Prolife Charities to Support this Lent

We have been focused on the importance of alms giving this week, both in my Facebook Group Lives and here on the blog. Therefore, I thought I would share one of the all-time favorite blog posts about prolife charities to support. I was going to copy and paste the list here with some changes but the comment section is extensive and the discussion is worth reading before making your decision to donate.

Of course, there are other worthy places that deserve our financial support and if you have one you would like to suggest, please leave it in the comments. I would love to check them out.

10 Prolife Charities Worthy of Support

5 Reasons for Almsgiving

With Lent comes an emphasis on prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The rice bowls or other ministry containers come home and we are reminded to take the money we save from fasting and give to the poor. Some people take this seriously and some people don’t. Sadly, for a long time I was one of those who basically ignored the almsgiving portion of Lent.

Image by niekverlaan (2014) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Money can be a touchy subject and there are those who think that the Church is all about money. Yes, the Church needs money to run but almsgiving is (and should be) a deeply spiritual act. And, it doesn’t always mean money. If you have limited funds, you can give some of your time or talents or prayers. With a little creativity, there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit will inspire you with ideas for almsgiving.

If you need a little nudge, here are three reasons you should start a regular almsgiving regimen:

It’s Biblical

Tithing goes way back to the Old Testament and Jesus mentions the importance of giving several times, including:

Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” Matthew 8:10

Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.” Matthew 5:42

I tell you truly, this poor widow put in more than all the rest; for those others have all made offerings from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has offered her whole livelihood.” Luke 21: 3-4

It is an Act of Mercy

Feeding the hungry, give to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned, visiting the sick, sheltering the homeless, and burying the dead are all corporal works of mercy. Therefore, donating (almsgiving) to organizations that provide these services is, by extension, an act of mercy.

Better yet, you can give the alms of yourself by volunteering at an organization that provide these services. Or, just take some time to visit the elderly in a nursing home or a shut in. I worked with the elderly for a long time and I can assure you, it would be a great gift to them and incredibly rewarding for you! God is enormously generous and we always get more than we give.

It Fosters Gratitude

We all go through different struggles in our lives, some times can be worse than other times. When this happens, it is easy to get tunnel vision which makes past our little world a challenge. When we give to those who are less fortunate than ourselves, it can open our eyes and our hearts to the suffering of others. This is especially true if the almsgiving is from our necessities (think of the widow’s mite) and not an afterthought of our surplus.

It Can Help Form a Habit

Hopefully when we start almsgiving at Lent (or any time of the year), it will become a habit of giving and generosity. There are a lot of people who give (especially to food banks) during the Advent/Christmas season but than that falls off. The needy aren’t just needy during the winter holidays (although it is most noticeable then). There are people who need help all through the year.

Therefore, starting to do almsgiving at another time of the year, such as Lent, may help you get you into the spirit of giving on a regular basis.

It Can Strengthen and Enrich our Prayer Life

Or, rather, it should. When we pray, and enter into the heart of God, it is natural to want to spread His love to others, thus making almsgiving an overflow of our prayer life. And when we give alms, it can open our hearts to others and to God in a circle of blessing and grace, thus enriching our prayer life.

There is a reason prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is the trio focus of Lent. All of them, including almsgiving, work together to convert our hearts and our minds to God. If you focus on one or two and ignore the other(s). then you miss out on the fullness of grace that could be yours.

So, I encourage you to prayerfully discern what alms the Lord is asking you to give, be it money, time or talent. And once discerned, have courage to give without cost because, believe me, you will receive so much more than you could ever receive.

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REMINDER: I go live in my Facebook group every Monday at 10:35 am EST and every Thursday at 1:30 pm EST. I hope you will join me!

PSST: If you are looking for accountability or focused encouragement in growing your spiritual life, I’d love to chat with you and see if we would be a fit for working together. Book a call with me here.

Delicious Meatless Meals for Lent

Lent is here, and that means meatless Fridays. Do you find yourself eating pizza or fish every week for Lent? It is easy to fall into the routine of eating the same thing every week. And for our family, we don’t eat meat on any Friday of the year, so it can be particularly challenging. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are tons of meatless recipes that are just has quick, easy and delicious.

Delicious meatless meals for Lent

Image by lukasbieri (2017) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

So, to spark some ideas for you, I am re-sharing a small list of our favorite meatless recipes and some ideas from reader’s comments from the past. (Click on the recipe to go to its recipe instructions.)

1. Macaroni and Cheese. This is my sister-in-law’s recipe. Not only is tasty, it is SUPER easy to make.

2. Lentils: lentil Soup, lentils with rice or Honey Baked Lentils. (addition: As noted in the comments, this is a DELICIOUS way to eat lentils. 🙂 )

3. Egg Balls. (Yeah,  sounds weird I know, but it is delicious! You just have to try it to believe me!)

4. Peas and Macaroni. This is my mother-in-law’s recipe.

5. 5 Can Soup. I got this recipe a long time ago from some friends in Ohio.

6. Veggie Omelet. (Or any egg dish such as fried, scrambled, souffle, etc.)

7. Potato Pancakes. This is a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes.

8. Beans and Macaroni. Another great recipe from my mother-in-law.

9. Ratatouille. A classic French dish but easy to make.

10. Vegetarian Lasagna. Yum!

Other meal ideas would include, eggplant Parmesan; tuna casserole; cereal or other meatless breakfast food (such as pancakes, French toast, oatmeal – who says you can’t have breakfast for dinner?!);

From my Readers:

Tuna sandwiches with red seedless grapes and red onion mixed in, Cheesy Vegetable Bread Pudding, Garlicky Clams Linguine, Shrimp Rotini, Seafood Crepes, veggie burgers and vegetarian chili. vegetable enchiladas, and a baked potato bar.

What are your favorite vegetarian and/or meatless meals for Lent or any time of the year? Do share in the comments.

The Purpose of Ash Wednesday

For many non-Catholics (and many NEW Catholics) Ash Wednesday can seem strange. Why would anyone want to walk around with ashes on their head all day? And, truth be told, many cradle Catholics have been going to Mass and getting ashes for years without understanding the purpose of Ash Wednesday, as well.

The Significance of Ash Wednesday

Image by Balaska (2009) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

What is the purpose of Ash Wednesday?

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten Season, is a day set aside for prayer and repentance. We fast, we abstain from meat, and we get ashes as a reminder of our human frailty. It is also a day to remember the spiritual reality that surrounds us; our earthly life is only part of the journey. Yes, will die and our bodies will “return to dust.” However, it doesn’t stop there. As our bodies return to dust our souls go to heaven, hell or purgatory. These aren’t necessarily pleasant things to think about but they are important things, nevertheless.

Therefore, Ash Wednesday is a gift. Yes, a gift. This day of repentance is a gift because it gives us the opportunity to take stock of our lives. Think of it like a “spiritual New Year” where we can assess our relationship with the Lord and make steps to strengthen our relationship with HIM.

  • Have I grown in my relationship with the Lord over this past year?
  • Have I grown lax or lukewarm?
  • Have I developed patterns of sin that must be rooted out?
  • In what areas of my life do I need to change in order to become the person God wants me to be?

From this reflection, we can make “resolutions” or a plan of action for how we will spend our Lent this year. This is where we can decide if we need to give up something such as coffee or sweets. Or, we can work on letting got to die-hard habits or sins which are holding us back and keeping us in bondage. Also, Lent is a great time to make a plan to learn more about our faith or pray the scriptures more often.

Why Ashes?

The use of ashes have a long history as a sign of repentance. I encourage you to read the History of Ash Wednesday over at American Catholic.

As regards to the rite of ashes, it is very simple. We go up to the priest or whomever is distributing the ashes. He makes the sign of the cross (well, it should be a cross. Sometimes it looks more like a blob!) on our forehead while saying “Man you are dust and to dust your shall return” or a similar phrases. This phrase comes from Genesis 3:19:

By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.”

Our Obligation

Ash Wednesday is NOT a holiday of obligation. We are not required to go to mass, but it is strongly recommended that we go to Mass if we are able to. Going to mass is certainly a wonderful way to start Lent off on the right foot.

However, whether we go to Mass or not, we ARE obligated to abstain from meat and to fast today. The fasting requirement consists of one full meal and two smaller meals that equal one meal. No snacking or eating between meals is allowed. Of course, beverages are allowed at any time.  Everyone over the age of 14 is required to abstain from meat and everyone between the ages of 18-60 are required to fast. (See Canon law 1250-1252) I think pregnant women are exempt, but not sure.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we can’t do more. I know of some people who fast on just bread and water on Ash Wednesday or other fast days. It is up to you and God (and your spiritual director, if you have one) to determine if this is a good way to go.

However you fast, I pray that today is the beginning of a blessed and grace-filled Lent for your and your family.

Related Links

Here are a couple of links for further reading.

New Advent

About.com

Fallible Blogma

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REMINDER: I am going live in my Facebook group tomorrow (Thursday, February 15) at 1:30 pm and talking about forgiveness.

PSST: If you are looking for accountability or focused encouragement in growing your spiritual life, I’d love to chat with you and see if we would be a fit for working together. Book a call with me here.

3 Life Lessons from the Olympic Athletes

The Olympics are here! Have you been watching? I’ve watched some: snow boarding, a little of the sking, and my favorite, figure skating.

Life Lessons from Olympic Athletes

Image by PublicDomainPictures (2013) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

I am always amazed at the level of talent and effort put in by the Olympic athletes, and all serious athletes, really. There’s a reason St. Paul often used the analogy of athletes for the spiritual life. They are a great example of what we need to succeed in the spiritual life and in life in general. Here’s three of them:

Lesson One: Consistency

Serious athletes, like those participating in the Olympics, practice rigorously, on an ongoing basis. They set up a schedule and follow through. If they are serious about getting a medal, they are going to practice almost everyday without fail – often several hours a day. They don’t flip-flop, procrastinate or take days off because they feel like it.

If we are going to be successful in our spiritual life, personal life, or even our business life, we must be consistent. We must take steps going forward, no matter how little those steps are. And I have to admit, I struggle with that. I’ll go a week or month where I’ll pray everyday and make it to daily Mass and then I’ll have an “off” day and I won’t take the time to pray or make it to Mass. Then I miss the next day and the next day. Then before I realize it, I haven’t said my rosary in 4 days.

 Take time to reflect:  How consistent are you?

Lesson Two: Perseverance

One of my favorite things about watching the Olympics is hearing about the background stories of many of the athletes. So many of them have had difficulties and obstacles to overcome just to practice and succeed in their particular sports. Sometimes they fall and they fail but they pick themselves back up again. Whether it’s financial difficulties, injuries, failing, or opposition from other people, these athletes have gone against the odds and conquered.

If we are going to succeed in our spiritual lives, we will need to persevere. Times are hard. We all struggle. Some people struggle more than others but we all have our crosses to bear. Therefore it is important that you trust in God and persist so you can get through the hard times. And don’t forget, God will give us all the grace we need – but we have to Ask him more it!

Take time to reflect: How persistent are you?

Lesson Three: Focus

Most serious athletes focus all their attention and effort on one sport; and with good reason. By focusing on just one sport, the athlete can put all his or her time, resources, attention and physical abilities into being the best he or she can be. And it is easy to see that dedication and focus when you watch them perform. When I am watching the Olympic athletes, it seems as if nothing exists except them and their sport. The athlete blocks out everything that can potentially get between them and achieving their goals.

This is how it needs to be for us. In order for us to succeed in our spiritual life we need to focus on GOD. Does that mean we sit and pray all day? Of course not. But like the athletes who think about their sport or talk about their sport even when they are doing other things, we can train ourselves to think about God and talk to God no matter what we are doing. We can train ourselves to “never cease praying” (I Thessalonians 5:17), if we focus and practice.

Staying focused on Jesus isn’t easy. We are pulled in many directions and bombarded with distractions that do their best to keep us scattered. Therefore, we have to often take time apart to remind ourselves of what we are aiming for. That is why we have Advent and Lent and feast days to guide us and remind us of what we are aiming for: God and heaven. And that is why it is important to make a point of scheduling time for God in our life every day until it almost becomes a habit for us.

Take time to reflect: Are you focused?

Bonus Lesson: Accountability

There is one more lesson I want to mention because it ties all the other lessons together. All of the athletes, especially the most successful, don’t do it alone. They have coaches and cheerleaders and others who help them stay on track. They have people on their side to encourage them and support them and to guide them to victory.

It should be the same for us. In order to grow in our spiritual life, it would be very advantageous to have a spiritual director, life coach, or accountability partner to help us is setting our goals and achieving their goals. They can be there to help you stay consistent, to pick you up when you fail and help your persevere, and help keep you focused when distractions come. Getting a coach or accountability partner is definitely something worth thinking and praying about.

Take time to reflect: Do I have a spiritual director, life coach or accountability partner? Is it time to get one?

Now it’s your turn. What life lessons have you garnered (or are garnering) from watching the Olympics? Do share in the comments.

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Psst. If you are ready for accountability and support in growing your spiritual life, maybe I can help. Let’s chat and see if working together would make sense.

Suggestions for Making Lent Meaningful this Year (FB Live Video)

I did my second ever Facebook Live Video on Thursday (February 8, 2018) on some specific ways to make Lent more meaningful and purposeful for you this year. (I won’t be posting the Lives very often so I suggest you join the FB Group so you don’t miss out of future videos.)

Join Me for a Facebook Live Today (Thursday, February 8)!

I would for you to join me for a Face book Live in my group today. It will be at 1:30 pm EST and I will be talking about some specific ways you can make Lent meaningful this year.

Let’s make this year a Lent where you truly deepen your relationship with the Lord, rather than just going through the motions!

I hope to see you there!

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1822050804730323/

Give Yourself the Gift of Confession

 

Go to confession.

Church teaching requires that Catholics go to confession at least once a year. However, to grow in the spiritual life, the Church encourages Catholics to go at least once a month (when I was young, we were encouraged to go every two weeks). But this post isn’t about the theology behind Confession or Church teaching.

The Gift of Confession

You see, I love going to confession. Besides the Eucharist, Confession is my favorite sacrament. (Crazy, I know!) Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous sometimes when I go to confession. I sometimes think I don’t have anything to say. And yes, I often confess the same things over again. But that’s okay!

When we go to Confession, we don’t just have our sins forgiven. We gain grace and strength to live out our womanly vocation. Additionally, depending on the priest, we can get some really good insights and/or advice. Even if we don’t, we still encounter Christ in a very real and profound way in Confession.

Sure, just like the liturgy, it is great if  when we get to confess to a priest who is on fire for his faith and truly a vessel of Christ. But, sadly, that just isn’t always going to happen unless we are blessed to be in a parish with priests who understand the value of the sacrament. Still, we just need to remember that no matter what vessel Jesus decides to use, it is JESUS we confess to in the Sacrament. Years ago, I read in a book that when we go to confession we “whisper into the ear of Jesus.” Those words have made such an impact on me, and to this day I try to remember that when I go to confession.

Over the years, I have gone to confession to some wonderful priests and there have been times when I left the confessional wondering if the sacrament was valid. Then one day, I realized that I have a choice. I know the priests in the area where I live that I like and I can choose to make a point of confessing to them. When I don’t have the opportunity to confess to a priest I want, I make an act of faith and confess to the priest available. If you live in an area where the priests may be questionable, please don’t let that stop you from the Sacrament. The grace is still there! (And don’t forget to offer prayers and sacrifices for the priest.)

Remember, Confession really is a GIFT from God to Mother Church.

So please,  do give yourself the gift Confession frequently, especially during the next 40 days of Lent. Here is a little blurb on how to make a good confession, if you need it.

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Psst. If you are looking for accountability and support in growing your spiritual life, let’s chat and see if working together would make sense.

Tweetable: Give Yourself the Gift of Confession

Candlemas (Presentation of the Lord)

“When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord,just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,”and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel,and the holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him,he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying:

“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 sight of all the peoples, light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him;and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted(and you yourself a sword will pierce)so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage,and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer.And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” Luke 2:22-38

Image by Collinson (1878) via Wikipedia, CCO Public Domain

Today is the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, formally known as “Candlemas.” In many cultures, the Presentation the Lord used to be the official ending of Christmas; therefore, one of the traditions for this feast is to light lots of candles and decorate with greenery.

For some lovely explanations and  meditations on this feast, here are some websites to check out:

Fisheaters

Churchyear.net

New Advent

celebrating candlemas

catholicculture.org

americancatholic.org

about.com

Today’s feast is also a good lead in for this month’s devotion: The Holy Family. It is good for us, as Catholics, to imitate our families after the Holy family. It is good for us to pray to the Holy Family, asking them to bless our family and help us in our needs. You can go here for some prayers to the Holy Family to get you started.

2018 Goals – January Update

In 2017, I did an experiment and didn’t make any goals for the year. My focus was on scheduling the things I wanted to do. However, it was pretty much a bust. 🙁 Don’t get me wrong, the scheduling part was great and I did get a lot of “stuff” done. The problem was that I felt scattered most of the time and unfocused.

This past year was a bigger challenge than 2016 and I didn’t think that was possible. And, not having specific goals left me feeling unhinged a lot of the time. I need structure. Goals give me that structure and allows me to have boundaries and white space. I also missed the accountability of not posting my goals online. It gives me incentive and have been told from readers that they like reading about the goals.

2018 Goals Update January

Image by condesign (2014) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

This year, I am going to combine the scheduling with the goals. I have 12 goals for different aspects of my life and I will be taking some time today to schedule those goals into my calendar (in bite-sized chunks). My hope is that by combining them both, I will have a scheduled yet focused year. I am also posting them here for the accountability and will give monthly updates about how I am doing.

Here is how January went down:

PERSONAL GOALS

1. Read at least one chapter of the Bible each day (On track with this. Working my way through Genesis)

2. Cut out sugar and dairy for at least 8 weeks (fast Wednesdays & Fridays) (Mostly good. I’ve had some slip ups but still doing better than I had in a while. Now that my birthday month is over, I will be more strict.)

3. Read one personal book per month (fiction, self-help, spiritual, etc.) (Killing it! Read two books in January and halfway done with two others.)

MARRIAGE GOALS

4. Go on one date with Michael per month (January date done.)

5. Send Michael (and Andrew) at least one love/text note per week. (Done every week for Michael missed a couple for Andrew. I need to be more mindful of this.)

FAMILY GOALS

6. Read one book out loud to Andrew per month (I have been reading the Acts of the Apostles out loud for his Religion class. I also read one short book to him.)

7. Go on a family vacation (Have been discussing this with Michael working out the details and plan.)

8. Pray with Andrew daily (daily devotional book before or after school) (Done for January.)

FINANCIAL GOALS

9. Rebuild emergency fund ($1,000) (Not started yet.)

10. Save at least $10 per week (Done for January.)

BUSINESS GOALS

11. Launch two courses/programs this year (Still working out the details for these.)

12. Do at least 2 FB lives per month (aiming for weekly!) (I’ve had some tech issues but have done a couple of these. Need to be more consistent.)

Have you made any goals for 2018? If so, do share in the comments! I would love to support and encourage you in any way I can! How are you doing with your goals? Do share!