Candy Caper Solved Leading to Reconciliation

I'm sure my daughters are just like those of others, who thorough out the day find some reason to torment each other, but unlike other times I actually had caught a “teachable moment” about penance that fell together on the fly.

While my youngest daughter “C” (two years old) was sent to timeout for some transgression I can't even remember, “B” (four years old) took the opportunity to lift her sister's last Skittle, which was purple, and likely tasted of intense grape (I love those)! As I walked pass the scene of the crime, “Oh, well...What am I going to do?” crossed my mind, and I nearly avoided the whole situation. But, since I am taking to heart the idea and importance of my role in the Domestic Church, I couldn't just walk by and do nothing.

B was relishing the moment, as we have all done, when thinking we got away with something minor until her eyes met mine. “Hon, that was your sisters” to which she cleverly replied, “I was going to ask her, but you told me not to talk to her in timeout, remember?” She had a point, but she was missing mine, and I knew it was just an excuse, though a good one at that. As she held her last grape lollipop in hand, mid-stride up to her mouth until she was caught, I gave her the task of thinking how she was going to get her sister's candy back. Of course, she informed me she ate it and couldn't do anything about it. So, I turned up the heat just a little. “Well, just sit there and think about how to replace it.” Creatively, she came up with a plan I quickly terminated, “Well, at the next party I go to...” she attempted.

It took a few minutes to realize she was not going to volunteer her own lollipop, and as much as it pained me, it had to happen. As C returned from timeout, B handed over her grape lollipop and the tears began to flow from B as the smiles flowed from C. My heart was broken as I saw how much B was looking forward to making that grape lollipop last and last for the remainder of the afternoon. C gladly accepted her sister's penance, and began to indulge, and I am sure not taking in any of what was happening with B.

B quickly ran to my arms and jumped in my lap, and my heart felt heavier as I realized how even we, as adults, run to the Lord when we have made a terrible choice in life and want to have things return to the way the were, only to realize he loves us, but we still have to accept the consequences for our actions. “Hon, taking what is not ours results in giving back what was lost, and then some.” I could see in her watery eyes this made some sense, while still not wanting the reality as it was, “But, I still want it.” “I know, Hon...” With a longer hug, and some rubbing of her back, she soon after gave her firm commitment through the tears, as I know I have in the confessional, “I won't do it again...”

The tears abated with continued hugs and gentle guidance, as I watched the grape lollipop disappear in C little hand, only to leave its purple mark around her little mouth. I am sure this will not be the last time I teach about confession, penance and restoration, as I am sure the Lord will not be lacking for opportunities to teach me in our Domestic Church.

Growing in Knowledge

The power of information is our greatest resource in overcoming denial, fear and resistance. Through the use of information and education, when provided with genuine concern and commitment to each other's well being, we can hope to appeal to the sensibility of our brothers and sisters.

Timeless Gifts

My grandmother died in my early twenties, and grandfather shortly thereafter. During this time of year, I miss them both and appreciate the many timeless gifts they gave me and my sister. My grandmother had a candle of a Saint always burning in her bedroom at night, where my sister and I slept as children when we visited; near the illumination was a rosary, the shadow of which flickered in the cool of the night. My grandfather wasn't a “spiritual” man, and wasn't even Catholic, didn't attend church, but was committed to the family and without fail enjoyed putting up Christmas lights every year. I can still hear the clatter of an aluminum ladder stretching for the trim of the roof of their home on the corner.

Each one in their own way modeled for me a way of life I didn't know I would one day greatly appreciate. Each, by living their principles, passed along to me invaluable and timeless gifts. My grandmother gave me the gift of affection, sense of value, consistency, dependability, and demonstration of faith in the intangible. My grandfather gave me the gift of warmth, joy, protection, reliability and skill to take on and finish a project without accepting less than the best I had to offer. Each in their own way formed the foundation of my beliefs about being a person, a member of a family and community, and each filled the gap where my parents could not (Family life wasn't perfect, sometimes troubling, but the true and nurturing aspects of family life can surface if permitted). Their respective faith in God and family proves to revisit me often.

Last night, I gave the gift of imagination, by taking my daughters to the library to checkout some delightful audio-books which they each were captivated by as we drove to our next destination (Had I known this would keep them from throwing stuff at each other earlier, I would have used my library membership a long time ago). At Home Depot, I gave the gifts of competence and partnership by showing my oldest, who is four, how to choose the proper wood-screws for my office shelves by instructing: “Find isle sixteen, which has a one and a six..look for a screw about this long.” The hunt for the wood-screws took us down many isles and to many stops, but it was worth every extra minute of time spent (even though I spent quite a bit of that time re-shelving product). Both enjoyed the self-serve checkout stand. The youngest, who is two, enjoyed being a part of our team, as she explored the many things see and tried to discern which was touchable and which was “Oh no, not that!” After Home Depot, we shared in the gift of God's joy, as we listened to Night of Silence: Music for Advent and Christmas (Marty Haugen, published by GIA Publications, Inc.), had our “bible reading time”at the table, enjoyed hot chocolate and chatted about the “beautiful music” (I love these little chats so I keep a digital recording on to capture these special moments). Afterward, we shared the gift of humility before God in prayer with our rosaries (two Our Fathers and three Hail Marys) before they went fast asleep.I miss my grandmother and grandfather, but I have faith we will one day be reunited in the presence of our Lord. Until then, God's gift to them, in turn given to me, I now pass along to my little ones. Timeless.

Prep School for Life

When someone stole the sign proclaiming The Winter Solstice on Friday (CNN, Missing atheist sign found in Washington state, December 12, 2008), the community of believers received a just criticism because of the acts of one or more, “I guess they don't follow their own commandments” (Annie Laurie Gaylor, Freedom From Religion Foundation). Stealing sets an example and teaches the best that can be done to articulate one's faith in Jesus (see God the Son, Messiah of Israel) , enjoyment of Christmas (see History and Celebration) or belief is to suppress another's by uncharitable means, which cancels out the message that I find in Scripture, and the essence of the message found in other world views that promote good will.
Ms. Annie Laurie Gaylor's perception must be acknowledged if we are to maintain integrity, because it is from that place we can continue to proclaim the Scripture's message in a healthy dialogue that models for our children the manner by which we are to conduct ourselves. In the bible, I have read on Christian suffering:
“...Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, then for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:15-17).
After all, who among us have not struggled with our faith at some point, and have struggled with wondering, if there is a god? What does our faith mean? What is the meaning of life? I have, and at times those periods have been long. The sign in my opinion speaks in part to the valley we must all traverse. Some find their hope in various faiths, some find their celebration in Winter Solstice, and I in my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, who brings me joy and salvation (Christmas Chants - Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo).
As a parent, I think it helpful to remember this is life, and events such as this serve as opportunities for education of my children and myself so that I may give an account of my hope. This is our prep school for this life and the next. It is better to proclaim than attack, and a well articulated proclamation in word and deed carries the message of the season.
With that, I respectfully wish Ms. Annie Laurie Gaylor, a happy Winter Solstice during this time of year.------------
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UNC libraries to forgo Christmas tree

I used to be personally dismayed by stories that I interpreted as being "Counter-Christian" (or counter-anyone's faith orientation), when related to issues in the public venue, such as the one currently being discussed by a few, and related to the decision of a representative of UNC Chapel Hill's two main libraries to not display a Christmas tree this year (UNC libraries to forgo Christmas tree).Then, Matthew 7:3 help me put things into perspective: "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?"As a father, it is important to teach the value of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to our children. Then, I believe our charity and the actions of our charity will result in social change, so that stories like these will be overshadowed by the good being done by the faithful.Thoughts of a regular dad on the Christmas tree "issue":
The Symbolism of One's Life (Posted 12.07.08)

If a representative of a public institution choose the option to not display a symbol, in this case a Christmas tree, it would seem they have the right no matter the reason. I choose to be less concerned about a representative of a public institution displaying the Christmas tree, and more concerned about the symbolism of my own life. I think this is the time that every Christian home (and those who just enjoy the Christmas tree) to proudly display a tree, and adorn their homes with lights to draw attention to the wonderful joy of this season. And, if possible, Christians may consider displaying a nativity scene in their home or on their property.

The public venue is obviously politically correct. I prayerfully work at being faithfully correct where it matters, in my home and in my life, and hopefully that is a symbol that matters to the lives of others, especially if they are in need, homeless, or elderly.

My daughter, who is four, helped me understand this better one morning in her question, "Papa, why do you wear your cross under your shirt [tee-shirt, 100% cotton no less]? You should wear it outside, so everyone knows about Jesus." As I held her in may arms, she gently took my cross, on a gold chain, and placed the cross just outside my tee-shirt and patted it with much conviction and happiness. Now, more than ever, I am aware of the impact my life has to this child and her sister (who is two).

I think we need to look in our own homes and ask, "What does my home say about our family?" and "What does my life say about me?" The answers we come to will determine if we are living lives of conviction for what matters.

Enjoy this glorious season, peace to all and if you are so inclined, display your Christmas tree so everyone knows about Jesus.

Merry Christmas!

Coming to Jesus Disabled

It has only been the past few years where I've really come to appreciate the importance of Advent in my life. It has caused me to re-think where I invest my time and attention. And, I find that as I let go of a secular perspective, and focus more on the importance of my relationship with God, not only am I humbled by his awesome presence, but I see his word differently.

For example, in reading the First Wednesday of Advent's Gospel according to Matthew (15:29-37), apart from learning something about a modern day approach to feeding the hungry (an entry for another day), I wondered, "What was the expectation of those who came to Jesus with their lame, blind, deformed, mute and many others?" Did they come thinking, "This is our only hope?" or wondering "Is there any hope?" Either way, they came to Jesus with their disabled. This awareness caused me to think how often I have been lame, blind, deformed, and mute in my own life, and how those disabilities can only be healed by coming to Jesus. When I have come to him, I have been amazed, as the scripture indicates were those who came to him, and I have found myself wanting to glorify "the God of Israel" but not knowing just how. Then, it came to me, God is glorified when his children acknowledge him, come to him, and live according to his will (no small task if one has a secular perspective).

This Advent, we all need to bring those aspects of our lives which are lame, blind, deformed and mute. As we do, we will be able to say of each other, "he cured them" and in our respective lives glorify him and draw others to faith.