Because His Knuckles May Begin to Hurt

My four-year-old and I were cuddling before bed tonight, talking about Jesus.  At one point I suggested we come up with a gift for Jesus.  “What do you think He might like for a present?”  I asked her.  I don’t know what I expected her to say, maybe a hug, or a drawing, or a puppy…

“A doorbell.”

“A doorbell?”

“Yup.”

“What do you think Jesus would do with a doorbell?”

“I think maybe He would ring it.”

“You know what? I think that’s exactly what He would do.”

I just found that so funny and so charming that I had to share.

***

“Listen! my beloved is knocking.” (Song of Songs 5:2)

“For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:8)

“Be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.” (Luke 12:36)

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”  (Rev 3:20)

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Swinging Songs of Praise

Last night our family went out into our yard after dinner and before bed.  While my husband was mowing the yard, I pushed the girls on the swings.  They like when I push them high so they can “almost touch the trees!”  I pushed them on the swings for the better part of an hour – and it was heaven.

There was no arguing or whining, there was no pestering or instigating or bickering; I was not worried about a mess to clean or someone hurting herself.  I wasn’t being defied or ignored.  I wasn’t grouchy or short-tempered or irritable.  I didn’t raise my voice once.  All we had to do was play… play together.

The best part of all was the laughter.  The songs.  The squeals of delight.  The noises of pure happiness that came from my girls.  They called to their daddy, and waved, grinning from ear to ear.  Giggling and happy chatter.  The air was filled with such sweet joy.  It was tangible, it was contagious – I became immersed in the moment and it lifted my heart and mind to the Lord.

The smile He gave me was so deep and awesome.  I thought, “This is what we were made for!  This is the praise the Lord wants!  This is where He is, where He is happiest – when His children, pure of heart, are enjoying His creation, loving each other, and filling His world with songs of joy.”

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CRHP – Week 9 – Third Segment – Evangelization

Much has happened since we were together last. We have begun the twelve “Segments”; each has a different theme that we spend a good bit of time discussing and sharing our life experiences. In the First Segment we discussed Commitment. In the Second Segment we discussed Shared Ministry. Last night we discussed Evangelization.

The purposes of the Segments are: 1) To continue personal spiritual growth of the team members, 2) To develop a sense of discipleship in a community of love and service, 3) To prepare for the Renewal Weekend.

Commitment highlights:

You did not choose me but I chose you; and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit.”  John 15:16

“The content of one’s commitments will determine the course of one’s life.”  CRHP Manual

When I’m tempted to waver in my commitment to the CRHP process, it helps to call to mind the reasons I chose to commit in the first place: to bring God to the participants, to join our pastor and the Holy Spirit in his efforts to renew the parish, to activate my own personal spiritual growth, and ultimately, to give glory to God.

Shared Ministry highlights:

“We pray always when the One who loves us is always on our mind.  Shared prayer, then, is sharing what is on our mind.” CRHP Manual

We recently celebrated 180 years as a parish community (established 1831). Our pastor received letters from area organizations that beautifully illustrated how our parish has been woven into the larger community, serving people faithfully in many ways for many for years. In addition to all the present-day ministries, CRHP strikes me as one of the latest ways we continue that contribution.

On a larger scale, renewing our parishes will be beneficial for the Universal Church as well, bringing about the New Pentecost that is on the heart of God, as proclaimed by Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Evangelization

Our discussion on the topic of evangelization was fruitful. The definition we were given was

“To proclaim the love of the Father which comes to us through Jesus Christ in such a way that through the Holy Spirit you accept it with your own free and firm commitment.” CRHP Manual

In the stories that we shared, we found some of the basic ingredients of the experience. Evangelization happens in everyday relationships - between family, friends, and strangers. It takes courage to love as Jesus loves, and it takes courage to be open to be loved.  Some essential things that we must do:

1)  Simply be there, be present to one another.

2)  Listen, Encourage, and Challenge one another.

3)  Pray.  I will pray for you.  Can I pray for you?  Can we pray together?

4)  Share Jesus, both by name and by deed.

The results are exciting and edifying. Both persons in the interaction are energized and inspired. God’s goodness, truth, and beauty is attractive to us because we were made for it.

It seems to me that evangelization is really a form of shared prayer. It is a form of worship, of sharing in God’s work on earth by offering our bodies to Him to love others through us.

There has been talk in Catholic circles about The New Evangelization. The Church is missionary by Her very nature, and The New Evangelization is a re-awakening to that mission. It has been expressed and emphasized by the last four popes – Francis, Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and John VI. Because of the current cultural climate, The New Evangelization has a special emphasis:

[God and His Church have] a sincere desire to invite all of God’s children to their place in the Church: “We want to let our inactive brothers and sisters know that they always have a place in the Church and that we are hurt by their absence—as they are. . . . we want to help them see that, however they feel about the Church, we want to talk with them, share with them, and accept them as brothers and sisters.”

I feel a direct, concrete example of this when I invite someone to a Renewal Weekend. This is what Christ Renews His Parish is designed to do, offer an invitation and an opportunity to meet Jesus in His Church.  May God bless our efforts!

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CRHP – Week 5 – Discernment

This week was the Discernment of Team Ministries.  To an outside ear, which mine was just a few days ago, it doesn’t sound like any big deal – but to experience it was pretty amazing.  “Discerning,” in this context, is to come to know what work the Lord has for each of us to do in the coming weeks, and on the Renewal Weekend itself.  Through prayerful reflection, discussion, and listening, the eleven of us sought and saw the Lord’s will, and it was very exciting.

The ministries we were discerning are as follows.  We were required to discern them in order.  There are a couple minor roles that are missing because our group is so small.

Lay Director – Coordinates the various activities and ministries into a single instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit.  She is the prayer leader and directs the weekend itself.  She gives the final witness on the theme Discipleship.

Witnessers (6) - Gives witness to her own experience of one of the following themes: Renewal, Spirituality, Christian Community, Christian Awareness, Scripture, and Father’s Loving Care.

Sacristan – Prepares the chapel and prayer areas, the Scripture services, and Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.  She also schedules Adoration times.  This role is combined with Liturgist due to the size of our group.

Liturgist – Plans the liturgies.  Provides music and song for the joyful celebration of Scripture and the Sacraments.  She also plans the readings and reflections for chapel visits.  This role is combined with Sacristan due to the size of our group.

Weekend Facilitator – Provides and facilitates the flow of supplies, team members and participants to the right place at the right time.  She is responsible for set-up and clean-up of the Renewal Weekend.  She also has a treasurer function.

Invitation Coordinator – Coordinates the parish and team efforts in inviting and contacting parishioners to attend the Renewal Weekend.

Help (Box) Coordinator – Coordinates the effort in soliciting, gathering, organizing, and distributing the letters for the Box, and prayer support throughout the weekend.

One thing that I’m told was unusual about our group is how open everyone was to the Lord’s call, whatever it was.  What at first seemed like ambivalence was actually a genuine willingness to serve, a concern not to step on each other’s toes, and a desire for everyone to find their place.

It was surprising how it all shook out.  When we first went around the room and shared what we thought the Lord was calling us to, five of us thought we would like to be the Liturgist/Sacristan, myself included!  There were a few women that seemed like a good fit for many roles.

Most surprising for me was the role I have been called to.  Almost all of the other women have been on a CRHP Team before, so they have a clear idea of what is involved in each of these ministries.  I expected to play an important role, but a minor one.  Not because I’m not capable of a leadership role, but because I wouldn’t have any idea where I was leading everyone to.

Well, I am the Lay Director.  I am to lead.  I am to give spiritual inspiration.  I am to be person of prayer.  I am to set an example of Scripture, sharing, sacrifice, and service.  On the weekend itself, I am to be something of a Master of Ceremonies, and I will give my own witness to Discipleship.

I AM SO EXCITED.

When I said I wanted to be a part of giving a CRHP Weekend to others, I had no idea this is what I would be doing, but now that it is decided, I realize how much I want to do it.  I am not afraid, I know I will have help, and I know it is really the Lord leading us.

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CRHP Week 4

I missed last week because I was ill, but I did go this week.  It was supposed to be the Night of Discernment, but that has been delayed until next week.  We had a new woman join our group, so she shared her faith story, and we all shared an abbreviated version of ours.

The Holy Spirit gave us a little more time to get to know each other.  It was very eye-opening for me.  I am still amazed at how much pain these women have endured, how long they carried deep, deep wounds.  At times it was confusing how recently these things had happened – what they did, what was done to them, what they lost, what they wanted but never had – the pain was brought back afresh.  We spent a long time listening, and grieving, together.

One thing that strikes me is how relatively uneventful my story is.  Even though I have been nursing wounds, they are so small.  God has protected me from so much, I have no reason to delay giving myself completely to His care.  I have no excuse for being timid, for keeping the gifts He has given me to myself.

I have young children right now, all girls.  Little girls are so care-free, so full of life, so open.  They love unconditionally.  They forgive easily.  They dream of butterflies and rainbows and sing silly songs and watch themselves dance in the mirror.  They naturally adore their daddies and imitate their mommies.

These women started out like my girls.  They never would have imagined the horrible things they would go through.  I’m truly devastated for them.  And I’m devastated for the kingdom – how much building time has been lost.  The devil really did a number on these women.  And it makes me mad that he still has a hold over them, that he can use the past to upset their peace and distract them from what God can do in the here and now.

I usually see beauty when people can be vulnerable with each other, but the weakness was overwhelming.  Being vulnerable is an invitation for other people to grow in mercy and charity.  I wanted to do more than comfort them, I wanted to heal them, to make them whole again, so they could fully be the women God made them to be.  I wanted to grind the devil beneath my heal into the dirt until he dies and can no longer hurt anybody.

Maybe that’s how Our Lord feels…

Even though our tears were still expressing mourning, there was also gratitude for the saving and healing the Lord has already done.  Hopefully we can focus on that from here on out.

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