My Declaration of Independence

At age 10, my brother and I wanted new bikes. My dad said we could earn our way to one, so he fronted us a few cases of pop and dropped us off at a golf course to sell them 75¢ a can. Being little kids, most of the golfers had us keep the buck. We smoozed, we earned. I still have that bike, worse for the wear, but still have it.

At age 17, I needed money for prom and didn’t have a job. So a buddy and I started a lawn mowing business in the neighborhood, charging $10 a lawn, splitting 50/50. We undercut the big guys and took customers. Having a sheet of customers we had to attend to each week, we hired a friend with a tractor to help us get it all done. We ended up firing him because he didn’t finish lawns correctly. Earned prom plus some.

At age 25 after working in the hospitality business and doing event internships, I couldn’t find a worthwhile full time gig as an event planner. So I figured I’d get started myself. This was the start of the Righteous idea with Righteous Events. Lost a bunch of money and realized I needed to know how to run a business better. So I went for my second degree, this time in Entrepreneurship at Canisius. In this year of quarter-life crisis, I made a personal declaration of independence for myself. I swore off normal for greater.

At age 28 I presented a plan for a social media company at the New York State Business Plan Competition. It was terrible.

At age 30, I had to develop a business for my final project. Having a better eye for developing market research, Righteous Co. was born to help ministries and non-profits market themselves to their communities. Got an “A”. Well I wasn’t that good yet at market research and ultimately saw that it wasn’t a feasible/scaleable model in practice. Plus, I didn’t want to build websites all day.

Today at age 33, I’m repurposing the Righteous Co. brand and tying all of my strengths together in one platform to help others. I’m basing the idea around virtue and valor, a core need and hunger for people. By using my ability to connect with people, tell a story, along with a twist of experience in leadership, Righteous Co. is moving forward to its next phase. Perhaps its last and final in its ark.

I’m excited to hint to you my first offering which is also the first book that I’ve written. It will be a free digital download, “Iron Ore: The Journal of a Youth Minister.” It’s a witness of discernment, Love, and perseverance. Coming soon!

I welcome you to ride along the journey by following progress on the following…

RighteousCo.comFacebook page, Instagram@righteous_co

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The Discipline Series: Interview with Paul Christensen

I had a phone interview with Paul one evening back in March in the midst of my Exodus journey. Paul has been a part of our family for twenty years, recently celebrating his twentieth anniversary to my cousin Jenny. Some would call him a Legend.

I wanted to talk to Paul about discipline because he is a man who carries a lot of responsibilities on his shoulders; A man of God, a husband, a father, a younger grandfather, a high-level leader at a renowned hotel in Pittsburg, a missionary, an athlete. When you talk to Paul, he’s a very down to Earth kind of guy. Fun, engaging, and humble. I wanted to know, how does he do it? How does he keep it all together? Find out with me through our conversation below.

A: Where are you most disciplined in your life?

P: It’s all about preparation. Setting up a good day starts the night before. Getting a good night sleep, not eating bad stuff. When I’m tired I eat bad stuff and it takes me off of the right road. I try and get up early enough to spend time with my wife, that really sets the day off well. However, there are times I just run out the door and I miss that. It just slows me down when I don’t have that priority right. My family is everything.

Starting in January I’m going through the bible chronologically. It offers great commentary and starts great conversations with my wife. For example I started talking about Moses recently, like, “who was Moses to throw those stone tablets?”

You have to find what works for you but setting up the morning is really helpful. There’s a guy I know who is up at 3am to make time to pray. On the commute time into work, I will listen to MercyMe or something like that, that will get me into a prayerful mood. When I get to work, it’s go time. No chance to pray. I’d be fooling myself if I thought I could. Work can be so distracting that I can’t focus on a conversation with the Lord. When I am on the train coming home, I find that is a good time to decompress from the day.

A: Where are you least disciplined in your life?

P: Weakness, spiritual weakness. When I let the world take over, bury me in stuff. Worldly stuff that distracts from what my priorities are and takes my eyes off the prize. We all have that stuff right? Name it.

Sometimes you need to slow down and take time with the family and the Lord. I know I have to carve out time in the morning and have spiritual grounding. I don’t read the bible as much as I should but wow I feel the difference when I am making the time. When I know tasks are piled up at work I am lured into running out the door with out making my time.

I don’t go through the day as Mr. Wonderful but I can be discipline at work with language and getting stuff done. When I have a good solid start to the day, then I can go through the day with more strength.

A: As a family man, where does discipline fall for you?

P: My goal is to raise a Godly family. You can’t fake it and that is the driving force for me to stay sharp and be the best guy I can be. Discipline with work starts with my wife. She gives me a lot of latitude and we see eye to eye. We’re on the same wave length. When I say “I have to do this for work” she understands and makes the room for it. So that understanding makes me want to come back to her and help her more. It makes me want to be a better man and take more responsibility at home.

This effort and respect into the relationship has made it easier to stay disciplined and focused on the home front. I don’t look at it as a chore or task, I want to be there. This is engrained in me.

A: Where have you grown the most in the last 20 years?

P: I’m sure if you would have asked me 20 years ago when I was dating Jen, my answers would be totally different. Definitely as a husband. Being disciplined in who I surround myself with. I want to be better for her. I want to stay disciplined for Jen and live with integrity.

A: How do you think others can achieve growth now?

P: Prayer. Other guys, the right guys. Accountability with good men going through the same time. Sometimes machoism gets in the way. It helps to hear from those who have been there and done that. You have to pick a solid group or even one bud that you can talk seriously with and be honest with.

But it’s tough to be vulnerable and have an accountability partner. It takes time and it’s relational. When you find that group, hold on to them. Invest in that time and don’t lose touch. We didn’t call it accountability but we knew each other so well that we would know something is up if we’re out of sorts. It’s not just about required questions but it’s all about knowing that person well.

A: What else is important?

P: We need encouragement as men. We need that and it makes discipline possible. Jen builds me up and gets me back in the game. We’re not meant to do this alone. Like Iron Sharpens Iron. I want to be that warrior, the more you learn about your purpose the more you want to be a better warrior. That faith grounding is your identity.

The Discipline Series: Exodus – The After Effects

It’s been three months since we completed Exodus 90, the length it took to go through it. My intention was to write more through the experience. However I hit a wall hard. I had to dig deep about half way through to stay on task and some things dropped. The Exodus disciplines, grinding through work, challenges raising a toddler, and finishing writing a book drained me out. I made it to the finish line but the intensity fried me out. In someways it reminded me of a long term Tough Mudder, you keep going and it hurts but when you get to the end you realize how worth while it was.

Day 90 was glorious. Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit and the breakfast of a million calories. We celebrated making the rigorous journey by sharing our last Brotherhood gathering together over food and drink. There was a sense of relief. I never did get use to the cold showers through the long Buffalo winter.

Looking ahead from that point, we all knew that we didn’t want to go back to the way things were before we started. While somethings would come back into daily rhythm we each had pieces we didn’t want back. I was slow to get back into electronics. I never would have guessed how much I used them as a crutch that killed my time and relationships. I completed writing a book and read more during the extra time. Not to mention connecting more creatively with Ani and Izzy. Working out, fasting, and watching my diet every day has greatly improved my physique.

Never had a better Lent too. I have never sacrificed like that before and the spiritual growth that came from it was excellent. Being in sync with the fasting Church made things easier. You felt the purpose behind it. Part of hitting the wall came from the transition from Lent to Easter then Ordinary Time. It became more difficult to explain and maintain focus after everyone else finished walking their Lenten fast. During Lent there was an excitement and general understanding from others. After? “You’re still doing that? Isn’t Lent over?” From Easter, 40 more days, “keep going”.

The Brotherhood consisted of some real warriors. A group of guys who fought through Exodus daily; praying with and for each other, sharing struggles, open to accountability, and our weekly Sunday gatherings consisting of exercise and conversation were a big highlight.

I would say the greatest piece I can walk away with from this experience, is the great appreciation of the Book of Exodus and how much of the Mass is reflected upon it. The daily reflections in our journey tying it all together helped me to see the greater picture between the Old Testament and the New; everything from Manna and the Eucharist, the priesthood, and how we build our churches. I highly recommend going through the Book of Exodus, even the tedious last leg of the book, and see it for yourself.

In the end, life has gone on but I can say that I have changed through the experience. Learning to say no to the things that seek our attention away from God and yes to Him Who is calling, is a powerful tool in your spiritual journey. With building a daily discipline of doing just that, you indeed become a strengthened instrument for the Lord.

In defense of! The Church in Scandal

“The Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it” ~ Matthew 16:18

Jesus told St. Peter when He handed over the keys to the kingdom that Hell wouldn’t prevail, not that it wouldn’t try. Nor strike hard when it would.

This is where we stand today. The Church is reeling from the arising of terrible scandal. The revelation isn’t just here in Buffalo and Pennsylvania, but it seems to have global implications as previously hidden abuse comes to light. If the abuse isn’t bad enough, hiding it is certainly salt in the wound. We have been let down. This has caused even the most stout of heart to shake in anger or fear. There are plenty of sources you can read with varying degrees of fairness to catch up. You should and will be angry. This has no room in the Church and should be cleaned out.

Here’s the thing though.

This doesn’t define our faith. The sins of others don’t make our identity. Our identity as Christians and the Universal Church is in Christ. As the faithful, we should take heart that the Kingdom the keys belong to when passed on to St. Peter is Jesus Christ led, Holy Spirit driven. I am reminded of God’s promise in Psalm 91,

Say to the Lord, “My refuge and fortress, My God in whom I trust.” He will rescue you from the fowlers snare, from the destroying plague… Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you shall it not come. You need simply to watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see… He will call upon me and I will answer, I will be with him in distress.  ~ Psalm 91: 2-3, 7-8, & 15

No one is above sin. Everyone alive is susceptible to stain, even the holiest of holies. Scandal and failure of trust has afflicted us since the beginning and through Scripture; the Angel Lucifer, Adam and Eve, King David. Let’s take a look at one of the twelve Apostles who walked with Jesus on a daily basis. Judas learned first hand from Jesus, laughed with Him, ate with Him. Before his fall, he was one of the shepherds. Yet Judas still betrayed him. We wouldn’t leave Jesus because of the failings Judas.

Every other Apostle represented Christ well, even through their own human limitations. Jesus knew all of this. This is a story not hidden from Scripture for us to take note. The price to pay for free will is the option for failure. And we will at times in the most egregious ways, as we find ourselves today. We have a whole history on the failings of humans in the Church. In the end however, Christ moves forward from Judas to die on the Cross and become Resurrected. Likewise, the Church will move forward because Christ is with us.

During some of the darkest times in our history is when great Saints have arisen to meet the challenges the Church has faced. While this may be a tough time for the faithful, we need not fear. God is with us. God is with you. The answer is not to walk away from Jesus in the Eucharist but to move closer. As Scott Hahn recently said, “It seems like a good time to pray like never before.”

While many of our shepherds have fallen, the vast majority of our priests are good. They are hurting through this as well, as Judas has sold them out too. While our trust in the priesthood has shaken, we need to remember that Peter, Andrew, John, and the others went on to Baptize, preach, forgive sins, heal, and build the Church. They gave their lives for Christ. Let’s not confuse Peter for Judas. Pray for them like never before.

Lastly, my friend Jeremy shared a quote that hits home for me from one of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien (author of Lord of the Rings) in a letter to his son about scandal, you can read commentary and the full letter here.

I think I am as sensitive as you (or any other Christian) to the scandals, both of clergy and laity. I have suffered grievously in my life from stupid, tired, dimmed, and even bad priests; but I now know enough about myself to be aware that I should not leave the church (which for me would mean leaving the allegiance of Our Lord) for any such reasons: I should leave because I did not believe, and should not believe anymore, even if I had never met anyone in orders who was not both wise and saintly. I should deny the Blessed Sacrament, that is: call our Lord a fraud to His face.

Stay strong faithful.

The Discipline Series: 1/3 through Exodus

We are over a 1/3 of the way through Exodus 90 and it has been a difficult journey through the desert for the guys. We’ve been shedding the distractions and toxins in our life and that doesn’t come without a cost. I noticed early that taking sugar out of my life was much more of a challenge than I thought it would be. Wasn’t expecting that all. I see sweets and all of a sudden I’m jonesin’ for it. While prepared for temptations, that was least expected. I’ve resisted.

I also noticed that by getting rid of distractions like TV and apps on the phone I’ve had to reconnect with the world around me. From my journal on day four,

“What comes to mind today is the word, “presence”. I’m sitting at our middle school youth night and found myself wanting to look at my phone, no reason. Had I pulled the phone out I would have just been filling space. I realized I have been caught up in that. When a lull happens the auto reaction is to fill the space by staring at the phone. News, texts, social media notifications, etc. I would just mentally disappear. Check out. I’m detoxing now and opening my eyes to the moments I would automatically skip.”

I have since been stopping to smell the roses even in those little moments and lulls.

Also unexpected, anger and frustration has become sharper in my days. No longer resorting to distractions to dull away or forget issues, I am forced to take a head on approach to resolving problems that arise. Big and small. And it seems new. Almost like I forgot how to resolve conflict. Nevertheless, I am now solving problems as opposed to distracting myself.

I asked a couple of the other guys to share a few thoughts about the first 30. Bob writes on day eight in his journal,

“Temptation has started to set in, but not in the way I’d expect. It is such a pain to know how the enemy works and yet still fall for the same tricks. Yesterday was tough for me, I won’t lie. While I enjoyed the first weekly meeting with the Brotherhood, I was met with a lot of pain and torment (and no, I’m not talking about the P90X workout). It has come and gone since then, but a real sadness came over me, that thankfully was healed by going to Mass and Life Teen. I still have mixed feelings about the temptations in my mind. I feel helpless and powerless, but I suppose this is where God comes in. I fully recognize that in order for me to be changed, I have to allow God to do it, even if it means breaking me in ways I’ve never been broken before.

Bob continues,

As this day ends, I am reminded that even with the pain/frustration/loneliness/temptation I am beginning to be met with on this journey, there have been many victories so far that I ought to remind myself of and celebrate. It is by God’s mercy and grace that we have made it this far and will continue to progress.

Greg also contributes from day 18,

I struggle to be the lord of myself. I must come to terms with my human limitations and submit myself to the will of God or I stand to lose everything. The further from God I stay, the further from my true destiny I will be. Either a man governs his possessions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy.

When I achieve something or something goes my way, how often do I puff out my chest and disregard the involvement that God had. I must submit to God and raise those around me up.

As you see, each guy is on his journey and is battling through. As we enter into the second third of our journey, we are building good habits, defeating old ones, and most importantly letting God heal and rebuild us into better men. St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

The Discipline Series: Interview with Jeremy Dolph

I sat down with Jeremy Dolph on February 12 to discuss how he applies discipline in his life. As a new husband and leader as the Director of Youth Ministry at Sts. Peter & Paul in Hamburg, NY, Jeremy provides a perspective that is both relatable and fresh. When I first put the call out to interview people with something to say about the topic, he said, “If you’re looking to interview someone who’s considering Exodus 90, but who is also a huge chicken and scared of it… let me know!”

I thought that was a curious place to start. So here is the first interview on my blog with Jeremy Dolph.

A: Where do you see discipline fall short in your life?

J: I get excited for something then lose momentum. It happens in a downward spiral and it is easy to get discouraged. I start on an initiative and when I hit the first road block, stop. It’s difficult to overcome that first hill. I did a six week workout program awhile back where I had put money on the table. Either complete the program and get my money back or fail and lose it. That forced me to stay focused. My trainer also held me accountable during that six weeks and it kept me in the game. Felt good but after I finished the challenge and that accountability was up, I stopped.

A: Why do you think you stopped?

J: I don’t know. Following the quote from Pope Benedict XVI you sent me, “You were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness,” I guess I like being comfortable. I feel like in a way, I’m ok being expendable. Like the 301st soldier in the Spartan army. ‘You 300 go ahead, I’ll stay here.’

A: Do you think this is the result of fear, laziness , or lack of will?

J: Definitely lack of will. I need something that I need to achieve but if I screw up, I get off track. It’s like if I screw up the day after Ash Wednesday, there goes the other 39 days of Lent. I think I avoid this whole process because of complacency. It’s easier to not start than to get down on myself about starting and failing. We can blame the devil or the way of the world but my will should be stronger than that.

A: How are you applying discipline to achieve your goals?

J: I don’t think the short boot camps are for me. I want little achievements to add up over the years. Making the daily sacrifices pay off. I can look back now and say that I am better now than I was before. Events in life have been the catalyst of small changes. I can see that looking back.

Getting married has made me a better man for example. It has changed my mindset from doing things because ‘I have to’, where now ‘I want to’. Household chores for example, dishes. I want to do them for my wife. Before, I’d just say “Hey, I’ll get back to it,” and have her do them. Now, I don’t want to let them sit for her. I got this.

I want to make more out of the day so I have been more intentional in my commute. Instead of learning the Spanish parts of ‘Despacito’, I’ve been digging into more podcasts and audiobooks. I’m learning to say ‘no’ to things I don’t want and ‘yes’ to things I do. Saying ‘yes’ to spending time to my wife requires me to say ‘no’ to staying later at work. I know this is small but before going to bed I put my watch, my wallet, and keys on the bed stand so I can be ready to go in the morning. It’s given me real practical results and I’m hoping these add up over the years.

Long term, I want to be a Saint. I’d love to walk that path that takes me to Heaven. Maybe this is a matter of pride but I’d love to have a church named after me. St. Jeremy’s parish maybe? Should I be thinking that? I’m just kidding of course but whatever that path is, I want to walk it. I need to be disciplined to do what God has called me to do. I’m reminded of the quote by William Law, “If you look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be one.”

A: You signed up for the Tough Mudder, how are you preparing for this?

J: Like I did for the “Couch to 5k” and pacing through training. If I can run for two minutes, I can do three tomorrow and move up from there. I have to start early though, like now, to be ready by summer. The plan was to start this week but I got sick so I’m planning on starting next week. I have a group of guys I had as prayer accountability partners that I’m reconnecting with. They’re going to push me through. I love accountability but hate being held accountable.

There are many ways to find and execute discipline in your life. Jeremy has shown the everyday pursuit and application of discipline in the little things. The big and brash boot camps can often psych ourselves out by compare-and-contrasting ourselves with an image of bravado. It can be intimidating and for many of us unattainable or unrealistic. I’m hoping with this series to uncover the disciplines we apply in our life to build our interior strength. So let’s apply that to virtue and grow stronger together.

As a husband and a leader, Jeremy has been building and growing intentionally all along. Don’t sell yourself short and take a realistic assessment of where you’re at.

What intimidates you?

Where are you victorious?

The Discipline Series: Exodus

I’ve been working over the past several years on my self-discipline. I heard a talk years ago at one of the Franciscan U. conferences about building discipline in your life. Being painfully unstructured in my early 20’s, I heard that as a call to arms. It was already a hunger but I didn’t know how to put it into words or action. The speaker, ex-military, spoke of starting your day off right by making your bed well. Every single day. Even days you just don’t feel like doing it and build off of that.

So I did.

Started off strong but as days turned into weeks I noticed I started losing the will to keep at it. I recognized that desire to quit. It was something I was familiar with. I’d get excited about something, get started, then move on to something else. Not everything was like that however. There were enough things in my life that I was keeping up on. Just enough to make me feel consistent but I was fooling myself.

I began to realize I was losing time and burning opportunity to be the best I could be. I realized I wasn’t living as what Matthew Kelly would call “the-best-version-of-yourself”. The most capable version of myself that God had designed. If God truly built me for more than I was being, then how would I get there?

That answer has been lying in the hard fought battle of prayer and self-discipline; prayer providing the compass and discipline as the engine. Jocko Willink, ex-SEAL and entrepreneur, defines discipline in his “Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual” as such,

Discipline: The root of all good qualities. The driver of daily execution. The core principle that over comes laziness and lethargy and excuses. Discipline defeats the infinite excuses that say: Not today, not now, I need a rest, I will do it tomorrow.

While I am far ahead of where I was, I feel like I am just getting started. Starting February 15th I will be starting an intense 90 day regimen focusing on asceticism and physical discipline with a program called Exodus90. I will be shedding the niceties and distractions of life like warm showers, sugar, and social media (except for work). In addition to what will be cut, it will include rigorous physical and spiritual exercise. Lastly, a small group of us will keep each other accountable. All of this is designed to wrench out vices and build virtue in men.

I’m building a small band of guys looking to enhance the same thing in their life. Calling it “The Brotherhood”, we’ll keep each other accountable with a group chat and weekly meet up. This will be the most challenging Lent yet but as one of the Brothers have said, “Let’s make this the best Lent ever!”. Definitely not your “I’m giving up chocolate,” kind of fast.

I feel as if the Holy Spirit has been leading me further down this road, so appropriately, the 90 days end with Pentecost. I’m hoping this will be the start of a series on the topic of discipline. I will try something new with the blog by interviewing other men in what it means to been disciplined in their life. I will also be cataloging the 90 days periodically through our young adult Instagram account for St. Greg’s, @stgregsyouth (that’s the work element) with the intention that our test group will serve as an example for future endeavors. Stay tuned for more.

Check out Exodus90.com for more information.

Christmas season – Vocational thoughts

As I sit at Delta Sonic waiting for an oil change for Ani’s car, I thought I’d put together some thoughts I’ve been having over Christmas. It’s the second day of Christmas and my true love sent to me, one adorable family.

I didn’t think it was possible but I’ve been growing more in love everyday with my wife and baby. Both surprise me more everyday. Ani has been having a tough go with sleep lately but regardless, still has a glow to her. Izzy just keeps getting cuter everyday. She is becoming more aware and audible, melting my heart just over a week ago with her first “dada!”.

I was sitting down with the girls Christmas morning opening Izzy’s first gift, a dolly, and I just had a moment where I couldn’t be more greatful for my vocation of marriage. Me and my girls, sitting on the floor by the tree, just having fun. I just took a mental note. God has done wonders through this marriage to my heart as I continue to discipline myself to be the husband and father I’m created to be. God is good.

The girls and I will be representing the Holy family tonight at St. Greg’s and I’m just reminded of St. Joseph’s example. As a young dad, I’m sure he had his fears like the rest of us. Some relatable and some not. Relatable, how am I going to put food on the table? Not relatable, how am I going to raise the Son of God? 

He did it one day at a time, trusting the Almighty in his labor and love. So tonight, I will huddle with my wife and kid among live animals and hay, dressed as St. Joseph and just give my trust and thanks to God. 

How to do Halloween right…

Originally written in Oasis Magazine for St. Greg’s College Ministry.

It’s that time of the year; the dew is turning to frost, the leaves are changing, and Halloween candy has been in stores for at least three months. Ah, October, the start of the maddening holiday rush to Christmas. So while everyone is going nuts about pumpkin spice lattes and what they should be for Halloween, there are a few things you should consider.

 1. Halloween’s history. I honestly couldn’t write anything better than this article about the history of Halloween. I highly recommend you check it out. It’s a complex history but essentially, Halloween is Catholic in origin. Say what? Yes. All Hallows Eve is a celebration before All Saints Day, a festival that goes back to the dedication of the Pantheon from the pagan gods to the Martyrs of the Church. Fr. Steve, the author of the article, makes a familiar comparison, “Halloween is the precursor to All Saints Day and as such is kind of like what December 24th is to Christmas Day.” All Saints Day being a Holy Day and All Souls Day the day after that, are really where the meat and potatoes are; keeping in mind those living way past the humanly shelf life in Heaven. 

It wasn’t until much later that we started getting all of the ghouls and freaky stuff attached to it. Today Halloween is just the secular and commercialized farce of what it’s suppose to be. Much like other Church celebrations like Easter and Christmas.

 2. The Occult isn’t cool. You like scary movies? A lot of people like a good thriller, especially around this time of the year. Here’s how this plays out. You watch something spooky, then try walking across campus, at night, with the wind, and wolves howling, get lost, then you decide to split up with your group to find a better way, find a scary door to go through, then that Thing gets you with a chain saw. Yep. Fun!

 There is a lot of scary fiction out there. What’s even scarier is the fact. Movies like “Ouija” have spurned people to the thrill of the game. The reality is when you open yourself to such spiritual inclinations, the spirits will use you and find a home. Exorcists are real in the Church for a reason, people face serious spiritual problems from dabbling in the occult. It becomes a downward spiral.

 Check this out in Matthew 12:43-45,

When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.

 If that’s not scary enough for you, try the account of Legion in Mark 5: 1-20. It goes like this. A man was possessed by demons who howled and walked among the graves. He could not be contained by the locals, even with chains. He came to Jesus and when asked what his name was, “Legion is my name, there are many of us.” Legion pleaded with Jesus not to send them away and asked if they can go to the swine instead. Jesus let them and they possessed the herd of two thousand pigs nearby who proceeded to jump over a cliff and drown. Creepy. Imagine witnessing that? The man was saved and proceeded to tell the work and power of Jesus.

You will find power coming from two sources. God the Almighty and the Devil. If it’s not from God, it’s of the Devil. Seances, witchcraft, mediums, ouija, tarot, and more can open the door. Use your conscience. If something doesn’t seem right at a party this fall, stay away from it. Don’t let the first of Legion in the door. Remember, God’s power is unlimited and can bring you joy. The Devil’s, while limited, will seek to consume you through deceit and only you can let him in.

 3. Modest is hottest. Be reasonable and be mindful of who God made you to be. It can be fun to run around like Hei Hei the chicken from Moana. Just don’t sell yourself short and use Halloween as an excuse to be something you’re not and dress up as a sexy whatever. Yes, I’m talking to you frat guy in the kitten skivvies. Enjoy but don’t sell out. 

 At the end of the day, keep in mind that this season belongs to God. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do to the glory of God.” 1 Cor 10:31

Race to the bottom?

Race is a difficult topic to talk about, it is almost intimidating putting it to paper. Almost. Everyone is walking on eggshells when it comes to this topic. The recent flair up in Charlottesville is just an ugly example of this. The landscape in politics is intense and race has been used as a political football for a long time. Over-generalizations and ignorance stoke the flames and build rhetoric. It’s going to end poorly if we keep going this way. Like the song “Stuck in the middle with you,” I feel like I’ve got clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right. White supremacists need to learn empathy and love. Antifa and Black Lives Matters needs to understand violence and suppression is only a means to recreate the monster you’re fighting against. This isn’t a race to the bottom.

I was told this year, for the first time in my life, that I’m racist and my privilege discredits any voice I have. I was slapped a with a label as if my story and heritage can be automatically assumed. As if I come from a background of slave ownership seeking the return to glory days. Here is my story. My heritage. My great grandparents fled the Russian conscription of Poles to escape to America in search of a more secure future in freedom from tyrannical oppression. My grandfathers fought against real fascists and imperialists in World War Two. My grandmother’s brother kept his life but lost his sanity at the infamous battle of Guadalcanal. My grandmothers, like our family’s own ‘Rosie the Riveters’ contributed to the war effort. Relatives who lived in Oświęcim we’re forced out of the ancestral home to make way for the Nazi officers who ran the infamous Auschwitz death camp. My uncle received the Purple Heart in Vietnam and my own brother serves proudly in the U.S.A.F. I come from a heritage of freedom fighters, not oppressors.

What my heritage is carved from is that of immigrants who escaped the hardships of late 19th and early 20th century Europe with nothing. From the ravages of famine in Ireland to the forced oppression of the Poles, my blood consists of the hope that America promised to those who would shed their old life for a new one. A life where hard work matters and makes your future family tree. A life in a place that really is unique in the history of the world. They took a chance but for what?

“That all men are created equal.” 

The history runs deep. The American experience is born from struggle. Nobody is free from a life without it. What’s an important starting point through this is understanding others and where they come from. Media and political parties love playing identity politics and putting people into blocks. We can do better than that and empathy is the antidote here. The founder of The Free Hugs Project, Ken Nwadike Jr., gets it as a bold man stepping in front of hate and breaking the ice by hearing other’s stories.

The American struggle is a shared experience. Our African-American brothers and sisters do not have a separate history from other Americans, it is our history. Our descendants from Europe are not clumped as one. Our history. Our Latin and Asian brethren have walked difficult roads too. Our history. This is the melting pot where culture and ideas collide. This is American history. Our Declaration of Independence doesn’t tolerate the supremacy of one people over another in any direction. Let’s look at each other as individuals instead of buying into the manipulation of group identity politics.

While looking at the stains of our shared heritage can be painful, it doesn’t diminish who we are. The hope for our country, the hope that caused my great-grandparents to settle here, doesn’t lie in our stains but in our freedom to be independent to make of our lives as we wish. That hope is for all citizens. How’s about we share our story with each other and empathize that we’re trying to move our family tree forward in this messy but beautiful land we call home. The framework is there and it’s available for all who pursue happiness. There is no promise of a struggle free existence but when you dig deep, work hard, don’t quit, and treat people with respect; no one is going to stop you from Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Everything else is an excuse. Speaking as the third generation from ground zero, your future family tree will thank you. Let’s stop racing to the bottom. 

“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Gal 5:13