Monday, December 22, 2014

Are you ready for Christmas?

It's an interesting time of year, Christmas.  People love to ask, are you ready for Christmas?  But what do they mean?  They usually mean, have you purchased all your gifts for your family and friends that you give gifts to?  Or, have you decorated your house with lights and Christmas decorations?  For many, this is all Christmas is or has become, a time to give gifts to others and hope you get some nice gifts in return.  Children give their parents and Santa a long list of items that they want, not things they hope for, but things they really expect to have waiting for them under the tree on Christmas day.  Now of course there is nothing wrong with giving and receiving gifts, but the tradition of gift giving has gotten a little out of hand in my opinion.  Toy stores, electronic and appliance stores, clothing and apparel shops, shopping centers and department stores have all made gift giving into a mind numbing, meaningless exchanges of presents that everyone must be a part of.  Our economy now thrives on end of the year purchases that must be made by all in order for businesses to even hope of having a successful year.  But wait, don't you have to be good to get something?  What? Are you kidding?  You better have something good for me!  Hold on...take a deep breath.  What is Christmas really all about anyway?  It's the time of year that we stop and reflect on the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who came to this earth in the form of a little baby, born and placed in a manger in a little town of Bethlehem a little over 2000 years ago.  Jesus changed the world through his life, his teachings, and his love for us that he showed us by example and by his death on a cross.  Then his burial and resurrection showed us that he was who he said he was, our Redeemer who had power over death and who lives with us and wants to be a part of our lives not just on Christmas and Easter, but everyday of the year.  He has the power to save us, so that we might live in eternity with him.  This baby that we celebrate, was real, but he was the ultimate Christmas gift, the gift God sent down from heaven to change lives forever.  Has he changed your life?  If not, he still can, if you let him.  Give yourself a real gift this year, the gift of eternal life.  It's available to you if you're willing to accept it.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving gets the Shaft (Again)

Now that Veterans Day has past, the next big holiday of the year is Christmas. What, you ask? What about Thanksgiving? Oh sure, there will be a Thanksgiving holiday. Most Americans will take that Thursday and possibly the following Friday off to be with their family and eat turkey and watch the Detroit Lions lose to whoever they will be playing that day. Wait, the Lions aren't that bad of a team anymore.

Anyway, Thanksgiving is a holiday that is going by the wayside. I have already seen houses and businesses with Christmas decorations up. Bell ringers are already stationed at the local grocery stores to beg for your loose change. I even flipped through the radio dial last night and heard a station playing Christmas music already! Yes, I still listen to the radio...what's wrong with that?  Now I'm no Scrooge. I love Christmas and what it means to Christians around the world. I love seeing my kids get excited about what they hope Santa will bring them this year. But I think Thanksgiving deserves a little more recognition than just a day to get off work and eat some turkey and pie with your friends and family. We should reflect on what we as a nation are thankful for. Freedom of religion. Freedom of speech. Freedom to vote for whomever we choose to represent us in government.

Let's wait until after Thanksgiving to hang the decorations and do our Christmas shopping. Now stores are even open for business on Thanksgiving day!  Christmas will be here before we know it anyway.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Poor Will Always be Among Us

The great thing a good homily or sermon does, is that it hits you with fresh ideas or thought provoking comments that hopefully, will cause you to act out in a positive way.  Today's Saint of the Day, is Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, who lived in the 13th century.  She spent much of her short life caring for the sick and the poor of her day, and was a shining example for others to follow for years and centuries to follow.

Many churches and organizations run food and clothing drives this time of year as the holidays approach.  They are all good and helpful to the needy in our local areas as winter and cold weather sets in.  But, as our priest said today during his homily at morning Mass, the poor don't just need food during November and December!  They are hungry and need our help all year round.

He was right!  While it's certainly good to give during this time of year when we pause to thank God for all He has given us and provided for us, we should also remember to take care of the poor and needy around us, all year long.  Jesus said, the poor you will always have with you, and in Deuteronomy 15 it says:  There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.

So think of a way that you and your family can give back to the community and help the poor throughout the year.  One thing we do is give to the St. Vincent DePaul society on a regular basis, not just at year end.  Our church also has a Tithing for Poor offering each month.  If you are more hands on, there are many charity organizations who are looking for volunteers to help out from time to time. While there are many good organizations that work with the poor and needy worldwide, don't forget about the people and charities in your own backyard.

Everyone can and should give, even if it's just a dollar, or a few hours of our time.  Pray to God to show you how and where you should give, and He will make a way.  You will feel better and it will draw yourself closer to Him in the process.  Let Saint Elizabeth of Hungary be an example to us all.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

How to Share your Faith

Yesterday, my wife and I attended a conference on Evangelization hosted by the Cardinal Regali Center and the Office of Laity & Family Life.  The featured speaker was Marcus Grodi, Host of The Journey Home program on the EWTN television network.  Mr. Grodi is a former Lutheran, who converted to Catholicism many years ago, and started his television program to encourage clergy and others to embrace the Catholic Church by sharing stories of other peoples conversion stories.  Mr. Grodi gave three talks on Evangelization that was centered on what he called the two most difficult people to reach:  Our family, and our Non-Catholic, Christian friends.  Between the talks, there were times for those in attendance to discuss questions and share thoughts at their tables, followed by a Q&A session at the end, to close the conference.  Mr. Grodi has a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw on from his show which has aired on EWTN for over 20 years.  He has a passion for sharing his Catholic faith with others and teaching fellow Catholics to do the same.  One of the biggest barriers to reaching non-Catholic Christians, he said, was the fact that so many non-Catholic Christians are not even sure that Catholics are Christians themselves.  This is an urban myth that has been perpetuated over the years by Protestants who reject the Catholic Church and it's teachings.  Therefore, we have to help them see that faithful Catholics are indeed Christians, and that we know the Bible and love Jesus just like they do.  Once they understand that all true doctrines, devotions, and practices are about Jesus Christ, then they might be open to discover the fullness and beauty of the Catholic Church.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Wake Up

Do you have a morning routine?  I think most people probably do.  People tend to do the same things each and every day to get their day started.  Maybe you walk the dog or feed the cats.  If you're like me, the first stop is getting the coffee made!  I really can't function without a cup of coffee in the morning.  Ok, I probably could, but I wouldn't like it.  There have been a few times, few and far between thank goodness, when I realize that we are out of coffee.  Now that is a scary situation.  I hate when that happens.  So once you get the basics down, then what?  Many people read the newspaper, or check their e-mail.  Some people read the Bible or do some kind of a daily devotional. Many Catholics will pray the Rosary or the Devine Mercy Chaplet.  These are all good things.  This past summer, once school ended for the kids, I started going to the 6:30 AM morning Mass.  This has become my new "day starter".  It really gets me centered on God and Jesus for the beginning of the day.  Hearing and responding to the Word of the Lord (The Bible), praying and reflecting on God's Word, and of course, receiving the Eucharist (Holy Communion).  I really enjoy the simplicity and the solitude of the morning Mass.  It has become part of my morning routine (right after my first cup of coffee).  I even continued to go when school started again in the fall.  Yes, I still manage to get all my kids off to school on time.  I know that not everyone can attend a morning Mass because of their work schedules.  Most parishes in our area have two options, 6:30 and 8 AM.  If you can fit it into your schedule, please try and go, you'll be amazed how you feel afterwards.  So make God a part of your day, after all, who's more important than God?  You'll be glad you did, and so will He.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

What are your gifts?

In the book of Romans, in chapter 12, Paul talks about how we all have different gifts, according to the grace given to us by God.  As a new Catholic, I became interested and fascinated by the Mass.  What was going on?  Standing, sitting, bowing, kneeling.  How do you know what to do or what to say?  Like anything, it takes practice.  I started going to the 6:30 AM morning Mass, which was even a little different in that some things were added and some were omitted.  When my son wanted to become a server, or alter boy, I asked myself...what about me?  What can I do in and for the church?  It's kind of hard to get kids to serve for the 6:30 Mass so they have adults do it.  I felt like this was something that I could do to help me learn more about the Mass and serve the church.  What a great experience it is!  I just got back from serving in this morning's Mass.  You really feel a part of the Mass and experience it first hand when you are a server.  Setting the alter for communion, bringing the prayer book for the priest to read, and of course, ringing the bells during the prayer of consecration.  I felt so close to God. What about you?  Do you feel close to God?  Why or why not?  What can you do to draw yourself closer to Him?  Read chapter 12 of Romans and pray to God to ask Him what you can do you utilize your gifts from God.  God bless you as you use your gifts to serve The Lord!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Time for another change

It's fitting that I write this post today, November 3rd.  Exactly 6 years ago, I wrote my first blog post.  It was called "Day before the election", which is also where we are today.  Originally, I did write a little about politics.  Thoughts about gas prices, daylight savings time, shopping, facebook, discount stores, fast food, holidays, really a little bit about everything.  That's why I called it Thoughts from Scott.  There was no real theme or purpose.  Over time, I started writing about financial matters, because that's what I do, I'm a financial advisor.  But financial firms don't like people like me writing about things that are not "approved".  Anything that I wrote needed to be approved by the Compliance Department!  What a headache!  That takes all the fun and spontaneity out of it.  So I started writing about motorcycles.  No one has to approve that.  After all, I rode motorcycles and like most people who do, I like to talk about it and share my thoughts on riding and such.

Well, now I've decided to make another change.  Get ready...  I'm going to talk about religion.  Not just any religion, but Catholicism!  Why?  Well, why not?  This past year, in April, April 14th to be exact.  I became a Catholic.  On the Easter Vigil, that is, the evening before Easter, I became a Catholic!  I had already been baptized as a child, so I did not need to be re-baptized, but I was confirmed and accepted into the Holy Catholic Church as a child of God, one of their own.  I took the Holy Eucharist (Communion) for the first time and it was awesome!  I love being Catholic.  So this morning, as I was praying and thinking about my day ahead, I decided that I would make this change to my blog.

Thoughts from Scott will now mainly focus on my life as a new Catholic believer and member of a local parish in St. Louis, Missouri.  I will share my thoughts, struggles, confusion, and joy about my experiences as a Catholic.  Now, I don't want people to think that I know it all, I just want to share my thoughts and if it helps someone else understand what it means to be Catholic or what Catholics believe, then that will be a good thing.  Feel welcome to share your thoughts and ask me questions.  If I don't know the answer, I will do some research, and/or ask my priest for help.  So may God bless you and me as I start this new venture!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our days are numbered

Now that we are into October and have changed seasons from summer to fall (or autumn if you prefer), the number of riding days for motorcyclists is starting to diminish.  To be sure, there are some hearty souls who ride their bikes almost every day, no matter the weather, but for the recreational rider who prefers not to venture out in the rain and cold, the days are numbered.  While I will on occasion ride in temperatures as low as 40 degrees, properly dressed, I do prefer to ride when the temps are in the 60's on the low end.  To me, it's just not fun to ride when your teeth are chattering and you are cold.  I know that there are heated gloves and everything else to keep you warm and toasty, but I also don't like being bundled up too much when I ride.  When it rains, I don't ride no matter what the temperature is.  Again, I don't like losing visibility and braking distance on the wet roads.  I guess I am a fair weather rider.  I like dry roads and warm temperatures when I ride.
So I will wait out the storms and cold days ahead, but will keep my bike hooked up to the battery tender so that I can take her out when the next nice day arrives.  Here in the midwest, we can be blessed with 70 degree days in December and January, just as easily as 20 degree days.  So while I might not get out as much in the next few months, I will get out and enjoy some fresh air and wind therapy as often as I can.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Dog Days of Summer?

This summer has been the best, weather wise, that I can ever remember in the midwest and I'm sure much of the good ole USA.  Here in Missouri where we can typically see temperatures in the high 90's and even low 100's in July and August, we have seemed to average more days in the low 80's this year.  Whether it's been caused by El Nino or the Polar Vortex, I'm not sure, but I'm also not complaining.  While I enjoy living in a four season part of the country, suffering through a 98 degree day in late July can be unsettling.  Coupled with the high humidity that usually comes along for the ride, it can be downright uncomfortable for weeks at a time.  So I will enjoy this mild weather as long as it lasts.  As Mark Twain once said, if you don't like Missouri weather, just wait 5 minutes.  Fall will be here before you know it.  Kids will be going back to school next week and football season is right around the corner.  Enjoy the enjoyment as they say!  Get outside and spend some time in the fresh air.  This is great weather for motorcyclists as well, so look twice and share the road!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Route 66 Weird Wild Stuff

Strange Sights on Route 66  from the Weather Channel website.  Enjoy!

Rewind...Best of Thoughts from Scott

(This post was originally written on 9/2/2011)

Driving can be frustrating. There is too much traffic, too many stoplights, and oh those inconsiderate drivers. Most people have been cut off a few times in their life. But have you really watched some of the drivers on the road? I mean, have you observed what they do while they're driving? As a motorcyclist, I have to be much more aware of other cars and trucks than you do. Because motorcycles are not seen as easily as other cars, we have to be much more defensive when we drive on the roads and highways. We are constantly scanning ahead of us to watch out for cars and trucks pulling out into a lane ahead of us, stopping to make a turn without signaling, or coming into our lane without notice. Sure we've all been passed by a sportbike going too fast or maybe even doing a wheelie, but most motorcyclists are very good and considerate drivers. After all, one mistake and it could mean our lives. There has been a lot of press and even new laws about driving and texting, but have you ever considered some of the other things people do while they're driving? Besides searching for a new radio station or putting in a new CD, I have seen people put on makeup, read a book or magazine propped on their steering wheel, and of course how many people eat while they drive? Cell phone use is big, too. When I see a car going slower than the rest of traffic and maybe even wandering in their lane, chances are it's someone on a cell phone driving, not a drunk driver. So now that the weather is getting nicer, roll down the windows and try to imagine yourself riding a motorcycle. Smell the fresh air and try to see things from our perspective. We all share the road and we all want to reach our destination safely.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

June Journeys

The difference between riding a motorcycle and driving a car is that on a motorcycle, your senses take in a lot more of the experience.  In a car, you are mainly focused on the road ahead of you and where you are going.  On a motorcycle, not only do you see the road, but you feel the wind and you smell the air around you.  You can distinguish freshly cut grass from leaves.  Many people refer to riding their motorcycle as "wind therapy" meaning that they can get so much more out of a ride than just taking them from point A to point B.  The wind rushing past their face is a pleasure that makes the ride fun rather than a chore or a dreaded experience like a car ride to work can sometimes be.  This is why motorcycle riders do not mind taking the long way home instead of the short cut.  The ride is a journey to escape the frustrations of the day and to clear your head of negative thoughts.  This is why I like to ride alone.  I can focus on the road and my surroundings and tune out the noise of the environment we live in.  Stress is reduced or even eliminated while taking a ride, even if it's only for less than an hour.  To be sure, there are many motorcyclists who like to ride in large groups, or take real journeys of thousands of miles to far away places.  But you can also take a journey away from reality and responsibility, a mental vacation if you will, when you get on your bike and just head out for an hour or two, to let your senses experience the road and it's surroundings.  This is why we ride.  A car just cannot offer the same experience, not even a convertible.  This is what draws people to ride motorcycles, to be one with the road, and to make any ride a journey, and not just a commute.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Time for a tune up!

Well we made it!  Winter is officially over.  Spring has arrived...finally.  Warmer temperatures are finally on the way.  For motorcycles owners, that means it's time to get your bike ready to hit the roads, highways and byways.  Of course, that also means we have to make sure our cruisers are ready to go.  Most of us in cold weather climates have had their bikes sitting in their garages or storage units for months.  The batteries must be charged, the fluids checked, and the tires inspected.  In some cases, like mine, I even had to get the bike state inspected because my license plate tags were due to expire.  I also discovered it was time for a new front tire.  But now I'm ready.  Ready to head out and hit the open road!  Smell the fresh air and feel the breeze rush past your face.  There's nothing quite like the experience of a motorcycle ride.  So good riddance winter.  You will not be missed.  It's riding season now!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

When will it end?

After suffering through another snow storm yesterday, many people including myself are asking the question:  How long will this winter last?  Now of course winter is the same length every year, but this year it feels longer.  By all accounts we have endured more snow and bitter cold temperatures than have been seen in decades.  Sub-zero temperatures are not the norm in the midwest.  Yes, we like to say we get all four seasons and can experience the full range of temperatures from 0 to 100 degrees, but we haven't experienced below zero temperatures in over 15 years in Missouri.  Add to that, the repeated snow events and it starts to take it's toll on one's fortitude and demeanor.  Most schools in the area have had so many snow days that this year's school year won't end until sometime in June.  Well past the pre-Memorial day finish that they have gravitated to over the years.  So now we are into February and the countdown for spring has begun.  While Punxsutanwney Phil has predicted another six weeks of winter, the calendar says 43 days to be exact.  But wait, pitchers and catchers report to spring training in just a few days.  Warmer weather must be just around the corner!  We can only hope.  For those who long to get out on the highways and byways on their motorcycles, the wait can be excruciating.  Come on Old Man Winter...give us a break!  We want the Heat Miser to bring us warmth.  Dear Mother Nature, have pity on us, we are ready for spring now.  We don't mind if it comes early this year.  How will it all play out?  Only time will tell. But for now, I'm in Storm Mode.  The kids are off from school today, and it's time to shovel the driveway.  My dreams of warmer weather have been dashed...