Wherever I am, God Is.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of photographing a wedding with two very special people. After spending part of the morning photographing the bride with the hair stylist and makeup artist, it was time to turn to the groom.

I met him downstairs, and he walked toward me with a big smile on his face. I asked him how he was doing.

“I woke up really nervous, but then my dad stopped by. We talked and prayed together, and I I felt so much better.”

This made me smile. Not only was this 24-year-old making God and prayer an important part of this special day, he was proud enough to talk about it with his photographer!

His faithful integrity helped define who he wanted to be on this special day.

It inspired me to ask some questions:

  • When I’m having an anxious moment, do I spend time worrying, or do I immediately turn to God?
  • When I do have special moments in my life, am I preoccupied with all the activities and forget to “bring” God along with me?
  • Am I proud enough to discuss my faith with others in my life, even a complete stranger?

Living a life of Integrity means putting God in clear view for every aspect of my day.

There is a simple prayer I learned years ago. It’s something I say in both moments of anxiety and happiness:

The light of God surrounds me.

The love of God enfolds me.

The power of God protects me.

The presence of God watches over me.

Wherever I am, God is.


Dan Herda is a member of St. Dominic Marketing Committee, and an editor for theROCK.


The White Toyota

Several weeks ago I was driving on Interstate 94 toward downtown Milwaukee. It was a dark, gloomy day, and the roads were a bit slick from a slight mist in the air.

Traffic was stop-and-go for a while, then suddenly we picked up and were driving at freeway speed.

Then…just like that…things came to a grinding halt. The car in front of me stopped, and I gently pressed my brakes and stopped a few feet behind him.

That’s when I heard the tires squeal and felt the impact of the car behind me. I quickly looked in my rearview mirror to see a white Toyota kissing my bumper.

Because we were on the freeway, we both quickly drove our cars to an offramp and pulled off to the side of the road.

Immediately, the driver from the white Toyota got out of her car and approached me. I didn’t know what to expect, so I started with something simple: “Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” she answered in a frustrated tone. “That was completely my fault. I’m late for a meeting, and I was looking at my phone, and I just didn’t stop in time.”

I was speechless. I didn’t expect her to be this honest. We quickly exchanged names and insurance information and waited for the police.

When the officer arrived, he questioned us separately. What would she tell him? Would she keep the same story? Would things have changed in the few minutes we sat on the side of the road?

When the officer approached me, he looked over my license and insurance, and said one simple thing:

“She told me it was all her fault.”

After we sorted through all of the details of the accident, I asked the woman why she said what she said. “Most people would have just kept their mouths shut to see what they could get away with.”

She just smiled. “But I did it. I was wrong. I made a mistake and I wanted to own up to it. No matter what it may cost me.”

Then I smiled. “That’s integrity,” I said. “I admire that.”

Since that moment, I think about the driver of the white Toyota every time I have to make an important decision or share information, especially when it comes to living a life of faith. Is what I’m doing reflecting my integrity? No matter the cost?


Do things right.

And do the right thing.


Our World Changed Forever

For those of you who are parents, think back to the time when you had your first child.

What was that first week like?

You had to learn everything: how to hold your child, how to feed your child, how to soothe your child to sleep. Everything was a first for you and your new baby.

Now imagine everything that you went through, and add a few challenges.

  • You have to leave your home while pregnant, and head to a town 65 miles away to register for a census.
  • You must travel through the Judean desert during the winter, when it’s in the 30’s and raining. At night, it’s freezing.
  • The total trip will take four to five days. (And no, you can’t take the SUV. Lots of walking and donkey riding ahead.)
  • Your child is born in a carved-out cave or a stable for animals.
  • Oh, and throw in that an Angel appears to you in a dream and tells you to flee to Egypt in order to protect the life of your newborn son. Who just so happens to be the Son of God.

Even in our wildest imagination, we can’t fathom what the Holy Family endured over 2000 years ago. We know it was hard. And we know that they sacrificed a lot to bring Jesus into the world.

Because of the actions of these two people, Mary and Joseph, our world changed forever.

Think about that next time you have to change a diaper or two.

Take some time this week and say a prayer for families everywhere. Pray for peace in living rooms, neighborhoods, and cities in which they live.

A Message of Hope

Over the past year, I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering at the Riverwest Food Pantry. I greet the individuals and families who enter the building and select their food for the week or month. It’s been a life-changing experience as I’ve gotten to know a lot of the people who utilize the pantry on a regular basis.

Last weekend the pantry held their annual Christmas Gift Giving celebration. Partnering with a local church, the entire pantry was converted into “a store” filled with donated toys, books and clothing for kids.

Parents sign up to “shop,” then they choose and wrap gifts for their children.

It is a very special event for these parents, as many of these families cannot afford a lot for Christmas.

Parents pre-registered and were invited to sit in the pews at the beautiful St. Casimir church. Here they waited for their designated shopping time to be called.

I was fortunate to be the person who greets the parents at the front door.

The first person in line was Annette, a woman I have talked to many times at the pantry. She told me how in year’s past, she’s had to wait hours to shop at this event, and was always concerned that there wouldn’t be enough gifts left for her to choose from.

“I guarantee you,” I said. “You will be one of the first people to shop downstairs. You will have your choice of items to pick from.”

The church quickly began to fill with people—we had enough gifts for over 400 children! Then the announcement came for the first group to head down the stairs to shop.

Annette was the first in line. As she approached me, her face beamed with happiness. Her smile was infectious. She didn’t say a single word, she simply walked up to me, extended her arms, and gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever received. I whispered two words in her ear: “Merry Christmas.”

But then something magical happened. The next person in line also extended their arms and gave me a hug. And the next person. And the next. Everyone in line extended their arms and gave me a hearty embrace.

The group that filed down the stairs to shop believed that they were the ones receiving a gift. But what they didn’t know was that I was the one who felt truly blessed that day.

The love we shared with these simple hugs reinforced that there is hope in the world. It reinforced that yes, we can influence people with a simple smile and a lot of compassion. It showed me that we have the ability to make a difference with both our words and our actions.

Are you ready for the birth of Christ? Are you ready to transform someone’s life in 2018?

Are you ready to share a message of Hope to everyone that you meet in the new year?

Merry Christmas.


Dan Herda is member of St. Dominic’s Marketing Committee and an editor of theROCK.

Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chairs

A few years ago some friends of mine had a baby. They recently moved to a new home several hundred miles from my house, so it wasn’t easy for me to visit them. So instead, I sent them a gift: Sweet Surroundings Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chair. (Yes, it was a bouncy chair shaped like a monkey.)

I wanted this gift to be unique, something special, something that would let them know that I was so very happy for them.

I placed my order, selected my delivery method, and off it went. And then I waited.

And I waited. No call. No email. No text. No thank you note. Nothing.

I wondered if they received the gift. Could there have been a problem with shipping? Maybe it was sent to the wrong address?

A few weeks passed, and I started to get concerned, as I still had not heard from my friends. That evening, I went onto Facebook and I stumbled upon some newly posted family photos. The baby was adorable, and Mom and Dad were beaming with pride. But then I looked closer at one of the shots in the living room. There, in the back of the room, against the wall, was my Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chair.

They simply forgot to say “thanks for the gift.”

This experience made me think. How many gifts has God given me in my life? Hundreds? Thousands? Tens of thousands? Have I always remembered to say thank you? Have I always been grateful for everything that God has given me?

This month, theROCK is focused on Being Ready. A big part of being ready is always being ready to say thank you.

There is nothing better in life than sincere gratitude.

God has given me lots of Monkey Deluxe Bouncy Chairs in my life. I think it’s time that I sit down and write him some serious thank you notes.


Dan Herda is a member of St. Dominic Catholic Parish Marketing Committee, and one of the editors of theROCK.