Keeping Faith in the Family

Young family prayingBeing a high school teacher and father of three children can carry a great feeling of reward and satisfaction, especially when it comes to passing on the Catholic Faith.

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The Power of Healing

Reconciliation 1I have long believed the greatest gift God has ever given us—next to his son—is our life. Yet, the ability to breathe and blink is not the full extent of such a gift. No, we have received God-given free will to live our lives however we please.

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Cashing in With God

Back when I was a kid, I remember it being such a big deal getting a wallet.

I would stuff my wallet in my right back pocket just as my Dad did.

I pretended I was an adult with my fake credit cards that came in the plastic insert sleeves and I kept wallet-sized photos of friends and cousins.

But the best part of all was I could finally carry my own money for spending on family vacations.

Growing up, I had wallets that were both black and brown. I remember some being of the tri-fold variety, while others had a snap or a button, and some that even came with Velcro. If I recall correctly, I also had a Montreal Canadiens wallet, commemorating my favorite hockey team.

Money ClipFast forward to today, I have not used a wallet in over a decade, thanks to a friend who introduced me to a money clip.

Now, I may only keep a few bills folded over my essential cards, tucked nicely under a little metal clasp.

In fact, practically the only time I carry paper money these days is when I withdraw some from an automated teller machine – and I really only do that when I need some in a pinch. (Otherwise, I usually just use my banking card or lean on my ol’ pal Visa.)

Yep, whenever I find myself in a bind, I can usually rely on a banking machine to bail me out.

If you think about it, I suppose sometimes we can treat God like an ATM.

I mean, how often do we take God for granted, depending on Him to help us in times of trouble?

Do we pray to God only when dealing with emergencies or urgent, important situations?

Do we make ourselves available to Him strictly in moments of distress, feeling desperate enough to call on a higher power only after exhausting all other options?

A customer uses an ATM outside the banking hall at the Kenya Commercial Bank, Kipande house branch in NairobiJust like with an ATM, it could sometimes seem our relationship with God is one of only a taking kind, with us not necessarily giving as much as we could (or should).

You see, the challenge with taking out money from an ATM is that we must always ensure we have enough cash in our bank account to withdraw.

This requires savings through such means as employment income and watching our expenses – both of which, you can imagine, demand discipline and desire.

Much like investing money in order to build up savings in a personal banking account, we cannot fully benefit from God’s unconditional love if we never allow ourselves to seek it. (1 Chronicles 16:11)

By failing to acknowledge God’s blessings and mercy, we prevent ourselves from being open to recognizing and receiving His gifts, depriving us of future wealth in the process.

Showing an appreciation for the Lord in our lives can come through many outlets, such as reading the Bible and practicing rituals and sacraments at church.

Learning more of His Word and observing liturgical traditions with other faith community members can remind us of God’s wonder and encourage us to further uncover and celebrate Jesus in our midst.

Regular prayer time spent with the Lord can also provide perfect opportunity for us to be still and listen to God calling to us. (Psalm 46:10)

Daily reflection time on our way to school or work, thanking God for even the most trivial elements of life and having greater awareness of His splendor through creation can all deepen a personal relationship with God.

Thankfulness to GodYet, while these practices can assist in exploring God’s presence and grace, serving God through serving others is another ideal way to discover the abundance of riches Christ has invested for us.

Making a difference in the life of another through volunteer work or frequent acts of kindness can definitely aid in realizing God’s power and wonder all around us, helping us grow closer with God through growing closer with His people.

So as we lean on God to help us in times of need, let us also remember to return the favor by constantly letting Him into our lives. Our Lord Jesus wishes to know us and live with us fully, and by investing with Him at all times in all forms, we can replenish our spiritual finances. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

By always having this sort of cash on hand, we can then find our ultimate richness through endless savings in Heaven while being assured of never going spiritually bankrupt.

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.

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.

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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.