Going Back to the Basics: What is Prayer?

What is prayer? Why is it important?

Back to Basics What is Prayer

If you are new to being a Christian, or more specifically, new to being a Catholic Christian, these are important questions.

If you are long-time Catholic Christian, they are equally important questions!

Prayer is the absolute foundation of the Christian life. It is how we encounter God and allow him to enter into our life.

Therefore, as we are now in the 3rd week of Lent, we are going to start focusing on prayer: the what, the why, the how and when, and even the where.

Today, in my weekly Go Live (in my Catholic Prayer and Encouragement Group) I am going to focus on defining prayer and reminding us on why prayer is important. So join me in the group this morning about 10:35 am EST.

 

Living With Cerebral Palsy

March is National Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. This is an important subject for me because I have Cerebral Palsy. Just like so many other things, there are a lot of misconceptions about CP so I am going to re-share the post I published last year about my experience in growing up with this condition.

MY LIFE WITH CEREBRAL PALSY

(I will also be doing a personal Facebook Live on Saturday, March 3, 2018 at about 10:30am EST about my experience with CP, as well. I hope you will join me.)

My Life with Cerebral Palsy

Lent and the Process of Ongoing Conversion

All during Lent, I have been talking about them myself, we hear about the necessity of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. However, we don’t hear a lot about why the are so important. They are not the end-all, be-all, in and of themselves. The have a purpose and that purpose is CONVERSION.

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

What is Conversion?

The literal meaning of conversion is “to turn toward” or  “to turn away from.” In our case, conversion is a turning away from sin and turning toward God.

We sometimes hear about famous people who convert to Catholicism or who have had extraordinary experiences and conversions (reversions” to the Catholic faith. You may have read the conversion story of Scott and/or Kimberly Hahn or other outspoken Catholic convert. Those are amazing and inspiring stories that can absolutely bolster our own faith life.

However, for most of us, our conversion will be a daily, ongoing process. It will be a daily decision and act of turning to Jesus as our Savior in the midst of our daily lives. It is choosing His will over our own and His ways over our ways.

The Struggle

As you know, this not easy. Converting our hearts, souls, and minds to God is a constant battle of letting go, picking ourselves up, and not giving up. We will fall many times but Confession is there to restore ourselves to God. We may fall into routine and boredom, but then we have things like Lent to shake things up for us.

All the prayer, fasting, and almsgiving we do during Lent (and hopefully other times during the year) are the catalysts to conversion. They are the outward exercises that prepare and foster our inside exercises.

We are not Alone

If we ask Him, God will always give us the graces we need, even for conversion! We have the intercessions of the Blessed Mother and the saints. And we have each other. There is a lot in this world ready to tear us down and apart; however, as women we should support each other and cheer each other on as we battle the spiritual life. We need that.

Scripture Verses about Conversion

I encourage you to meditate on a few of the following scripture verses. Memorize them and soak them up in your soul. Let them guide you during your own ongoing conversion this Lent.

Go into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that does not believe shall be condemned.” Matthew 16:15

But Peter said to them: Do penance, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins: and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit….They therefore that received his word, were baptized; and there were added in that day about three thousand” Acts 2:38,41

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” Joel 2:13

There are many beautiful scriptures about conversion that are perfect for Lent. If you have time, you may want to do a little scripture study on conversion. There are several  online concordances that you can use that will help you do this.

Again, I pray that this glorious season of Lent is a time of grace and blessing for you. I pray that you will draw near to our Lord and turn your heart to Him more and more!

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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 am here to help. Supporting and empowering women is my passion and I’d love to chat with you and see if we would be a fit for working together. Book a call with me here.

2018 Goals – February Update

After a year hiatus, I am back to making goals. For the added accountability, and hopefully to inspire you with your own goals, I am posting them here with monthly updates. 🙂

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

In that vein, here is my update for February:

PERSONAL GOALS

1. Read at least one chapter of the Bible each day (On track with this. Just finished Exodus and about to begin Leviticus.)

2. Cut out sugar and dairy for at least 8 weeks (fast Wednesdays & Fridays) (The 8 weeks are over, but now that it is Lent, I am continuing with this. Doing well but cheating on the weekends.)

3. Read one personal book per month (fiction, self-help, spiritual, etc.) (On track with this. Read People can’t Drive You Crazy if You don’t Give Them the Keys by Mike Bechtle.)

MARRIAGE GOALS

4. Go on one date with Michael per month (Thanks to St. Valentine’s Day, we got TWO dates this month. 🙂 )

5. Send Michael (and Andrew) at least one love/text note per week. (On track with this.)

FAMILY GOALS

6. Read one book out loud to Andrew per month (On track this month. We read the Explorer – will come back with author – and it was excellent.)

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 in February.)

FINANCIAL GOALS

9. Rebuild emergency fund ($1,000) (Started, finally, but very low.)

10. Save at least $10 per week (Done for February. We were actually able to save a little more most weeks this month.)

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!) (For the last three weeks I have done two Facebook Lives per week, so definitely on track this month.)

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!

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.)