Friday, March 30, 2012

Give to Ceasar What Is Ceasar's

Continuing my series of posts on topics discussed at TMIY, I'd like to talk a little about money. There are so many of us who get caught up in making money. Paying our bills gets overwhelming at times. We have many wants on top of our needs that often go past the end of our dollars.

That being said, the three things I want to discuss are tithing, taxes, and tabling (it is kind of a stretch, but I wanted a third "T" word). There are a lot of really difficult points, but they are things that the program has discussed or thoughts I have on the subjects.

God calls us as Christians to support the Church. It can often be tough to consider that for every dollar you bring in, you give a dime to the Church. Giving this sacrifice each week (or monthly if you prefer) will not cause God to love you  more or less. I don't believe it is going to affect the eternal destination. But much as running a car for tens of thousands of miles without ever changing the oil is not good for the car, not tithing is not good for our souls. One of the quickest ways to feel good is to help someone else, and dropping that dollar in the basket is helping the Church to help others - thus it feels good and holy.

 "And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD'S: it is holy unto the LORD." (Leviticus 27:30)

Additionally, it helps to remember that this is God's money - much like the Parable of the Talents, God has entrusted us with the resources we have and we are not to squander them, but to use them as he would have us use them. Budgeting after the tithe has already come out makes things much easier as well.

While tithing has become much easier for me since we just set it up to be a weekly draw and wrote it into our budget, the second T (taxes) is a bit more difficult. I sit here in the heartland and do my best to elect officials who will spend wisely our hard earned tax money. However, when I look at what they are doing in DC, I wonder if I'm the only voter who thinks this way. I strongly disagree with a number of things congress supports and have other programs that I think could be run much more efficiently. In short, I think if our government was a business, it would have failed years ago. That being said, it is the law and to quote a man who is infinitely wiser than I:
"Then Jesus said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.' And they were amazed at him." (Mark 12:17)
 The third T is tabling. As I mentioned earlier tabling is a stretch. I would have preferred to use saving, but it didn't work with my "Three T's". At any rate, we talked about how it is important for us to save money for the future. This way we can provide for ourselves in retirement and we can provide for our children. Additionally, we can use saving to avoid going into debt, which is a bad idea more often than not. Is it not better to save up and work hard to make a big purchase than to finance it and make payments with interest toward the same thing? At any rate, saving or tabling money for another time is a good thing.

Though money is one of those tricky things, it is important to not let it become the center of our lives. We still need to pay attention to it, but don't allow it to become an obsession. I've heard it said that Gluttony is not necessarily over-eating, but rather an obsession with food (so it can be overeating as well as under-eating to extremes). We need to be careful with money that it doesn't become an obsession for us, but also that we pay enough attention to it that we don't squander away what God has given us. We need to do with it as God asks so that in the end he comes to us and says:
Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness! (Matthew 25: 21)
 Now I'm back to my mission...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Growing up, one of my favorite video games was one we borrowed from cousins. It was for the Nintendo and had a gold cartridge. It was titled "The Legend of Zelda". The premise of the game was that you were a lowly farm boy named link who was to become the Hero of Legend. As you progressed through the game solving puzzles, the main character, Link (or whatever name you chose for him) would gain skills, find tools, upgrade tools, and eventually the transformation would be complete. Since the original, there have been many Zelda games, each starting on same premise - Link is a relative nobody and he has to develop into something special. Some of the games do contain a bit of mysticism and on occasion there are pagan gods and goddesses mentioned, but the overall premise is the battle of good vs. evil, light vs. dark, etc.

Most recently, I've been playing the newest release in the series - "Skyward Sword". I find these games to be a great mixture of puzzles and action and enjoy spending a little of my spare time on them. This probably seems a little off my usual topic lines, but I'm getting there.

You see, in many ways, we are like Link. We start life as nobody special, except to our loved ones. We are born completely helpless. Then we begin to grow. We learn new skills and acquire tools that we can use in life. We solve problems and overcome obstacles. I know that very few of us will have the skills we acquire include sword fighting, and even fewer will ever find a special sword or shield as a part of our development, but just as these tools were vital to Link completing his mission, our tools will be vital to our mission. Being a software engineer, I had to come by the knowledge of writing software, a skill I continuously update through learning newer and better technologies. I had to acquire tools, such as the programs we use to write code. Finally, I had to learn to apply these skills to the new tools and those I'm not defeating a boss, I am solving puzzles daily.

Similarly, I had to learn skills in parenting (the art of discipline, patience with a small child, and knowledge of what was good for them). I had to acquire tools as well, such as diapers, baby clothes, and a crib. Marriage is much the same. We have to learn about our spouse and become better husbands/wives. We get tools that help our marriages thrive.

In short, the point I am trying to make is that our lives are journeys. God tasks us with solving the puzzles, by gathering the knowledge and tools, in order to get to the ultimate goal that he has set out for us. In essence, much like Link rescuing Zelda from whatever trouble she is in, we are tasked with doing the mission God asks us to do and in so doing beating the game of life to get to our heavenly goal.

And now, I'm back to my mission...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Sower Went Out to Sow...

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.

Almost everyone has heard the parable of the sower and the seeds. One of our meetings recently talked about this parable and asked us to really look at how we APPLY the gospel to our lives. It was pointed out that many of us have aspects of each type of seed in different areas. Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Is there somethings we don't hear because Satan swipes them up or we intentionally don't apply because we like our sinful ways? Is there a sin we just can't give up? What about the sin that you confess EVERY time you go to confession?
  • Is there something that we are quick to stand up for, but then when we are challenged we quickly fade in our passion? Are we embarrassed of our faith? Did you brush off your ashes on Ash Wednesday before you went to work? Did you say something to a friend/family member/co-worker who was telling you about a view/action contrary to Church teaching?
  • Are there thorns around you? What things distract you from what you should be doing? When is the last time you sat in quiet prayer for an extended period of time?
  • Are there things you do well in? Things you are always strong about. Things you never back down on. Things that you don't let distractions get the better of you?
These are some of the questions that were asked in our meeting mixed with some of my own. I couldn't help but think, I've heard this parable at least 25 times in my life, and yet I never looked at it in this light. During lent, I plan to do my best to make sure that I do all that I can to have more of the seeds fall in good soil and less in the other areas. I plan to work on those sins that I repeatedly confess. I plan to stand strong against the pressures of society. I plan to avoid distractions as much as I can and really focus on prayer.

Before I close, I have a few thoughts on this last resolution. I find that going to Mass can be terribly distracting for me. I always feel the need to look around. It is a bad habit I've fallen into. So I will really focus on the altar for as much of Mass as I can. Additionally, I plan to take quiet time each morning. I know that while I have quiet time, I have a lot of thoughts race through my mind. So rather than try to fight these thoughts, I will take a journal with me and write them down to revisit them later.  Hopefully in doing this, I can have at least part of my prayer time be focused. With God's grace, this can be a very fruitful time in our spiritual year, and I hope that my plans come to fruition, so that when I come through this journey, I am a changed man.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Doing my job...

All around there are people who work a job for a parish or for the diocese. There are the teachers at the Catholic schools, the secretaries at the parishes, the maintenance staff, the lunch ladies, the tech guys, and youth ministers. There people have a great opportunity to help the Catholic Church to grow and thrive. I've at times become jealous of their opportunity to work in such a God-centered environment. There have been times that I have considered applying for a position in the diocese or a Catholic school. I have looked at my job and worried because it wasn't serving God and the Church.

However, the other day I had a thought about my job that I wanted to share.

I do my best to do God's will. God has called me to be a husband and father. That means that I need to protect, serve, and provide for my family. Unfortunately, there aren't positions (at least in this part of the country) where I could work for the Church AND provide for my family. Instead, I have to work in a secular environment, with people who don't necessarily hold Christian beliefs. However, working here means that I can provide for my family. That means I am doing God's will by working here, and thus, I do work for the Church.

Additionally, the Church cannot afford to pay everyone. Even if everyone worked for the Church and tithed 50% of their income (well above the 10% God asks), there are not means to keep a sustainable income to outgo ratio. She needs people who work in outside industries who can give generously and allow Her to fiscally survive.

In most businesses a majority of the employees generate income for that business. Granted there are some who are not income generating, that is "support positions" (i.e. HR, IT, secretaries, and accounting), but a business cannot survive without income outweighing outgo. Don't get me wrong, support positions are ABSOLUTELY necessary for a large organization to run smoothly, but if a farm tried to run with an HR person, an IT person, a secretary, and an accountant but no farmer - it would not succeed.

Most people who work for the Church are in "support positions" and thus do not bring in a lot of income for the Church. This is not a shot at people who are called to work for the Church (or in support positions), I'm just saying - I don't know any parish secretaries who are creating significant income for their respective parish. I wouldn't want to see a parish without a secretary as I know they keep all of the parts running smoothly.

There are some people who bring in money for the Church, such as teachers (in tuition), but most of the schools could not afford to pay all the teachers and keep the school running on tuition alone. That being said, I want to again commend all people who do work for the Church - it is an honorable profession and I would love to work in such a God centered position. This post is aimed more at people who do work in outside positions - farmers, ranchers, doctors, programmers, carpenters, etc. My point is simply that for the Church to keep going, they need outside income. Our jobs ARE important. Our jobs DO serve the Church.

One area that I feel my job does allow me to serve the Church is tithing. Not only are we able to tithe each week, but we are able to support missionaries, Catholic charities, and Catholic works. We help contribute to that outside source of income by which the Church survives fiscally. We serve our Church not by doing a Church job, but by our support. In a way, we are the product that the Church produces that brings in the income that keeps her alive.

We are not simply good for our money though. An even bigger part of being able to work in an outside field is that we can make enough money at our primary jobs to support our family. Thus, we don't (typically) have to have a second job to make ends meet. This gives us time to spend with our families AND time to help others. This allows people who work in the outside world to volunteer, to help others, and to serve Christ through others.

Now it is time for me to go to work and do my job for God... so I'm back to my mission...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

That Man Is You...

Late last summer, I had a minor revelation. I realized that though I have a wonderful wife and 3 sweet little girls, I was really lacking a certain kind of person in my life. I needed some good men to challenge me. It's not that I don't know good men (my Dad, my brothers, my brothers-in-law, etc. are all very good guys) or that I lack friends, but I was wanting for the kind of friend (or group of friends) who would challenge me and help me to grow. I needed the kind of friend I could talk to more than once every six weeks or six months. This was what I was lacking. I wished that there was some group who met in the mornings (so that I wouldn't have to sacrifice family time) who wanted to grow in their faith and encourage one another. It all added up to a very specific need. It was something I had in college (except instead of mornings it was late nights), but I had been lacking this since then.

I expressed my concerns to my wife one day and she thought this would be perfect for me, if only I could find it. It's not like I was asking for something incredibly specific - oh wait, that is exactly what it is like. I needed men with a strong faith who would get up early in the morning and wanted to grow in their faith and be better husbands, fathers, etc.

God must have been eavesdropping on that conversation, because the next weekend at Mass, a man got up at the end of Mass to make an announcement. At the beginning of September, there was a group starting up that would be going through a program called "That Man Is You". The mission of the program is "becoming a man after God's own heart". They would be meeting at 5:00 AM each Friday. While he was announcing this, my wife looked at me and indicated that this is exactly what I was looking for. I was so dumbstruck, that I couldn't believe what I was hearing.

After Mass I signed up for the program and waited the three weeks until the first meeting.

Each week we begin with breakfast while watching a video presentation. Then we break into small groups. In the first semester, the turnout was so huge, that they ended up breaking the groups up even more from 8 groups to 12 (each of which has at least 10 people - some up to 12). We had a great group with lots of guys who would inspire discussion of things that guys deal with on a week to week basis. I met a lot of good guys there, a few of which I now consider good friends. At semester, we reorganized the groups. I'm with all new guys, but they are very friendly and we have a lot of good discussions. It never ceases to amaze me how many guys are willing to get out of bed before 5 AM (most before 4:30) and go to these meetings. Each week we end just in time to hurry across the hall for the 6:30 Mass.

All this being said, I have a few things that we have talked about at our meetings that I wanted to blog about so I am going to try to do that during Lent. So with all that said, look for a few posts from me this Lent. I'll try to keep them insightful. But now, I'm back to my mission...

Friday, October 7, 2011

Types of Catholics

The other day, it occurred to me that I have seen many types of Catholics. I thought I might share a few of them with you.
  • Flower Catholics - These people are convinced that their local parish is completely decked out in flowers all the time because whenever they go in, poinsettias or lilies cover the sanctuary. Sure I go to Mass: every Christmas and Easter.
  • Buffet Catholics - These people pick and choose what they want to believe. They may know that the church teaches things such as only men can be priests, priests cannot marry, if you sin you should go to confession, etc. However, they decide that on certain issues, they just won't take that belief. I'll take the Eucharist and Saints, but I believe that you can just take your sins to God in personal prayer and that is the same as confession.
  • Have-ta-be Catholics - Typically between the ages of 10 and 20, these people only show up out of necessity. They can usually be found texting, playing handheld video games, or trying to sleep. Often the parents of these people think that just making them go to Mass is enough, however most of them are just counting the days until they move out. I would rather eat cockroaches than sit through another boring homily.
  • Righteous Brothers Catholics - These can be men or women who are extremely Catholic to a level that you and I can never reach. Don't bring small children around these people as they will freely ask you to move so they can pray better. They may also criticize the way you pray, the way you fold your hands, or even the way you receive the Eucharist. They are quick to judge your behavior without knowing the circumstances. They also are happy to let you know just how unholy you are. If you were a little more like me, maybe you'd make it to Purgatory.
  • Wanna-be or Gonna-be Catholics - These are not Catholics, although they will be soon. They are slowly coming to realize that the fullness of the truth is in the Church and that they belong here. Tell me again why you believe that the Eucharist is really Jesus?
  • I Know That Catholics - Similar to Buffet Catholics in that they disagree with something the Church teaches, they just don't know it. Most of these people (incorrectly) think that they know a teaching or refuse to look at what the Church actually teaches about a subject and so due to their lack of knowledge they go astray or worse - lead others astray. If you really love someone and intend to get married to them, then it is OK if you sleep together.
  • Average Catholics - This is the one I hope to count myself in. We try hard. We learn as much as we can. Even if things are tough to understand, we keep trying. In the end, we might fail, but God will hopefully be merciful enough to send us through Purging Fire so that we can be with Him forever. I'm trying my best, but I make regular trips to confession.
  • Can We Canonize Them Yet? Catholics - Few and far between, but these are people that everyone knows will be a saint, it is just a matter of time. Some examples of these include Padre Pio, Francis of Assisi, John Paul II, and Mother Teresa. Of course most of those are already canonized, but you get my point.
    • Pray, hope, and don't worry. - Padre Pio
    • Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words. - St. Francis of Assisi
    • As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live. - Blessed John Paul II
    • Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. - St. Teresa of Calcutta
Any other Catholics you have noticed?

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    Cool Video

    Thought this video was pretty cool.