Awkward Catholic

Living my faith as the awkward man of God that I am.


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Heart of the Father

Tonight we (my family) sat at the dinner table, eating, joking and having a good time. I told a bad joke, everyone rolled their eyes, and it was good. I’d cooked BBQ chicken tenders, potatoes au gratin and garlic/butter smothered green beans. It was delicious! Near the end of the meal Maria hushed the children and asked each one to share something they loved about their daddy (me, just in case there was any confusion). My wife and children then proceeded to go around the table, one after the other, naming things they loved about me. It was inspiring and humbling. I’m not a perfect dad, not even close. Yet, for some reason my wife and children love me. My three year old princess summed it up simply by saying “I love loving Daddy!” WOW! From the mouth of babes! I can’t really describe what this does to me, what it teaches me… but I’ll try.

She has a heart for her father, that little angel. And her father has a heart for her! She is my precious angel, my prima ballerina, my sweet girl. I love her with a passionate and tender love that I can’t possibly find the words to describe, and I’m a wordsmith. My heart expands each time I look at her. It doesn’t matter if she’s giving me a “bear hug” with her arms thrown around my neck or if she’s throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store. I may be angry and impatient but my heart nonetheless grows three times larger, like the Grinch, with each gaze upon that precious little girl. This, I imagine, is what happens to the Father each time he gazes upon his beloved children.

It bears repeating that every breath we take is an unmistakable sign of the love of the Father. The Father’s heart beats with and for his love for us. And every breath we take is the Father saying, “I love you!” If, for one beat of His heart he ceased thinking of us we would cease to exist. Each breath you take and every beat of your heart, therefor is proof of His love! Your heart beats therefor, not with mere blood but with the very love of the Father! And with each beat of His heart, it expands three sizes bigger with love for you. Think about that. Heaven is an eternity of the ever expanding love of the Father for you, his precious child! That’s a difficult thought to contemplate, to be sure. But then again, anything dealing with eternity is difficult to really conceive. I think it’s natural to imagine a balloon being filled with water. Eventually it’s ever expanding shell will burst. That’s how our brains conceive eternity. But the reality is beyond us to fully conceive… a balloon that never bursts, that cannot burst.

Here’s what I’ve learned the last eighteen years of being a father (my oldest son is eight years old, but as a youth minister of eighteen years, I have countless sons and daughters). There’s nothing I wouldn’t do, nothing I wouldn’t give for any one of my kids (all 1000+). I have kids who are my “pride and joy” and others who break my heart with each post on Facebook or Instagram. But they are each one of my kids and I love them with each beat of my heart. Every single one of them has let me down and every single one of them has brought me great joy and hope. And I want nothing but the best for them… to each have a truly noble vocation, to respond with joy and faith to the vocation God has called them to, to become the person they were each created to be. That is my great hope and joy… to see my kids reach their fullest purpose, to become saints! And I have a few on their way, that’s to be sure.

Back now to the dinner table tonight. “I love loving Daddy!” Therese cries out. Wow! Why? Why does she love me? Why would she love loving me? What exactly is she trying to say? Well, in her three year old mind and vocabulary, she loves the snuggles and the hugs and kisses and joy she receives from her father. And it’s clear (I hope) that her father finds true joy in all this as well. That’s a lovely thing, certainly. But I think it’s much deeper than that. She literally has a piece of my heart, in that half of her DNA comes from her father. And furthermore, half her upbringing comes from her father. So, in a certain sense, her very heart is the heart of her father and mother. So, it seems to me that her heart naturally reaches out for its home, for the source.

And do not each of us long for the same, not just for our earthly fathers and mothers, but for our heavenly Father as well? He is the source of all life and love. His heart is the heart of every heart. As my favorite marriage prep course says, “It takes three to get married.” When I stood upon the altar with my soon-to-be-bride, we were not alone there but the Holy Spirit, the outpouring of the love of God, filled our space and actually united us together. This great, overflowing love of the Father draws us to Himself and every breath we take is our response to this overflowing love of the Father.

My daughter loves loving me because her very existence is nothing less than the manifestation of love itself! She is the outpouring of love between her father, mother and God! And love loves to be loved! Love loves to love!

This heart of the Father calls us forth and calls us out of our stupor and into the light, into the joy of eternity and the ever-expanding love of his heart, one that explodes with more love and greater joy. And this heart of the Father is tender, oh so tender; one that calls us forth that so gently leads us back into union with His love until our hearts beat as one because they are one. As God himself speaks to each one of us:

“I will live with them and move among them, and I will be their God and they shall be my people. Therefore, come forth from them and be separate,” says the Lord, “touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Cor. 6:16-18

Is that not the most comforting words you’ve ever read?! We shall be His sons and daughters! We shall be like David, a child after His own heart! And He will live with us! Move among us! And you and I will be his son, his daughter, coddled upon his lap and Consumed in His tender love.


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A Tribute to My Mom

3X3 pic2 Life has gone on. It has been four years and life has gone on. I wasn’t sure how at first. Four years ago my mom left this world, not my heart. Who I am, who I was, who I will be… forever because of her. My hero, my first love. My defender, protector, formater, life-giver, helper. My friend, confidant, companion in all joy, all sorrow.

 

Every wound she bound up, every joy she cried with life. She imagined the world for me. She hoped the best, she gave her all that I might be. Every moment of my life is colored by her love. I live because she gave her life. I know now she cried my every tear and suffered my every insult; silently, to herself, out of earshot she wept my tears… holding my hand, never letting go.

 

I am the man of faith today because she had the courage to live a faith she didn’t understand but knew was true. She went to church every Sunday, not because she understood it but because she knew it was right. Why? Not for herself but for her sons. She worked 10 hour days, came home cooked dinner, cared for her boys, rocked us to sleep and worked into the night because she wanted to give us a life worth living. And she did.

 

My greatest treasure is the memory I have of when I was about 7 years old. I had gotten hurt and was crying and inconsolable. My mom swept me up in her arms and carried me to our old wooden rocking chair in the corner of the family room. There she rocked holding me tightly in her arms. I knew that I would never be left alone, I would never suffer alone. I was loved. That memory has gotten me through many terrible nights.

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It is because of my mom that I love God as much as I do. She was my first experience of the Father’s tender love for me. For many years she was the only experience of God’s love, but never did it waiver. Not once. Even that one time when I tried to wound her deeply; I lashed out, not at her but at all those who had hurt me, but she was the target because I could trust her. I regret that moment, but even then her love never wavered.

 

It has been hard, these four years without her; without her advice, without her care, her generosity and her voice. She never met her 2nd grandson or 2nd granddaughter. That is a difficult burden I bear. She so deeply longed to meet them. But I know her joy in loving my 1st born. And that joy, I try to give to the others. Her love pours down on them I know. Her generosity, unmatched in this world inundates us every day. What mother wouldn’t call down great love and grace from the Father upon her children?

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Her favorite song those last few years was, “I Could Only Imagine” by MercyMe. I love that song because of her because I know there is no more imagining for her, only the reality of God, Face to face… glory upon glory. Hers was a race well run, finished well. She ran so as to win and I run so as to catch her. God, give me the grace to be so blessed.