Tuesday, February 25, 2020

I Have a Child I've Never Met Who Has Been in Heaven For 30 Years

This year marks 30 years since I lost my first child.

I was three years into a marriage at the age of 25. I recall being very excited about the three-month ultrasound appointment. On the screen, I could see the very tiny baby. However, the doctor would say words that no new parent wants to hear: "I'm sorry, I don't hear a heartbeat." I was in shock. Literally, within minutes, my emotions went from extremely excited to see an ultrasound of my first child, to absolute heartbreak upon learning that the tiny baby shown on the screen was no longer alive.

Miscarriage is defined as the spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before the 20th week. About 10 to 20 percent of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. However, the actual number is likely higher because many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn't realize she's pregnant.

When the miscarriage occurred, I was completing my Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion. I remember praying to God for strength and understanding. It was a very emotional time in life and one that I will never forget. We see throughout the Bible God’s care and grace for infants and children. This extends to the unborn, who are created in the image of God. As a Christian, I hold strongly to the belief that one day I will meet my first child in heaven. Until that time, I rest on Ecclesiastes 11:5 -- "Just as you do not know how the life breath enters the human frame in the mother’s womb, so you do not know the work of God, who is working in everything."

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, February 24, 2020

Real Men... Brave Men... Don't Cry -- A Lie That Many Young Boys Hear

Have you heard of the term hypermasculinization? It’s a term that describes an extreme gender role that has developed in society that makes men feel that they need to be extremely strong, show no emotion, and only do things considered masculine. This has created a culture of men that fear emotions, bottle them up, and have no healthy outlet for the negative feelings generated by trauma, sadness, and loss. There are also non-masculine men, effeminate men, and emasculated men.

A female author of five books on marriage, feminism and gender politics expressed on FOX News: "Most women do want a man who’s kind, but that’s not the same as nice. Ask any guy you know, and he’ll likely give you example after example of women they know who said they wanted a nice guy but in reality wanted a bad boy. That’s because just as most men are attracted to femininity, or softness, most women are attracted to masculinity. And masculinity is hard. Gruff. Take charge."

Also, a FOX Nation female host branded young men 'pansies' and claimed that "growing a beard and wearing a flannel shirt doesn't make you a man if you still can't change a lightbulb," before wrapping things up by lamenting that all of these 'helpless' young men prove that there are "slim pickings for women". She went on to say, "This has nothing to do with sexuality. It has more to do with the helplessness of today's young men. Who's to blame? Are we getting too strong? I don't buy that because a real man knows how to handle a strong woman. Please teach your sons how to be men, because the women of the world are tired."

One man posted an article in agreement, stating: "Men, as a whole, have gotten soft. The technical skills and staunch can-do attitudes that characterized the manly generations of our past have largely been snuffed out – cast aside as society progressed and gender lines became increasingly blurred. Masculinity, to all intents and purposes, has lost its edge."

Sadly, he may not be wrong. A recent survey found that the majority of today's men cannot change a tire (59 percent), or wire a plug (51 percent), and only 20 percent can fix a dripping faucet. Only 42 percent know how to check their vehicle's oil level and just under 50 percent of men say they would be able to get a spider out of their house. Putting up a shelf properly is something that just 37 percent of men say that they could do, and only 29 percent say they own a fully stocked tool box.

One male Millennial author put it this way: "Over and over again, men have been chastised by women for not being ‘in touch with our emotions’ or unable to ‘open up’ in relationships. But the first generation to take the emotional plunge is now forced to endure endless whining from women who complain that we’re not the strong archetypes of masculinity they still seem to think they’re entitled to."

This is definitely a debate of the Millennial generation.

I've always tried to be as balanced as possible in being able to express my emotions while at the same time being masculine. It is indeed a tightrope act and I've fallen off plenty of times. Sure, I can change a tire; wire a plug; fix a dripping faucet; check the oil level in my truck; mount a shelf properly; and, have a stocked tool box. And yes, I can be a spider slayer. However, I can also express my heart for someone, and that has not always served me well in life. I'm of Generation X and feel that my upbringing in the 70's and 80's was at a time when men could be masculine but also express their heart. Can masculinity and vulnerability exist side by side? That's a question I believe generations will continue to debate.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Friday, February 21, 2020

I Am 20,031 Days Into My Spiritual Journey... And Counting.

Recently, I've posted a couple of writings about becoming Catholic and my ongoing journey into the Catholic Church. In response, one Catholic expressed to me "Your spiritual journey is just beginning." I actually heard something similar from a co-worker last autumn when I began formal RCIA Catholic studies through a weekly class. This got me thinking and I would have to disagree that my spiritual journey is "just beginning" -- even in the Catholic faith. You see, I've been attending the Catholic Church since 2015, and my wife is Catholic. Even my journey into the Catholic Church isn't "just beginning." What really caught my attention was the use of the words "spiritual journey." God brought me into his earthly creation 20,031 days ago -- nearly 55 years ago -- and I feel that I've been on my "spiritual journey" all of that time. Today, I'd like to share with you pertinent points of that journey.

1965: I was born into a Christian home, with a Baptist mother and a Catholic father.

1971 (age 6): I started attending Sunday school at church.

1973 (age 8): I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord during Sunday school at church.

1977 (age 12): I was baptized into the Baptist church.

1979 (age 14): I was awarded a certificate for completing Bible coursework through the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

1984 (age 19): I began involvement in Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Montana, assisting in worship leading by playing guitar.

1985 (age 20): I became an advocate and spokesperson for World Vision International, a global Christian humanitarian organization.

1986 (age 21): I completed reading the entire Bible for the first time.

1988 (age 23): I began attending a non-denominational church. Also, I became paralyzed following a mysterious illness and God answered my prayer to be healed.

1989 (age 24): I completed my senior thesis on eschatology -- the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

1990 (age 25): I received my Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion.

1990 (age 25): I declined an opportunity to become a youth pastor at a Baptist church in North Carolina to be a fifth grade teacher and high school track coach at a Montana christian school.

1991 (age 26): I wrote a devotional book aimed at Christian athletes.

1992 (age 27): I began teaching a junior high Sunday school class.

1993 (age 28): I joined the worship team at my church as a guitar player, which I would then do for several years.

2003 (age 38): I endured a lengthy candidacy process to become the Director of Spiritual Life at Dalat International School in Tanjung Bungah, Malaysia. After being selected for the position, I forewent relocating to Malaysia due to a sudden cancer diagnosis of a close relative in the U.S.

2006-2011 (age 41-46): By God's strength and guidance, I ran solo across states and countries promoting youth health and fitness, sharing my Christian faith as opportunities allowed and speaking at countless schools.

2012 (age 47): I met regularly with a pastor to help spiritually guide me through a difficult divorce.

2015 (age 50): I began attending a Catholic church.

2016 (age 51): I completed protocol training through the Catholic church and began volunteering at church-related activities. I became engaged to Kelley.

2018-2019 (age 53-54): Following a 30-month process, I received a Declaration of Invalidity from the Catholic diocese. Kelley and I attended a Pre-Cana seminar in preparation for marriage, as well as pre-marital sessions with a priest -- ultimately exchanging wedding vows in the Catholic church. We then continued to volunteer at church activities as husband and wife.

2019-2020 (age 54-55): Started in September 2019 and concluding in April 2020, I attend a weekly Catholic class known as Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults where I am learning the teachings of the Catholic church in a more formal way. Currently, I am seven weeks away from entering the Catholic Church through a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist.

Those have been the highlights of my "spiritual journey" for the past 20,031 days. As you can see, there have been significant moments along that journey. So, my spiritual journey is not just beginning. In fact, it has been underway for nearly 55 years. Nobody truly knows the depth of a person's spiritual journey except for the person actually on that journey. For me, it has been one that has drawn me closer to God through both good and bad times. Like all journeys, there are peaks and valleys... at times the path is smooth and easy, and at other times it seems filled with rocks and potholes. God has always been by my side regardless of the path I'm on and I give Him honor and praise for each step.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Thursday, February 20, 2020

If You See Solar Panels on Amish Buggies, I May Have Started That!

When I was running solo across America in 2006, I had a solar panel on my jogging stroller to charge my electronics (the stroller carried my clothes, food and gear). While running through northern Iowa, I was stopped by an Amish gentleman who was on the side of the road with his horse and buggy.

He asked some of the usual questions... such as where I started the run, how far I run each day, and where I stay in the evenings. Then, he began to closely inspect the stroller. He asked me what the odd object was that was draped over the top of it, and I explained that it was a solar panel which allowed me to charge my phone, GPS, and other electronics using the sun's power -- essentially converting sunlight into energy. He was quite amazed by it and then asked me a surprising question -- "Do you think I could get one of those for my buggy?" I was quite puzzled as to why he would ask me that.

There are many restrictions on technology that are more or less universal among the Old Order Amish, such as the ban on cars as well as the ban on radio, television and in most cases the use of the internet. Telephones, especially in the home, have been banned by most Amish communities for over 100 years. Reasons for the ban likely include the fact that telephones represent a direct line to the world, offer too much convenience, and promote gossip. However, many Amish now use cellular phones for pleasure as well as business.

What surprised me by the Amish gentleman's request was the fact that he asked me about installing a solar panel on his buggy in the year 2006 -- when cell phones had not yet proliferated throughout America to the degree of today. Of course, I wasn't exactly sure what he planned to charge using a solar panel, but if he was thinking that he could possibly charge the lights on his buggy then it would be a rather practical use -- assuming that they were powered by a rechargeable battery.

The Amish gentleman took some rough measurements and wrote down the name of the manufacturer of the solar panel I was using. He told me that he thought he could secure it to the top of his buggy. We parted ways and as I ran down the road I thought that perhaps one day I'd see Amish buggies rolling down the road with solar panels on top. I must admit, I haven't seen that yet... but I keep my eyes out for it!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

John F. Kennedy Remains The Only Catholic U.S. President in History

We all knew it was coming. It's already happening. In fact, it's all around us. Yes, I'm talking about the media advertisements and news coverage of the race to become President of the United States. That race will go on for another eight months. You likely know the names of the notable race participants: Warren, Gabbard, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Biden, Steyer, Bloomberg, Weld, and Trump. Don't worry... I'm sticking to my stance on this blog of not including political writings. I just wanted to share a brief thought with you about faith.

It is estimated that 70 million of the 321 million residents of the United States are Catholic, and although Roman Catholicism has long been the nation’s largest religious denomination, John F. Kennedy remains the only Catholic U.S. President to date. Could that change with the next election? Possibly. Former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden has always identified with his Roman Catholic faith and has shared openly about how it has helped him get through difficult periods in his life. In 2017, he told NPR’s Terry Gross: "I find great solace in my faith, I happen to be a Roman Catholic, a practicing Catholic … I found that, for me, the externalities of my faith bring me a sense of peace." Please don't interpret my sharing that to indicate that I may vote for Joe Biden in the next election -- because my political votes are kept close to my vest. My noting Biden's quote is simply to share the thoughts and position of one Catholic candidate with respect to faith and running for the office of U.S. President.

There's no doubt that faith plays a large role in the lives of millions of Americans, and religious values drive the voting choices of many of them. However, almost 40 percent of Millennials (ages 24 to 39 -- a large voting demographic) will tell you that they're not religiously affiliated. The next election is shaping up to have the fewest amount of religiously-affiliated voters.

Faith and religion will always be a constant in political debate. Whomever will become the next U.S. President, I will continue to lean on my faith daily and trust in God's divine plan for His creation.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Becoming Catholic -- The Journey Continues...

As many of you may know from a blog post I made in October 2019, for the past five months I have been in the process of becoming Catholic after having become a Baptist in May 1977 at age twelve. In September 2019, I started the process of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It is a weekly class that I attend through the Catholic Church where I learn the teachings of the church in a more formal way, can ask questions to gain deeper understanding, and discern that I am ready to commit to living according to the Catholic Church's beliefs. Now, I am only seven weeks away from entering the Catholic Church through a profession of faith and reception of Confirmation and the Eucharist. Yes, I am excited, blessed and thankful.

I will not be baptized in the Catholic church since I was already baptized in the Baptist church at 12 years of age. One baptism is all that is needed.

My wife has been a Catholic all of her life (a "cradle Catholic") and we were married in the Catholic Church. Some have asked if I'm becoming Catholic only because my wife is Catholic. I can honestly answer no to that. I would never profess a certain faith simply because someone else does, even my spouse. Kelley married a Baptist man and accepted me for the man I am -- including being Baptist. I certainly did not have to convert to Catholicism. It is a choice... a deep, personal, spiritual choice that I have pondered for a rather long time.

I must say, after experiencing such a wonderful courtship with Kelley; a very blessed two years of engagement; exchanging marriage vows that filled our eyes with tears of joy; and, living our lives side by side as husband and wife... I often think that I could not possibly feel closer to Kelley. Yet, I know that when I become Catholic in April we will enter into an even closer bond because we will truly share the same religious conviction and practice, making our marriage partnership even more complete.

I have been blessed beyond measure during the past 5 months of the RCIA process and have learned an abundant amount about the Catholic Church that I never knew and/or understood before. It has been enlightening, inspiring and uplifting. The upcoming Easter season will definitely be one that will impact my life in a positive and profound way. I am so grateful to all who have been supportive and encouraging to me as I've made this journey.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, February 17, 2020

Three Thoughts About People -- Little Earlier... Little Later... Never at All.

Find a bench... have a seat... and think about this. Based on various data and statistics, it is said that the average person may well meet upwards of 10,000 people in a lifetime. Scientific research tells us that the average person can recognize 5,000 faces and anthropologists tell us that human brains have a limit on how many meaningful relationships they can keep track of. Those limits are defined as 5 intimate bonds; 15 close friends; 50 friends; and, 150 casual friends.

I believe that if we were to be honest with ourselves, most of us could come up with three names of people we've encountered on life's path -- (1) those we wish we could have met a little earlier in life, (2) those we wish would have crossed our paths later in life, and (3) those we wish that had never come into our lives at all. I'm about 6 weeks away from my 55th birthday and as I look back on those decades of life I can certainly think of at least one person for each of those three categories.

No, I'm not going to write a name for each of the three categories. Actually, I have a strong feeling that the people I am thinking of would personally know which category they fall into.

We meet so many different people in our lifetime, but not all of us have the same type of encounters. For instance, there are people who end up in relationships that are abusive. Some experience physical abuse, while others experience emotional or verbal abuse... and still others who experience all forms of abuse. We meet and get to know people who are workaholics, alcoholics, foodaholics, and other types of "holics." We meet people who are inspirational, encouraging, enthusiastic, and role models. We also meet people who are lazy, self absorbed, demanding, and argumentative. We meet dedicated employees, upright people of faith, and honest souls -- and we meet the opposite of those.

No matter your age or status in life, think about the types of people you've met on life's journey so far. There is likely one person that you wish you could have met a little earlier, and one person that you wish would have come along later in life. And yes, there most likely is at least one person that you wish had never come into your life at all -- saving you from intense heartache and suffering, and not the type that necessarily leads to a positive revelation of 'self' or a better place in life. Sometimes, we have people come into our lives that cause more harm than good, more destruction than construction, and more pain than gain.

Regardless, we can rest assured in this: "And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). The promise there is that God can and will work all things together for our good, and the good is that He will work all things together to make us more like Jesus Christ. So in every relationship, every interaction with another person, whether we see it as good or bad, positive or negative, healthy or unhealthy... in every one God is with us and He is for us, and He will use it for our good, for our spiritual growth, and to make us more like Jesus Christ. "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope" (Jeremiah 29:11).

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso

Monday, February 3, 2020

The Costs Were Quite High For The 2020 Super Bowl

I was born in 1965. The Super Bowl was born in 1967. Yesterday, a team that hasn't won the Super Bowl since I was five years of age finally earned its second Super Bowl title. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the San Francisco 49ers during the 54th playing of the Super Bowl. My family and I watched every minute and our team was victorious! During the pre-game show, I was looking through some of the costs related to the Super Bowl. It's a very expensive event!

The price of tickets to the 54th Super Bowl varied, depending on the size of the group and seat selection. According to StubHub's analysis of ticket sales, the cheapest seats (on the top level) sold through the NFL Ticket Exchange were $4,750. If you were looking to splurge, all-inclusive ticket packages for two in the 72 Club living room section (private box seating located on the 35-yard line) were selling for $60,000. The experience included post-game field access, as well as an athlete and celebrity meet-and-greet opportunity. Premium pre-game food and beverage service was also included.

The cost for a 30-second commercial to be broadcast during the Super Bowl was $5.6 Million -- and that cost has doubled in the last 10 years.

Concessions weren't cheap either. A 12 ounce bottle of water was $5 and a glass of wine was $13. A half-pound cheeseburger was $16, while a 16-ounce Bud Light was $14. If you wanted a snack item, those weren't inexpensive either. A pretzel went for $9 and if you wanted some cheese for it you had to pay an extra $3.

Of course, there is the cost of airline tickets, lodging and transportation. A non-fancy 2-star hotel in Miami averaged $275 per night during Super Bowl weekend. If you want to jump up one star, you would have paid $475 per night. Four-star hotels averaged $880 per night. And for those who opted to drive their car to park near the stadium, single parking spaces were going for over $200.

Prior to the big game, the media reported that each of the players on the winning team would receive $124,000 in prize money, while the losing team members would receive $62,000. Of course, that is on top of their already high salaries. Money.com has reported that officials earn a bonus for working the Super Bowl -- over $11,000 each. The officials for this year's Super Bowl had between 13 to 24 years of experience.

The cost of producing the Super Bowl halftime show is estimated to be around $10 million.

The Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, has a capacity of 65,000 -- and this year's Super Bowl was nearly sold out with around 62,000 in attendance. When you consider the average ticket price was $7,000 (and there were certainly those with complimentary tickets), that means that the total amount in ticket sales was somewhere north of $400 million.

Back in 1967, the cost of getting into the first Super Bowl was $10 per ticket. Times have certainly changed!

Congratulations to the 2020 Super Bowl Champs -- the Kansas City Chiefs!

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso