Water and Light

As I was sitting at the computer one day, feeling really liberated to begin a journal (or private blog) with the purpose of recording personal insights I found myself asking, “Where do I begin?”  I’ve had quite a few thoughts lately I’ve been really dying to write down, but even when I’m writing to myself, I find myself going blank in front of the computer.

People who know me know that never seems to happen when I talk ….

One of the purposes of beginning that journal was to record personal thoughts and insights without worrying about organization or if anything is even theologically sound.  There I was staring at the default picture that came with that blog template, telling myself, “I really like this picture!”


THAT’S IT!!!  I’m going to write about this picture!  Well sort of….

This picture bought to mind a conversation I had just had with someone that got me thinking about how the Holy Spirit relates to Jesus and His presence in the Holy Eucharist.

I’m not a theologian nor do I even have college degree so I won’t try to explain things in those terms.  But what I can do is explain some of the effects an encounter with Jesus back in 2009, through the power of the Holy Spirit, have had on me.  I’ve shared that witness with many other people over the years, but I’ve hesitated to do it in written form, uncertain how it might come across.  Perhaps in the future, but here’s some of the lingering effects of that day:

I like Confession.  Now I’m not saying I look forward to telling a priest where I’ve goofed up.  What I am saying is that the Holy Spirit helps me recognize when I’ve offended God or my neighbor.  He helps me to weep as Peter did—but then to trust in God’s mercy and want to avoid those things in the future.  The Holy Spirit also continues to show me new areas I wasn’t aware of that I need to surrender.  The renewed resolve and clarity I know I’ll receive in confession is enough to pray for the grace to say it like my last.

A love for God’s Word  First I have a confession to make.

Not counting “Where the Wild Things Are” and a few other children’s books, I never completed a book until I was a young adult.  Now that I got that off my chest ….

My love for reading developed over my adult life through my interest in boxing, the Green Bay Packers, and running; but the Bible became a source of comfort several years back during a real struggle with anxiety.  This Book was different; This Book had a heartbeat and was alive!  There’s so many ways to read and study it and the insights seem inexhaustible.  The Holy Spirit unfolds the thoughts and heart of God and how they apply to my life.  I can’t get enough!

A love for the Eucharist  As Catholics we acknowledge the Holy Eucharist as the “source and summit of the Christian life.”  (CCC 1324)

So does the Holy Spirit take away from the Holy Eucharist?  No!  He actually gives us the Eucharist!  In the epeclisis the priest begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit so that the bread and wine may become the Body and Blood of Jesus.

The Epiclesis (“invocation upon”) is the intercession in which the priest begs the Father to send the Holy Spirit, the Sanctifier, so that the offerings may become the body and blood of Christ and that the faithful by receiving them, may themselves become a living offering to God.  (CCC 1105)

As a matter of fact, every time we receive the Eucharist, we receive the Holy Spirit!  I wouldn’t take my word for it neither; that’s why I double checked with what Pope John Paul II wrote in His Encyclical Letter, Ecclesisia de Eucharisitia.

17. Through our communion in his body and blood, Christ also grants us his Spirit. Saint Ephrem writes: “He called the bread his living body and he filled it with himself and his Spirit… 

He who eats it with faith, eats Fire and Spirit… Take and eat this, all of you, and eat with it the Holy Spirit.”

Desperate times call for desperate measures and I’ve had such times in the last couple years.  The Holy Spirt has revealed to me the real presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and I have a few stories of Jesus’ healing mercy by simply going before Him.  Jesus has been so good to me and my family in Adoration that I’ve been impelled to tell others.  I challenge anyone to sit before Him regularly and not be changed.

Now I talk too much.  I had been a practicing Catholic for quite some time but my faith was once a very private thing.  In the workplace, if I was going to discuss Jesus and my faith with others, it was going to be with those who shared the same faith.

Now they can’t shut me up!

I’ve also always gone to great measures to avoid meetings at work and I still don’t like them.  However, break rooms and offices are no longer an aversion but rather an opportunity to engage with others.  God has given me a genuine love for people and an interest in what they like to talk about.  It’s funny how when you engage in what interests others, doors of opportunity always seem to pop open to share a little bit of Jesus!

Out of a desire to share Christ with others, I even joined the Evangelization Committee at our parish for over a year and half, where I would actually go to meetings on my own time. 

Now I know for a fact that I didn’t do that on my own!

I started this blog a few years ago, which led to me to giving a short witness at a Life in the Spirit Seminar, where I stood up in front of a bunch of people and bragged about my weaknesses.  The last time I had given a speech before that was in technical college; I had to slide the note cards on the podium to keep people from seeing my hands tremble.

Along the way, I’ve been blessed and humbled to become a small part of a Catholic prison ministry; but none of these things are more significant than my continued growth by God’s grace to become a better father and husband.  I don’t say any of this to boast of anything I do, but rather to boast of what the Holy Spirit does to us.

Back to the picture.  In Sacred Scripture, Jesus speaks of Himself as the Light of the World and of His Holy Spirit as Living Water.  If this were a picture of the sun in a clear blue sky, it wouldn’t be nearly as spectacular a photo.  We know the sun is there but we don’t give it much thought.  But with the sun on the horizon, the beams of the sun reflect off the water so the water actually draws our eyes back to the majesty of the sun!!

The Water draws our eyes to the Son!  And the Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus!

Jesus told us, “He will glorify me..” (John 16:14)

We can learn about Jesus and believe with our heads who He is, but only by the power of the Holy Spirit can that belief go from our head to our heart.  Only by the Holy Spirit can we encounter Jesus, realize His Love for us, come to see ourselves as beloved children of God.  By His Spirit, God is revealed to us in all His majesty—that Jesus is Lord!

When the Holy Spirit reveals all this to us, it’s so awesome, we just have to figuratively take a picture, so we can share it with others—or call someone and say, “Come see!”

Come Holy Spirit!

Photo from Wiki Commons

A Good Weak

Entering into Holy Week, I can’t help but look back on this Lent so far and wonder, “Where did the time go?”

At the onset of this season, I had BIG plans!

Not long ago it seemed as though everything involving my faith walk was getting easier and was filled with consolations…

…. when scripture passages were jumping out at me, dots were connecting, and I couldn’t put my Bible down.

…. when the joy of sharing it with others snuffed out any fear of rejection.

…. when finding the words and time for prayer seemed somewhat effortless.

Well everything has its seasons and it hasn’t been so effortless lately.

But this Lent would change all that!

The fact that my scale reads two pounds heavier than five weeks ago tells me a little about how this self-mastery thing is coming along … or that I need a new scale.

Persevering in prayer and obedience in areas God has entrusted to me has at times left me a little worn and without the words.

And did I mention complaining yet?

When preparing for confession, my wife and I sometimes joke that it might be easier if I make her list and she can make mine.

Maybe this Lent wasn’t about reaching new heights of self-mastery or greater depths of prayer and virtue after all.


Pillars of Creation from publicdomainpictures.net

Maybe it was to remind me that the God who created this universe too big for my comprehension, is even BIGGER!!!

That His Love is SO BIG, He emptied Himself for me and became just like me in every way but sin.

That Jesus can empathize with my struggles. He knows my fears.

So much so that He entered into my weakness and fears and overcame them in obedience unto death so I can have a share in His divine life.

Maybe this Lent was less about Him cleaning house in my interior life and more about allowing me to remain in areas of my brokenness to keep from becoming self-reliant or dependent upon my own strength.

Maybe what Christ really wants is that I cling to Him and acknowledge how much I need a Savior in every aspect of my life, in every moment of every day — to continue saying those words, “Lord, I need You!”

Encounter of a Lifetime

A very sincere question came up last week during a humble prison ministry God has allowed me to be a part of for the past year and a half.

“How do you begin letting God in your life in a place like this?”

Couldn’t have been a more fitting question from one of three new members on the feast of the Epiphany!

What brought that young man there that day is the same thing that brought the least expected magi, pagan gentiles from the east, to be the first to pay homage to the Jewish messiah.  God called him.

Like everyone of us, God always makes the first move.  He puts the desire to seek Him and gives us the choice to respond.

In 2009, I attended a Catholic healing conference out of concern for my daughter.  I went there looking for help from the Lord for her, and instead I wound up encountering Jesus like never before.  Since then life has never been the same.  Looking back, that wasn’t an arrival at all but rather a beginning.

As Christians, we know that life begins at the moment of conception.  Still, we celebrate the day of our birth when we are brought out of the safety of our mother’s womb and into a new world.  It reminds me a bit like life before and after an encounter with Christ — an end of one stage of life in darkness brings a beginning to a new life in the light.

Sacred Scripture tells us of magi who went out on a journey to meet a king, but the truth of the matter is, after encountering Jesus, their real journey had just begun.

“In the mystery of Christ’s Birth the encounter of God with man takes place and the earthly journey of the Son of God begins, a journey which will culminate in the gift of his life on the Cross.” ~ Pope John Paul II  (Evangelium Vitae)



God With Us

This season of Advent has given me a deeper awareness on the importance of saying yes” to anything God asks of us.  In particular, I have a new appreciation for the step in faith and trust Joseph took after receiving assurance from an angel in a dream; that Mary really was with child of the Holy Spirit and he was to still to take her as his wife.

None of us really know what crossed Joseph’s mind when Mary told him that she was to give birth to the Son of the Most High, but we can be certain that the news had to be overwhelmingly daunting to say the least!  No man with even a smidgen of humility would think himself worthy of taking as his wife and into his home, the woman God chose to bear His Son — and Joseph was a righteous man.

“God doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called.”

In recent years, I’ve become more aware of how often God presents each of us with privileges and opportunities to participate in His awesome plan for our salvation.  At times the Lord even asks of us tasks that leave us with more questions than answers.  We don’t know where everything will lead or how it will end up, but if our hearts are pure, He’ll be certain to give us some sort of confirmation that puts us at peace.

Waiting until we know enough, until we’re ready enough, or until we’re worthy enough is waiting for a day that will never happen.  It’s tantamount to trusting in what we can do as opposed to putting our trust in what God can do.  When the designs are His, Jesus is there to meet us.  He’ll do the work — we just need to be wiling instruments and return the glory to Him Who rightly deserves it.

It’s not always smooth sailing but He doesn’t ask anything of us unless He plans to see His purpose through.  Following the model of St. Joseph, I’ve come to learn if it’s truly coming from above, when we take that step in faith, we can be sure God Is With Us.


Father’s Day

A father…

… studies with his child when she struggles in school.

… sings to her, teaches her to dance, and let’s her put rubber bands in his hair.

… takes in children as his own who have no father who will be there.

… gives them horseback rides long after they’re way too big for the horse.

… takes them camping or to amusement parks, plays catch or water games, but makes sure he plays.

… puts himself in danger to keep them out of harm’s way.

… spends countless hours helping with homework though at times with regretful impatience.

… helps them with school projects or forms a family band even just to play a gig or two.

… reads everything he can get his hands on about their temperaments and learning styles to help them tap into all they can be.

… refuses to give into tantrums, tirades, and back talk to their mother, and tries to teach the importance of respect for authority.

… refuses to accept friends, behaviors, or anything that might lead them astray or hurt them in any way.

… teaches them to pray and give praise to God—even if he might not know God yet himself as well as he will one day.

… prays for them and continually draws closer to our Lord in order to become the father God wants him to be.

Sometimes too harsh, sometimes too enabling, at times too weak and insecure to stand firm in Christ as a father should be.

Still only God knows the heart and the grace He’s given each.  We learn from mistakes but our Father in Heaven continues to help each day.

The reward is simply in the privilege just to be a father.

Happy Father’s Day

“Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height
    and look toward the east,
and see your children gathered from west and east,
    at the word of the Holy One,
    rejoicing that God has remembered them.
For they went forth from you on foot,
    led away by their enemies;
but God will bring them back to you,
    carried in glory, as on a royal throne.
For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low
    and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,
    so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God” (Baruch 5:5-7)

Abiding in the Vine

Originally published privately August 2015 

On a tired drive home from a short road trip with family the other weekend, one of my daughters broke the silence when she randomly mentioned the Bible reference John15:5.  After seeing it painted on a silo, she looked it up out of curiosity.  My wife noticed the same thing so we asked our daughter to read it.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

We had a short discussion about the verse and left it at that.  (I figured I’d try to clear up what the Lord might be trying to tell her.)  After stumbling across the same verse throughout the week, I suspected the Lord just might want me to think about something as well.  (Yes, He loves us each that much that He speaks to each of us so personally—and even repeats Himself if necessary.)  After reflecting on this for a while, it seemed to be a timely reminder of a lesson the Lord taught several weeks earlier.

A few of us in my prayer community were called upon for the first time to act as facilitators for a Life in the Spirit Seminar—a weekend retreat that included Confession, Mass, and laying on of hands for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Though excited about the event, some of us openly expressed in so many words,

“I feel a little under-qualified?” or “Will my prayers be powerful enough?”

Nevertheless, leading up to the event, the Lord impressed upon many of us the need to prepare through prayer, fasting, and receiving the Eucharist as often as possible.  Many of us were prompted to be reconciled with God shortly before the event through the sacrament of Reconciliation and cling to Him tightly in thoughts, words, and deed.  Somewhere along the line, a lightbulb went on as though the Lord was saying in an inaudible voice,

“It’s not about YOUR prayers or YOUR qualifications.  Rest in ME.”  

The anointing was powerful that day and all who asked, received.  Those in my prayer community expressed how the Lord used it to elevate many of us to a new level of faith.  He reaffirmed on a deeper level what He can do when we humbly yield to Him in everything! (click here)

Moving forward, this verse served as a reminder to apply this lesson to daily life.   There’s something about the BIG occasions that remind us how much we need God, but what if we responded to Christ’s call to closer union with Him daily; our lives would become a witness to our families, friends, and coworkers.

We can preach and teach (and those certainly have their place), but only when we cling to His Word as though our life depended upon it, can His Light shine through and penetrate those around us.  When we humbly acknowledge the need to draw from all the sources of grace God gives us, we become doers of the Word in the ordinary everyday things like….

  • being a better listener.
  • making time for a lonely family member or someone at work.
  • resisting rash judgements and giving others the benefit of the doubt.
  • doing those dishes or folding that laundry JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE THERE!
  • blessing those who have hurt or offended us.

When we begin to look at the moments when we are challenged with difficult situations, circumstances, people, and our own selfishness as opportunities for the Lord to prune us back a bit; He builds us up in virtue so the fruits of the Spirit can come through. (Gal 5:22) His Love coming through in the little things speaks more than a thousand words.

A couple days later, my youngest son and I happened to pass by that same route again and I saw the silo for myself.  I stopped to take a picture, smiled, and gave thanks for the great reminder.  Then I listened to and joked with my son the rest of the way home as we talked about anything and everything he wanted to—including what we’d do for the rest of the weekend.

John 15