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Image attribution: PublicDomain Pictures/ 18043, 2014, https://pixabay.com/en/background-sheet-music-antique-313402/
"Prepare ye the Way of the Lord!!"
Are certain chords from a certain song from the musical Godspell playing in your head despite yourself as you read these words? Just curious!
This song has become so synonymous with this phrase that if I were to say it in a room with a bunch of music-loving Christians, I could virtually guarantee that someone would break out into song. And whether you approve of this particular piece or not, one can't deny its catchiness.
Actually, this is one of the many beautiful things about music. It can take an extremely meaningful and important line of scripture or teaching of our faith and engrave it into our unconscious mind virtually forever.
For example, have your children ever attended VBS? There is a reason that the kids sing song after song about scripture verses and doctrine of our faith. They tend to remember it for a VERY long time. I can say this from experience, since my oldest is 17 and still finds herself humming lines learned so long ago when she now comes in contact with certain scripture verses. She may not remember the entire song, but the music that accompanies the words she now reads comes back to mind almost instantly.
This is a good thing. This is a VERY good thing.
The truth is, most of us are not gifted with a photographic memory. As we persevere on our journey on earth, our minds tend to push out the old to make room for the new - in other words, our minds begin to prioritize for us according to our needs at the time. Music can be incredibly helpful in retaining information that our minds may not feel is important, but the rest of our bodies know is significant for our life in Christ.
And although it may sound odd, one could even say that music itself can help us prepare the way of the Lord! By consistently calling to mind all that the Lord asks us to remember and keeping His teachings close to our hearts, we gain a strong foothold to holiness as we climb that mountain toward heaven. We prepare the way not only for ourselves but for those along our path and those who will soon follow as well.
So, as we celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist today, let's take some time to listen to at least one song that draws us closer to the Savior for whom St. John declared his famous phrase.
Prepare Ye the Way!!
Image attribution: Wall Street by thetaxhaven, 2012, www.flickr.com
"He was decaffeinated!!"
"What?" came my reply to the pair of big blue eyes staring up at me in shock.
"He was decaffeinated! The main guy in the movie!!"
It took my mind a few seconds to grasp what he was getting at.
"Oh! You mean decapitated?" I replied without thinking. "I mean, you're right! Decaffeinated! - Wait, where did you hear this word?"
"The big kids were talking about it."
Quickly trying to assuage his concern, I shrugged my shoulders.
"Oh! Well, he probably drank too much decaf coffee. I'm sure he'll be OK." I couldn't tell if he had bought my explanation and dismissal of his statement, but from the look on his face I think he was relieved.
Communication. Proper communication. Just how important is it? So important that thousands of how-to books, ebooks and programs on every aspect of communication can be found online and in stores everywhere. So important that millionaires have flourished and millions of dollars have been made through developed seminars that can be attended throughout the world on this very topic. There is even a college degree with its name - Communications.
Lately, communication has been a hot topic in my family. For some reason, we just can't seem to get onto the same page. Although likely due to our craziness of life and the need to fulfill many commitments, our conversations rival those at the Tower of Babel.
Me: "Guys! Time to get going!"
Child #1 entering the room in distress: "Mom...I can't find my shirt! I had it right here but it's missing!"
Me, confused: "Why are you in your uniform? That's tomorrow!"
Child # 2 - entering the room, emotions in full dramatic swing: "Mom! I almost died!"
Child #1: "What? I thought you said it was today! "
Me explaining to Child #1: "No, I have a meeting today."
Me addressing Child #2: "What do you mean you almost died?"
Me back to Child #1: "I'll leave the younger ones home with Dad and drop you both off at the field while I get to my meeting at the Church."
Child #4, calling down from upstairs: "Mom!"
Child #2: "I tried climbing the wall but fell off!"
Me, relieved but annoyed: "Then stay off of the wall."
Child #2:"When will we get picked up?"
Me: "Still not sure...we'll have to wing it!"
Child #3, still calling from upstairs: "Mom! Did you get the email I sent?"
Child #4 entering the room with a look of disgust: "Mom...the cat threw up on the couch!"
Me, groaning: "We'll have to clean it up later...we've got to go!"
Child #3, exasperated: "Mom! Did you get my email?"
Me, watching the clock ticking at lightening speed: "No! I'll check when I get back! We've got to to go!"
Me: running out the door to wait in the car: Blessed Silence.
Sometimes our conversations can feel like we are on the floor on Wall Street in the middle of the throng of traders - is anyone really hearing anybody? And, if you are blessed enough to be surrounded by people who love to talk like my family, the challenge to truly hear each other escalates substantially.
Proper communication should be considered a virtue in many respects. The reason it can't be considered a singularly great virtue is because communicating effectively requires the use of more than one virtue: i.e. patience, kindness, and, most of all, love. Perhaps this fact alone is enough to explain why proper communication is such a difficult skill to master.
Communication is so vital to Christian living that the Holy Spirit, sent as the Paraclete, was sent to break down those communication barriers so present in the days of Jesus so that the ears of the people could truly hear and hearts could be truly opened to what the Apostles had to say during and after Pentecost.
Those same communication barriers still exist today. And the Holy Spirit is still here to help break down those walls. However, we need to ask Him. We need to realize that our communication with others can only be as effective as our willingness to allow the Holy Spirit into our conversations is.
Today, let's stop and ask the Holy Spirit to enter into our conversations throughout the day. Let's ask Him to not only guide our words, but give us the wisdom needed to listen well to what others are communicating to us.
Proper communication: success in almost anything depends on it.
May we never underestimate it's power as we endeavor to change the world!
Image attribution: dad - wokandapix 2015 www.pixabay.com public domain
New Lego and Craft Challenge:
Honor your Father for Father's Day!
How important are our dads? Very important! Not only because they are commissioned to take care of us and protect us, but also because their high calling is to show us the love of our Father in Heaven! Whoa! What a big job! Don't you think it would be a great idea to honor them in some way by creating something that shows how much you appreciate your dad? It could be something he likes to do, something you enjoy doing with him, or maybe an artsy note saying I love you!
https://pixabay.com/photo-873442/mysticsartdesign, August 2015
Did you ever take a story and try to imagine yourself as each of the main characters? Such an exercise can be incredibly beneficial, especially when applying it to stories from the Bible and the saints. And, besides being enlightening, it can also be a lot of fun.
To begin, it's helpful to choose a story that you know well. Re-imagining the story affords you the opportunity to see it in a new light, even if you have heard it one hundred times. You can spend more time on certain characters that might attract more of your imagination; oftentimes these characters turn out to be the ones you can most relate to.
Having practiced this mental exercise and consideration of scripture for years, I can't express how much I have learned about myself in the process!
Let me illustrate. Suppose we took the story of the Feast of the Presentation. As in most Bible stories, this one gives us a LOT to chew on. Seriously, I could write pages on this one story if I were to fully develop each character, but for the sake of preventing any potential snoring, I will considerably limit it to an appropriate blog length!
To begin, we could start by imagining Mary and Joseph approaching the steps of the temple, Mary holding the child Jesus in her arms. A mixture of feelings might have been going through both of their minds: joy at fulfilling this covenant of consecration with God yet a resigned sadness of the inevitable pain their son would endure during the actual circumcision. In other words, a struggle might have existed between a level of spiritual connection with God's grace and normal, understandable parental fears.
Suddenly, a man named Simeon enters the scene. Simeon, a just man who had been assured by God that he would not leave the earth until he had seen the Salvation of Israel, was aging quickly. Attending the temple daily, perhaps he may have struggled with the temptation to believe that God's promise would never come to fulfillment. Or, perhaps his faith had grown stronger as God provided him the grace to hold onto His promise. Either way, we can imagine his joy, his wonderment, his feeling of completion, when he beheld the baby Jesus and suddenly the truth was revealed to him.
Taking the baby in his arms, he looked down, intense gratitude and understanding filling his heart. Given the incredible honor of performing the consecration, he did so, and when finished, his honest, heartfelt prayer to the Lord was lifted up:
"Now, Master, You may let Your servant go in peace, according to Your Word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel."
A quick look from Mary and Joseph's viewpoints reveals a couple filled with amazement at the words spoken by this holy man.
Perhaps they shot a quick look at each other that said, "He knows?"
This question would have been quickly put to rest as Simeon blessed each of them with the words,
"Behold, this child is is destined for the fall and rise of man in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword shall pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed."
Joseph may have felt a surge of love towards the Creator and gratitude at being included in the Master plan for the Salvation of Israel, as well as twinges of concern in his protector's heart at the words spoken about his wife.
Mary's heart was likely filled with great intensity as well, thoughts including inner prayers of praise to the Lord filled with gratitude and love. However, she may have also been concerned at Simeon's words regarding his words that she should be pierced by a sword.
I could continue on and develop this story into much greater detail but I will stop here.
I must add that although approaching stories in this manner can be greatly illuminating, there is a danger. One must be VERY careful to always keep in mind that you are "just supposing." This means that just because we may assign certain feelings and thoughts to our characters, it is highly possible that these same feelings and thoughts did not actually exist in reality. In other words, we can't adjust a Bible story so much that it becomes the "Bible Truth" even though it has not been expressly stated by God or the author of the story you are re-imagining.
Keeping this in mind, the idea of re-imagining can greatly contribute to your prayer life.
Try it and see! What great illuminations are waiting for you at the end of your re-imagined tale?
New Lego and Craft Challenge:
Abraham's Big Test
What would you do if God appeared to you and asked you to sacrifice a member of your family that you loved very much? It would be so hard that we couldn't even imagine it, right? Read about the courageous faith that Abraham exhibited to follow God's command, and see how God rewarded him for the trust he placed in Him. Then, build something that struck you and head to the Catholic Challenge Zone to share it with us!
Click on the picture above to link to a really neat Star Wars Lego version of this story!
https://pixabay.com/photo-1226362/ by Alexas Fotos, March 2016
Summer!!!! I just love all of the seasons. And even though I am not the greatest fan of heat, I can't help but love summer!
Being a homeschooling mom, summer means a break in schooling and lesson planning, (although my teacher brain is always looking for learning opportunities in anything we do!), and now that my family has completed assessment testing, I feel like I can take a breath - for a minute anyway!
Still, even with reprieve in academic duties, summer can carry its own share of craziness, depending on the "season" of life that you are in.
In my present season, I have joined so many others who have found their "open-slated" summer calendar to be quickly filled with sports activities and summer camps, vacation bible school and swimming lessons, family trips, college trips, etc. Halfway through this period of dog days, I now stare at the calendar in amazement, wondering why those open slots have all but disappeared. And, now that my children are older, this common question has become more of a sadly accepted statement.
Things were quite different years ago. My summer was focused around little ones, pregnancy, and my homestead. Even though our location caused us to travel a bit for groceries, Mass, and well, just about anything, my craziness was limited to my familiar surroundings and a fairly consistent hum-drum of life. I can remember clearly questioning friends with older children who's summers had become so filled that I considered myself lucky to reach them by phone. "I'll never do that," I vowed.
Well, that vow bit the dust once my oldest reached 13. She and her sister were accepted into an Honors Band Camp, and then news reached us of an awesome Nuncamp opportunity for the following week. Add to that a week of VBS, our annual trip to West Virginia, zoo and beach trips, volunteer opportunities and a couple of birthday and family parties, and voilà! My summer had vanished. However, a new respect and understanding for my old friends had developed. Still, I have never forgotten that vow I had made years ago.
Recently, summer has become more of a teeter-totter balancing act. Determined to regain some of those free slots from time gone by, my family has worked harder to find that acceptable symmetry between activities with family, activities away from family, and prayer time. Did you notice how I listed prayer third? This is because it is an aspect that we are presently working on. Prayer - putting God first - should never be last!
So, how in the world do we go about putting prayer in its proper place on the summer priority list? Well, to use a familiar phrase, "It requires a game plan." And I mean this literally.
The most effective schedules work around a game plan, so why should my summer schedule be any different? Sitting down to observe how to input God into our family schedule so that He is not placed on the back-burner should be a must-do.
Begin your "prayer implementation plan" with ideas that fit easily into your schedule and build up to include some more concrete and even challenging options.
Some ideas might be:
These are just some of the many ways to help us make sure that Christ is made a priority in our summer planning. I am positive that you can come up with an innumerable amount of ideas that would be a perfect fit for your own domestic church.
Whatever you choose, God will be pleased. He gave you this season of summer and He gave you this season of life. What will you do with this time with which He has gifted you?
New Lego and Craft Challenge:
St. Joan of Arc, Heroine of France
What do St. Michael the Archangel, a horse and armor all have in common? St. Joan of Arc, of course! Read about the life of St. Joan, whose feast we celebrated last week, and create something about her exciting and saintly life!
We've all seen the various images -Jesus with His heart artistically exposed as surrounded by a crown of thorns with flames erupting from the top. In likewise fashion, images of His Mother are depicted with a crown of flowers and a sword piercing her heart. Some of these images are astoundingly beautiful.
Two days ago, 19 days after Pentecost, the Church celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart. Then, yesterday, we celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Even though both of these feasts are so beautiful and deserve devoted attention, it amazes me how it easy it can be to pass them by.
In the past, I've often found myself realizing the significance of the day, sometimes when the day would be half over. I would stop and pause to reflect and communicate to Our Lord and Lady through these beautiful titles, then get overtaken by life and forget to keep myself focused on them.
This year, I decided to take a longer moment to spend reflecting on the Feasts of Hearts, as I call them. (It was still not enough, honestly, but due to a crazy day I can at least feel a little better about it!)
Being a visual person, I decided to spend some time staring at an image of each of them, comparing and contrasting their two hearts.
Although there lie a great many profound thoughts to be taken away from these images (and there often exists subtle differences in the various pictures), here are just some of mine:
Jesus - red heart dripping with blood from beneath and a crucifix protruding from the top - evidence of the sacrifice made, all for love of us.
Mary - red heart with a sword piercing it through the top - evidence of the sacrifice she suffered, all for love of God and us
Jesus - flames leaping out from the top of His heart - burning with His intense love for us
Mary - flames leaping out from the top of His heart - burning with her intense love for God and us
Jesus - crown of thorns surrounding His heart - more evidence of His sacrifice of love for us, and symbol of His kingship
Mary - crown of flowers (usually roses) surrounding her heart - a reflection of her devotion to her Son and to us and a symbol of her queenship
The Sacred and Immaculate Hearts, the hearts of a King and Queen, have sacrificed, suffered, and burned. Why?
Out of love for US.
Our Lord and Lady, if my heart could just burn with one millionth of what yours has for me!
Continue for our sake...place our hearts in yours so that our unity in love may grow!
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May your Lent be truly fruitful and fill you with longing for His Resurrection!
If a song's title includes (family recording), please refer to the blog entry on 3/8/16 for info...
Hi! I'm a Catholic mom who loves to encourage and support others in their journey to live the beauty of our Catholic faith in a modern world. It can be a struggle, no doubt, but God has given us the tools we need! Join my family (both immediate and extended!) and me as we take on this incredible journey of our path to holiness.
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