Monday, February 8, 2016

Evangelization


Friends of Faith:
Thankfully since last Monday night our phone has gotten much quieter and I can actually sit and eat, watch TV or take a 5 minute nap without being interrupted by a political phone call or message. One thing the political candidates know how to do very well is to try to convince us that they are the right person.

If we think about it, this same thing has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. Someone is constantly trying to evangelize us and convince us that we should follow them because their point of view is right. Someone tried to convince someone else that they should cheer for or follow the Broncos or the Panthers, the Republicans or the Democrats, the Union or the Confederacy, the Christians or the Jews, Isaac or Ishmael, or God or the Devil.

Not only are we asked to choose a side, but we feel compelled to convince others that A choice, our choice, is the Right choice.
I think we can all agree that of these choices there is only one that has always been THE RIGHT choice – God. We will always be right if we honor God and follow His command. Yet how often do we evangelize for what He designed, for what God has proclaimed to be right?

God IS Love. God designed life to BE love. God designed marriage to continue to give life AND love. This was his first command to Adam and Eve – to be fruitful and to multiply; so that God’s love, life itself, would continue to BE shown to others through our own lives.
God sent us Jesus to teach and give us forgiveness: Jesus showed us mercy and love. God sent us the Holy Spirit to guide us: so that we would know how to serve each other in love. God appointed and made covenants with Abraham, Moses, David, Peter and His successor Bishops (the design of the Church) to lead His people. God promised them that He would give us our daily bread – that we would need nothing but Him.

“Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything and followed him.” Lk 5:11
God gave us everything we have and everything we need. And then He asked us to become fishers of men, to speak up for Him, to be His voice to others – so that by our actions, in our prayer, in our deeds and in our words, every person would come to know Him. He directed the apostles, the first priestly followers of Christ (Christians), to leave everything else behind and to follow him.

We were not put here to choose between insignificant sports teams, to be divided into political parties, or to glorify and honor some voice, bachelor or Star Trek star. Our choice shouldn’t first be about the economy or the environment, about what food we eat or in what nation we sleep, but rather about how to protect, populate and promulgate life itself.
Our “job” is to love, to be givers of life and fishers of men; to protect the life we have been given and to spread God’s word so that more may be blessed with knowing His infinite love and living in his heavenly kingdom.

The devil has been working overtime to trick us into thinking that other choices are more important than the first choice: God’s gift of life. If we only look at the political forum, it is shouting volumes to confuse and spread messages contrary to, and seemingly more important, than God’s carefully planned design to continue His kingdom, here on earth and in heaven.
The devil has convinced some that a child may be an economic burden instead of God’s continued creation to spread and show us how to love. What if the life we choose to deny is God’s design to be His next Abraham or Peter?

The devil has convinced some that marriage isn’t about a unity to procreate God’s children, but rather a means to give human pleasure. Choosing to honor God by honoring His commandments may mean that we must take up His cross and deny ourselves.
The devil is convincing some that we shouldn’t open our doors to share our daily bread by serving to love those who are in need. What if we (not a government) have been put here to be God’s hands to give someone their daily bread?

Satan temps us to turn away from God and to “fish” for ourselves, our pleasures, our happiness, rather than to be “fishers” of men, to show others God’s love and call others to God’s kingdom. His mission is to divide us and separate us from God’s design.
Heavenly Father, You have given us the first and greatest gift, life itself, so that Your heavenly kingdom will be shared by all. Help me to spread Your message to others so that more may come to know you. Help me to be a more loving, more compassionate, more convicted fisher of men and women. Grant me mercy when I fall to the devil’s deception and serve myself. Help me to keep You first in my life. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be one with you each week in the celebration of the Eucharist. Amen.

We are all searching. No human is perfect. But God has told us that the Holy Spirit will guide us; that the Church will lead us and that hope will energize us so that we can confidently spread His design to others.
If you are looking for a retreat, renewal and/or a time for evangelization with Jesus and other “fishers of men/women” please consider the women’s CEW next weekend, Feb 19-21 or the men’s CEW Feb 26-28. For more information or a brochure on CEW go to http://sthenrychurch.com/CEW.htm.

There has never been a better time to unite and to Go Forth to Spread His Good Word,
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, February 1, 2016

I Know You, do you Know Me?

Friends of Faith:

God knows what is best for us. Do we allow God to show us His way or do we choose our own path?

While the bible, God’s word, should be taken as a whole, and not just a partial phrase here or there, I have a favorite instruction from Paul’s instructions to the early Church that I believe if we even thought about once every day would bring every household closer to the heavenly household.

“Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts. But I shall show you a still more excellent way. If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 
“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, It is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
1 Cor 12: 31 – 13: 1-8

Love isn’t a warm and fuzzy feeling. Love is a verb. Love is an action word. It is not what I feel when I receive and it is not what I feel when I am served. Rather it is what I give WHEN I serve and it is what I give when I forgive. Love is not to WANT some THING, but to WANT TO GIVE something, to put Christ IN things (our choices).

Paul’s definition of God’s love is a reading that I like to go back to as a guide in making my own decisions and in guiding others towards theirs.

How many times am I an angel, who gives away everything, and has faith to move mountains and yet, when I speak I complain about someone else’s faults –and I am a clashing cymbal; who finds it easy to give a dollar in the collection plate but am stingy with saying yes when it comes to helping at a funeral dinner or taking the time to check on a neighbor? And has my silence in the political arena become approval for those who say “it’s my choice?”

Patience, kindness, humility, putting others first, choosing life, forgiving, choosing God is, are, and can all be tough choices.

It will hurt when I have to watch my child sit on the bench because I made the choice that Sunday mass came before practice or an early morning game.

I may have to “make up” time because I “gave up” time to check in on a neighbor or to listen to a friend’s woes.

I may feel like a failure or be shunned by a longtime friend because I courageously spoke the truth about God’s gift of life: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you.” Jer 1: 4-5 (Will your candidate in tonight’s caucus protect human life from the very moment of conception?)

This is the Year of Mercy. Will I forgive those who think differently than I do, or the person who disrespected my space or belongings? Forgiveness is one of the toughest challenges of love.

Love is the greatest and often toughest choice. Choosing God’s love is much different than choosing who, what and when I want to love. Choosing God’s love is serving others needs before my own. Choosing God’s love means to forgive and to have tolerance of the faults of others. Choosing love means owning up to my mistakes and to find God in the acceptance of whatever challenges I face. (Think about this in terms of your spouse, a wayward child, or the brother, sister or parent who has done something hurtful or unjust towards some member of the family.)

God knows me. Do I know Him? Am I expecting someone else to take care of the problems, or am I being called to be the solution?

Heavenly Father, You are patient, kind, all knowing and all loving. I know that I fail you in many ways by choosing what I think is right for me, better for another, or best for the world. Help me to know you, to seek you and to serve you in Your way, not mine. Teach me how it is that you want me to love. Help me to forgive and to find the good in others. Thank you for allowing me to see Your love especially when I am not loved for trying to follow You.  Amen.

To know Him is to love Him. He knows (loves) us regardless of what we do or have done. Do we know (love) Him and do we allow Him to forgive, know and love us? And do we love and forgive others AS He does for us?

Strive for patience, kindness, understanding and humility. Love may not always FEEL good, but LOVE never fails.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Year of Mercy


Friends of Faith:
Pope Francis has declared the year of 2016 to be a “Year of Mercy” for a very good reason – EVERYONE needs it, “for we have sinned.”

Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. For I acknowledge my offense, and my sin is before me always: “Against you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.”A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not out from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. Give me back the joy of your salvation, and a willing spirit sustain in me. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. Ps 51: 3-17

But mercy is much more than just forgiveness for our sins, mercy is a time to forgive others; to grow in our faith; to rejoice and be glad that God has given us a Savior to wash away our guilt; and to commit to showing mercy to ALL of God’s people.
It is a time of refreshing ourselves with renewed courage and strength so that when we are called we can follow the Spirit who asks us to be “Christ like.” The Year of Mercy is a time to extend the mercy of Christ to others.  

Yet, too many times I find myself looking at the world, a single person or a group of people, and saying, “if only they would do this or that the world would be a better place.” I find myself blaming or pointing a finger at others instead of looking at my own failings and faults.
So mercy presents for me an opportunity to search my own heart for what it is I could be doing to make this world, and this time, better. What changes can I make in myself so that others will see Christ through me and in their own lives? How am I failing in my personal choices to say “yes” to God? Who am I ignoring that needs to see Christ in me? What “strange god” is overshadowing my life, my decisions, or my time?

Culturally our gods have become sports, possessions, sex and fulfilling our own desires. Many of us fail in the most basic choices of putting God first even on Sunday or to serve our spouses to whom we have taken a vow and covenant to love. And what is my response when I am asked to give my time or possessions to a stranger who is in need? Is God being given my “leftovers” fruits instead of my first time or talent?
Heavenly Father, help me to be able to honestly say that I put you FIRST; that I am a follower of Christ, a Christian. Grant me mercy for not showing others that you are what I value most in life. “Cast me not out from your presence.” And give me the grace to see the Holy Spirit who is always present and waiting to lead me. Renew in me a clean heart and cleanse me from my sin. Amen.

The Year of Mercy isn’t just about our own forgiveness. Rather the Year of Mercy should also be about our own renewal to be merciful to each other by putting God first, by serving others needs and by showing to others how Christ’s mercy and love gives us peace and joy.
“Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”
Blessings as you seek and spread God’s mercy to others,
Charlotte

Monday, January 11, 2016

Dreaming of an Ordinary "Holy" day

Friends of Faith:

Yesterday was the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord and what the Church calls the end of the Christmas season. Today starts the “ordinary time” within the Church calendar – those 32 or 33 weeks depending on the year, in which we are not celebrating Advent, Christmas, Lent or Easter.

“Beloved: The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.” Ti 2: 11-14
For many reasons I am looking forward to “ordinary time”  to being “delivered” back to a slower pace and a normalcy. I’m dreaming of a time when I don’t have to think about honoring traditions seemingly created by the commercialism and materialism of a holiday, but rather a dream of a calmer holy day.

What I am dreaming of and looking forward to is a true ordinary day. A day when I can say the only important task I have do is to sit in silence, to pray, and to listen to God’s answer. A day in which there is  no advertising or media interference trying to commercialize an “event” but a day in which instead of being Martha, I could be Mary.
I know – this isn’t a completely practical dream, but that IS what a dream is. In the practical sense as soon as I send this I have to go to work and it’s tax season. But with true Christian hope I really look forward to a perfect “holy day,” one in which I have more time to pray and less things to do; more time to give away and less commitments that have to be done; more of myself to give to others and less on the shopping list for myself.

A dream is a dream for a reason. A dream is a reminder of what is truly important, of what we would put aside, of what we would chose over everything else. A dream is what is in our heart.
And for me, this dream is a reminder that Christ remains more important to me (and others who share my dream) than worldly wants and desires. That His will for me is more important than the “hoopla” imposed by the desires brought on by media, commercialism, materialism, individualism and several other “isms” that seem to have overtaken our world.

The dream itself gives me hope and an awareness of a blessing that I have been given: a vision to “see” that my hope truly is in Christ. A blessing to know and desire that even though the devil tries to impose and interfere by making feast days into worldly holidays, Jesus’ life, God’s presence, and the power of the Holy Spirit will remain: more important, more glorious, and more of a desire, more of a sought after dream, than all that is worldly.
So as much as my dream is to be “ordinary” I go back to the start and end of this holy season, Christ’s birth and baptism which is passed on to us by our personal desire, our own call to join Christ by being baptized and our sanctification by Christ’s blood.

My dream is to BE what my baptism calls me to be:  a light, a living and present Christian to others. A dream to make Christ be as everyday and “ordinary” as possible for me; a desire to make Christ be present for as many others as I/we can; and a hope to help others see Christ as their own hope, to make Christ’s “ordinary” time be their own dream.
Heavenly Father, Your time is Glorious. Your ordinary is the most extraordinary. Your presence is my hope. Fulfill my dream with your reality. Give those you love the holiness to make this their dream too. Help me to make my ordinary be all about You. Amen.

Dream of an ordinary day and then make this ordinary day be a very Happy Holy-day.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, December 28, 2015

O Come All Ye Faithful

Women of Faith:

O Come, All Ye Faithful, Joyful & Triumphant for we have been blessed by the birth of Your Holy Savior, Christ Jesus.

 “The grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ.” Ti 2: 11-14

So, am I truly faithful, joyful and triumphant? Do I accept the training I am being given to reject godless ways and worldly desires?

It IS the true reason for the appearance of the glory of God – Jesus Christ our savior!

I am being called to live according to His commandments, faithful in my trust, to live devoutly so that I can trust that God (not I) will handle whatever comes my way—even if it causes me distress, sorrow or suffering.
I am being called to be triumphant and joyful in all the gifts I have been given—especially for the freedom to have the opportunities to know Jesus and to accept His very real presence in the Eucharist and in my very life itself.

“Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 1 Jn 1: 5-2: 2

I constantly remind myself that I have been given so much more than so many other believers, especially those in other countries. Opportunities for family, spiritual guidance and even material possessions: gifts which I may be asked to give back even though it may cause me pain because I have become used to “having” that particular gift.

And I know that the greatest gifts I have been given are the ones that don’t “cost money”: my very life and the love and acceptance of my human faults by family and friends, especially by those I so often take for granted.

And I am reminded also of the gifts of wisdom and knowledge which allow me to freely know and learn more and more about His plans, His design and to see the signs of His presence in my life. I am amazed by what is revealed to me, for the more I know, the more I know there is to know.

Heavenly Father: Thank you for showing me your presence in my life. Help me to remain your faithful and trusting servant. Allow me to be triumphantly joyful, especially for the gifts of your mercy and forgiveness, which you give to me so freely when I fail to acknowledge and obey your design for my life. Please help me to use my gifts wisely so that others may see “Jesus” through me. Amen.

Keep the true Spirit of Christmas alive in your life – Oh, come let us adore Him by, in, and with faithful, exuberant, and joyful trust!
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!
Blessings,
Charlotte

www.morningreflection.blogspot.com

Monday, December 14, 2015

I'm Having a Party. You're Invited.

Friends of Faith:

I’m having a party. Are you coming?

Essentially that is what God is telling us every day. He’s inviting us to a party. And it is our choice as to how we respond-- yes or no, there is no “in between” or “maybe” answer. We either show up or we don’t.

We must not be too busy, too worried, too anxious, or too ready to do it ourselves. We must rejoice that he is asking.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4: 4-7

We must love him more than our jobs; the Iowa Rosebowl, Iowa State basketball or the Chicago Cubs playoff; our kids soccer coach who says the kids won’t play if they don’t go to practice; The Voice or whatever it is on TV that is “our show;” our lake house or whatever else it is that keeps us away from church, prayer and working with the poor.

We must choose him over everything else.

Jesus again in reply spoke to them in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast* for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those invited: “Behold, I have prepared my banquet, my calves and fattened cattle are killed, and everything is ready; come to the feast.”’Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’ The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, bad and good alike,* and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.” Mt 22: 1-14

And because God says “what we do for the least of our brothers, so we do for Him” sometimes the choice isn’t just about my attendance at church (that’s a given) but the tougher choice about choosing to stay home from work, shopping, or skipping something recreational, to take care of my family or my neighbor; have a listening ear to someone who is lonely; or spending time with someone who is ill.

The great thing about God though is that he keeps giving us a second chance, and he asks us for nothing, only that we ourselves be with Him. He does not ask us to bring presents, food, or challenging games or conversations only the gifts of our time and talents. And He continues to give us the chance to say yes with the opportunities for giving into faith and shutting out the worlds call for more success, more money, and more happiness. He simply calls us to love him through our love for others.

Heavenly Father, I want to say yes! Help me to shut out the worldly distractions. Help me to realize I can’t do everything by myself. Help me to realize that others need what you have given me as a gift. Thank you for giving me answers to my prayers and the faith to see you in the tough choices I am called to make. Please give me and others peace, joy and comfort when we say yes and when we see others say yes because we have been a witness for you. Amen.

Will you be one of the chosen because you said yes when he invited you? God asks everyone but His question requires an answer. Make your RSVP this Advent season! 

Let’s not forget that Christmas is His party. I’m hoping to see you there.
Blessings,
Charlotte

Monday, December 7, 2015

Finding Balance

Friends of Faith:

Each time I write I struggle to find balance in what I write – to share and to teach, but not to preach; to inspire with hope, but 
not give into the despair of my own shortcomings; and to seek and share truth but not judge our human tendencies to give in to our selfish desires.

That’s the way earthly life is if we believe in God’s grace. It is a journey to constantly seek the truth, while acknowledging that we all have faults, a journey in which God promises us His undeserved love, mercy and forgiveness, if we will only accept it. And a journey through a world filled with temptations demanding everyday choices between earthly happiness and heavenly righteousness, a journey which if we have faith and trust in God tells us that He offers us every gift: love, happiness, our daily needs, peace and joy.

I find this balancing act to be even more of a challenge each Advent season.

A challenge to give to all of those that are needy, while receiving what others offer to me in charity.

A challenge to find quiet time in prayer, in church and in search of God in my own life, while doing all of the things I want to do to help others to feel God’s love in theirs.

A challenge to accept God’s forgiveness for my own shortcomings, while being patient in offering mercy to those who do not yet have an understanding of what God is granting them through truth and grace.

A challenge to both remember and share that JESUS is the Reason for the Season and that I should be grateful that his gifts are free.

“Brothers and sisters: I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception,  to discern what is of value,  so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness  that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.” 
Phil 1: 4-6, 8-11 AMEN!!

Take time for God. Pray, hope and find Balance. Know that all He wants from us is our faithfulness in Him. Seek and share the truth, be thankful, and accept His love and the love of others.

May the peace and joy of the season, of Christ Jesus, be with you all.
Blessings,
Charlotte