daily life. Those who do violence to themselves in the sense of mortification, temperance, prayer, good works and all the rest are taking the Kingdom of Heaven by force. Those who do not, lie dead on the battle field.

The first reading also points to this violence and it reminds us that the victories won are not of our own but of God, "I will make of you a threshing sledge, sharp, new, and double-edged." The power to take Heaven by force, the power to grind our enemies to dust is a grace given to us by God. But this grace must be fought for. We must want it bad enough to fight for it. God wanted it bad enough for us to fight death, death on a cross. How can we want anything less.

FROM THE SAINTS - "The Kingdom of Heaven does not belong to those who sleep and who indulge all their desires, but to those who fight against themselves." - Saint Clement of Alexandria

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

The Most Ridiculous Commandment