Friday, August 10, 2018

A Sacrifice for Family

As a father of five children all under the teenage dream years, I understand well the pull for time in countless directions in and out of each and every day. In no specific order, I have a career requiring a large investment of my time, I have a wife who I try to keep on a pedestal with my every decision, I have friends and social events where time spent are not only beneficial for my own personal health and sanity, but also possibly benefit my career. There are extracurricular events that require planning and a serious commitment of time. I don't need to explain any of the aforementioned to a parent to paint the picture that time is stretched thin and more valuable than one can imagine. If I had more of it, how would I spend it?

I'll begin by stating after my faith and relationship with my creator, my wife is my #1 (I guess that technically makes her my #2, huh?). Without a thriving and flourishing relationship with my wife, the rest of my entire life would suffer, especially the relationships with my children. So with that statement made, my children are my next priority before anything else. Memories from any fatherly relationship during my childhood are few and far-in-between. Not to fault my dad in any way as he did what he had to do. However, I promised myself that I'd be a better father than my own dad was to me.

There are quite a few things I could mention that prevent me from sacrificing for my own children. Among some of them are not having enough time, being tired, that ballgame on the TV that I really want to watch with a beer, my friends inviting me out to get a drink up the road, a bad day in the office, or a lack of spare cash. I am certain any father could relate to those and come up with their own list of temptations keeping them from investing time in their children.


This video above may crack open a few hardened hearts. The young girl figured out the sacrifices made by her father. Most of our children may never in their lives see things as depicted in this production, but isn't it our job to make the sacrifice regardless? When you are faced with a decision this week, remember the dad who falls asleep on the couch every night. Remember how much he sacrifices and ask yourself, “What will prevent me from sacrificing for my kids?” I hope the answer is nothing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Shortest Parable to Southern California


Jesus said, “The reign of God is like a mustard seed which someone took and sowed in his field.  It is the smallest seed of all, yet when full grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes so big a shrub that the birds of the sky come and build their nests in its branches.” (Mt 13:31-32)

While cycling along old Route 66 across Missouri in mid-June from Joplin, gigantic green machines harvested wheat. I knew for certain, if I’d ride a Deere north tracing fields of wheat as they ripened during the shorter, later growing season, I’d eventually thunder across the border on into Manitoba. Spring invites planting and summer harvesting. I consider the gardener’s labor sacred; grooming soils, planting seed, nurturing plants, harvesting vegetables and fruits, perhaps even honey! And then, we nourish our bodies consuming the meals they provide!

As I pedaled Route 66, dandelions outlining a brief stretch of pavement reminded me of a story aunts living in San Jose shared with me when I was a kid. Fr. Junipero Serra (beatified by JPII in ‘88’) sailed from Spain to Vera Cruz, Mexico, in 1749. In 1769, he hiked into a land now known as California. As he hiked, Serra scattered mustard seeds along his footpath over 700 miles north to Sonoma. Upon his return traveling south, he followed a trail of yellow, created in wild mustard plants leading him home. 



At its southern access on Presidio Hill, he established the first of nine missions, Mission of San Diego. Approximately every thirty miles, a day’s horse ride, he established eight additional missions, popularly called the, Rosary of Missions, including San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel, CA), San Buenaventra (Ventura). Nineteen additional missions arose around them after Serra’s death. The path linking these together became the El Camino Real.  

Nearly 300 – one-hundred pound bells marked The Royal Road as it was named later. Many sections of El Camino Real became California’s first state highway and those later became US Highway 101! The ocean’s breezes have blown mustard seeds across the entire state leaving little terrain where one won’t find the wild yellow flowers. From tiny seeds and nearly three centuries of growth, this yellow ribbon has grown to be one of the most prolific beautiful areas in the world!



I can imagine Jesus entranced, marveling at the tiny seed’s potential as he drew its description of the Kingdom of God. I appreciate author Kathy Coffey’s thoughts. “It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t describe heaven using any of the popular stereotypes. No mention of harps, clouds, or cutesy winged creatures. Instead, he speaks of the painfully slow, silent growth of seed, or the grains of yeast in dough. The process is so gradual, we rarely see it happen. The end result catches us by surprise.” Jesus invites us to plant, to be active in the Kingdom!!! In western Kansas, we’d bless the seed before we planted it in the ground. In the fall, we’d host celebrations in thanksgiving for a rich harvest. Today, in my garden, despite my displeasure, God provides for the squirrels, birds, chipmunks, and even the turtles.


Coffey elegantly writes, “If the seed could speak it might tell us that appearances are deceptive, that a speck no bigger than a gnat contains more than we’d ever dream. It might hearten us in our small, ungallant efforts, promising that they are part of something larger than we see. When Jesus chose the growth of mustard seed as a parable of God’s reign, he pointed to process, not achievement; gradual increments, not instant results.”


From dust and seed, I have come to be. As I pedaled the next 320 miles, I pondered the seeds of the Kingdom we plant in the care of our Lord’s moist hands. I pictured the roses honoring Mary as she graces couples’ weddings. I chuckled recalling stories as my daughter laughed pruning her strawberry patch gone rogue. Photos of seed orientations surfaced in my mind from former students’ science fair projects. I refocused a National Geo story about seed discovered well beyond the years of Jesus’ time on earth planted recently and germinating into a date palm. I marveled as purple asters emerged through seemingly impenetrable rock crowning bluffs overlooking the Meramec River.

           

A Google “seeds” search churned 722 billion items in 0.57 seconds. How does the shortest parable blossom into our poems, prayers, music, gardens, art, careers, dreams, novels, Broadway shows, friendships and children? What are you planting? Seeds imply life, but I’ve said nothing about nurturing. Go ahead. Create in the Kingdom. Plant, nurture seeds of change, beauty, fruit, life! May the end-result amaze, inspire your spirit to wonder!