Thursday, June 29, 2017

The World, the Flesh, the Devil, and St. Augustine

The World, the Flesh, and the Devil.
A meditation on the Confessions of Saint Augustine and how it applies today.

THE STRUGGLE

The most famous quote from Saint Augustine would have to be, “…our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  But what is it that causes this restlessness?  Why is man constantly restless and seeking that rest which is found in God alone?  This restlessness is caused by the tension that comes from the irresistible magnetic draw towards our Creator and the base desires of the flesh.  Since the first sin of Adam, the struggle has been present in man.  Since man is a spiritual being he is attracted to the source of his existence.  He delights in the things that are above.  However, since a man is also a physical being he is attracted to the physical world from which he came.  He delights in the things that are of this world.  Augustine recognized this struggle and says to God, “I abandoned you to pursue the lowest things of your creation.  I was dust going to dust.”  

In reading Augustine we can see that this struggle, this tension, does not end until death.  We can also see that the desires that pull man from God are forever the same though they may manifest themselves in different ways and in different periods.  The three basic problems that man faces are the world, the flesh, and the devil, although the devil is always present in some form with the other two.  In temptations to the world man is tempted to place his hope for rest in the things of this world.  These things include everything from physical possessions to the high honors given by his fellow man.  In temptations to the flesh man is tempted to give in to every desire that will satisfy his bodily urges.  These desires include everything from sexual pleasures of every kind to excess food, drink, and drugs.  In temptations from the devil man is either tempted to doubt the goodness of God or to put God to the test.  Everyone throughout history has been forced to deal with these three temptations including Jesus.  

SAME TEMPTATIONS:


THE WORLD

When Christ goes off into the wilderness he is tempted by Satan to give into the desires of His flesh by turning the stones to bread.  He is tempted to win the world the easy way and become king by bowing down to another.  Finally, Satan tempts Him to test God by throwing himself from the pinnacle.

These temptations are always designed to draw us away from God and give us a false sense of “rest”.  These three temptations are the same temptations that Augustine faced in the course of his life before his baptism and I am sure after it as well. From the beginning of the Confessions to his “agony in the garden”  we see his struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.

Temptations to embrace the world come in many forms.  In the days of Augustine, one worldly temptation was to indulge in mindless entertainment in the form of horse racing, gladiator battles and beast fights.  In fact the Roman idea was that if you gave the people panem et circensus “bread and circuses”  they would be content and not give the government any trouble. The problem with such entertainment was three-fold.  First, these shows kept the mind occupied never allowing it to think of higher things or more beneficial things.  Second, many of the events were brutal and beneath the dignity of the human person.  Third, it was a catalyst to an unhealthy desire for worldly admiration and laurels.  Augustine writes, “Public shows are the games of adults.  Those who give them are persons held in such high dignity that almost everyone wished this honor to come to their children  But they happily allow them to be flogged if such shows hinder the study which will bring them, they hope to the position, of giving such shows.”  

Man’s taste for such events has not changed much in the time since Augustine.  Today’s sporting events are close relatives to those events in the fourth century although they are less brutal for the most part.  However, the circuses of long ago and the mindless distraction they provide have been moved from the coliseum to the living room by way of television.  Now man can be distracted from God and enjoy his panem et circensus in the comfort of the home.  The countless hours of life wasted by staring at tiny pixels of light emerging from a box is heartbreaking at the least but more importantly it is deadly to the life of the soul and in turn the life of society.  In addition, similar to the longing of the parents in Augustine’s day, many parents today work hard to train and groom their children to be professional athletes or entertainers usually at the cost of one’s soul.  “Woe to you, torrent of human custom!  ‘Who can stand against you?’ When will you run dry?  How long will your flowing current carry the sons of Eve into the great and fearful ocean which can be crossed, with difficulty, only by those who have embarked on the Wood of the cross?

Another temptation to embrace the world that Augustine succumbs to is the seeking of knowledge not so that he might draw closer to the Truth but because, “I wanted to distinguish myself as an orator for a damnable and conceited purpose, namely delight in human vanity.”  “I pursued a sacrilegious quest for knowledge, which led me, a deserter from you, down to faithless depths and the fraudulent service of devils.”   His desire for worldly honor is as old as the story of man.  In essence he wishes to be looked upon as a god.  It is the same lie that the serpent spoke in the garden.   However, God was able to use this quest in His own miraculous way to lead Augustine toward Himself.  “Suddenly every vain hope became empty to me, and I longed for the immortality of wisdom with an incredible ardor in my heart.  I began to rise up to return to you.”   

Augustine also falls into the political correctness of the day where a man is praised not for what he says but for saying it eloquently.  “See the exact care with which the sons of men observe the
conventions of letters and syllables received from those who so talked before them.  Yet they neglect the eternal contracts of lasting salvation received from you.”   “But if they described their lusts in a rich vocabulary of well constructed prose with a copious and ornate style, they received praise and congratulated themselves.

Today learning is not desired for its own pleasure and reward.  It is not pursued in the pursuit of
Truth.  Great thinkers are no longer needed because we assume that science has answered or will answer every question posed by man.  Rather, most learning and education is geared toward making man productive.  A basic education is given not in an attempt to teach man to walk on his own in the world and think for himself and discover Whose he is but to produce and consume worldly goods.  Of those men and women who do learn the art of oration it is more often used for promoting an agenda than discussing noble ideas.  These people too are praised not for words of truth spoken in love but for lovely words spoken.  

During the time in which Augustine was reflecting on his life I am sure he saw himself standing at a high point overlooking the world at his feet.  The struggle against the temptations to a worldly life is a difficult one and one that in the end will never give us “rest”.  And we, like he, must answer these questions, “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?  Or what exchange shall a man give for his own soul?”

THE FLESH

The predominate temptation that Augustine faces in his life is the temptation to the flesh.  He is driven by an insatiable lust that begins when he is young and it is inadvertently bolstered by his mother in allowing him, in pursuit of his career, to read explicit works of literature.   During adolescence this lust builds within and the struggle becomes more intense and in his struggle he cries out, “grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.”   This prayer in itself shows the natural struggle of a young man against the desires of the flesh.  Today the struggle is the same.  Men are assaulted with enticements to sins of the flesh around every corner.  What in Augustine’s day was limited to obscene literature and public shows is now found in the checkout lane at the grocery store and on the Internet with ease.  

This temptation to sins of sexual urgings caused Augustine a great deal of anguish yet God was able to use it for His purposes.  If Augustine would not have been so wrapped up in lust he may have fallen deeper into the Manichean religion becoming one of the Elect, who were celibate, instead of simply being a Hearer.  In this case God used Augustine’s selfishness to continue to draw that “Restless Flame”  to Himself.

Augustine also tells us that even if he had married he is quite certain that he would not have respected God’s plan for marriage.  Like Augustine, today man is tempted to misuse his sexual faculty for his own pleasure.  In fact, this lust for lust brings about thousands of deaths per year either directly through aborting “unwanted” children or chemically aborting through the use of “birth control” chemicals.  Again, we see that the temptations to the sins of the flesh do not change for man but merely manifest themselves in different ways.  In the end man must realize that true “rest” cannot come from the flesh but only from the Word made flesh.  “[T]here is a certain relationship between love and the Divine: love promises infinity, eternity – a reality far greater and totally other than our everyday experience.  An intoxicated and undisciplined eros, then, is not and ascent in “ecstasy” towards the Divine, but a fall a degradation of man.

THE DEVIL

Finally, in the garden at Milan we find Augustine facing the final temptation, the devil.  He has
renounced the world for the sake of the Gospel.  He says, “Of your eternal life I was certain, though I saw it ‘in an enigma and as if in a mirror’.  My desire was not to be more certain of you but to be more stable in you.”   He has also overcome, with the help of grace, his sexual appetite and has made the “leap of faith” into the arms of Lady Continence.   In all the previous temptations the devil is behind the scenes taking what is good and twisting it.  Here, however, he works within Augustine’s own struggle.  It is a struggle that Satan knows all too well and he is not about to go down without a fight.  His first attack on Augustine is a subtle suggestion that he cannot do what he is trying to do and even if he does he will be miserable.  The temptation was whispered into his ear.  “They tugged at the garment of my flesh and whispered: ‘Are you trying to get rid of us?’ And ‘ from this moment we shall never be with you again, not for ever and ever’.  And ‘from this moment this and that are forbidden to you for ever and ever.’  What they were suggesting in what I have called ‘this and that’ – what they were suggesting, my God, may your mercy avert from the soul of your servant!  What filth, what disgraceful things they were suggesting.”  These whisperings have the ring of guilt sounding from their depths reminiscent of the one who said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?”   Augustine is able to shake off these whisperings.  He recognizes that they no longer have the force they once had yet as he says, “force of habit was saying to me: ‘Do you really think you can live without them?’”

After shaking off these “voices” of temptation the devil tries one last trick to distract the saint from the
course he is taking.  Augustine hears the voice of a child telling him to “
pick up and read, pick up and read.”   This could be seen as a voice from above directing him to his answer but I would argue that it is the last vain attempt from the tempter to lead Augustine back to the world, the flesh and himself.  The devil disguises his temptation with the voice of a child.  Augustine has already “shook off” the “tugging voices” of the temptation to habit and he has recognized and embraced the beautiful voice of Lady Continence.  The devil uses the voice of a child because we think of children as trustworthy and innocent.  However, we must remember that the devil is a liar and often disguises himself as an angel of light.  At the very least the devil wants to distract Augustine, and us, from choosing what will lead to God.  Often this is done by playing on our force of habit, pride, or by simply using the art of distraction.  In C. S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters we are given a clear picture of how this is done.  The senior devil says to his nephew, who is a devil in training, “I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum.  One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way.  The Enemy [God], of course, was at his elbow in a moment.  Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter.  If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defense by argument I should have been undone.  But I was not such a fool.  I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that is was just about time he had some lunch.

The distraction appears to have worked because Augustine begins to think back through his life trying to remember if he has ever heard a game with those words being chanted, “pick up and read, pick up and read.”  The beginning of this thought process could have been enough to lead him away from his “agony in the garden.”  He could have easily thought of another game he played when he was young which could have turned his thoughts to how much he enjoyed the games and on to how much he enjoys all of his “habits.”  This distraction could have worked this way but Augustine stays focused and believes he is to read something.  This too is another chance for Satan to lead Augustine away from God.  Since Augustine and his friends were learned men they surely had many different books lying around to “pick up and read” and he could have easily been lead to do so if it weren’t for grace constantly working against this work of the devil.  In the end Augustine picks up the Letter to the Romans and in this letter Augustine finds his answer.  The interesting thing is that if his eyes would have rested upon any other quote from that sacred book the result would have surely been the same for the entire book from the beginning to the end calls us to set aside the workings of the flesh.

TAKE UP THE STRUGGLE

Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”  Our hearts are restless for God and this restlessness can work for us and against us depending on our disposition to grace.  Augustine wanted to win the world and to win the honors of man.  God allowed him to do so though not in the way Augustine had originally planned.  Augustine wanted to give himself the world but God wanted to give the world Augustine.  His restlessness in his desires of the flesh and his desire for freedom from that restlessness has brought many throughout history into their own rest and freedom from those desires.  And in conquering the words of the evil one with the Word of God Augustine has encouraged many to “pick up and read.”

This great man faced the same temptations that we face today and in reading his life and work we are given hope that we too may overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil.  With grace hopefully we may one day echo the observation of Augustine in ourselves that “The enemy suffers a severer defeat when he is overcome in a man upon whom he has a greater hold and by whose influence he dominates many.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Turn it Off


(originally posted in 2006 but nothing has changed much)

No more Idiot Box

Our family recently moved out of a one-bedroom apartment and into our new home.  We had lived in the apartment for more than five years and with three boys under five-years-old it was starting to get a little cramped.  

My parents gave us some property and we began to build the home of our dreams.  My father-in-law and I built the basement one block at a time.  My father installed the plumbing, heating and cooling while I installed the electric, primed, and painted.  

We moved into our new home in August after about a year of serious construction.  When we unpacked most of our belongings we found that we had forgotten one thing, cable television.  We found ourselves staring at a black screen wondering where the world had gone and why we had been left behind.  When the television was turned on all we could watch was the all too familiar “snowstorm”. Rabbit ears didn’t help a bit and there was absolutely no chance of installing a towering eyesore outside our new home.  We had decided to cut back expenses so a satellite dish or cable was out of the question.

The boys were distracted by the change in living quarters from a shoe box to a freezer box so the lack of “entertainment” didn’t bother them much.  They were too busy running from room to room and hiding in every nook and cranny.  I resigned myself to the fact that I really didn’t need the “idiot box” anyhow and this was probably for my own good.  So, I sat down in the rocking chair and looked out the back window.

Not As Bad As It Seems


After a few evenings of rocking and looking out the window, like an old man waiting for his youth to reappear over the horizon, I realized that we had something far better than television in our possession.   Our “back window”, a three section French door, is larger than any big screen television and only slightly smaller than most home projection screens.  It doesn’t cost much to operate except an occasional spray of Windex and some caulking.  Most importantly though is the variety of programming we have available.

My family has witnessed some of the most intense dramas known to man.  We have watched episodes of life and death played out before our eyes in three-dimensional full color format.  We have watched quietly as small groups of whitetail deer make their way across the hill toward new feeding ground for the winter.  One of the deer was injured by a hunter earlier in the season and we didn’t think he would make it.  Yet, in the spring we saw the same deer on the neighbor’s property and the boys rejoiced.

We have watched rabbits bounce through the yard and we have watched them be carried off by hawks and coyotes.Our family has also sat with rapt attention during some of the most amazing aerial feats that make shows like Top Gun and Jag look like cartoons.  We have seen intense battles over the seed in our feeder and we have seen graceful formations of geese glide overhead.  In the fall we spent most of one day, fogging up the window with our breath, watching with a controlled fear as thousands upon thousands of birds filled the sky appearing to move a giant shapeless mass toward their winter destination.  Far above the hill we have seen buzzards circle and glide wafting the air for their food and we have seen hawks seemingly drop from the sky at break-neck speeds only to soar skyward again after snatching their prey.

The world of sci-fi was not lost to us in our loss of a television.  With a screen as large as the wall, only two exterior lights on, and bowls full of popcorn we watched the most intense nighttime snowstorm you could imagine.  One minute we felt like we were screaming through space.  The next minute we thought our house was in the middle of one of those glass snow balls that you shake to get the snow swirling.
Get Up and Get Out

For thousands of years man has made his way through time without a television for entertainment.  He has watched the natural world around him and not only been entertained but enlightened as well. The natural world outside the window is far more beautiful, intense and entertaining than anything that could be produced on the big or little screen.  We would highly recommend some quality programming tonight.  Simply turn off the television, pull up a chair, and gaze out at the world around you.

Better yet, walk out into that world.  Walk out into your backyard, neighborhood park, or zoo.  Visit a lake, a stream or even a metro-park.  Take your family where there is real life to gaze upon and wean yourselves from that fake box on the shelf that produces only a dismal reflection of real life.  Roll in the grass and the snow, watch the drama of life and death, or lie still in the grass for a very long time and try your hand at what my sons call “buzzard hunting”.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Lord's Easy Yoke



Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus

This is one of those Scripture passages that makes me stop, re-read, pray through it, and in the end still not understand fully what is being said. With the first verse I am all excited. After all I need rest, I labour, and sometimes I feel like I'm being crushed by my load - my work, family, and other activites. However, as I read on I hear two mentions of a yoke. I know that a yoke is used to tie beasts of burden to farm or work implements. So, my question is "how is placing a yoke on my back going to give me rest? How is this harness of sorts going to provide "rest for my soul."

Jesus then goes on to admit that He is in fact giving me a burden - my burden is light. With one sentence I am told to come to Him for rest and the remainder of the passage tells me that I should take His yoke upon myself. What gives?

The only way I know to explain this apparent contradiction is with a life preserver or a life vest. It too is a sort of yoke, yet it is light. If we were to fall into the sea with this light and gentle yoke it would save our life. If we didn't have the life vest on, the wind and waves would overcome us and we would perish.

If we put on the easy yoke of Christ and the light burden of the Lord, we will be saved from drowning in the sea of sin. However, if we cling to that which is not from God, sin, we will sink straight to the bottom with our heavy burden.

So, what is the "yoke" of the Lord? What is the "light burden" that He gives us? The apostle John gives us the answer - "For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whomever is begotten by God conquers the world." 1 John 5:3

FROM THE SAINTS - "Any other burden opresses and crushes you, but Christ's actually takes weight off you. Any other burden weighs down, but Christ's gives you wings. If you take a bird's wings away, you might seem to be taking weight off it, but the more weight you take off, the more you tie it down to the earth. There it is on the ground, and you wanted to relieve it of a weight; give it back the weight of its wings and you will see how it flies." - Saint Augustine

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Saw-Grass Adventures (Chapter One)

This is the beginning chapter of a little book I began working on for my boys 10 years ago.  I thought I'd share it with you.


Lawrence found himself in the middle of the most beautiful autumn day he could ever imagine. The blue sky above him was without a cloud and the sun, after a chilly start, had finally warmed everything up handsomely. That unique smell of autumn, a musty mixture of slowly dying foliage and hints of smoke from a few fireplaces, permeated everything.

You may think that Lawrence is a strange name for a praying mantis but he would think that your name is just as strange for a human. Anyway, Lawrence was just that, a praying mantis. Now, if you’ve never seen a praying mantis I suppose I should describe one for you. They are peculiar creatures, insects rather, with bodies that are about six inches long and an inch wide. Like most insects they have six legs but they only use four to walk upon. The other two legs are folded at the joint, like your knee or elbow, and this gives the appearance of praying. When they catch their food they hold them in those arms or hands or whatever you would like to call them and well, they eat. Another strange thing you may notice when looking at Lawrence or any praying mantis is his head. It is shaped like a V. It looks like a V with two eyes and two antennae on top. The neat thing about the eyes is that they can see almost in every direction without moving the head. If you want to see behind you, you must either turn around or stretch your neck like a giraffe to see. But not Lawrence, he can simply move his eyes to look behind, below, or beside him.

If Lawrence had been looking around on this particular day he may not have gotten into the trouble that he found himself in but then again everything happens for a reason.

Lawrence was definitely admiring the beautiful autumn day as he made his way up the stone colored vinyl siding on the side of the house. He was focused on two things. First, he was focused on staying on the siding. It was tricky for him to climb and keep his footing. It looked sort of like those pictures of men and women who climb steep cliffs and rocks and must concentrate on every move. His second focus was on the crab spider he was trying to sneak up on and invite to lunch if, you know what I mean.

It must have been the spider’s lucky day because just before Lawrence made his final move everything went white. He felt himself falling but not too far. He looked around him and could still see the siding and the spider but he could also see the wooden deck below him and two humans. One of the humans was holding a long stick that was joined to some netting. Lawrence soon realized that he was in that netting. He had been captured in the human’s butterfly net.

A lot happened after that but eventually Lawrence found himself in a large glass tank with some grass scattered about and a few sticks were positioned against the glass wall. In one corner was a large rock and in another corner a lid to a jar had been turned upside down and filled with water. The top of the tank was covered with a screen.

When he looked toward the back of the tank he saw nothing but blue. It wasn’t as blue as the sky outside but it made him feel a little bit more comfortable. When he looked toward the front of the tank his heart skipped a beat. He saw the two round faces of two little boys looking back at him. He knew in an instant, for he was a pretty good judge of character, that the boys were kind and meant him no harm. In fact he could see what could be described as a glow around them that made him feel extremely comfortable and happy. He had seen this glow before somewhere but couldn’t remember where.

Were you spying on us mister,” asked one boy who appeared to be slightly older than the other.
Or were you praying,” asked the younger brother.

Lawrence did not answer the boys although he wanted to. The glows about them made him want to sing out or say something but he waited.

What are we going to do with him Thomas,” asked Edward?
I don’t know. Maybe we could keep him in here and see if he lays eggs and we’ll have hundreds of them.

Lawrence knew those voices all too well. He had watched Thomas and Edward play in the grass and the fields beside their house all summer. The two brothers loved to play outside. If they weren’t playing baseball, riding bikes, going for hikes, or digging in the dirt they were playing soldier. Thomas was the oldest and he was slightly taller than Edward. He was full of energy and ideas and often leaped before he looked. His bright blue eyes and smile seemed to radiate from his very soul. Thomas had short hair, like his dads’, and he was very strong for a boy his age. Edward was more reserved but very thoughtful. He and Thomas were best friends and he wanted to be like his big brother but he wasn’t afraid to be his own person and do his own thing. Edward had green eyes and the moment you looked at him you knew he was mischievous, in a friendly way. He too was very strong and quite a good jumper. Both boys had wonderful imaginations and had traveled to distant places and conquered pirates and wild beasts while never leaving the five acre piece of land on which they lived.

Perhaps, perhaps, you could let me go,” said Lawrence nervously as he positioned himself to look directly at the boys.

Thomas and Edward looked at each other and then looked back to the tank at the praying mantis.

What did you say,” asked Edward.

I said,” said Lawrence “perhaps you could let me go. I mean, after all I was neither spying nor praying and I don’t lay eggs. So really, you see, I am of no use to you.

You can talk,” said Thomas.

And so can you Thomas,” said Lawrence. “Now could you please just simply put me back outside and there will be no hard feelings.”

At that moment a shadow appeared behind Thomas and Edward. It was their mother.

What do you have in the tank and who are you talking to,” asked their mom.

A praying mantis,” replied Thomas.

And it can talk,” added Edward. “He wasn’t spying on us, he wasn’t praying, and he can’t lay eggs.

Well,” said mom “if he can’t do any of those things maybe you should let him go. Praying mantises are good bugs and they help us by eating bad bugs.

With that their mother turned and left the room. The three said nothing for a minute. They simply looked at each other for a while and then all three began to talk at once. Edward wanted to know what it was like to eat bad bugs. Thomas wanted to know how he could talk and Lawrence wanted to know if they were going set him free.

Look, boys,” started Lawrence “like your mom said I’m a good “bug” and maybe I can help you someday. I really don’t belong here. Edward, bad bugs, even though they are bad, are delicious. Thomas, I don’t know how I can talk I just know that I can and since I can I do. I guess it is sort of like a gift but maybe the real gift is that you can hear me.”

The boys looked at each other and then again at Lawrence. They just couldn’t believe their ears. They had never heard a talking insect before and they really didn’t know what to think. After a few seconds of silence the boys rushed out of the room.

Lawrence began to worry. He wondered what they were up to. He didn’t think that they were the type of human boys that would pull him apart or find a nice cigar box with cotton in it and run a pin through his middle section so they could look at his dead body as long as they were interested. Many scary ideas ran through his head as he waited for the boys to return. He was afraid but he continued to remind himself that they had that glow that made him feel very comfortable. He waited patiently and did what praying mantis’ often do when they are alone, or afraid, or both, he prayed.

Thomas and Edward made their eminent return obvious with shouts and heavy footsteps in a march through the hall and back to their room. The boys returned dressed like soldiers. Both boys were wearing large plastic shields, batting helmets, and carried wooden swords painted blue and red, their favorite colors.

We’ve come to rescue you King,” Edward cried out.

Yes, and return you to your kingdom,” said Thomas. “And protect you from the bad soldiers.”

With that Thomas removed the screen from the top of the tank and placed his hand, palm up, in the bottom of the tank. Lawrence climbed aboard and was hoisted to Edward’s shoulder. The soldiers turned quickly and marched out of the room and out the back door of the house.

About fifty feet behind the house was a strip of saw-grass that was twenty feet wide, four feet tall, and stretched for hundreds of feet behind the house. The boys pretended that it was either a wall to protect the house from predators or a magical land that they like to get lost in every once in a while. They were right on both accounts. When they reached the grass Thomas lifted Lawrence off of Edward’s shoulder and placed him in the grass. Both of the boys took off their helmets and put their swords in their sheaths.

You are safe now King,” said Edward giving a solemn bow.

Yes,” said Thomas as he too bowed. “What is your name O King of the saw-grass?

My name is Lawrence,” smiled Lawrence. “And this King thanks you so very much. Thank you Thomas. Thank you Edward. Thank you soldiers for bringing me back to my Kingdom.”

With that Lawrence put forth his front legs as if he were blessing them or knighting them and the boys bowed again. King Lawrence then turned and disappeared into the grass.

How did he know our names,” asked Edward.

Maybe he heard us talking or calling each other,” replied Thomas as he put his helmet back on.

Oh yeah,” smiled Edward. “Let’s go get the bad bugs that hate the King!

Thomas and Edward ran off down over the hill toward the front of their house at top speed with swords drawn looking for the enemies of King Lawrence. The two disappeared into the tall weeds in front of the house only to reappear every once in a while on the path that leads to the highway and the mailbox.

Friday, June 09, 2017

2017 Father's Day Gift Ideas

* 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...

Father's Day is right around the corner and if you are like me, you are probably reading this on the Saturday before Father's Day wondering why Amazon hasn't got that whole delivery within an hour or drone thing going on.  If it is the day before Father's Day, 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 Father's Day.  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.

#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 6 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 Father's day. I've been on two expeditions and they are life-changing.  Click on the link to learn more.  Full disclosure, I'm on the board of directors for Wilderness Outreach but I don't get any kickback except spiritual graces.


#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.


I hope these help you with your Father's Day shopping.  If this link is highlighted, that means you should click it and read on for the top 5 gift ideas.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Our new CEO


The Young Entrepreneur

In the Fall of 2016 our 2nd son, Christopher, enrolled in the Young Entrepreneur's Academy (YEA!) hosted and sponsored by local businesses.  This 8 month course is designed to help young men and women learn about the world of business.  Each participant is encouraged to come up with a business idea, research what would be needed to start the business, create a business plan, and actually create the business.

After the business is created, each student is required to present their idea to a panel of investors.  These young people put countless hours into their presentation with the help of a professional speaker/presenter.

The investor panel, made up of local business owners, listens to each presentation, asks questions, and when the presentations are finished, meet privately to discuss which businesses merit funding and how much.

Christopher wowed the audience of about 60 people including family, friends, investors, and government representatives.  His presentation was flawless and warranted nearly double his asking amount.

The Business Idea

Christopher wanted to address the fact that so many plastic utensils end up in landfills throughout our country and probably the world.  He wanted to create a spoon that was edible.  Unlike Narayana Peesapaty, he wanted his spoon to be tasty and fun to use.
Bubbly Blueberry

Through his hard work, research, and dedication Yummy Dippers was born.  Yummy Dippers are hard-candy spoons that can be used to eat ice cream, frozen yogurt, regular yogurt, cereal and more.  They also make great beverage stirrers, especially the Carmel in Coffee.

Rogue Raspberry
Peculiarly Perfect Peach

He recently launched his website and Facebook Page for Yummy Dippers.  Yummy Dippers are available in 13 different flavors with more being added each week.

Take a look at what he's offering and consider supporting this budding entrepreneur by getting this fun treat that's sweet to eat, just Dip. Eat. Repeat.

Christopher with State Senator Troy Balderson


*Yummy Dippers is an official business partner of Real Life Rosary.  Contact Real Life Rosary to learn more about their partnership program.