Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Some Random Family Stuff

One of the reasons I started this blog was to keep in touch with my family that are spread out over the US and Germany.  A lot of my posts lately have been about me and my faith journey, so I thought I would post some things about the rest of my world.

Last week, Hunter was part of the high school band that got to perform at the Capital Building in Albany.  That in itself was pretty neat, but I think the highlight of the day for all of them was going to the mall afterward.  Here is the group shot:

Kayla has just pretty much been working and hanging out with her friends and her boyfriend.  She is working at Wendy's in the mall, and trying to figure out what her next steps in life will be.
John has been keeping busy with the fire department and work, like usual.  
And I have busy at work.  Lots of projects, which is probably pretty typical in health care these days.  We have all our offices up and running on the Electronic Medical Record which was no small task.  We have another doctor starting next week, but his staff has been using the EMR so the transition should be pretty smooth. We are in the beginning phases of getting our four health center recognized as Patient Centered Medical Homes.  This is a huge project that I am in charge of and am looking forward to the process.  I do well with big projects, I'm finding.
Anyway, that's a little update for all my family.  Sorry, nothing too major going on, but we are desperately awaiting spring weather and especially June when we get to see my sister and her family again from Germany.  So excited!!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We are Worthy

This Lent I have been reading daily reflections from a book given to us at our parish called “The Little Black Book; Six-minute Meditations on the Sunday Gospels of Lent (Cycle C)”.  Anyway, last Friday and Saturday’s reflections really meant a lot to me and where I am at right now. The reflections were on Luke 13:8-9 which is part of the parable of the fig tree that had not produced fruit in three years. Verse 8 is the gardener replying to the master to leave the tree for another year and he would cultivate it and fertilize it. Verse 9 finishes it off by saying if it doesn’t bear fruit in the future, then it can be cut down.

The author goes on to make a comparison to today. When our car hits 90,000 miles we have to decide if we are going to sink more money into it or buy a new one.  He says that the same is true in our lives. Our lives are being formed and shaped and we can’t go back and redo. The more we shape ourselves in one direction the harder it is to change.  There are times when we reach places in our relationships, careers, and families when we feel like we aren’t bearing ‘good fruit’, we are at a dead end, or we are not where we thought we would be at this point in our life.  Are we willing to keep trying, to use our freedom to shape our lives into what they are supposed to be?  The truth is that God will always “sink money” into us; we are worth that to Him.

Jesus is our gardener; he is willing to keep giving us chances, to give us what we need to become who we are supposed to be. We are created by God and put here on earth for a purpose. To do our best in the circumstances of our lives to live as Jesus taught us to live. It may not seem that important to others and it may not seem like it makes a difference but there is no greater, more important accomplishment than simply doing what God put us here to do.  There comes a time our life when we need to know what in our lives needs to be cultivated…and what needs to be cut out.

We are worthy of God’s love if we let ourselves be.  He will always be there for us when we come back to Him.  And when we do, we need to be willing to live our lives for Him.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

7 quick takes sm1 Your 7 Quick Takes Toolkit!
7 Quick Takes Friday: March 1, 2013
1.      I’m pretty pleased with what I have done with my blog header.  What do you think?
2.      This lent has been a good one so far for me. I have stuck to my commitments for the most part. I have done well with my Mac and Cheese sacrifice, only had one day where I thought about cheating.  Yay will power! I have kept up with my daily devotional reading (except last Saturday).  I have attended daily Mass every Thursday (the only daily Mass offered in the evening in our parish) and that has been very good for me.  I started back up on reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters (thanks Tracy).  I’m not sure if I will get through it before Easter, but at least I picked it back up again, its deep stuff and needs a little time to sink in.  So, so far, so good.
3.      I am working on putting my conversion story into text. As I am posting this on Jen’s Blog Conversion Diary, it is entirely possible that a lot of you reading this are converts. I really don’t think my story has got much of anything in it that would be to interesting, but I still feel like I should do it anyway.  I have read a few others stories lately and in the past, but one that got posted this week was from Rebecca at ‘Patron Saint of Indecisiveness’.  Her blog post is titled ‘Why I BecameCatholic’ and you can read it here.  There are a few reasons I appreciate her story, on being that it is not full of fanfare, just like mine.  It was just meant to be and it happened.  For me, the twelve years since I became Catholic have been when the real conversion process has taken place.  Even recently, I have come to know a fuller truth of the Catholic Sacraments.  You can read my previous post here for more about that.
4.      What a week it has been. Work has been crazy, a good friend who never gets sick has been down for the count, the dog is half crazy tonight, and I know a few of my co-workers feel like a freight train ran through the place and left it all in havoc.   The weather doesn’t know what it wants to do and I think we are all getting a bad case of cabin fever from our Vitamin D deficiency.   
You can just see the crazy in her eyes. :)
5.      It’s that time of year again when we need to start getting ready and doing fund raising for our mission trip.  We have gone to Boston for the last two years the week of July fourth to take part in one of the Catholic Heart Workcamps.  It is a great week for our youth and the adults get a lot out of it too.  You can look them up here.
6.      Have you seen this video?  It’s amazing what love can do and it gives me some hope for the world. I stole it from Fr. Joe’s blog, but I’m sure he won’t mind.  (FYI: it is 15 minutes long)
7.      One of our town leaders died last Saturday unexpectedly.  He was a business leader, a community leader, a member of my church family, and brother, dad, and grandfather to many people that I care about. The loss leaves a gaping hole in our small community and he will truly be missed.  Rest in Peace Phil.
Go see Jen for all the rest of the Quick Takers.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sacraments and Confession

If you had asked me a month ago about what I felt about Catholic confession I would have told you that it is a sacrament that is supposed to confer God’s grace and heal you.  In my heart I believed that that was possible, however I had never personally had such an experience in confession that I really felt ‘full of grace’ or even any different afterward, other than knowing I was doing the right thing that I was taught in the process of my conversion to the Catholic faith.  I was hung up on the fact that I knew deep down in my heart of hearts that all the years I spent as a protestant confessing my sins to God directly in prayer that I was forgiven. I had had experiences in my protestant days after asking God to forgive me that I felt different afterward, totally and completely. So why wasn’t I getting that in my new found Catholic Faith knowing deep down that the Catholic Church is the one universal church established by Jesus when he walked among us. 

Then along came Father Joe.  Through my Formation for Ministry class, Father Joe Giroux has been our instructor for our section on the sacraments and sacramental theology. He has been able to express (at least to me) the whole fullness of Catholic sacraments.  I have been able to truly see them in the light of the how the Catholic Church teaches rather than my view in which I pretty much had decided that the protestant actions similar to the Catholic sacraments where close enough for me that it wasn’t a big stretch for me to believe in them.  One of the comparisons that Fr. Joe gave, that I had never really put together before, was the Catholic understanding of what a sacrament is and the protestant understanding of a sacrament, or a comparable action. (The protestant understanding that Fr. Joe uses in his comparison relate to what I personally experienced growing up in a couple different denominations. There are many different beliefs and teachings among protestant denominations, and I use these examples in full knowledge that they are not all the same.)  So the comparison goes like this. For Catholics a sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace.  That is a pretty familiar statement for most Catholics, and not that hard to see by other Christians.  But he went on to break it down for us; a sacrament must have the components of the outward sign, the form, the matter, the minister, and the recipient.  It must also be instituted by Christ as He is the chief actor of the sacrament.  He makes the act present here and now, more than just a remembrance, uniting past, present, and future, a promise and foretaste of Heaven. But the sacrament is also intended to give grace, a share in God’s life and eternal life, they have an effect.  So for Catholics a diagram would look like this:


Being that God instituted the sacraments to be shared with Man, in which Man gives glory back to God by the outward sign of the sacrament and the affect that God’s grace has on man. Where the protestant diagram would look like this:


The Protestant faiths that I have been a part of don’t necessarily have what they would call a sacrament.  Of course they have actions that resemble Catholic sacraments like baptism and communion but to call it a sacrament was something I had never heard.  So for example, a baptism is celebrated; the diagram above illustrates what has happened in man’s personal relationship with God.  That they have made the decision that they want to follow God and live their life for Him. And because of that they make a public statement, they are baptized, to share that with their church family.  For me, that was eye opening.  I hadn’t seen it in that perspective before.  Of course, having a personal relationship with God is important, it should be desired by all, and is really essential to any faith life.  But if seen through the teaching of the Catholic Church, a sacrament has so much more to offer than just a public statement.

Father Joe has taught us that there are two parts to how a sacrament works. First, ex opere operato “by the work worked”. By the rite affected, grace flows from God through the action of His body, the Church, the gift is given. Secondly, ex opere operantis “by the work of the worker”, it calls for our response, to open the gift and use it.  Through the first four classes on the sacraments, I have come to a clearer understanding of the fullness that comes through the sacraments as they were given to us by Jesus and divinely revealed through scripture and Tradition through the centuries.

So back to confession, I was hung up before because as I said, I was sure that I had been forgiven.  And what I know now is that I was forgiven but I hadn’t received the full grace possible by confession to a priest.  After all, ‘21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:21-23.  So what I have to do now is go to confession with this new understanding and fully receive the gift that God is giving me through this sacrament. With eye’s wide open I look forward to being healed and receiving God’s grace.