Monday, December 26, 2011

Busy Hands


I love my Book Club.  I think everyone needs a book club. 

Our activity for December was a celebration- we watched the long version of Pride and Prejudice (the only way to go if you are watching a film version of P & P) and we all worked on various projects- wrapping, Christmas card making, finishing gifts, etc.  It was such a nice way to spend an evening.

We tend to keep busy during book club- with us it is ok to crochet a scarf while discussing plot line, or to craft some personalized magnets while talking about character development.  Our hands are at work while we are talking and enjoying each others' company, much like would have been true for the women of our past.  Why doesn't everyone do this anymore?  I suppose that part of the reason is that our work has changed.  Typing on a laptop is not as conducive to conversation as mending a hem. 

My friend Betsy reflected on our busy hands towards the end of this post.  I appreciated her ideas about handiwork, face to face communication, and how we can bring back a bit of the personal touches that our world has seem to lost.

I, for one, am all for bring back sewing circles, quilting bees, canning parties (or the modern version thereof).  Let's make our work a celebration of life and friendship and family.  Let's cherish the people surrounding us and invest ourselves in them more.  Let's make sure that even when our hands are busy that we are focused not on the object of our work but the recipient of the work.  Busy hands, and full hearts.

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters." ~Colossians 3:23

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #5


Last night, I was coerced into sleeping at my parents' house, even though I hadn't packed for an overnight stay.  Because I had to lector at Christmas morning Mass at my church, this morning found me waking up way too early and driving home.  It was still dark as I made the trip, with just a tinge of light on the horizon.

Knowing that the rest of the day would be crazy, I took those quiet moments to steal a little bit of prayer.  The dark of early day made me think about Bethlehem 2000 years ago.  Christ had been born, and I wonder how long St. Joseph and Mary got to share in the quiet moments of being a Family of three.  I imagine it wasn't long before the innkeeper came around to check on the couple he hastily found a place for during the night, or maybe the stableboy came to care for the animals at the break of day.  We know of course that the Holy Family was later visited by shepherds and magi. But what was it like for the Blessed Mother and her husband, gathered around the manger, adoring their God come to earth during that Bethlehem dawn?

At Mass, my pastor Fr. Tom reflected on why the Messiah would come as a helpless baby.  Instead of citing Old Testament prophecies, or quoting the intelligence of Church fathers, he kept it very simple.  He said that babies love and are meant to be loved.  Our Christ was no different.  He came as an infant so that the very first impression we would have of Emmanuel would be that of a helpless babe, who desires our love and doesn't judge.

So, I imagine that as the sun rose over that new baby, his mom and foster dad we looking in awe, and adoration, at Love.  Pure Love.  Light came into the stable, and into their hearts, and the same can happen for all of mankind.

Merry Christmas!

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." ~John 1:1-5

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #4



1. A Song
Favorite Christmas Song Ever.


2. A Verse
“Brothers and sisters: To him who can strengthen you, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret for long ages but now manifested through the prophetic writings and, according to the command of the eternal God, made known to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith, to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ be glory forever and ever. Amen.” ~Romans 16:25-27

3. A Quote
“Let us follow the star of inspiration and divine attraction which calls us to the crib, and let us go thither to adore and love the Child Jesus and offer ourselves to Him.” ~St. Jane Frances de Chantal


4. An Image
Is it ok if I admit that I am dreaming of a White Christmas?

5. A Blessing
My Family.  It rocks.  And it is getting better, like a good wine does with age… or maybe more like a random collection of strange knick-knacks that is multiplying in a little old lady’s curio cabinet.  But, more on later…

6. An Intention
I’ll be praying for those whose lives do not slow down for the holidays- those who work in travel, retail, health care, etc., as well as our priests and pastors who work so hard to help provide beautiful, prayerful times of worship to celebrate Christ’s birth.

7. A Challenge
To not lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas during this last week of Advent.  I will not get irritable.  I will not be impatient.  I will not slack on prayer.  I will be kind, generous, and joyful.  And I will pray now that my effort is blessed, because I am going to need all the help that I can get. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review: The World’s First Love



I finally did it. After a couple of tries in the past four years, I finally finished The World’s First Love: Mary, the Mother of God.  I enjoyed reading Fulton Sheen, and I learned a lot, not only about Mary, but about the Bible, the role of the Church, and the changes in the “modern” world taking place in 1952 when the book was originally published (which apply quite accurately to 2011, too).

There was also some great info on St. Joseph, the complementary roles of men and women, and faith in relation to modern wars, politics, and technology.  I could ramble more about the highlights, but I think that you should just read it yourself.  Catholic or Protestant, I highly recommend it.  The book really centers around Christ (because let’s be honest, you can’t learn anything about Mary without learning about Him).  Her only job is to lead us into a deeper relationship with her Son.  If He is the sun, pouring out power and light on the universe, she is the moon, not creating any light of her own, but reflecting His light into a dark world.  Don’t we all desire to reflect His light in the world, to be radiant in His eyes?  I am grateful to have Mary as a model.

"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.' " ~Luke 1:46-49

“The more a woman is holy, the more she becomes a woman.” ~Leon Bloy

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #3


1. A Song
Make Us Ready by Harvest Bashta.  Found her courtesy of Noise Trade.  Thankyouverymuch.


2. A Verse
Sorry, it’s actually more than a verse…I kept trying to pick one line that stood out above the rest in this reading, but I couldn’t.  So you get the whole thing. I heart Isaiah.


“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the LORD and a day of vindication by our God.
I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; for he has clothed me with a robe of salvation and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels. As the earth brings forth its plants, and a garden makes its growth spring up, so will the Lord GOD make justice and praise spring up before all the nations.” ~Isaiah 61: 1-2a, 10-11

3. A Quote
 “We must be living witnesses of the beauty and grandeur of Christianity.  To make truth visible in one’s own person, to render truth pleasing, offering oneself as a significant and, if possible, heroic example.” ~St. Gianna Beretta Molla



4. An Image

 Latte + Scripture = A Nice Sunday Afternoon

5. A Blessing
My church family comes through.  They are so supportive, and it is so nice to be taken care of, provided for, prayed over.  All I have to do is ask, and our needs are met for programs at church.  It is so great, and such a blessing that I am very, very thankful for.

6. An Intention
I'll be praying in a special way for highschoolers and college students who are preparing for or taking finals this week and next.  I don't miss those times.
On that note, congrats to my dear friends L & K who have officially finished their masters' programs! Yay, ladies!

7. A Challenge
This week, I am going to continue a recently started run of praying a scriptural Rosary every day.  Quiet time, meditating on snippets of the life of Christ is a very good thing for me to be doing right now.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Heart of Christmas

Anybody get a chance to watch The Heart of Christmas on GAC this weekend?

I haven't seen it yet, but I hope to sometime soon.  Its pretty cool that Dax Locke from right here in Central Illinois is reaching so many people.

You also can get Matthew West's song "The Heart of Christmas" free on itunes this week!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Our Youth Group Rocks

I challenged my youth group kids last night to think about what it would be like if Jesus was going to be born THIS Christmas.  How would the story look different?  How would the communication between the characters change?  I gave them a few scenes that we are all familiar with, and this is what they came up with:







They are quite creative.  I love their attention to detail- like the St. Patrick's stamp on the Annunciation letter (because this would have happened 9 months before Christmas-even if they got the date wrong :)) and that Mary's phone number is made up of "holy" numbers from scripture (7, 40, 3, 12, 1, 70).  I personally enjoyed St. Elizabeth's phone number.  The Facebook "like" from the shepherds got the biggest laugh.

I love my job.

Update:
Here is a shot of the "idea" cards the kids used with Scripture references to help them research:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #2



1. A Song

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
Christy Nockels

2. A Verse
“Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.  The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a mighty roar and the elements will be dissolved by fire, and the earth and everything done on it will be found out.” ~2 Peter 3:8-10

3. A Quote
“The torch of faith has been given to us not to delight our eyes but to enkindle the torches of our fellow men.  Unless we burn and are on fire for the Divine Cause, a glacial invasion will sweep the earth which will be the end, for ‘The Son of Man, when He cometh, shall He find, think you, faith on earth?’” ~ Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

4. An Image
Beautiful, huh? I was there this fall.  It is even prettier on the inside, and I love the JP2 statue that they have in honor of World Youth Day in Denver.




Happy Patronal Feast Day on Thursday!  It's also my parish's feast day and the feast day for the United States.

5. A Blessing
Christmas parties:  Good food, good drink, good people.  The lights, the decorations, the hospitality. Sharing joy, love, and fellowship.  Gotta love ‘em.

6. An Intention
As we are celebrating a season of Mary’s expectation, I will be praying specifically for all of my expectant friends, L, B, R, & S, especially.

7. A Challenge
This week I plan to work on opportunities to speak the truth whenever possible.  If I am singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” and believe that “the day of the Lord will come like a thief” and agree that we should work to “enkindle the torches of our fellow men” as if we “are on fire for the Divine Cause”, what am I doing to prove it?

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath #1


Happy First Sunday of Advent!  I think that it is very appropriate that my first real Keeping the Sabbath post is on the first Sunday of the Church year.  I love that the Church year doesn’t just start with Christmas, but with a period of time for us to prepare our hearts for Christmas.  It makes so much sense- I love the liturgy- but that can be a topic for another post.

This Sunday, here are seven things that are helping me keep the Sabbath:

1. A Song:
O Come, O Come Emmanuel by the Civil Wars




I love when musical artists take traditional beautiful hymns and add their own flair to them.  That is my favorite kind of Christmas music, and this song falls into that category.  It is also one of the few Christmas songs that I am letting myself listen to this early in December.  I LOVE Christmas music…so why am I waiting?   

Because Advent is a season of waiting, Catholics (and many other Christians) do not celebrate Christmas for the entire month of December.  (They also don’t celebrate Christmas in November or October, contrary to what you see in stores…) We celebrate Advent first for four weeks... we wait, we pray, we prepare.  Christmas, the birth of the Christ, was a long awaited event.  Think thousands of years.  We should be able to stand a few weeks of anticipation each year.  Catholics actually celebrate Christmas on…you guessed it…Christmas.  That is why you won’t see Catholic churches decorated until after the Sunday Mass preceding Christmas, and why many Catholic homes decorate slowly over the month of December, with maybe only an Advent Wreath until just before Christmas.  It is not because Catholics procrastinate.  It is because we are trying to remember the story of salvation lived out by Israel as they prepared for the long awaited Messiah.  This song helps me remember that.


2. A Verse:

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him."
~Isaiah 64:1,3,4

3. A Quote: "The Son of God became the Son of Man so that the sons of men might become the sons of God." ~St. Athanasius

4. An Image: Sleeping St. Joseph


I love St. Joseph.  I love this picture of St. Joseph.  He was such a man of action, that God had to speak to him while he was sleeping.  Three times.  This picture makes me think of what it will take for me to listen to God and do his will.







5. A Blessing:

I had the privilege of sharing dinner with three of my favorite highschoolers this weekend.  We ate good food at my apartment, caught up a little on each others lives, and enjoyed some teasing.  Mostly aimed at me :)  We then went into the big city for a movie...after a lot of deliberation, we ended up seeing this:


It was awesome.  Better than Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof all added together.

6. An Intention:

Something specific that I will be praying for this week is for the people who will struggle with this Christmas season.  What is a time of joy for most of us is a time of pain for others.  So I will be praying for healing for all those experiencing or remembering a loss this Christmas.

7. A Challenge:

This week, I will be challenging myself to finally finish this book:
It is really good.  I am about half way through it...for the second time.  Archbishop Fulton Sheen steps up the theology a bit in the second half.  So I need to buckle down and finish the whole thing.  I'll let you know how it goes.





Have a great Sabbath!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!
















"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."
~1 Chronicles 16:34

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A New Life


See that pillow?

That cute one, right there?

It has been given a new life.

It used to be striped.  In shades of peach and mint green.  I will not burn your eyes with a picture of its former ugliness.

It had a facelift when I moved away for college and was covered in navy and tan plaid.  Cute, but tired.

Yesterday it got a whole new life with this fun print that has been hiding in my craft closet.  It has been dying to come out, but I have been a little afraid that it was too loud, too bold, too... not me.



But look at it now!  It has found a comfy home in my living room (along with some matching brother pillows and sister kitchen curtains.)  If only I could do something about the white walls and ugly apartment carpeting...

Doesn't make you just want to sit down and have a cup of coffee?

I think that this was a lesson that I need to take more risks :) We'll start small...

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life."

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Need Some Inspiration

I need your help.

It is past time to be working on my Christmas Cards.  I have handmade my Christmas cards for the past 5 or 6 years. I need to make about 75-100 of them.

It takes lots of time, but I enjoy sending the people I care about a little bit of something handmade during a season so filled with commercialism.  The very essence of something handmade is that it tends to not be practical.  Handmade items are not the easiest, fastest, or sometimes even the cheapest way to go.  But, they allow the creator to give a little of themselves to the receiver.  And there is something special about that.

So, here is the Christmas stamp that I am going to use this year: (I pick a new stamp for each Christmas, and then continue to use all the stamps in my Christmas decorations each year.)

Here is my color palate: (Cards will be on brown craft paper.  Brown twine will probably be included.  The turquoise is the accent color.)

And that is as far as I have gotten.

I need a scripture verse for the inside.
And a saying for the front.
And a pretty layout.
And something creative that I haven't done before.

I have been browsing online.  Here are some ideas that I like.  (I know that some of these are not the right color/theme/etc.  Therein lies the challenge.)



Any ideas for me?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Keeping the Sabbath

 
“Thus the heaven and the earth were finished, and all their multitude.  And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it…” ~Genesis 2:1-3a


“Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God... ~Exodus 20:8-10a

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.  They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find a body…suddenly two men in dazzling white clothes stood beside them…the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.’” ~Luke 24:1-3, 4b, 5b

“On the first day of the week, when we meet to break bread…” ~Acts 20:7

What do your Sundays look like?  Are they days filled with beautiful worship, peaceful rest, and reconnection with your Lord?  Do they feel different from the other six days of the week? Do you look forward to your Sunday as the source of your strength for your new week? Or does your Sunday look a little more like mine…seen as something to survive, instead of something to cherish and keep?

Keeping the Sabbath. Something that does not come naturally to us humans, especially in this crazy-work-oriented-always-on-the-go culture we are a part of.  It is a Christian practice that I struggle with.  It is something that I have been convicted to challenge myself more on. 

Growing up, Sundays were honestly the most stressful day of the week (sorry family, but it is true).  Since college, I have been so involved in ministries that fall on Sunday, that it has been difficult to fully remember what the Lord’s Day is for.  Currently, because of my job as a Director of Religious Education, the bulk of my work falls on a Sunday- CCD, Children’s Masses, Bible Study, and Youth Group.  How can I still serve the people of my church and keep the Sabbath?  And how am I setting a model for worship and rest on the Sabbath?

Some of the things that I have been working on are practical.  For example, I try hard to do as much prep work as possible before Sunday.  Copies are made, video equipment is set up, and coffee makers are ready to go when I walk in on Sunday morning.  This sometimes takes rescheduling or prioritizing on Saturday afternoon/evening, but it is totally worth it.  Something else that I do is to guard the few “free” hours that I have each Sunday very closely.  I don’t fill them with anything if I don’t have to.  This gives me some extra time for prayer, to watch a movie, dive into Bible study, read a book, or take a nap.  These things help, but I still have a long ways to go.  I have decided that just as I prep the equipment I need for programs at church on Sunday, I need to start prepping my heart for Sunday.  So, sometime during the week, I am going to sit down and find seven things that will help me more fully enter into the coming Sabbath:

  1. A Song
  2. A Verse
  3. A Quote
  4. An Image
  5. A Blessing
  6. An Intention
  7. A Challenge

By having these seven “tools” already in mind, I hope that keeping the Lord’s Day will start to mean more to me.  That I will look forward to it.  That I will see that I am unable to start the week without it.  That I might fully understand that while I was made ON the sixth day, I was made FOR the seventh.  That the joy and grace received from true worship will shine through me to others.

And I’d like to share my list of seven Sabbath celebrations (say that seven times fast!) with you each week.  So, I’ll use blogger to set them to post each Sunday morning…’cause I certainly am not adding that to my Sabbath morning tasks :)

I’d love to hear how you keep your Sabbath!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Fun Find

My mom and I went on an adventure today.

We perused a fine art show. (We enjoyed the historic house it was located in much more than the art.)

We visited a new antique store located in an old bank.  (I found a beautiful nativity picture that got added to my Christmas list.)

We visited a small-town store's Christmas open house. (And I had Déjà vu I think they were selling all of the same stuff as last year.  Same decorations as last year.  Same cookies as last year.)

We then tried to visit a second hand store that I have been wanting to stop at. (Note the word tried.  We missed the 3:00 closing time by about 3 minutes.)

And then, we found the real treasure of the day.  It was especially fun because we didn't even know that we were going to stumble upon it.  It is called Objects, and it is located at 116 S. Main in Eureka, IL.


Loved it.

Love the overall style.
Love the unique handmade items.
Love that the items are made by over 25 local artists.
Love the jewelry, hats, clothing, decor, quilts, and wall art.
Love the layout of the store.
Love the courteous lady working this afternoon.
Love that she offered us hot wassail.
Love that ALL of the owner's profits go to support an orphanage in Peru.

Loved it!

It is exactly the kind of store that I would love to be a part of.  Dreams :)

Here's a photo collage of some of the art that I found on their blog:

Here's the link to their blog.

And here's an article from the Woodford County Journal that tells their story.

You've gotta go visit.

I need to go now- I am feeling kind of crafty :)  I need to go make something beautiful.  And redecorate my apartment.  And make plans to support an orphanage...

Friday, November 11, 2011

Free (& legal) music

Living on a budget has its ups and downs, and one thing that I have been craving is some new music.  However even $.99 in itunes adds up pretty fast.

I thought that I might share with you some places that I have found free and legal music.  So if you are itching for a new dance tune, something slow and soothing, or even some new Christmas music, here are some places to try.


Air 1 Radio Station features a free song each week from Contemporary Christian groups like Plumb, The City Harmonic, Press Play, Sixteen Cities, etc.  Here is this week's free song available to download:





Sometimes you can get free Christian music through Group Tune, and if not, there are lots of great discounts.  For five more days, you can get two Marian Grace Albums for $10.  If you sign up for email updates, they will let you know when more deals become available.


I can't find a good You Tube video just featuring their music, but they were featured on a recent episode of EWTNs Life on the Rock.  They are bringing new life to beautiful, ancient hymns and prayer.  You can see them in this video starting at around minute ten.






And finally, my favorite new addiction is Noise Trade.  It features ALL.KINDS.OF.MUSIC for FREE download- you even have the option of giving the artists a tip.  Sometimes new artists use it to get their music out there, like Andrew and HannahMarian Grace even has a couple of songs from their newest album. Sometimes well known artists share a track off a new album, or maybe even an entire album, like this collection from Jars of Clay.  There are even worship albums put out by churches.  I found a lot of good ones, but this is a new one I just downloaded from Sanctuary Band.  And I am currently in love with The Steel Wheels.  You can search by artist, genre, top downloads, or even for someone similar to an artist you are already a fan of.  I love it.  You should give it a try.

How do you fill your music cravings on a budget?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fake Fear

Recently my great Youth Group kids joined up with some other great Youth Group kids to try out a local high ropes course.  Air stairs, tightropes, trees to scale, a zip line...lots of fun to be had.

The high ropes course that we were at is a part of a Christian camp.  Our facilitator was informative, good with the kids, had a sense of humor, and was able to work in a few messages about faith.


At one point, the kids were standing facing the high ropes course putting on all of their safety gear.  This was their first good look at the course, and you could see some intimidation, uncertainty, and fear creeping into their expressions.  The kids with the most bravado earlier were even vocalizing nerves.


And that was when our facilitator, pointing at the course, said something like this:
"Think it looks scary, huh?  Feeling a little fear thinking about doing this?  I promise you that you are safe.  Your safety gear is safe.  The facilitators working with you will keep you safe.  The equipment on the course is safe.  As a matter of fact, up on the course is the safest place in the entire camp."

"That fear you are feeling- it is fake.  FAKE!  It is not real, and it is not of God. 
You are safe, and you can do this."


Wow.  What a message.  Can you hear the truth in there that has nothing to do with dangling 30 feet above the ground?  As Christians, we are not called to live a life of fear.  Our God says to us, "See that great big world?  It is full of twists and turns and changes and challenges.  I know that there will be times when you look at it and you will be tempted to fear.  Remember, it is big, but I am bigger.  That fear is FAKE. You are safe.  My Word, My Church, My Sacraments, My people will keep you safe.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  Do not fear.  Choose instead to love."

Reminds me of this song:



"There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..." ~1 John 4:18