Talking with Teens

Talking with TeensThe other night, my family and I attended a local touch football game at a nearby school field. While watching the game and cheering on the players, we had a chance to connect with other spectators. In speaking with some of the parents, we were able to share with one another the joys and challenges of raising children of various ages.
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Confirmed & Involved

Ascension Press Article 3Over the next several weeks between Easter and Pentecost, Catholic churches will be filled with youths and their loved ones. The young candidates will embark on the latest stage of their personal faith journey. They will receive the sacrament of Confirmation.
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Symbolism in the Bible

Holy Spirit DoveWhen reading the Bible, we come across many objects, people and events that can have multiple meanings and hold great significance. We may notice them on the surface, but inadvertently dismiss their importance or gloss over their symbolism.

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Shaping Snowballs

Living in Ottawa, we are blessed to enjoy all four seasons during the year.

Each one presents nature’s beauty and offers ample opportunity to appreciate God’s magnificent creation.

Take, for example, winter. Despite its sometimes brutally cold weather and frustrating frequency of having to shovel after snowfall, our taste of Canadian winter can provide many pleasant experiences before we transition to spring.

CrossCountry SkiingBuilding a snowman, cross-country skiing through forest trails and a cup of hot chocolate after skating at an outdoor rink are just some of the fun activities we can do with the white stuff on the ground.

Not long ago, I was outside for my lunchtime supervision at school on a day when the snow was ideal for making snowballs.

While circulating around the yard, I would occasionally grab a clump of snow and start packing it in my hands.

It was after a few times of doing this that I began to form some serious snowballs.

Snowballs 1I had come to perfect the size and circular form and was concentrating on attaining just the right degree of smoothness.

It was at that point I realized how snowballs connected with our Creator.

Just as the children’s song teaches, God holds the whole world in His hands, keeping us all close to Him and united with one another – much like each unique snowflake is brought together to make a beautiful snowball.

But we should also remember that, just as He holds us in His palm, our Lord shapes us in His image – perfect beings made to reflect God’s unconditional love and everlasting presence to society. (Genesis 1:27 & 2 Corinthians 3:18)

Pottery 1Just as we are the work of His hands, like clay for a potter, God rounds off all of our rough edges so that we can be made smooth just like a snowball.

Each day whenever we sin, God’s bountiful grace, helpful virtues and endless forgiveness are all available to us and offered freely, encouraging us to be our best as He made us.

But just as we cannot ignore the existence of sin, we cannot disregard the temptation to throw snowballs, as students outside were urging me to do during my supervision duty.

Not surprisingly, our school forbids the throwing of snowballs for safety reasons.

Similarly, we can both imagine and witness in society each day the danger that ensues when we give in to temptation and veer away from God’s plan.

Over time, we come to learn that conforming to public pressures that detract from God’s teachings can only lead to a disastrous outcome – much like the splat that results when a snowball is thrown.

So as we continue through this winter season, may we always strive to live lives that are as pure and innocent as the snow that falls on the ground is meant to be.

SnowballsThis way, we can further explore and display the beauty of God’s nature, while springing into next season being shaped perfectly as part of His majestic wonder.

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Evangelizing in the Neighborhood

love your neighborBack in the fall, I described how my wife and I were settling into our new family home with our three little kids. I wrote about how I saw this as an opportunity for evangelization, figuring I’d be able to help spread Jesus’ good news to new neighbors. (Continue reading here)

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Seeking Direction

We all have special gifts and talents, and we all have weaknesses – or areas in our lives we’d like to improve, if you prefer.

While I can humbly recognize I have certain traits and abilities that are very useful and appreciated, I must admit there are also qualities about myself I’d rather change or not have, period.

One of those is my sense of direction – or lack thereof.

As a person who prides himself on being organized, there are few occasions when I actually lose something.

There are, however, many instances when I can easily get lost myself.

My geographic know-how is so sketchy my best friends once sarcastically named me Magellan, a joking nod to the Portuguese explorer of the early 16th century.

49258040 - lost tourist looking at city map on a trip. looking for directions.I can be so bad at finding my way either walking or driving that I hold no shame in asking a passer-by or entering a convenience store for directions, only to feel more confused and hopeless after receiving help.

It got to the point long back where I decided to stick to basics in my route selection, even if it meant using a path that was three times longer than the most efficient option.

Nowadays, though, my ability to find my way or get around from place to place is much better – thanks in large part to a GPS device I keep in my car glove compartment.

This small black square I stick to my windshield gives me several route possibilities, informs me of any delays like construction and even provides a precise arrival time at my destination.

Compass 3Ah, if only life were this simple all the time.

In the hustle and bustle of daily activity where we can feel pulled in so many directions – as if we were the rope in a tug-of-war contest – it can be so challenging to find our way or keep ourselves centered.

With so many distractions and responsibilities, we can easily seem lost, failing to acknowledge our need for some sort of guidance to get us back on track.

It is during these difficult, confusing or frustrating times that we can remember to rely on Jesus as our personal version of GPS, providing us the way, the truth and the life that we crave so deeply. (John 14:6)

While it may seem monotonous to take the same route to work each morning or follow the same path home each time after visiting a friend, walking along the road to Jesus every day in our lives should never be considered boring.

Compass 2Speaking of repetition, though, so often we may slip into our own habits or routines that we can quickly forget how God calls us to follow Him. (Deuteronomy 5:33)

Just as complacency in our driving can deprive us of new paths and better or easier access to our desired landing spot, we are reminded to ask God to recalibrate our lives, challenging us to grow and discover our fullest potential through whatever situations facing us.

To paraphrase the hit country music song Jesus, Take the Wheel, calling upon our Lord and Savior can give us renewed confidence as our JPS, as we can pray Jesus, please steer.

Compass 4Having Jesus as our life’s compass can then ensure we are directed along a path of prosperity and happiness, bringing us ultimately to a perfect parking spot of salvation in Heaven.

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Going Deep

This past summer, our son Isaac and I went for a swim in the lake where my wife’s family rented some cottages for a vacation.

As great as it was to see Isaac demonstrate his improved swimming skills thanks to recent lessons, I was even more proud of him for venturing out towards the floating dock.

You see, Isaac and I swam together to that same dock the summer before, with the intent of jumping off and into the water.

Watching me cannonball into the lake and come back to the surface with a big smile alleviated some of his nerves, naturally, when it came time for him to jump.

Deep Calls to Deep 4Seeing me wait excitedly with my arms open and after a short countdown, Isaac took his first step off the dock.

But when his mesh water shoe caught on an exposed screw in one of the boards, Isaac hung off the dock helplessly.

He flailed in panic as I treaded water supporting him, keeping his head from going under the surface while trying to free him from his shoe.

After a short struggle, I was able to power him back on to the dock but Isaac, understandably, was in tears and screaming loudly in fear.

I was eventually able to calm him down and he clung to me as we swam back to shore. But while he may have escaped the dramatic sequence unharmed physically, there could be no disputing the emotional damage.

Perhaps out of stubbornness, I believed it to be necessary Isaac slay this proverbial dragon and conquer his fears. Otherwise, he could be haunted by them and possibly be resigned to quitting when faced with adversity later in his life.

The sooner he overcame his unpleasant past, the sooner he could forge ahead with confidence to take on new challenges and opportunities.

So after much encouragement and even insistence, I was able to convince Isaac of the importance of returning to the floating dock with me this past summer.

Deep Calls to Deep 2Listening to our son shout “I am not a quitter!” after he successfully jumped off the dock into the water gave me such a thrill, knowing Isaac stepped out of his comfort zone and took major strides of personal growth.

In a sense, doesn’t God call us to do the same, challenging us to venture into uncharted waters with Him? (Psalm 42:7)

At so many points in our lives, do we not shy from risks, resorting instead to playing it safe out of fear that we will figuratively drown?

It could be a teenager declining an opportunity to try out for a particular team or club or attend a conference on behalf of his school, based solely on how it might affect his personal free time.

Or, an individual could pass on a new job promotion, unsure of the prospects she would have to meet increased demands or work different hours.

A person coming off a longstanding relationship may be reluctant to get back into the dating game, rejecting an invitation to dinner due to not wanting to face the possibility of heartbreak again.

It seems we can turn down many different chances to discover God’s presence and available blessings, due strictly to our own comfortable or fearful nature.

Deep Calls to Deep 3Or, much like St. Peter did while on the water during the strong wind, do we stretch ourselves at first, only to hit a snag and immediately lose confidence in the midst of our struggle? (Matthew 14:22-33)

I know for me, our family life is extremely hectic these days, as all of our kids are in some sort of schooling program, my wife has returned to work and my teaching schedule is in full session.

Evenings during the week seem like a blur and weekends are typically pretty jammed for one reason or another.

With tense times such as these, I occasionally find myself exasperated, wondering if our life is too full and if we have reached an unbearable maximum.

However, as a friend reminded me recently, God has not brought me to a tipping point; He has brought me to a testing point.

When I think about this, I can realize God is stretching me.

I can see I am being challenged to grow in faith in Him, believing with conviction that all will work out in the end as long as I hold firm in hope and continue applying myself fully in His Holy Name.

Deep Calls to Deep 1And so, no matter the situation in our lives, may we always remember that, while God may call us into deeper waters, He assures us we will not sink.

While we may feel uncertain or afraid, God promises us we will be better than before, growing stronger by stretching further.

And as we swim out farther and deeper in life, let us never doubt God waits for us happily and wants to swim with us every step of the way.

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