My Family’s Baseball Legacy

Some of my favorite memories from my early childhood are of going to watch my dad play for the I.B.E.W. Local Union 164 softball team. In addition to going to games throughout the NY/NJ area, I travelled with him to tournaments in Chicago and Indianapolis. He was a pretty good pitcher and played the game hard. I remember him coming home with bloody, broken fingernails, bruises, and even the imprint of the softball’s stitches in his skin.

Brooklyn Dodgers LogoApparently, his skill and love for the game was hereditary. His father was good enough that  he was drafted by the Dodgers in the 1940s, when they still played in Brooklyn. Players made so little back then, however, that his dad encouraged him to get a “real” job instead so he became a union electrician instead, and thus missed an opportunity to possibly play with the likes of Jackie Robinson and Duke Snider.

But the baseball genes go even further back. A few months ago while looking up my family on Ancestry.com, I found the following listings (among others) for my great-great-grandfather in the city directories for Pottsville, PA and Jersey City, NJ in the 1880s & 1890s: Continue reading My Family’s Baseball Legacy

The Civil War Record of Sam Caton

Yesterday, I found my great-great-great-grandfather (Andrew Mason “Sam” Caton) in the 1907 Alabama Census of Confederate Soldiers. While I had previously found evidence of a 1st cousin 6x removed that was killed at the Battle of Murfreesboro and a great-great-great-grand uncle who died at the Battle of Chickamauga (both while fighting for the Confederacy), this was the first time I’d found a direct ancestor who served in the military during the Civil War. Continue reading The Civil War Record of Sam Caton

A Profile in Strength & Courage

A few weeks ago, my mom wrote on Facebook,

Thinking of my grandmother lately and realizing that she set some pretty good examples for me when I was young. I find myself … praying that I can live with the dignity and strength that she exemplified.

My great-grandmother died 4 years before I was born so I had no personal knowledge of the dignity and strength that my mom remembers, but my time researching my family’s history had enlightened me to a certain extent. Then earlier this week, I met up with some of my mom’s cousins from her father’s side of the family, who had also started researching that branch of the family tree. As we shared our (mostly their) information, stories, and findings, I thought back to what my mom had posted and realized again how strong of a woman my great-grandmother must have been.

A picture of my great-grandparents and 5 of their 9 children taken c. 1921.

Continue reading A Profile in Strength & Courage

A Father’s Prayer

This prayer was written by General Douglas MacArthur. I first came across it while reading MacArthur: America’s General by Mitchell Yockelson. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.

Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishes will not take the place of deeds: a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge.

Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm: here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, and the meekness of true strength.

Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, “I have not lived in vain.”

My Son, the Con Man

My 2.5-year-old son is a con man. Seriously.

This morning he had donuts and juice for breakfast. He then opened the fridge, found a sleeve of fun-size Kit-Kats and used his puppy-dog eyes and pathetic voice to get one of those. A few minutes later this conversation took place:

Elijah: “Daddy, I’m already hungry.”
Daddy: “You’re hungry already?”
Elijah: “Me too! Let’s have cookies!”

This time his charm didn’t work, which caused a small temper tantrum until he realized that wouldn’t work either.

A few minutes later he was laying on the floor playing with some toys and decided he wanted his mommy. When commanding her to come didn’t work, he pulled out his favorite trick: pretending he wants a hug. Continue reading My Son, the Con Man

Why Santa Won’t Be Coming to My House

I have a 2-1/2 year old son, who in the 3rd advent season of his life is finally starting to appreciate the wonder and excitement of Christmas. His little face lit up when we put up our tree, and when the lights were plugged in, he declared, “Wow! That’s beautiful!” We have a nativity set that uses tealight candles, and he asks us to light them and then wants to try and blow them out. He thinks every package that UPS drops off at our house is a Christmas present for him just because I told him that one was. He points and yells, “Christmas!” at everything remotely Christmasy in any store we go to. He asks to watch Christmas videos. He just loves everything Christmas.

My wife and I might be even more excited than he is for Christmas morning to come. He loved getting presents last year when he didn’t really comprehend what was going on so we can’t wait to see his reaction when all his anticipation for Christmas is finally fulfilled. But one thing that won’t be part of our Christmas Eve and Christmas morning experience is Santa Claus. There won’t be cookies left out for him before going to sleep on December 24th. We won’t be writing, “From Santa” on any of the gifts. His name probably won’t even be mentioned.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with Santa. We watch movies with Santa in them, we’ve given our son Santa coloring books, and we won’t be teaching him that Santa is evil. But we won’t be letting him think Santa brings his gifts either. Once he’s a little older, we’ll teach him the real story of Santa and why we should celebrate the historical St. Nicholas (although that’s already started to some extent since he absolutely loves the VeggieTales St. Nicholas movie), but for now we’ll just let Santa be the cartoonish fictional character he naturally assumes he is.

I know not everyone will agree with us. I’m sure there are some who probably think we’re wrong for allowing any vestige of Santa in our home. Others probably think we’re being too strict and depriving our son of his childhood by robbing him of a belief in Santa. I guess it’s more for that second objection that I want to explain why we will tell our son that his Christmas presents are from us (via a store) and not from Santa (via elves at the North Pole): Continue reading Why Santa Won’t Be Coming to My House

Divorce & Remarriage According to Jesus

They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (Matthew 19:7)

a letter of divorce dating back to the 1st century AD (source: 1000 Bible Images, German Bible Society)
a letter of divorce dating back to the 1st century AD
(source: 1000 Bible Images, German Bible Society)

Jesus had been confronted with the question of divorce. The Pharisees, trying to trick Jesus into painting himself into a corner on a controversial issue, asked if a man could divorce his wife for any reason. Jesus responded by pointing them back to Genesis where the man and woman became one flesh, says they were made so by God, and declares that no man should separate what God has joined together.

The Pharisees think they have Jesus trapped. Jesus declared in verse 6 that man should not separate what God has joined together, but the Law clearly allowed for the possibility of divorce. They think their knowledge of the Law was finally superior to Jesus’. In the succeeding verses, we see how Jesus responds to this follow-up question, but for now we’ll look at the passage from Deuteronomy that the Pharisees were referring to: Continue reading Divorce & Remarriage According to Jesus

Things I’ll Miss about New Jersey, Part 3: My Dad

For as long as I can remember I have idolized my dad. My mom would bring us to church when we were kids, but I never wanted to be there because dad wasn’t. I would rather have been home, doing yard work and watching sports with him. When I finally became receptive to the gospel and eventually came to faith, it was only because my dad had started going to church and was headed down the same path. If church was something my dad was doing, then I was going to give it chance.

I’m still not sure how, but my dad somehow managed to work crazy long hours in order to earn enough money to provide us with all the advantages he didn’t have as a kid growing up in a large family, yet still have time to spend with us and make us feel loved. I remember my dad leaving for work early and coming home late, but he was never an absentee father. I’m sure that he sacrificed sleep and time for himself to make sure that he didn’t sacrifice time with us. All of my best memories as a kid revolve around my dad: playing football in the front yard, vacations in New Hampshire and Ocean City, MD, opening copious amounts of presents on Christmas without ever even having to make a Christmas list because dad always managed to pick out exactly what we wanted.

playing football with my dad and sister

Continue reading Things I’ll Miss about New Jersey, Part 3: My Dad

Daddy, happy

One of the words my son has picked up recently is “happy.” He learned it from Veggie Tales. Not just the word either; he has learned the concept of happiness. In one of the Veggie Tales videos, one character asks another, “What makes you happy?” My son turned to my wife and said, “Juice happy.” My kid loves his juice … to the point that he identifies it as something that makes him happy.

taking a walkThe other day he and I went on a walk (or to be more accurate, he made a run for it getting out of the car after church, and I followed). After walking for 10 or 15 minutes, he turned to me and said, “Daddy, happy.” I asked, “Taking a walk makes you happy?” and he said, “Yeah.” The next day we went for another walk (this one was planned) so I asked him, “Are you happy?” and he said, “Happy of course.”

Besides being really tender moments for a father and son to share, these moments comfort my heart a little when I think about moving him half a country away from the life he knows. I worry sometimes about removing him from his grandparents, the church he knows, the people and environment he’s comfortable with. It’s good to know that he finds happiness in simple things like taking a walk and spending time with his daddy, things that won’t change just because we’re moving.

Things I’ll Miss about New Jersey, Part 1: Giants Games

In The Emotionally Healthy Church, Peter Scazzero makes the point that we often do not properly grieve the losses in our lives, and this hinders our ability to effectively minister to others. I’m excited about moving to Baton Rouge, and I’m confident that it’s what I need to do. However, I also understand that in doing so, I’m leaving behind almost 30 years of history, and that I need to recognize the drastic change this will cause in my life so it doesn’t become emotional baggage later on. So I’ll occasionally be writing about the things about life in New Jersey that I’m sad about losing, with the first installment being Giants games.

with my mom and my siblings at the first regular season game at Met-Life Stadium

My family has had season tickets to the New York Giants for decades. My dad took me to my first game when I was four, and over the past quarter century, the only year I didn’t attend a game is the year I spent as a missionary intern in Russia. Giants Stadium was a home away from home for my siblings and me in our childhood. Fall afternoons were spent tailgating in the parking lot with our extended family and strangers who became something like family just from always tailgating in the same area (like the guy who gave us Devil Dogs before each and every game). Giants games were always the one thing that brought our family together–the one thing we all had in common. Continue reading Things I’ll Miss about New Jersey, Part 1: Giants Games