Branching-Out

The Stairway

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 17, 2022 6:00:00 AM

“….10, ouch! 11, ow! 12, oof! 13, whew!”

That’s how I sound sometimes when I climb the stairs to our second floor. I live in a house that is over 100 years old, and my arthritic knees get very weary from my frequent travel up that stairway.

Superstition holds that 13 is an unlucky number, so maybe those 13 steps are just too unlucky for my joints.

In another context, 13 sins are listed in Mark 7:21 as Jesus cautions us,

From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft,    murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy,    arrogance, folly.

On the other hand, perhaps I can come up with 13 little prayers or praises about God which I can call upon, step by step. I might pick out different attributes of God: Lord, you are merciful; Lord, you are all-knowing; Lord, you are my light in my darkness; Lord, you are all-just; Lord, you seek relationship with me; Lord, you teach me; Lord, you make all things new; Lord, you are unchanging; Lord, you offer me strength; Lord, your presence is always available to me; Lord, you are so generous; you are forgiving; and Lord, you are understanding and compassionate.

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Topics: Sharon Krause

Look Again!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 10, 2022 6:00:00 AM

My backyard is populated by lots of squirrels. Part of the reason for the popularity of my property is that my husband loves to feed the squirrels and the birds. He is in the yard daily filling the feeders. It is amusing to watch the squirrels hanging upside down from the bird feeder as they angle for anything edible.

I have noticed that the squirrels are not just typical gray squirrels. Some of the critters have gray bodies with brown tails. Some have brown ears, and some have white ears! It is fun to give them names, although I really don’t know which white-eared squirrel is which. There are more than one “Mr. White Ears” and surely multiple “Missy Brown Tails.” It is entertaining to see the squirrels feeding and to look again to be more specific about who the voracious creatures are at any given time.

Lots of things in life require a second look.and maybe even a third and fourth. Different perspectives can lead to different judgements and varied conclusions. New details can come to the forefront. Different lights can show different angles. Snap judgements and stubborn opinions can prove iffy. Beautiful things can be even more beautiful. In some instances, a little extra time for consideration can be beneficial.

For example, did you ever read the same Bible passage three times at the same sitting? Did you ever visualize yourself, for example, standing in the stable and actually paying a visit to Mary and her new baby? I saw a television program about Jesus’ birth, and the speaker suggested that the manger, an animal’s feeding trough, could have been made of stone and not wood as we usually see depicted on Christmas cards. Hmm. Look again!

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Topics: New Year, recreate yourself this New Year, Sharon Krause, something new

Time Goes On

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 4, 2022 6:00:00 AM

When someone in the family celebrates a birthday, how fast time flies is brought to mind. Recently our grandson turned 21, and the memories of his early childhood brought a smile of wonder to my face. How fast time goes by!

As we enjoy the beginning of a new year and we read the gospels in the post-Christmas liturgies, our focus turns from the birth of our Savior to his public ministry. Scripture tells of Jesus reading from a scroll in the synagogue, healing many people of illnesses, teaching crowds, feeding thousands with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and even walking on water. What a jump from an infant lying in a manger to a 30-something adult teaching and working miracles!

What can we learn from this transition? For one thing, it is important to remember and celebrate milestones. The birth of the Christ child was an unprecedented breakthrough in history. God became visible on earth in the person of a human being! If he did not come as a human comes, how would he grow to be a 30-year-old rabbi? He experienced years of humanity with all its ups and downs, with its desperate challenges.

Jesus was taught how to pray, to work, and to be responsible; we hopefully teach our children to do those things as well. As an adult, Jesus ministered to the multitudes, but often used time away to pray. Prayer is an important part of proper growth. If we want to continue to grow spiritually, we must pray. We pray to keep up with life events as they speedily present themselves to us. Prayer helps us to keep up the pace.

Mary and Joseph were resilient. They responded to challenges with faith-filled action. They had to adjust to Jesus’ being born in a stable. They had to flee to Egypt for safety when Jesus was an infant. Travel was not easy or comfortable, but they did it. They did not have a network of family and friends to help them in their journeys. They trusted God to give them strength and hope.

 

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Topics: Sharon Krause, imitating Jesus, use time well

Take the Leap

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 29, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The gospel reading on fourth Sunday of AdventSt. Luke’s account of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and the infant in Elizabeth’s womb leaping at the sound of Mary’s greeting, I have been stuck in idea of leaping. Even though 2022 is not a leap year, after all the grief and anxiety the pandemic had been causing, I believe it is time to leap with joy into the new year. Yes, I know the virus has not gone away; but just as John the Baptist leaped in acknowledgement of the presence of our Savior, we can confidently take a leap of faith in the abiding presence of our Lord of Life.

Now let’s consider the nature of leaping. Leaping implies elevation as we jump up and into something. This reminds me of the responses at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer. The celebrant says, “The Lord be with you.” We respond, “And with your spirit.” Then the celebrant says, “Lift up your hearts,” and we respond, “We lift them up to the Lord.”

I say that is a good place for us to start fresh. Let’s lift up our hearts to the Lord as we confidently leap into the new year. Also, leaping, in my mind, implies a kind of distance. A jump could be a short distance, but a leap seems to be long, encompassing more space. We may have to leap over past regrets, past fears, past failures and doubts, past disappointments and losses; but, with the help of our loving Jesus, we can go the distance.

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Topics: New Year, recreate yourself this New Year, Sharon Krause, something new

Glory

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 22, 2021 6:00:00 AM

We hear the Christmas song, “Angels We Have Heard on High,” this time of year. It is one of my favorite songs. The chorus starts with the word, gloria.

And there is that little prayer we say when we say the rosary, and other times:

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

And the Gloria prayer at Mass starts, “Glory to God in the highest.” With all this glory going on, I got thinking about just how can we give God glory? I looked up the word, and saw that glory means praise or giving great honor.

God does not need my praise or honor, but I need to praise and honor him; I need to acknowledge his greatness and majesty. How can I do that?

I suggest that giving God the glory that is due him involves singleness of purpose. I praise him with all my attention to what I am saying or singing. I think about God’s joy of transcendence: He does not have to make himself available to me, but he does. He wants a relationship with me! I am truly in awe of His generosity!

 

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Topics: glory, prayer life, Sharon Krause, give glory

Visual Aids

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 20, 2021 6:00:00 AM

We recently been seeing the removal and even destruction of statues of certain famous people who, besides their heroic deeds, had either committed or permitted some not-so-admirable practices.

This underscores for me the fact that we humans like visual aids to reinforce certain ideals or to perpetuate certain virtues. Eyes-on and even hands-on experiences are effective for teaching and making lasting impressions on us. We find it helpful to see tangible things and not just rely on understanding abstract concepts. We need to “flesh things out.”

While I understand and appreciate Jesus’ birth, there are no photos of his coming. However, I have a lovely set of nativity figurines I put on display every Advent and Christmas season. Right after Thanksgiving, I brought out my set and carefully arranged the porcelain figures on the top of a small bookcase in my living room. I know some people don’t put out the baby Jesus until Christmas Day, but I love that baby all season long, and I know he came, so I don’t wait.

I finished my decorating and went to bed. In the middle of the night, I heard the telltale sound of porcelain clinking together, and then bang! My husband went downstairs and found the donkey from my nativity set broken on the floor. Buddy, our senior cat, had jumped up onto the bookcase and could not get out of his own way. He took off in a guilty flurry and zipped up and down the staircase a couple of times at top speed.

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas season, Advent, crèche, prayer, Sharon Krause

Gift Wrapping

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 15, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I have a fond memory from when I was a young teenager of volunteering to wrap Christmas gifts as a favor to my Aunt Margie. She had many grandchildren for whom she purchased gifts; she would bring the purchases to me, with wrapping paper, and I would go to work. I liked the job, and she liked not having the job.

Why do we wrap gifts, anyway? I assume it is to increase the excitement and surprise and add a little mystery or guesswork. Gift-wrapping also can add more color to the experience.

I remember trying to disguise packages to look nothing like what gift was under wraps. One time we bought my daughter a necklace for Christmas and hid it inside a wrapped-up ball of yarn. She grew a bit impatient as she unwound the yards of wool! Another time I wrapped a lunch box for my husband so that it looked like a big beach ball. Wrapping and unwrapping take time, but sometimes it can add to the fun and festivity.

When I turn to thoughts of the real essence of Christmas, I remember the description of the newborn Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. I think about Mary who did not even have the luxury, if you can call it that, of giving birth at home, maybe with her mother nearby. There in Bethlehem, in a stable, Mary gave birth to the greatest gift to mankind. He was put in a manger, not a cradle or crib. It certainly was not an ideal situation! However, I am sure the baby was wrapped in the love of Mary and Joseph, despite the uncertainty of the situation.

 

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Topics: Eucharist, gift of God, greatest gift, Sharon Krause, Holy Communion

Love in a Mitten

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 8, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Brrr! It is a cold morning here in New England! I woke up thinking about how I will have to dig out my gloves to keep my hands warm if I go outside today. Then I remembered a piece of information: mittens will keep your hands warmer than gloves, because your fingers are nestled all together inside mittens. Sure, there are dexterity benefits with wearing gloves, but if it is warmth you are after, mittens are the answer.

In this gloves-versus-mittens topic, I see some parallels in spiritual life. Certainly, each of us has specific gifts and talents that help us live out life as followers of Jesus Christ. On my own, I can give my time, talent, and treasure to help those among us who live in poverty. By myself, I might be a church choir director, a Sunday school teacher, a lay minister, a clergyman, a spiritual blog-writer, a church usher, an altar server, a volunteer at a soup kitchen or convalescent home.

Let us consider the “mitten” side of this discussion. We can enjoy a wonderful warm feeling when we meet with a group of people who are pursuing fellowship with each other and with Jesus Christ. Especially in the season of Advent, as we build our excitement and remind ourselves of the day our Savior came to earth, gathering with other like-minded believers can be very rewarding.

For years, I was a member of a small Christian community of faith-sharers that met on Wednesday afternoons in our church basement. We used booklets that offered discussion questions and reflections about the liturgical weekly readings. (Amazing materials like this are available now from RENEW International.) Getting to know the people in the small group, their expressions and responses in faith, their past and present encounters with the Lord in prayer and action was inspiring.

Jesus was at those meetings. There was no question about that!

   “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

   (Matthew 18:20)

 

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Topics: faith sharing group, Sharon Krause, prepare for Christmas, pray together

Advent Calendars

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 1, 2021 6:00:00 AM

These days I see advertisements for Advent calendars. What I see are kits that have the first 24 days of December displayed with either candies or trinkets of some kind for each day. I think that, by and large, it is children who are attracted to these calendars that help build excitement and anticipation as Christmas Day draws nearer and nearer. Certainly, retailers will do all they can to build enthusiasm for the approach of the big day. Also, Advent calendars are more items to offer consumers.

If we get away from the buyers’ calendars and check out the liturgical calendar, we consider the days before the feast of the Nativity with a focus on the joyful anticipation of God’s greatest Gift to the world. Sure, Advent calendars offer the viewer a little gift every day; but we need to think about the many gifts God gives us every day.

Let’s make up a spiritual Advent calendar. Based on the readings for Masses, let’s concentrate on a gift God gives us each day. A certain word, psalm verse, or clause from a reading might be chosen. There are so many possibilities, but I will get us started. Ready?

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Topics: Christmas, Advent, Advent calendar, Sharon Krause

Thoughts and Concerns

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 29, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Here we are, coming fast to the end of the year. Two big holidays punctuate these last days: Thanksgiving and Christmas. People have already wished me happy holidays.

 What are the current concerns we hear about on the news? For Thanksgiving, the prices of turkey and all the fixings will be going up because of shortages and pandemic repercussions. If the most important thing about the holiday is food and making it taste the way it should, then we had better get shopping and searching for sales and supplies. After all, isn’t Thanksgiving mainly about those favorite recipes and eating a feast? Who are we thanking anyway: the workers at the farms and grocery stores, those who prepare the savory dishes, those who planted the vegetables? Do we go far enough and thank the Creator for all the blessings? Do we think more about our appetites and our pigging out than the true meaning of the holiday? Certainly, it is enjoyable to eat lots of good food and share time and stories with family and friends; but do we also take the time to truly be thankful to God for all we have? Is one little “Grace Before Meals” prayer the beginning and end of our effort of giving thanks? How do we allot our time?

 Retailers are getting nervous about the supply shortages. They are urging consumers to shop very early. After all, isn’t the Christmas holiday supposed to be when we all splurge and spoil our families and friends? Aren’t all the decorations, lights, and gifts the objects of our hectic activities? Who cares whether we call the season “the holidays,” or “Christmas?” Isn’t the focus on those special presents and Santa Claus? Spend that money! Everyone should be merry and bright as we concentrate on material goods!

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Topics: Christmas, Christmas season, thanksgiving, Sharon Krause, Meaning of Christmas

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