Guest Post: Sitting with Jesus by Sr. Christina M. Neumann

(Editor’s Note: Please enjoy this lovely reflection by Franciscan Sister Christina.)

Sitting with Jesus

Image by geralt (2015) via Pixabay, CCO Public Domain

Last week, I was privileged to be able to attend a Eucharistic Holy Hour at the Catholic Newman Center on the local university campus.  It was a beautiful time, complimented by guitar and vocal music, which was very conducive to prayer.

After a crazy day (including working an unexpected night shift at our assisted living home), it was so nice for me to have this chance just to sit there with Jesus, led into prayer by the beautiful praise music.

Another great avenue (probably the best) for leading one into prayer is scripture.  I deeply treasure Christ’s Eucharistic presence, and finding Him present in His Word also is an important part of my prayer.

I most often use the scripture readings for Mass for the day, found in a missalette (and often in church bulletins).

Although ‘just sitting with Jesus’ is a beautiful thing, as weak humans, we usually need some help to get started in our prayer.  Putting oneself into a scripture (I often prefer the gospels) passage is a great place to start.  I’ve been using a simple format for scriptural mediation since my college years, and I’d like to share it with you here.

I prefer to pray before the Blessed Sacrament, but even if that’s not possible for you, I’d suggest the following steps for meeting Him personally in His Word.

 Praying with the Scriptures

Preparation

Pick out a Scripture passage (the gospel of the day is a good choice)

Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance, to open your heart.  It is difficult to launch into prayer from the midst of a flurry of distracting occupations so take a minute – call to mind that Jesus is with you (in the Blessed Sacrament/in your heart).

Reading

Read a small section of scripture that you’ve chosen slowly and prayerfully.

 Consider

Who is pictured here? What are they doing? What does it mean to me? How do they feel/what would it be like?

Imagine what it would be like to be there.  What would you do?  How would you feel?

Conversation:  Begin to talk slowly to Christ, telling Him of your love for Him, your desire to serve Him, your willingness to do anything for Him. Adore Christ in the scene of the day’s meditation; express your love for Him; thank Him for past gifts; ask Him for new favors in the future;

When the conversation begins to falter, return briefly to the reading to get new thoughts for additional conversation with Christ.

Conclusion

This is entirely optional; but it may be of great value in making progress in prayer.  Thank God for the graces received during the time of prayer now coming to a conclusion.  Then, very briefly, one might examine failings during the period, and resolve to get rid of these in the future.  This determination to hold better conversation with Christ gives a strong determination to make further strides along the road of prayer.

Bio

Sr. Christina works at St. Anne’s Guest Home, a care facility for elderly and disabled persons in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Along with her regular duties there, she also runs a blog for her religious community of Franciscan Sisters of Dillingen and one for St. Anne’s as well. You are welcome to check out the St. Anne’s Scoop and Our Franciscan Fiat.

**************

Tweetable: Sitting with Jesus

>Interested in guest posting? I’d love to have you! Please review the guest post guidelines and then be in touch!

Guest Post: How to Make an Easter Resurrection Cake

Editor’s Note: This yummy-looking guest-recipe from Alvina Lopez is a re-publish from a couple years ago. At the time, I didn’t get the recipe published in time for Easter so I am re-posting it today, several days before Easter for those who missed it. 🙂

Easter is this Sunday, and what better way to help celebrate the rising of Jesus Christ then by preparing a resurrection cake in His honor? This delicious cake, which is appropriately in the shape of a cross, is fairly easily to make. If you’re pressed for time, substitute the homemade cake batter and frosting we have listed below for a box cake mix and store bought icing. If you don’t have steady hands, you may also opt to use a cross cake mold instead.

You will need: 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan, toothpicks, spatula, electric mixer, 2 mixing bowls, and food coloring: red, yellow, blue and orange.

Cake Batter Ingredients:

• 1 cup butter
• 1 ½ cups sugar
• 4 eggs
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 4 cups sifted cake flour
• 4 tsp baking powder
• 1 1/3 cups milk

Directions: Pre-heat oven to 350°F. Grease baking pan. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until it is softened. Slowly add in sugar, and continue to beat until creamy mixture develops. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Add in the vanilla extract and salt, continuing to beat the mixture. Mix-in flour and baking powder. Add milk. Continuing beating until the batter is creamy. Immediately pour batter into your greased baking pan. Spread evenly to edges. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before turning it over onto a rack to cool completely. Once cooled, cut the cake into a cross shape: cut out 3 inch squares from the top two corners of the cake, and then cut out 6 x 2 inch squares from the bottom corners of the cake.

Butter Cream Frosting Ingredients:

• 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
• 1 cup butter
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• 2 tbsp whipping cream

Directions: In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together on low speed until well blended. Increase the speed to medium and beat for another 3 to 4 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and whipping cream, continuing to beat on medium for an additional one minute. Add one drop of each food coloring and stir. Frosting should now be brown.

Frost the cake with a crumb coat first—This is a thin layer of frosting that helps capture loose cake crumbs. Then frost the cake in its entirety. Using a tooth pick (or fork), make vertical lines in the frosting to mimic grain lines—this will make the cake look like it’s made of real wood.

—-

Alvina Lopez is a freelance writer and blog junkie, who blogs about accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: alvina.lopez @gmail.com.

(P.S. Interested in guest posting here at Simple Catholic Living? I’d love to have you! Take a peek at the guest post policy and then get in touch with me. 🙂 )

Guest Post: Speaking the Word of God

guest post bible

(Photo Credit)

Editor’s Note: Now that we are all in the process of recovering from Hurricane Sandy (have been praying for all who have been affected) and most of us have power returned, we are back with our guest post series. This post comes from Jason Miner who shares with us the importance of studying Scripture. (In this article, Jason talks about being “born again” which is something not familiar to most Catholics. Feel free to contact me if you want the Catholic understanding of this term. 🙂 )

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 1:1-3 (NAS)

When you read this verse what does it say to you? Jesus is the Word, He has always been with God, and He is God. Nothing that has been created would be here if He had not created it. Wow.

The Lord has been teaching me so much about His word lately. How very important it is, not just the reading of His word but living His word and speaking His word. He spoke the world into being. “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” Genesis 1:3 (NAS) His word is power. When we read His word and put it into our hearts He reminds us of His word when situations in our lives come up where we need to draw on His strength. We can speak the word and His promises at these times and His word will produce the outcome that God desires for us.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness by Satan what did He say back to Satan? He quoted the word of God. Even Jesus, who was God incarnate, quoted His word to Satan. His word is the truth and He has instructed us to speak the truth in love.

I was born again when I was seven and I always knew that Jesus was with me and that I belonged to Him. In the past few years He has brought me through some very challenging times and has made me realize that even though I was a child of the King I actually knew so little about Him and His word. I never understood why he said to rejoice when we go through tribulation until lately. When you go through heartache and you actually turn to Him for help and guidance He is able to lift you up in a way that our human minds can’t even imagine. Only those that have been in trials and tribulation and that turn to Him for help can understand what I’m talking about. Even then we cannot fully understand all that the Lord has in store for us here on earth as we learn to trust and obey Him fully. Neither can we begin to imagine what He has in store for us when we finally get home to heaven with Him. The word of God tells us, but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NAS) and “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9 (NAS)

When we study the word of God and meditate in His word he can and will set us free from our earthly anxieties and concerns. The key to peace is to trust Him completely. If we do not trust Him completely then we are living in unbelief. We must make up our minds whether or not we really believe that,”For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 (NAS) When we speak the word of God and sing praises to our Lord as we go along in our daily lives He will lift us up out of the cares of this world into His heavenly kingdom where we already reside if we belong to Him. “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:6 (NLT) and “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord” Ephesians 5:19 (NAS).

As the first scripture that was quoted at the beginning of this article states, Jesus is the Word, therefore we must read and know the word if we are to have a personal relationship with Him and the Father. He encourages us throughout His word to abide in Him because without Him we can do nothing. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:4-5 (NAS) I’ve looked up the definition for abide in several dictionaries and it means: to remain; continue; stay or to remain stable or fixed. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NIV)

It is imperative that we keep our eyes on Jesus at all times. Over and over again in the word of God he tells us to keep focused on Him and not what is going on around us. If we get caught up in the cares of the world then we lose sight of Jesus and His peace and rest. “but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” Mark 4:19 (NAS) Remember when Peter asked the Lord that he command him to come to Him on the water? “Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water. And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat the wind stopped.” Matthew 14:28-32 This is something that the Lord reminds me of frequently in my walk with Him. Am I keeping my eyes on Him or my circumstances? If we take our eyes off of Him we lose our peace, our joy, our hope, our everything.

We need to meditate in His word daily and burn it into our hearts and minds. He is the word, if we truly want more of Jesus we will focus on His word. When situations arise in our lives and we don’t know what to do He can remind us of His promises and His truth when we know His word. When we know His word, we know Him. We know His character and even if we don’t remember a specific verse we know what His heart is towards those that love Him. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NAS) He doesn’t want us floundering around in this world seeking after things that do not bring us peace or joy. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27 (NAS) Again He tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Remember to keep your eyes on Jesus, talk to Him about everything that is going on in your life. He cares very much about what you are going through, what you are thinking, and is always ready to respond when you come to Him. First and foremost you must be born again into His kingdom; you must confess to Him that you are lost and that you know that you are a sinner and need forgiveness for your sins. Ask Him into your heart and He will come in. His word says, “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” John 3:5-6 (NAS) We are born once from the womb of our mothers and we are born again by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord which is being born in the Spirit.

When you belong to Him you never need to be anxious or afraid for your future because He will keep you in the palm of His hand. He loves you so much. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NAS), and “and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” John 10:28 (NAS)

—————

Author Bio:

Jason Miner plays a vital role for www.blogcarnival.com.  He is an expert in writing topics of different categories.  He is helping the carnival team to grow & working on making this an even better place for bloggers.

 

 

 

Guest Post: Fidelity to the Father

Editor’s Note: Guest Blogger Marcelle continues her series on God the Father. Enjoy!

How many of us have made promises to God the Father but did not keep them, wounding His precious Heart deeply? How many of us made promises to Him than invented all kinds of rationalizations to break these promises? Every time we rationalize justifying the violation of our promises to our Father, our actions resemble those of giving someone close to us a costly gift, then showing up sooner or later saying, “Hey, you know what? I want my gift back because (insert rationalization).” In fact, if someone had to behave this way with us, we would not think twice to consider that person rude and disrespectful. We would also lose any trust reposed in them. But many of us do not hesitate to act this way with our Father, with regard to gifts we ‘give’ Him through our broken promises.

Promises, gifts given to Him, should never be recalled, no matter the personal inconvenience we may experience to keep them, except in exceptional circumstances. We need to be faithful to our word to the Father because He is faithful to us, otherwise we risk bringing down God’s displeasure upon ourselves and others. We disappoint Him when we do not keep our word to Him. Joining our will to our Father’s Will is about fidelity – real fidelity in our individualized and commoditized day and age. It is faithfulness to our promises, our gifts, in the context of situational difficulties which mark us out as true children of the Father, for only by fidelity in the union of wills can we fulfill the commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind” (Mt 22:37).

Meanwhile, the beauty of living in the Father’s Will is that we experience unbelievable freedom from the imprisoning chains of ourselves, when we decide with seriousness to exchange our will for His. This kind of liberty becomes the norm as we incorporate into ourselves the freedom of God, since nothing greater exists which is emancipating in its perfection. Everything the Most High has becomes ours while everything we have becomes His, in an ever-growing circular relationship of intimacy and love.

For the above to happen, though, we need to set aside our egos, to contribute actively and wholeheartedly to the child-Father relationship. We cannot sit back and expect this relationship to develop on its own, or to wait for others, including our Father, to do our work for us. That is not how things work. We would be fooling ourselves if we think this is the case, because we would not grow spiritually. Therefore, when we decide to welcome the Eternal One’s Will into our hearts, we must open up space for Him without reservation so He can operate with fullness in us, leading us to start living from now in a foretaste of Heaven.

—————

Marcelle Bartolo-Abela is an author of books on Catholic spirituality. More of her writings can be found at Reflections for the Soul.

Guest Post: God is My Father

God our Father

Editor’s Note: Marcelle joins us for a second time with another reflection on God our Father. Enjoy!

God is my Father! How many of us have considered the totality of depth and outcome of this phrase? How often have we pondered the personal meaning of this potent and immutable fact, especially as it relates to the living out of our daily lives? What does it mean, not just to us collectively but to you and me individually, that God the first Person of the Holy Trinity is Father? And for those who do not have access any more to their earthly fathers, what does the phrase “God is my Father” mean to you, in the deepest recesses of your hearts?

God the Father deeply desires to be our mighty Parent in the midst of the mundane details of our lives. He wants to participate actively on our behalf and yearns to enter into an intimate relationship with each of us individually, infusing His infinite love into the heart of our souls from the core of His Divine Heart, so that we can enjoy His Presence while still on earth – a foretaste of Heaven. The first Person of the Trinity has, in fact, always been first and foremost a Father in His divine intersubjectivity, because otherwise He would not have begotten His Son, Jesus Christ, from before time began. However, many of us throughout the years have remained distant from the Father, with many more being hesitant or afraid to approach Him directly, because we see Him primarily as the God of the Old Testament – the God who drowned the Egyptians in the Red Sea (Ex 14:1-31) and repeatedly destroyed the rest of Israel’s enemies whenever the Children of Israel obeyed Him – rather than the infinitely loving Father He really is.

Speaking experimentally, God the Father cannot help relating to us with love, gentleness, compassion, mercy, sweetness and tenderness when we open our hearts to Him as Father, turning to Him with all we have and for everything we need. That is why He is the Father. He even relates to us in this way and more when we wound Him. God being God, He is complex; rightfully so. But God is also simple and loves simplicity on our part in turn, because it opens up space for Him to manifest the fullness of His majesty. All the Eternal Father desires – all He has ever desired since creating Adam – is to be a welcomed Father to each one of us, able to let loose His Fatherliness and grace fully in our personal regard, without the restrictions we continue imposing upon Him through our free-will “no’s.” This is the deepest and as yet largely unfulfilled longing of His Divine Heart. We sadden Him when we fear Him untoward or neglect Him, because all our Father wants is to shower us with Himself, His Divine Light, in the heart of our souls, letting us feel the infinity, intensity and incomparability of His love. Let us not hesitate to approach Him, therefore, like little children with the words, “Father, I love You, I adore You. I want You to be my Father forever” on our lips and in our hearts. God the Father will consequently plunge us deeply into His bosom, His Divine Heart, because He cannot resist responding with immeasurable love, sweetness and tenderness to those who call Him “Father” with childlike love.

***************

Marcelle Bartolo-Abela is an author of books on Catholic spirituality, with a focus on God the Father and the Divine Family. More of her writings can be found at The Divine Heart of God the Father.

Guest Post: Saints Perpetua and Felicity

Saints Perpetual and FelicityEditor’s Note: I know today is the feast of Saint Francis, but I don’t think he minds if I share Kathleen Basi’s guest post on Saints Perpetual and Felicity. 🙂 And Kathleen’s questions gave me pause. How would I react if I was in the same position as Saints Perpetua and Felicity? I hope I would have the same faith and strength as them!

Let me begin with a story, because it was one I didn’t know.

Perpetua was a 22-year-old Roman noblewoman with a nursing child, who became a Christian in the year 203 AD.

Felicity was her slave, also a convert, and eight months pregnant.

They, along with their Christian friends, were put in prison to await execution. Execution, in the Roman empire, was not pretty, even when it didn’t involve crucifixion. These two women were supposed to be fed to wild animals in the arena.

Something about their story stopped me dead in my tracks, made me question myself–really question. I think of myself as a faithful person. But if I found myself in their position, how would I react? How do you weigh the choice between renouncing faith or renouncing the children you love more than life itself?

In every way, the stakes are higher after you have children. I don’t think anything illustrates that fact quite as clearly as the story of these two women. Like us, they bore their children in love, caught their breath in wonder at the flutters and kicks, strained forward in time, eager to meet the tiny life they knew so intimately and yet not at all. Surely they cherished dreams for them, as we all do–dreams that are tightly, inseparably woven with the faith that makes us who we are. There would be little point in renouncing the faith to stay alive for the sake of their children, for if they did, what would be left to pass on? And yet, to choose martyrdom was to entrust their children to a future in which they couldn’t be sure the faith for which they’d sacrificed all was even being taught. Christ comes before all. Still, our children are entrusted to us, a holy and sacred vocation; they make us holy as we teach them holiness.

The difficulty with saints’ stories is that their biographers edit out the details that make them human, and leave only that which makes them saints. We know what Perpetua and Felicity did. We even know some of what they thought, because of a document called The Passion of St. Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions. Felicity’s greatest fear, for instance, was that she wouldn’t give birth in time to be executed with her friends (pregnant women were not executed in Rome). But they weren’t immune to fear, to regret. Surely there was anguish in those final days, and surely they, like Jesus before them, prayed to let this cup pass them by.

There’s a telling detail in Perpetua’s story. When she went to prison, she went without her baby, and she was desolate. Eventually, her family was able to bring the baby to her in prison. (Anybody want to wager it was not out of compassion for the crazy hormonal condemned lady, but for the people forced to put up with a nursing child separated from his mother?) Once her son was with her, Perpetua considered prison to be a palace. I understand that. Death is inevitable, so much of its power is gone. From now ’til then, you have your little one by your side, and no other duties–nothing to distract you. And on the far side waits the One who makes it all worth it.

It’s a position I hope I will never be in, but it inspires me nonetheless.

What saint stories make you look at your life in a new way?

—————
Kathleen Basi is a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, flute and voice
teacher, liturgical composer, choir director, natural family planning
teacher, scrapbooker, sometime-chef and budding disability rights activist.
She puts her juggling skills on display at
**www.kathleenbasi.com*<http://www.kathleenbasi.com/>

(Photo Credit)

Guest Post: Baked Green Tomato Recipe

Editor’s Note: This week’s guest post is from one of my fellow “Sunday Snippet” participants, Barb. We are still getting tomatoes from our garden so I can’t wait to try this recipe!

A movie some years back titled “Fried Green Tomatoes” piqued my interest in what can be done when frost approaches and you still have unripened tomatoes on the vine in your garden.  Apparently in the South, frying them is the way to go, but for the life of me, I can’t fry anything and have it turn out right.  What to do?

After some serious on-line searching I ferreted out a delicious baked green tomato recipe to make great use of those end-of-season fruits.  It tastes so good I think grocery stores are making a mistake in only offering hot-house tomatoes in the fall and winter.

This is my adapted version of the recipe that serves six:

Ingredients:

  • 4 large firm green tomatoes (If you’re dealing with small to medium tomatoes, just guesstimate as I do for your numbers)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • ¾ cup coarse buttery cracker crumbs (I used Keebler Townhouse Originals the first time)
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • a dash of cinnamon

Directions:

Cut green tomatoes in ½ inch slices and arrange in a greased baking dish.  Season with salt and pepper and distribute brown sugar and cinnamon over them evenly.  Cover with crumbs and dot with butter.  Bake at 350° until green tomatoes are tender but still firm (about 25-35 min.).

If you want, you can put a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon in the brown sugar, stir it up, and it will be easier to get the cinnamon evenly distributed.  You can also throw a few pecans or walnuts into this and it tastes good.

Yum!  My husband loved it, but I have to be gluten-free so I experimented with the recipe for us disadvantaged folk.

Gluten-free version

Crackers are out for gluten-free diets.  So far I haven’t found any gluten-free crackers at the health food store that I like, so I make up a mix of cooked brown rice with wild rice, about half and half.  The wild rice adds a great nutty flavor to the combo.  You can take the cooled rice and sprinkle it over the tomatoes in place of the crackers.  The crunch of the crackers is lost but the taste combination is good.

If you are a great cook and want to experiment with this combination of flavors, I think this recipe could be adapted to make a green tomato pie.  The original tastes good enough to be a dessert in my opinion, although I served it as a side with pork.

About Barb

BarbI am retired and write a blog titled: Suffering With Joy.  The idea came because I have severe fibromyalgia and have had both hips replaced.  I wanted to promote both spiritual and physical wellness, share my journey toward improvement, and also write about Catholic teaching.  So many people are living in despair these days that I wanted my blog to be a place of peace, joy, and hope.  The blog is pretty eclectic with subjects like the universe all the way down to the occasional gluten-free recipe.  Mainly it’s spiritually oriented.

I do copy editing and proofreading for a major Catholic publisher, too, and have joined Catholic Writer’s Guild this year.  If you are a writer and need my services, just contact me at my blog.

Guest Post: God the Father

God the FatherEditor’s Note: This week’s guest post comes from Marcelle Bartolo-Abela who is offering a reflection on God the Father. Devotion to God the Father isn’t something that we hear about often, but Marcelle has a whole website devoted to the love of God the Father! It is a devotion I think I need to pay more attention to. Enjoy!

God the first Person of the Holy Trinity is our Father. He loves us with a paternal intensity, infinity and profundity that we cannot even begin to conceive. He desires to be the central part of our lives regardless of who we are, where we may be or whatever we may be doing. He wants to develop relationships of intimacy with us because He is our Father and we are His children. That is why He created us. God the Father thirsts for us to treat Him as our Father in the process of our daily lives, rather than consciously or unconsciously forgetting Him, neglecting Him, marginalizing Him or, at times, even abandoning Him; things we have all done some time or another.

Some may respond with, “How can I work, take care of my family and fulfill my daily obligations, while placing God the Father first and foremost in my life? How can I do both simultaneously without short-changing one or the Other respectively?” The answer is simple but profound in its implications. What God our Almighty Father desires from each one of us is to let ourselves be intimate with Him while doing all the above, fulfilling naturally His first commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole strength” (Dt 6:5; cf Mt 22:37, Mk 12:30, Lk 10:27). When we place our Father in the center of everything we do by mindfully keeping Him in our hearts, not only do our actions, activities and relationships become sanctified in His Divine Heart and Will. Everything we may need to satisfactorily fulfill our daily obligations is given to us, because “Seek therefore first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Mt 6:33).

God the Father wants to be present both in us and to us as Father in the course of our lives, because that is His primary function: Eternal Father. However, He will never override our free will; so it is up to us whether to invite Him or not, to actively participate in our daily lives. As the good Parent that He is, our Father intensely desires us to converse with Him in a natural way, as though we were speaking to our earthly fathers, within the context of the functional child-father relationship. He wants us share every aspect of our lives with Him, with genuineness and simplicity of heart. He wants to know our joys, desires, aspirations, labors, sorrows, innermost fears and anxieties, not because He does not already know them since He is Almighty, but because He experiences great joy when we approach Him as little children opening their hearts unreservedly to their Father and Creator.

God the Father wants us to turn to Him for everything we need, with open hearts and minds, and every fiber of our beings, so that He can flood both our souls and needs, and the souls and needs of others, with Himself and His boundless generosity. In sharing our lives in this way with our Father, the Omnipotent One listens and responds to us with profound joy, because we will have taken Him to our hearts as Father – the greatest desire of His Divine Heart. We will have genuinely opened up space for Him to enact His Paternal and Parental roles, showering us with the felt infinity of His love beyond our wildest expectations.

Marcelle Bartolo-Abela is the author of books on faith and spirituality in daily life. Some of her writings can be found at Reflections for the Soul: Mini-Thoughts on the Love of God the Father for All Mankind (http://reflectionsforthesoul.com).

 

Guest Post: How Scripture can Support a Healthy Self-Image

self image

Editor’s Note: I don’t have any daughters, but I remember being influenced by the trends and popular culture in my youth. And in today’s world, it’s even harder for young people to avoid this trap. In today’s guest post, Amelia shares her story about how she helped her daughter to not allow the world to define her beauty.

As an educator and mother, I am often bewildered at how easily young girls are influenced by trends and celebrities. When my daughter approached me at eleven, asking to wear makeup, I was flabbergasted. My immediate reaction was to firmly deny the request.

“No! Absolutely not!” my mind was screaming. But I learned long ago (with the boys) that when I parent with my emotions, my children are more likely to react equally as emotionally – and stubbornly.

So I asked her, “Why?”

Breathlessly, she explained that most of her friends had been wearing makeup since fourth grade, and she was beginning to feel like an outcast. I asked who of her friends were wearing makeup, half hoping I could strike them from the friend zone; but as she began rattling off each girl’s name and the type of makeup she wore, I became even more flabbergasted because I had never noticed that most of them were wearing makeup.

I didn’t give her an answer that day. Instead, I prayed and conducted research and prayed some more. I found that fashion models as young as 14 are paraded down runways in full makeup and that cosmetics companies market to young girls as aggressively as tobacco companies target teens.

The next time we talked about it, I said, “Joanna, what makes you feel pretty?”

She blushed and said, “I really like that way I look in my new blue jeans with the rhinestones.”

That’s when I realized I had been letting the world teach my little girl about beauty. When I was younger, the pressures weren’t as high. Like my mother and grandmother, worrying about beauty was reserved for special occasions like dances and weddings. It was something of a frivolity, nothing that demanded a lot of our time or attention.

I told her that I didn’t think she was ready to wear makeup, and I apologized for not teaching her more about beauty. Together, we started our own mother-daughter beauty class. For a year, we discussed scripture and the great feminine figures of the Bible. That year, I learned a lot about inner beauty as well and grew stronger in the Lord with each new day.

As I was driving her to her first day of seventh grade, I asked her, “So do you feel pretty today, Joanna?”

She said, “Oh, mom, I feel pretty every day.”

Thanks be to God!

Here are a few of the verses we studied.

Beauty

Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Ezekiel 28:17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you

Fashion

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

1 Peter 3:3-4  Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

Body Image

1 Timothy 4:8  For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

Spiritual Growth

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

In a world driven by vanity and materialism, it is easy for teenagers to succumb to feelings of insecurity. When young women begin to compare themselves to models in magazines, they lose sight of the true standards for beauty that are set in scripture.

Peer pressure can lead to a desire for trendy clothes and more expensive things. Such hollow desires will never satisfy human need for value, but some young women become convinced that these things are necessary for happiness.  Without a grounded sense of humility, vanity can become a black hole of desire that is never satisfied.

Such skewed versions of beauty can also produce an unhealthy body image and can diminish self-esteem. In the United States, it is estimated that 7 million women have eating disorders and 50 percent of girls between 11 and 13 consider themselves overweight; a majority of those with eating disorders develop them before college.

Please join me in praying for all the young girls and women who are suffering from unhealthy body image and low self-esteem. I pray that they find value and self-worth in the type of beauty set forth by God and not by the vanities of the world.

Amelia Wood is a former school teacher who now works in medical billing and coding. She is passionate about how societal pressures affect public health. Direct any questions or comments to amelia1612@gmail.com.

 

6 Ways to Save Money on Birthday Parties

Birthday Party image

A child’s birthday party doesn’t have to be extravagant and cost you a lot of money. Children have fun no matter what, even if it’s a small backyard birthday party. Here are 6 ways you can save money on your child’s next birthday party:

1. Entertainment:

Most parents think that you have to hire a creepy clown or provide other forms of entertainment for children at birthday parties. False. Children are professionals of entertaining themselves. The key is to use what you already have for entertainment, like a water hose, bubbles, music, board games and outdoor games.

2. Decorations:

Think dollar store. Dollar stores have balloons, streamers, plastic plates and cups galore! There is no need to get expensive decorations or overdo it. The kids really don’t care and are more concerned with the cake and games. Keep it simple and focus on other aspects of the birthday party.

3. Food:

One way to save on food costs is to schedule the birthday party in off times like in the afternoon after lunch and before dinner so that way you are not responsible for feeding them a meal. A two o’clock party is perfect and just count on serving cupcakes. This brings me to the cake/cupcakes, make your own! You will save tons of money if you make it at home.

4. Location:

It’s all about the location, location, location. Have the birthday party at your home, even though there will be a mess to clean up, it will save you some big rental bucks. If you want a different location, think public places. Parks and pools are typically free or VERY inexpensive to host a birthday party at. Just remember to bring bread for the ducks and some sunscreen!

5. Invites:

The invites can be a fun at home project with your child. All you need is some construction paper and fun markers, glitter and whatever you think would be fitting for the birthday party theme. Instead of mailing them out, drop them off one by one on a Saturday afternoon or have you child pass them out after school one day.

6. Favors:

It’s the little things in life that kids are most happy with. When sending a child home with a favor think small and fun for the moment. A little baggy of two pieces of candy, bubbles and stickers are perfect. Head over to the dollar store for these items.

Birthday parties are meant to celebrate your child’s day of birth with their loved ones. Keep it simple, fun and you can’t go wrong! Let the kids and the birthday child be their own entrainment. Happy birthday and happy celebrations!

Author Bio

Healther SmithHeather Smith is an ex-nanny. Passionate about thought leadership and writing, Heather regularly contributes to various career, social media, public relations, branding, and parenting blogs/websites. She also provides value to finding a nanny by giving advice on site design as well as the features and functionality to provide more and more value to nannies and families across the U.S. and Canada. She can be available at H.smith7295 [at] gmail.com.