Branching-Out

Sharon Krause

Recent Posts

When the parade passes by

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 23, 2020 6:00:00 AM

As we get close to Thanksgiving, we hear on the media about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which will be a very different even this year because of the COVID pandemic. 

That parade, as well as preparations for Christmas, can bring to mind pleasant holiday memories. To sit back and relax as the memory pictures cavort in procession before our mind’s eye can make us very sentimental and grateful. Of course, we can become nostalgic and even sad if we consider our losses and some of the virus-triggered changes in our more recent history. 

So what can we do to keep ourselves peaceful and open to holiday joy? I think it requires a conscious effort to remain positive as so much negativity parades around us. I like to think of other parades in my life. 

When I was a little girl, my mother used to take me to see the local Independence Day parade. My uncle was a member of the fire police, so I would watch for him to march past where I was standing. When I saw him coming and heard the band playing, I would start mischievously dancing around—-just off the curb and into the street—only to be quickly pulled back by my mother. It was a happy dance and is a happy recollection. 

When I was in fifth grade, I was marching with my class in a procession honoring our Blessed Mother. I liked being first in line, and so I was that day. However, I got distracted and did not notice that Mother Mary Edith, our teacher and procession leader, had stopped for some reason. Well, I just kept walking and walked right into her. No big deal, but I was a very embarrassed 10-year-old. Now it makes me smile.

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Topics: Christmas, catholic renew progam, communion of saints, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, pandemic, COVID, virus, when the saints go marching in, Thanksgiving parade

Up For the Counting

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 18, 2020 6:00:00 AM

So many of us are counting things every day. We may have been cautioned to count to 10 before losing our temper. We have fitness trackers so we can count our steps; some of us count our daily food calorie intake; lately, we have been counting ballots in important elections. We can get caught up in all the bad news about the economy or the pandemic and have to remind ourselves to count our blessings at the end of each day.

 In the Bible, there are so many examples of tabulating countable things such as peoples, tribes, nations, and blessings. In Genesis 15:5-6, for example, God talks with Abram about counting:

He brought him outside and said,
“Look toward heaven and count the stars,
if
you are able to count them.” Then he said to him, “
So shall your descendants be.”

Jesus certainly knew about counting. Take, for example, the conversation he had with Peter in Matthew 18:21-22:

Then Peter came and said to him,
“Lord, if another member of the church sins
against me,
how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?
Jesus said
 to him, “Not seven times,
but I tell you, seventy-seven times.”

We are made aware in Mark’s Gospel (6:30-44) about Jesus’ feeding five thousand followers using only five loaves of bread and two fish.

And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. (Vs 42-43)

So obviously, someone was counting people, loaves, fish, and baskets.

As a little child going to confession, I was taught to tally up my sins and report my list of infractions to the priest. How many timescount ’emdid I tell a lie? How many times did I disobey my mother? It was possible to picture God sitting up above with a big ledger, keeping a running list of my sins. As I grew up, I learned that image of God was incorrect. Fortunately, we can find forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation after confessing more of our sinful tendencies or habits, and not itemized, numbered lists. How blessed we are, as we are reminded in the Lamb of God prayerthe Agnus Deiwe say at every Mass, that Jesus takes away the sins of the world. When I look around, it is overwhelming to try to imagine how to count how many sins there are and have been, over the centuries, in the world! Thank you, Jesus! And thank you, forgiving, merciful Father!

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Topics: Advent, catholic renew progam, confession, Jesus, Jesus Christ, multiplication of the loaves and fishes, prayer, RENEW International, sacrament of reconciliation, seventy seven times, sins, sins of the world

Messages

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 16, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I was sitting at my kitchen table and I heard a little “beep, beep, beep.” Hmph. It turned out to be a message from my refrigerator that my bottom freezer compartment door was not closed all the way. 

I was tending to a recipe cooking on my stove, and I heard a “bing.” My phone was messaging me from my computer desk that I had just received a text.

A municipal repair truck was down the street repairing an underground road problem, and a truck was backing up: “bleep, bleep, bleep.” Watch out!

My clothes dryer finished its cycle and chimed a little tune to tell me to come get the clothes.

I started my car, and it impatiently signaled me with “ding, ding, ding” that I had not put on my seatbelt yet.

All the attention-getting sounds of our modern noisy world alert us every day that good things and bad things are out there vying for our focus.

What did folks do in Old Testament times, without the benefit of electronics? If we go to Numbers, chapter 10, we read about the two silver trumpets that, with their quivering sounds, were blown to summon the congregation, sometimes to assemble and sometimes to prepare for war. Messages communicate good news, caution, or bad news.

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Topics: disciples, messages, catholic renew progam, creation, Gospel according to John, pray, prayer, RENEW International, spiritual life, St. Gertrude, Benedictine nun, messengers of God's love

In the Clouds

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 11, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Recently I was awakened in the middle of the night by a noise in the house. My first thought was that Buddy, my cat, might have gotten into some mischief. Not finding anything amiss, I headed back to bed and happened to glance out the window to see that a fog had settled all around my neighborhood.

 As I lay back down in my bed, I remembered another fog which enveloped me when I was on vacation in Camden, Maine one summer. My husband and I had gone up to visit Mount Battie, a popular attraction. On the mountain, as we were taking photos and looking out over Megunticook Lake, I caught sight to my left of what looked like a huge bale of cotton gracefully rolling toward us. The experience was truly ethereal. At first, the white foggy mass was thin and almost tantalizing. As the fog quickly thickened, it rolled around us and eventually blocked our view of the lake below. The experience was exhilarating. For a short while, I felt as if I were in a different world.

While the cloud at Mt. Battie temporarilyand almost amusinglyblocked my view, the Lord, in a pillar of cloud by day, led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. The chosen people had the guidance of their faithful God every day.

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Topics: election, catholic renew progam, creation, fog, Jesus, Jesus Christ, prayer, RENEW International, pandemic, the elect, pillar of cloud, campaign

Insomnia Challenge

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 9, 2020 6:00:00 AM

His name is Buddy. He is my cat. 

We keep Buddy indoors at night because of the threat posed by a fisher cat in the neighborhood. Buddy is cooperative most of the time, but he has a propensity for exploration in the wee hours of the night. My brother-in-law used to say cats are nocturnal; I think Buddy occasionally has insomnia. Whatever the reason, once in a while I will be awakened by the sound of Buddy trying to push open the metal bathtub shower door—-although I know he is not interested in taking a shower. However, Buddy’s true passion seems to be getting into the hall closet. 

Let me tell you about that hall closet. It is about the size of a phone booth. My house is over 100 years old and has few and very small closets. I have lived in this house for more than 40 years and have done what I can to use closet space efficiently. That closet is packed with numerous hanging garments, extra throw pillows, a bag of seasonal gift wrap, two empty suitcases, hats, and craft supplies. There is hardly room for dust, never mind a 10-pound nosey cat! When I hear Buddy scratching at the door and can tell he has Houdinied himself from the hall into the closet, I get up, turn on the light, open the closet door all the way, and Buddy—who really could never find a comfortable flat space amid the contentscomes scrambling out to innocently find a chair or bed to catch some early-morning z’s. By the time the nonsense is over, I might be fully awake. 

There are other times, even without Buddy’s assistance, when I experience overnight periods of wakefulness. I have noticed that my mind may head to what I call my “worry closet,” although I don’t know why. 

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Topics: catholic renew progam, creation, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, pray, prayer, RENEW International, spiritual life, insomnia, anxiety, worry closet, lullaby

Thoughts on Genesis

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 4, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Creation seems so long ago, especially if you watch any educational shows about archeology and the dating of certain relics found during digs. However, if we go to the Bible account in Genesis, chapter 1, we can still find some food for thought and meditation today. We read that from formless void and darkness, God brought forth day and night, the sky, the earth, the seas, vegetation, the sun, the moon, animals and, finally, humans made in his own image. He saw that it all was good. That is a lot to create! 

I pray, Lord, help me make of my formless and dark day today something that is good and worthy of me, your child, whom you have made in your image. Push me to brighten someone’s day or assist someone in awakening to and appreciating you. As vegetation grows and nourishes, teach me the best ways to grow and nourish myself so that I can be of better service to my family members and my neighbors. Give me a new understanding of life’s purpose. Share with me a new optimistic beginning today. Thank you for teaching me creativity. Amen. 

We read that on the seventh day, God rested. He also blessed that day. There is a reason for this resting. I think God is instructing us on how to separate ourselves from all the busyness—-although often necessary—and work and struggle. Nowadays, when most stores and many businesses do not close on Sunday, it is so easy to enable others to work while we shop. Understandably, there are those who have to work or shop on Sunday, but I have found it is so easy to recreate on Sunday without much thought about keeping it holy other than attending Mass or watching a Mass that is live-streaming. I am not suggesting that we spend the whole day polishing our halos, but maybe a little more time for spiritual reflection or a few extra prayers would be warranted. Maybe helping with a food kitchen would bless a Sunday as well. 

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Topics: Adam and Eve, catholic renew progam, creation, Genesis, pray, prayer, RENEW International, sabbath, spiritual life, Sunday Mass, temptation, Noah, ark

Close Encounters

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 2, 2020 6:00:00 AM

I believe most of us have experienced a close encounter with the Lord every once in a while, perhaps while we are praying or attending a religious function. I will never forget the wonderful closeness I felt with God as I attended the Mass being celebrated for my graduating class of the Catholic Biblical School in Newington, Connecticut. The celebrant was reading from Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John, as Jesus prays for his disciples, which I quote in part:

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who
will believe in me
  through their word, that they may all be one.
As you, Father, are in me and I am in
you, may they also be in us,
so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
The glory that you have given me I have given them,
so that they may be one, as
we are one, I in them and you in me,
that they may become completely one, so
that the world may know
that you have sent me and have loved them
even as you
 have loved me.” (Vs 20-23) 

It seemed as if the reading was meant for me, that Jesus was praying for me very personally. There was a peace that lingered, a graduation gift I still hold dear.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, Good Shepherd, Gospel according to John, prayer, Psalm 23, RENEW International, sins, spiritual life, centering prayer, close encounter

Back Up and Switch Gears

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 28, 2020 6:00:00 AM

When I taught second graders in Sunday school, I tried to explain why we sometimes choose to sin. I would slowly walk backwards as I talked about what I called “back-up thinking” and explained to the children that we make choices that we initially see as good. For example, I see Susie’s unattended candy bar on her desk. I like the taste of candy; it is good; she is not at her desk, so I can safely take the candy and eat it. My thinking stops there, and I take the candy bar. However, if I back up farther, I might say, “But God says stealing is a sin, and I am not being the best person I can be in this situation if I choose to sin.”

Thinking things through is important, but it may take a little extra reverse-thinking time. In this speedy 21st century, we are used to thinking and doing things in a forward hurry, sometimes without thorough consideration. We also get into habits that are really thought shortcuts. Sometimes with habits comes less sense of value or appreciation. We might take some things for granted or get a bit lax.

Have you ever thought of backing up in some block of your routine and perhaps switching into slower first gear just to get a new perspective? I read an article years ago about changing the usual way you do something just to keep your brain active and flexible. For example, how about sitting on a different chair at your kitchen table? How about holding your toothbrush in your non-dominant hand as you brush your teeth?

In a more spiritual vein, I got to thinking about backing up and saying grace in-between courses of a special meal instead of before and after the meal. It may cause some interesting family conversation at the dinner tablefor example, thanking God for our tastebuds, being grateful for Grandma and her recipe for baked potatoes, praying a prayer for the truckers who deliver the foods to the stores.

So often I hear about praying one “Our Father,” one “Hail Mary,” and one “Glory Be” part of a series. How about mindfully praying them in the opposite order? Granted, routines are useful for efficiency and comfort, but especially now, during this pandemic, when our routines are somewhat disrupted anyway, it may be a good time to back up and start over in some areas of our lives. Take a new detour. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you be creative.

We might start some new spiritual habits, such as praying daily an abbreviated version of the Divine Office or praying a decade of the rosary in breaks throughout the day. Meditate on just a few verses of a book of the New Testament. We might back up and look again at little near occasions of sin to avoid—-maybe certain words we shouldn’t use or thought patterns we should avoid—-one patient backup step at a time.

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Topics: Divine Office, catholic renew progam, prayer, RENEW International, rosary, sinfulness, sins, spiritual life, slow down, saying grace

Witnesses, Sponsors, and Saints. Oh, my!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 26, 2020 6:00:00 AM

More and more people are having their DNA analyzed to learn about their ancestry. Perhaps it would be interesting to have your SLI analyzed, that is your Spiritual Life Influencesno swabbing required!

Let’s start with your name. Maybe you were named in honor of a certain saintif not your first name, your middle name. If that is so, have you been mindful of that particular saint in your spiritual life? I have prayed and asked St. Anne to intercede for me occasionally; Anne is my middle name.

Have your godparents been present to you in your spiritual development? Conversely, have you prayed for your godparents and their spiritual welfare? Baptism is such an important beginning, the sacrament that makes us spotless members of the Body of Christ. Unless administered in a case of emergency, this sacrament is accompanied with joy and family unity.

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Topics: Christian witness, witness, witness to the baptism, catholic renew progam, devotion to Saints, prayer, RENEW International, confirmation sponsor, godparents, witness to matrimony

Slogans and Shortcuts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Did you ever notice how we use catchy sayings in the name of efficiency or expediency in getting messages across? Certainly, it can be profitable in merchandising and advertising. Good ol’ Benjamin Franklin knew that proverbs and maxims were useful. For example, he wrote, “God helps those who help themselves,” in his Poor Richard’s Almanac.

These concise sayings can be like little lectures or sermons that are easy to remember and repeat. There are a number of these verbal shortcuts that mention God. I will mention a few and maybe some timely implications.

Let’s look at that selection from Mr. Franklin I just mentioned. The implication is that God is always there to help people who take the initiative to help themselves. While the maxim might have the purpose of encouraging us not to be lazy or dependent upon others, it is important to remember that in all circumstances, God is ever-present to us to give us physical, intellectual, or emotional strength.

Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread that of them,
because it is the Lord,
your God who goes with you;
he will not fail you or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)

“In God we trust” is a brief statement we see on our currency; we may not really stop to think about the implications of such a familiar idea. Especially in these stressful days of pandemic, political sparring, and civil unrest, do we really trust God? Many institutions have managed to remove references to God, so it would not matter if he were trusted. How about us, personally; do we really trust God? Perhaps we should pray and ask the Lord to make us more trusting.

There are numerous prayer resources available online, but even a simple ad-libbed shortcut is useful: “Faithful Lord, I trust in your mercy and love. Strengthen my faith and trust in You.” We might want to read the story of Shadrach, Mechach, and Abed-Nego again in Daniel, Chapter 3.

I have heard people rattle off this Bible quote: “for God loves a cheerful giver.” ( 2 Cor 9:7b) and just smiled in passing. Again, in these days of businesses being closed, people scrimping and scraping to pay for necessities, and anxiety affecting many households, being a cheerful giver to those in special need is a very good idea. There are food banks and community collections that truly need cheerful donors bringing aid and support. While we know God loves us all, this short scripture quote brings home the truth that God especially loves donors whose hearts and attitudes are joy-focused.

We often hear the expression, “What would Jesus do?” There were T-shirts and various other items carrying that logo. While only four words, the question had a wide range of implications, all begging the question of how Jesus would react to our modern-day situations. Do we ever think about that now?

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Topics: catholic renew progam, prayer, RENEW International, thanksgiving, COVID, In God We Trust, What would Jesus do, slogans, Poor Richard's Almanac

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