Believe

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SJT is hosted weekly by Holly Mueller http://www.hollymueller.blogspot.com/ Please join us!

Many thanks to Carol V. for providing this week’s SJT focus word!

Believe. [period]

Believe! [exclamation point]

Believe? (question mark)

Believe, [comma]

Believe; [semicolon]

Believe: [colon]

Believe…[ellipsis]

“Believe” is a complex construct, as changing the punctuation after the word reminds me.

As I look over the list, I realize that I could easily reflect today on each one of those differing nuances, of differing emphases in meanings.

However, quite unexpectedly, what intrigues me as I look at the list  (even though, at this moment, I have absolutely no idea where my reflection will take me) is reflecting on this presentation of the word:

B-e-l-i-e-v-e

For what was screaming out at me as I looked at the word “Believe,” listed seven times above, was the accusation I saw within:

lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie….

“Religion is the opium of the people,” Karl Marx observed. And if I recall my economic and political histories correctly, he accused religion of keeping people willing to sacrifice material goods in this life–to accept “political and economic put down,” if you will, in this life, in trade for a promised better life after death.

Though Marx is long dead, there are other voices, supposedly intelligently superior voices, cynical voices, atheistic voices, somehow personally angered by believers, voices that taunt, accuse, protest: lies, lies, lies…they profess.

Praise God! For generations–how many I do not know, but look forward to learning when, please, God,  I am in Heaven–individual family members, anonymous to me except for my parents and grandparents, believed and passed on that belief to me.

If there were a reason for me (beyond curiosity) to study a family tree, it would be this reason: to learn by name -and, if possible, by face–to know to whom I owe the gift of my Faith.

A Jewish colleague, commenting on the Rosary beads she saw me holding, compared the strung beads to the mental image she has of her Jewishness. She said she imagines that her ancestors in faith are linked together, like the jewels on a necklace, in chronological order, passing the faith to the next generation.

I really loved that imagine of passing along the Faith, of being linked to those who have preceded us, as well as to those who will follow us–a long chain of believers, if you will. That image makes me grateful to those I do not know by name or face. And I praise God for their faithfulness, their decision to keep the Faith. And I can’t help wondering what would have happened to me if along the way, going back to who knows how many generations, one of them had given up the Faith–through indifference, through laziness, through cynicism, who knows…

Would I have Faith if I had not been gifted with a Faith heritage from birth? True. Yes. I have questioned. I have doubted. I have searched. But always I had a Faith-foundation undergirding those questions, doubts, and explorations.

What if there had been no Faith foundation? What if there had been a religious tabula rasa? Would I believe? Is belief more supernatural gift or more human nurture? Is it an inherited or acquired gift?

lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie

For me, the lie is that belief in God, being a member of a formal religious community  diminishes, makes one immature, and belies one’s intelligence.

I praise God that I believe, and I am indebted to those, living and deceased, who have given and or nourished and supported my belief, even–and especially– when what I believe is different from what they believe, even when they say they believe nothing at all.

God works wonders in amazing ways! Those whose faith is different from mine have been among those who have most edified and encouraged my practicing mine. And when those who profess nonbelief in God go about doing good–better than I do–their witness to God’s presence within them, despite their protesting that they do not believe in Him, challenges me to live my Faith more authentically.

I love the answer St. Martha gave Jesus when He asked if she believed that He is the Resurrection and the Life, and that those who believe in Him–even if they die–will always live: “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”(John 11:27)

Yes, Lord, I believe.

 

 

 

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Christmas Chalk

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SJT is hosted weekly by Holly Mueller http://www.hollymueller.blogspot.com/

Please join us!

When our children were young, they loved using chalk to draw pretend, circuitous “routes” on which to ride their bikes. They drew hopscotch courts on which to toss their “potsies.” And when they made up stories, they drew all kinds of identifiable and unidentifiable images and designs–just for the creative fun of it!

…And so they often found sidewalk chalk among their stocking stuffers…

Yes! chalk is (was?) for child’s play.

Years ago, chalk was for teacher-play, too:).

This week I’m reminded that chalk still holds a special significance in family Christmas Season/New Year faith devotions.

In that context, chalk (often blessed white chalk) is used to “mark” a house–and a family!–as belonging to Christ.

Although there is no one absolutely definitive way that the marking must be done, the usual components of the notation are these:

  • Chalk notation is made above the inside doorway.
  • All 4 digits of the year are written, either as a unit, or divided into 2 and 2, with the following intervening letters.
  • The letters C, B, and M are written. They stand for either/both the Magi or the Latin expression that translates “Christ bless this house.”
  • The letters are connected with + symbols that are read as crosses or as the words “and” or “plus.”
  • One or two + symbols at the start/and stop of the notation stand for the  Cross of Christ.

In some parishes, the priest comes to bless the house and makes the chalk inscription that lasts (faded) till the next year’s blessing. When a priest is not available, the husband-father of the house, as the head of the domestic church, does the house blessing/chalk notation.

No matter how the notation is done (1 line; 2 lines;  “+2016 + C+B+M” or “20 C+B=M 16,” or any other variation), the important thing is to proclaim the house and the family as the Lord’s.

Although such a tradition was not part of my family’s faith formation, it was part of my husband’s. And although, in the past–regrettably– we did not adopt the practice for our house, this year being the Mercy Jubilee, it seemed like time to establish the traditional devotion.

So that’s what we did yesterday! (Another part of the tradition is to bless the house/chalk the doorway on Epiphany or “Little Christmas.” …Although the blessing can be done any time!)

Serious business marking our house for Christ, and yet, it occurs to me that as Our Heavenly Father watches us writing symbols, numbers, and letters above our doors, He sees holy child’s play in His Eyes. And He delights in honoring His children’s simple act of faith, hope, and love–

What do you think? Will you use chalk to mark–to proclaim–to yourself and others that you and your home belong to Christ?

p.s. Holy reason or not, the child in me still likes–correction: loves— playing with chalk!

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All things new

 

Spiritual Journey framed

Though I try to make it a priority, I don’t always succeed at ending each month with a prayer of grateful surrender for the month gone by and a prayer of grateful entrustment for the month about to begin.

Since December 31st is not only the end of the month, but the end of the year, yes!, I did remember to take the time to make that dual prayer this morning.

Although the quote has never been the same for me (without the realization of the great cost to Christ) since I heard the way it was used during the film “The Passion of the Christ,” still, in anticipation of the New Year, I keep thinking of what Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Problem for me is that while I want the Lord’s gift of newness, I don’t always want to do the things, make the sacrifices, take the steps that are required to embrace the newness that the Lord offers–each moment of each day.

So, when I think of Jesus making all things new, I think, too, of the quote that convicted me during a silent retreat a number of years ago.

“Sing to the Lord a new song.”

I think of the continual conversion-response that the newness of the Lord calls for versus my same old song–my “songs”–pardon the expression–of complaint, regret, discouragement, nostalgia. Songs of refusing to let go of the sadness and disappointment.

Providentially, today’s liturgical responsorial psalm was Psalm 96 which contains one of a number of versions of that invitation-command:

Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name; announce his salvation, day after day.

And so, at the end of another year, I was reminded that the newness that the Lord offers is mine to receive, but that the receiving demands decision, and whatever cooperative action is required.

My New Year’s wish for me and all of us is that we be re-created each day by a loving God Who offers us endless possibilities for drawing closer to Him.

I found a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that brings together for me the December SJT theme of Gift, extending it into a New Year of the continued gift of newness, of endless possibilities:

“A day is a miniature Eternity.”

Blessed 2016! ….God bless you each and every day as you journey closer to Him. May an Eternity of all things new in Him be yours every single day.

 

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Merry MERCY Christmas!

Thanks to Pope Francis who issued a “Bull” designating this Liturgical Year (December 8, 2015 – November 20, 2016) as an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, this is a Mercy Christmas:)

Of course, every Christmas is a Mercy Christmas. But during this Jubilee Year, it’s good to ponder the connection between Christmas and God’s Infinite Mercy.

In that regard, I offer for my meditation and yours this short, but potent, reflection by St. Therese:

PTDC0209

“A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.”

No matter how many Christmases I already have celebrated, I admit that I still cannot even begin to fully wrap my brain around a God Who Gifts us His Infinite, All-Powerful Self as a truly helpless Infant.

To quote again St. Therese: “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.”

Praise God for His Infinite Mercy.

Gratitude and thanks, too, to the teenage girl, Our Blessed Mother Mary, who said “Yes” to God and gave Our Savior His Humanity–in an amazing mystery in which He remains just One Divine Person with two natures–the nature of God and the nature of man. Mind-boggling!

This is a good point in this post, I think, to refer to the gift of Faith. To “simply” believe what seems impossible to understand, what seems too good to be true, and to humbly accept the Greatest Gift our God has given us–His Divine Son made flesh to save us!

Holly Mueller, our year-round generous Spiritual Journey Thursday hostess, has shared a beautiful post in that regard, connecting faith with the Greatest Gift that Christmas–that the Christ Child–is!

With many thanks to Holly for her weekly service, please accept this invitation to enjoy her post and to share one of your own.

Holly does a beautiful job of connecting invitations, faith, and Christ’s Birth. Gift yourself this Christmas by reading her post!

Merry MERCY Christmas, Everyone!

 

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Bravo!

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In keeping with our December Spiritual Journey Thursday “Gifts” theme, I can’t help wanting to recognize and applaud all those establishments that have risked ridicule or criticism for manifesting Christmas decorations and messages.

Since they benefit from moneys spent in celebrating Christmas, whether they use the decorations as a bait to have Christians spend more money as some cynics accuse, or whether they simply are manifesting their own participation in the holiday–or for any other reason… It is a blessing to see the stores and other establishments decked out for Christmas.

As a case in point, here’s what gladdened my spirits at one local store:

 

PTDC0383.JPG

I pray God bless every store that had the guts to acknowledge with signs and decorations why December gift-giving money was being spent–whether they adorned the store with greetings for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or any other religious or cultural holiday.

. …I know, for my part, given a choice, I choose to spend my money supporting those who are unafraid to name the holiday for which I am spending my money: Christmas.

The witness of stores, like the one whose Christmas message I photographed,  provided a joyful Christmas gift to me as I spent gift-giving moneys!

If you would like to know which businesses are considered Faith-friendly, or if you would like to think of and to share ideas for Christmas gift-giving options apart from store-bought presents, please consider visiting another post of mine.

And, as I conclude in that other post, may our Christmas gift giving and receiving be centered on honoring Him, Whose Birthday it is!

God bless you! Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas Baby

 

Spiritual Journey framed Not that I had been asked, but yesterday I was thinking about which was my best Christmas ever.   … Without a doubt,  bringing our son home from the hospital was the best!

The first time we brought him home, as a newborn, it was just a few days before Christmas. I thought my heart would burst of gratitude and joy on Christmas morning; I never felt closer to Our Blessed Mother or her Infant Son as I did that Christmas when I shared the miracle of the birth of a baby boy. Mine, unlike hers, was not a Divine Person with a human nature. No; he was totally a human person, but with the life of the Creator within him, giving him breath.

My gratitude and joy were especially heightened since one year previously, when I was “sure” (without benefit of EPT’s) that baby number two was on the way, I discovered in the midst of a house full of Christmas Day guests that I wasn’t. ..One year later, and a baby boy was gracing our home. After a couple of years of praying, waiting, and being disappointed so many times for a new baby’s arrival,  he seemed to me to be a total mercy Christmas present from the Savior to us on His Birthday.

Seventeen years later on Christmas Eve, with a decorated Christmas tree in the trunk of our car, ready to grace our son’s hospital room the next day, we got a surprise gift. The doctor discharged him early–in time for him to be home for Christmas. (There’s much more to the story, but that’s for another post another time.) The blouse my son gave me that year is literally irreparably falling apart, but I refuse to discard it since it reminds me of the Christmas miracle that year.

Financially, it was tough having six family members (husband, son, father, two in-laws, and niece) with birthdays in the last two weeks of December. (As the Christmas shopper, more than the expense, the greater challenge I felt was finding two wonderful presents simultaneously.) My husband who, as a youngster, felt “cheated” out of a birthday celebration (combined present for Christmas and birthday) made sure our son’s birthday had its own celebration. As far as I know, our son never felt “cheated.”

I’m glad, because I felt nothing but jubilant over our son’s “Christmas” birthday. The year he was born, I packed Christmas cards into my hospital delivery bag. (I had held off writing Christmas cards that year until we could include the baby’s name.) Pre-prenatal-sonograms, we didn’t know the baby’s gender, and actually–boy or girl–we hadn’t finalized the baby’s name.

Writing cards turned out to be a good thing; one drawback to having a “Christmas” baby was that the maternity wing was short-staffed. My roommate and I had a lot of “down time” to pass, not only from the lack of nursing “visitors,” but because there had been a terrible ice storm, which kept away any other visitors.

Despite any drawbacks, I am eternally grateful for the timing of our son’s birth. Having a “Christmas baby” was–and continues to be–a great blessing! In fact, I feel more than doubly blessed.

For all the expectant, and desiring to be expectant, mothers, may the Christ Child bring them the children their hearts’ desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow”

If you didn’t have a chance to watch and listen yet, please take a few minutes, if you can, to enjoy praising God in word and images.

“Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” sung by Heidi Nadine

Happy Thanksgiving!

Warm wishes to you and all those who accompany you on your spiritual journey!  Safe travels!

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