Branching-Out

Precious Gift

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 23, 2021 6:00:00 AM

It is easy to take gifts for granted. We don’t set out to be ungrateful, but when a gift is not something we can hold in our hands, we might become a bit oblivious to its value and implications.

I am thinking about our gift of faith in God. We might not talk about it much. We might not even act on our beliefs until some big challenge or tragedy pops up in our lives. But faith is truly a blessing. It is our passport to eternal life with our loving Trinity.

Let us consider five aspects of faith as we look at the letters in the word, faith.

FFundamentals. We read in the passage from the Book of Exodus included in today’s liturgy that God delivered commandments to through Moses. In these commandments, God communicated what was expected of us. We have the basic rules of how to love God and others. God spelled it out for us. We can easily ignore the commandments, rationalize our behavior, or make excuses, but we cannot say we were not informed.

AAlienation. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, humankind was alienated from God. God did promise to help us, although mankind wandered and sinned for many years. Prophets spoke of hope. People struggled. There were good, God-fearing men and women who did the best they could. No more Garden of Eden, but an ark was built. Life went on.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, The Gift of Faith

Step by Step

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 19, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A man who lives four houses up the street from us likes to plant tomatoes. He doesn’t plant them in his side yard but instead on his paved driveway in a row of 18 buckets equipped with tall stakes. When my husband and I take our neighborhood walks, we can watch the progress of this gent’s bucket garden.

 I do not know of another driveway bucket brigade such as my neighbor’s, but I do admire this man’s systematic method of procuring his summer harvest! He must be diligent about watering his plants and caring for them, as they grow, inch by inch, tomato by tomato.

As we endeavor to get back to some semblance of a normal routine as the pandemic appears to be letting up, we, like the tomato gardener, should try to be methodical. Step by step, we might ease up on our zealous sanitizing, masking, and distancing, while being forgiving of those who have made mistakes in predictions and advisories.

Lessons we have learned during the pandemic can help us in our everyday material and spiritual lives. For sure, it is a good idea to proceed daily, step by step, and not leap by leap. We know we can depend on God each day to help us. In Lamentations 3:22-23 we read:

       The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,

       his mercies never come to an end;

       they are new every morning,

       great is your faithfulness.

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Topics: RENEW International, spiritual renewal, Sharon Krause

Summer Thoughts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 16, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I live in Connecticut and have been known to complain when the summer temperatures get into the 90s and the humidity becomes unbearable. I think many of us are good at complaining about things that annoy us.

Let’s look on the brighter side today. I say it is time to thank God for the gifts he gives us especially, but not exclusively, in the summer. When we think about summer activities such as swimming, playing golf or tennis, enjoying baseball or soccer, we should take time to thank the Lord for our muscles, our eyesight, our coordination, and our strength. Even when we have summer chores to do, such as weeding the garden or mowing the lawn, we have to admit that God is very generous with us. When was the last time we thanked God for the inventions of sunscreen, bug repellant, ice cream, and beach umbrellas?

While vacationing in Maine one summer, I happened got up very early one morning and looked out the window of the motel which overlooked Moosehead Lake. The sun looked like a giant raspberry rising out of the lake. It was a breathtaking sight. God is such an artist!

Summer skies, configured with puffy clouds, delight any of us that take the time to notice! Sure, lately there have been numerous frightening storm clouds, but storms pass, and God gives us new days and new vistas.

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Topics: God's gifts, gratitude, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, thanking God

Climb It!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 12, 2021 6:00:00 AM

My retired husband has our television turned on a good part of any day he is not busy with an around-the-house project, so I hear a lot of commentary about the news. Climate change is often in the headlines. That got me thinking about instances in the Bible when someone comes to a high place and decides to climb it.

Bear with me. I have read that Jesus would go to a secluded place, away from the crowds, and pray to his Father. For example, check with Matthew 14:23, Mark 6:46, and Luke 6:12. Jesus wanted alone time, chose a mountainprobably not really a big oneand decided to climb it. Jesus knew what was important, his communion with God the Father, and rose to an occasion to pray in solitude.

Remember the story of vertically challenged Zacchaeus? He sought out a tree to give him some height and climbed it so he could see Jesus. His assent in the encounter that followed was life-changing and life-saving! (Luke 19:1-10).

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Topics: personal reflection, prayer life, reflection, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

The Lighter Side

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 9, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I was a minister of the Eucharist in my parish, I was serving during a Mass one hot and humid summer morning. I stood near the altar preparing to receive the Holy Eucharist myself, before helping to distribute it to the congregation. We were singing the “Agnus Dei” when a big horsefly came flying towards me, heading for my nose and/or open mouth! I quicklyand, I hope, discreetly batted him away and tried to maintain my holy demeanor. To distribute Holy Communion, I stood off to the side with the ciborium in my hand. My teen-aged daughter, Sherry, came to me for the host. She raised her eyes to me and said, “Mom, I saw it! “Well, I had all I could do to keep from giggling out loud, but I mustered all my efforts at composure and went on with my task. Thanks, Daughter!

Another time when I was serving as minister of the Eucharist, all four-feet, eleven inches of me was standing behind the six-foot, five inch Deacon Tom. When it came time for him to hand me Holy Communion, he turned and I steppedwe were out of sync, and, for a moment, he couldn’t find me. Chuckle time!

My mother told me that she once went to Mass while she was fighting a persistent cough. She was chewing a piece of gum inconspicuously, just to keep her throat moist. All of a sudden, she had to cough, and that little piece of gum flew like a missile out of her mouth, barely missing the bald head of the man praying in the pew in front of her. Close call!

 

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Topics: Gratitude to God, RENEW International, Sharon Krause

The Lord's Day

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 5, 2021 6:00:00 AM

When I was a little child, my mother used to take me to Sunday morning Mass. We did not own a car, so she and I would take the 15-minute walk to St. Joseph’s Church on Cottage Street in Middletown, New York. We would pass a restaurant, and it would be closed, because it was Sunday, and most businesses were closed on Sundays in those days. However, after Mass, we would often stop into a little convenience store to buy a newspaper for my non-Catholic dad. The lady in this very tiny store would stand behind the counter and solicitously listen to little ol’ wide-eyed me as I told her which of the numerous penny candies in their respective bins I had selected. While I did not come away with too much, I was happy with my treats.

Over the years, I have seen how the Lord’s Day has gotten so much busier. Gradually, stores and restaurants opened seven days a week. More and more people were needed to work on Sundays. The economy was getting more robust. Retailers were getting busier and busier. Vigil masses became popular to help the Sunday workers more easily attend Mass.

So now, in this busy 21st century, how do we keep holy the Lord’s Day? I know that during the pandemic many people wisely stayed away from indoor crowds and perhaps watched liturgies online. Now life is getting back to a semblance of normal, and churches are open with fewer or no restrictions on attendance.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, The Lord's Day

Categories

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jul 2, 2021 6:00:00 AM

A few months ago, I resurrected a craft that makes use of recycled greeting cards. I had bought a couple ornaments at a crafts fair and had taken them apart to figure out how to make them myself. I have added some extra decorations and personal touches to what I now call “categornaments,” and have really gotten into making them again. Each ornament has a particular categoryfor example, deer, birds, Nativity scenes, children, and dogs. Needless to say, I am limited by the subject matter of the cards I happen to have. Each ornament requires 20 circular pictures.

I was taught brainstorming in high school as an aid to answering essay questions on exams or assignments requiring creative writing. It is a very useful problem-solving tool. We just storm our brains to list items on a certain topic and then work from there.

Of course, one thought led me to another, and I started considering just how much we all categorize things, sometimes unintentionally. When we are faced with challenging situations, our brains start going up and down the list of possible solutions.

Brainstorming for certain categories can be helpful in our spiritual life, too. Certainly, it helps with examining our conscience at the end of the day so that we can humbly tell our Lord any sins we may have committed. On the positive side, we can also categorize all the little daily blessings we have enjoyed and thank him for them, one by one.

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Topics: God's love, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, examining conscience

Fantastic Fans

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 28, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I once decided to decorate a bedroom wall with a collection of pretty paper fans. I arranged the floral half-circles symmetrically in a colorful display of airy creativity. Of course, the fans were opened to reveal their respective patterns and vibrancy. It was a unique and pleasing wall displayat least to me. My husband did not have much to say about it.

Fans are interesting, like people. The more a fan is unfolded, the more the true picture emerges and the more the fan is available to keep someone cool. Both beauty and function improve the more the fan is opened. As people learn more about themselves, the more their beauty shines forth, and the more they can use their talents and energy to live life in a fuller, more genuine way.

As followers of Christ, we are challenged to unfold our layers of potential goodness, calling upon the guidance and example of Jesus. We seek to use our God-given gifts for the love of others. St. Paul reminds us of this in his letter to the Christians in Rome (2:6):

We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader in diligence; the compassionate in cheerfulness.

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Topics: RENEW International, Sharon Krause, serving others, sharing our gifts, unlocking our potential

ABCs

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 25, 2021 6:00:00 AM

Sometimes, it is helpful to get back to basics, to simplify what we have made complicated. Whether we are talking about life in general or a particular area of life, it is good to occasionally go back to the ABCs and regroup.

Since I am a word-and-letter person, I will concentrate on spiritual life. It can be overwhelming to concentrate on too many subjects at once, so let’s just use a few of the many ABCs.

“A” reminds us of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are all asked to do many ordinary things during our lives, but Mary was chosen to the extraordinary, to carry and give birth to the Savior of the world. The Bible passages about the angel’s visit are not long, but Mary’s fiat and the everlasting effects of her generosity and humility should propel us into a feeling of wondrous gratitude.

Another favorite “A” for me is “Abba.” St. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians (4:6-7) tells us,

And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

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Topics: Annunciation, Bible, Catholic Faith, RENEW International, sacrament of baptism, Scriptures, Sharon Krause, Indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Abba

Thoughtfulness 101

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jun 21, 2021 6:00:00 AM

I have often heard of courses designed to help students acquire skills they will need as adults. There are courses whereby a person learns how to make up a monthly budget, or care for a baby, or fill out tax forms, and probably, nowadays, how to use computer programs for various needs. I started thinking that perhaps there should be a course called “Thoughtfulness 101.”

Thoughtfulness mean being immersed in a meditative state, and that can certainly be useful, calming, and productive. My course on thoughtfulness, however, would be associated with the second meaning I found online in Oxford Languages: consideration for the needs of others.

Being thoughtful in this way takes a little extra time. We might have to slow down a bit. It involves pushing the focus off oneself and asks us to intentionally look at others. It can even be anonymous—for example, picking up some object someone had dropped onto the floor or holding a door open for someone coming behind you with their hands full. Thoughtfulness does not have to be expensive, moneywise or time wise. A greeting card can be purchased at a dollar store for 50 cents. Eye contact and a smile take only a second but can be contagious and encouraging.

 

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Topics: kindness, RENEW International, Sharon Krause, thoughtfulness

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