Branching Out Blog

Early Spring Cleaning

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 19, 2024 6:00:00 AM

As we begin the season of Lent, we realize that it is time to refocus and renew our efforts to follow the ways of love that Jesus has taught us. We could think of it as a sort of spiritual spring cleaning.

Years ago, I had a friend who came to my house and helped me with my spring house cleaning. The first thing we did was to clean the windows. Even though the panes did not really appear that dirty, it certainly made a difference after the washing was done. Maybe we could do something spiritually to make our vision clearer in how we look at people and situations in our lives. It is easy to get stuck in certain modes of thought and opinion that may not be so charitable, understanding, or sensitive. Today’s liturgy reading from the Book of Leviticus reminds us to judge others justly. Perhaps we could look again through our relationship windows and consider if they are as clean as they should beeven in little matters and prejudices. Habits can form quite fast in our busy lives.

Spring cleaning can include sorting through possessions and deciding if some of them need to be tossed out, or, if in good condition, donated to worthy causes. We could sort through our talents and skills and possibly decide to donate some or our time and talent to help other people in need. Kind words, a random phone call, and gentle listening ears can fall into this category as well.

Dust seems to land and stay around in many places. Could it be that we should dust off that Bible or those books on a spiritual subject that we keep meaning to read, and spend some Lenten time reading? We do have to improve on purpose! Spring cleaning is work! It does make life better!

Repentance is a good way to spring clean our spiritual life. The sacrament of reconciliation is a way of drawing closer to our Savior, and we don’t have to wait until the last few days before Easter Sunday.

Psalm 51:12-14 is a good repentance prayer:

   A clean heart create for me, O God,

     and a steadfast spirit renew within me.

   Cast me not out from your presence,

       and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

   Give me back the joy of your salvation,

       and a willing spirit sustain in me.

 So, as we start on this year’s Lenten journey, we can pray with Ephesians 4:23-24:

    …and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in

   God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth.

    

Read More

Topics: Lent, Lenten journey, Lenten season, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

Airplanes, Birds, and People

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 12, 2024 6:00:00 AM

I live near an airport, so I see and hear a number of airplanes above me every day. Recently my husband and I were patiently waiting in our car at a traffic light. Abig jet flew high above us as it headed east preparing to land at the airport. At the same time, a flock of about fifty black birds headed west flew over our car. I noticed the criss-cross of the objects I was watching, and it got me thinking of their different sizes, altitudes, and directions.

The season of Lent will be upon us by next Sunday. In our busy and varied lives, we all go about our agendas in multiple directions, and, you might even say, at various heights of activity. In all the hustle and bustle of approaching springtime, new big and small projects are started, seeds are planted, hopes are formulated. Intellectually, we are at different levels. Goals are in many lofty directions. Energies are prioritized.

Planning is important. Onward and upward! Let us lift ourselves up above winter doldrums. In today’s liturgy reading from the First Letter of James 1:1-11, we are encouraged to persevere and to pray to God for wisdom; so, we should set as a goal to possibly add a little more daily prayer time in preparation for Lent, and, before we know it, Easter. Our loving Lord will help us to rise above our trials and tribulations when we aim to come closer to him. We could decide to seek out a Bible study group or a faith-sharing group. We could mix and match different levels of personal experience with other people pursuing a Lent-inspired flight with the Holy Spirit.

If we want to try to lift ourselves above mundane concerns, we might pray with part of our Blessed Mother’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-49) and add a few personal thoughts of our own.

   My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;

       my spirit rejoices in God my savior.

                                                                 Today, in February 2024, my soul takes

                                                                  time to consider how great and enduring

                                                                  the love of Jesus is in my life, especially…

   For he has looked upon his handmaid’s

   lowliness;                                              How forgiving is the Lord when I have

                                                                   fallen short! I will be patient with others,

                                                                   even in small things this Lent.

   behold, from now on will all ages call me

   blessed.                                                 I will draw others’ attention to our loving

                                                                   Lord’s blessings, and how to be thankful.

                                                                   I am especially grateful today for……

   The Mighty One has done great things for

       me, and holy is his name.            I will try to do some kind and loving

                                                                  things today for (names of others ) and

                                                                  I will praise God’s holy name.

 So, may we rise to new heights little by little, day by day! May we each use our own range of gifts and talents and encourage others to do the same. Let’s fly high!

   

Read More

Topics: Lent, Lent prayer, Lenten journey, Lenten season, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

Hopeful Regrouping

Posted by Sharon Krause on Feb 5, 2024 6:00:00 AM

February already! Sometimes it is hard to believe how fast time passes! In less than two weeks, we will be starting the season of Lent. The big holidays of Christmas and New Year’s Day are over, the decorations are put away, the gift exchanges are done, and now it is time to regroup and refocus our prayers and energy. How to start fresh?

 The gospel readings from St. Mark yesterday and today at Mass recount the healing miracles Jesus worked among the crowds of followers. Jesus drove out demons from people who were possessed. He preached and kept moving in his loving ministry. He devoted himself to his flock, and his flock pursued even the tassel of his garment. The people could see Jesus’ power and strength. They did not give up!

 With these biblical reminders of the love and power of our Savior, it would be wise for us to take time to make a mental—- or even tangible—- list of the healings we know we or our loved ones need. We must thank Jesus again for all those little and big healing we have already seen in our lifetime. The healing can be mental, physical, spiritual, attitudinal, and repeated. It is normal to pray for healing, but we must be sure to spend time in thanksgiving when we experience answers to our prayers. We can learn from these healing occasions. We can even ask the Lord to make us healers in this troubled world. Perseverance is important. Humble faith keeps us going.

 Let us hopefully start these winter days with warm thoughts, perhaps drawing inspiration from Psalm 145:13b-20:

            The Lord is faithful in all his words

       and holy in all his works.

   The Lord lifts up all who are falling

       and raises up all who are bowed down.

   The eyes of all look hopefully to you,

       and you give them their food in due season;

   You open your hand

       and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

   The Lord is just in all his ways

       and holy in Lk his works.

   The Lord is near to all who call upon him,

       to all who call upon him in truth.

   He fulfills the desire of those who fear him,

       he hears their cry and saves them.

   The Lord keeps all who love him,

       but all the wicked he will destroy.

 

February is the shortest month of the year, but let’s try to make it long on listening for Jesus’ word and following his example of patient love.

   

Read More

Topics: give thanks to God, Jesus healing, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

Let's Branch Out

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 29, 2024 6:00:00 AM

Next to the sidewalk that leads to our front door is a hibiscus bush in bloom. The yellow flowers seem to shout out, “Look how beautiful I am!” The buds are plentiful and large. The first big flower to open very wide seems to look the passerby right in the face and induce a smile. The flower bush has branched out in a number of directions.

This RENEW International blog is called Branching Out; perhaps it can help inspire us to branch out in our faith in our loving God this year. Sometimes we might feel stuck, mediocre, or just “same-ol’, same-ol” in expressing our Christian faith. It is very clear that our world needs redemption in many areas! Let’s branch out!

Just as the hibiscus flower has many parts, we have many areas in our lives: our family lives, our work lives, our social lives, and, above all, our faith lives. If we invite Jesus into each area each day, we open ourselves up to divine love that is full of strength, endurance, forgiveness, and healthy possibilities. These gifts can overflow and affect others we encounter. “Look how beautiful Jesus is!”

It is not always easy. We might be too tired or too busy to sit and pray. We could be overwhelmed with problems or even tragedy in our daily lives. We cannot text God and expect him to text back. There is no divine phone number to call.

But we are not alone. God knows what we are thinking. He hears our prayers even if they are short phrases: “Lord, give me wisdom!” “Jesus, save me from despair!” “Forgive me for that slip of the tongue!”

Our branching out might be facilitated by sharing faith joys with other family members, friends, or acquaintances. A short phone call, text, or chat to one of these people can be like a flower opening, bringing advice, comfort, love, or reassurance with the Lord as our powerful source.

We can read even just a few Bible verses a day. We can copy some verses onto a readily accessible index card or onto our cell phone and take a prayer break now and then. There are 150 psalms from which to draw! For example, we could share with a child a picture of some little lambs, sing the song, “Mary had a Little Lamb,” and then tell the child how we are lambs, and Jesus is our Good Shepherd..

 Maybe we could pray this week with John 15:5, 9:

    I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear

   much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.

    As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.

Remember how beautiful the Lord is! Let’s branch out from that beautiful Vine!

   

Read More

Topics: spreading good news, Sharon Krause, renewing our faith

Many Names

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 22, 2024 6:00:00 AM

Throughout our lifetimes, we hear and use many names: wife or husband, Mom or Dad, Grammy or Gramps, doctor or nurse, teacher, friend, senator or president, sales rep, fisherman, just to name a few. The names usually come with special meanings and implications. Sometimes they have to do with one’s occupation. In many cases, names come with implied definitions. Names can be very important in marketing, too. Sometimes there are contests designed to choose the right name for a product.

Earlier this month, we read in the liturgy of the baptism of Jesus by John. A voice from the heavens called Jesus “my beloved Son” (Mark 1:11). On the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, we read in the gospel that John the Baptist called Jesus the “Lamb of God” (John 1:35-42). Two disciples called Jesus “Rabbi.” Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, called Jesus the “Messiah.” Jesus told Simon that he would thenceforth be called “Cepheus,” which is translated “Peter.”

In yesterday’s gospel reading, Jesus tells Simon and Andrew that if they follow him, he will make them “fishers of men” (Mark: 1:17). That is a whole new understanding of “fishermen.” These disciples can catch not fish, but new disciples for Jesus! Quite a difference!

When we pray these days of the new year, perhaps we can find inspiration from the many and various names for the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. For example, when we think about lambs, how innocent they are, how small and pure that are, we also remember how they were used in sacrificial services and prayers to God so long ago. We could think about the precious, innocent Lamb of God, who sacrificed his life for us. We can meditate on the concept of sacrifice. We can be so grateful to our generous Jesus who loves us so much.

How about “Messiah” or “Rabbi?” What has our wonderful anointed teacher taught us lately. Do we take the time to pray and listen? Have we thought that maybe, by our example, good will, and gentle faith-sharing we might be “fishers of others” ourselves? We might invite others to love Jesus, our Savior!

We could make a list of names that describe Jesus and, during each prayer time, meditate on each name: for example, Prince of Peace, Son of Mary, Good Shepherd, Savior of the World, Light in our Darkness, Wonderful Counselor, Emmanuel, Name above all Names.

May we all have a holy year all year long, In Jesus’ name, we pray!

   

Read More

Topics: Jesus as teacher, Jesus' love, Sharon Krause

Share the Good News

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 15, 2024 6:00:00 AM

When my daughter was ready to attend first-grade religious instructions, the CCD coordinator asked if I would consider teaching a few children myself, in my home, for an hour a week. The parents could drop the children off at my house, with their little workbooks, and my daughter, of course, would be a member of that class. I felt qualified since I had had 16 years of Catholic education myself and had been a faithful practicing Catholic.

 I have to confess that the first time I actually started talking about Jesus out loud I was a bit challenged. Even with all my theology classes, I had not really shared my faith vocally. It had been a very personal thing. My non-Catholic husband is a Christian but not a churchgoer except to support some program or class with which I was involved. My mother had always taken me to church when I was young, but we did not sit and talk about our faith. Catechism answers, church rules and commandments, and rites and rituals were important but not something we chatted about.

 As it turned out, I ended up teaching religious instruction for 18 years, in home and at the Catholic grammar school a mile away from my home. There were times when the CCD teachers would meet with the coordinator to talk about teaching issues and challenges. I eventually got involved with more adults who actually shared their personal religious experiences and thoughts.

 An office of small Christian communities formed in my area and there was a program created whereby our parish offered about five or six small Christian Community groups that met weekly, for about an hour, either at the church or in individual’s homes. I joined a small Christian community that met after the noon Mass on Wednesdays. In the group, we talked about our faith as it related to the weekly Sunday Mass readings. We did not get extremely technical or doctrinal or theological. We shared anecdotally how God was in our little and big life experiences. We were actually sharing our faith stories and enlightening ourselves and each other. We talked out loud, and we prayed. We grew closer to Jesus and to each other.

 And now, even apart from any group, it is easier for me to share God with others and to draw attention to his blessings and loving presence. I don’t have to preach but just joyfully point out where I see God working and remember to pray and ask his help. Sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ uplifts me and those with whom I interact. It is more than an occasional “God bless you!” It could be “God is so good!” or “God loves you and will help you through!” or “Let’s pray together!”

  

Read More

Topics: sharing your faith, small faith sharing groups, Sharon Krause

So Many Gifts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Jan 8, 2024 6:00:00 AM

Are we done yet? Are we weary from thinking about making Christmas-gift lists, shopping for gifts, paying for gifts, wrapping gifts, and, lately, exchanging or returning gifts?

We know gifts are means of giving of ourselves to people whom we love and cherish, but we don’t always find the exact gifts we want to give or receive the gifts we have been desiring. In this “material” world, we can easily get misdirected and distracted. Usually we are grateful for the well-intentioned gifts others give us and are reminded at the time of the good feelings we share.

Before the feast of the Nativity, we heard of various gifts: Mary’s accepting the gift of being the mother of Jesus, her visit to Elizabeth, and the dream Joseph was given telling him to take Mary into his home. John the Baptist was gifted with the chance to share the good news of the coming Messiah. Yesterday, we heard of the gifts the magi brought to Jesus. Mary was given the gifts of wonderful memories to treasure in her beautiful young heart.

We are surrounded by gifts from God. This year ahead could be a good time to heighten our awareness of our numerous blessings that don’t come wrapped in fancy holiday paper. Available to us are the gift of awareness of God, the joy of receiving Jesus’ Body in the Holy Eucharist, the wonderful, inspiring words of Sacred Scripture, the Communion of Saints that prays for us, the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, to name just a few.

The beautiful and poetic Psalm 104 can help us acknowledge other gifts. Not only can we read the various verses, but we can easily meditate and personalize them. The psalm mentions the great things of nature: waters, mountains, clouds, trees, creatures. We can interject our experiences of nature for which we are so grateful. Verse 33 reads:

   I will sing to the Lord all my life;

       I will sing praise to my God while I live.

 And we can follow the suggestion of the first two verses of today’s Mass responsorial psalm (Psalm 29: 1-2) and give heartfelt gifts of praise and glory:

   Give to the Lord, you sons of God,

       give to the Lord glory and praise,

   Give to the Lord the glory due his name;

     adore the Lord in holy attire.

It is so easy to take for granted the God-given gifts we encounter every day. Those resolutions we often make at the beginning of the new year are easily broken or forgotten, but we do have the gift of prayerfulness so that we can ask Jesus to strengthen our resolve to draw closer to him day by day. Happy new love!

  

Read More

Topics: God's gifts, gratefulness, Sharon Krause

You Can Say That Again

Posted by Sharon Krause on Dec 4, 2023 6:00:00 AM

“Wash, rinse, repeat.” Ah! Those are the familiar instructions on the shampoo bottle. We repeat many procedures and words for numerous reasons. We repeat to stress a point we are trying to make. We repeat to help us learn or memorize. We repeat because someone is hard of hearing or resistant to the issue at hand. We repeat because we like to hear what is repeated, perhaps song lyrics or melody, or a prayer psalm.

At times, when something is repeated, we may not pay attention: “Oh, I have heard that so many times before! I know all about that!"

Have you ever stopped to think that there are different ways to approach, explore, and elaborate on the matter at hand? A repetitive background could offer a comfortable or familiar jump-off point for creativity. Contemplative prayer is one example.

In the passage from the Gospel of Mark that we heard at Mass yesterday (13:33-37), we are told to be watchful and stay alert because we don’t know when the Master will come. As we begin our new liturgical year with the season of Advent, we know again we must be careful how we observe our environment which can be full of temptations. St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians (1:3-9) gives us hope that we won’t lack spiritual gifts to help us. So we will say it again, “Watch! stay alert!”

At time of year, we read and hear repeated ads for all kinds of Christmas gifts and decorations. Materialism at its finest! How about repeating some beautiful Bible verses? Instead of “Black Friday” sales that repeat beyond Black Friday, consider reading and rejoicing with Isaiah 40:3-5:

   A voice cries out:

In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!

   Make straight in the wasteland a highway

       for our God!

Every valley shall be filled in,

   every mountain and hill shall be made low;

The rugged land shall be made a plain,

   the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,

   and all mankind shall see it together;

   for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 

Psalms 85, 96 and 98 also give us hope and peace when we pray with them during Advent. We are hopeful, and hope is a good thing to repeat and pass on to others. When we read these familiar lines, we can thoughtfully, slowly emphasize one line and then another as we meditate. We can make the lines personal to ourselves and to our current situations. We can invite our loving, forgiving, generous Lord into the words and phrases and ask him for inspiration and fresh understanding.

Happy Advent! Again — Happy Advent!

  

Read More

Topics: Christmas shopping, Jesus Christ the King, Sharon Krause

Eyes on the King

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 27, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Sales! Sales! Sales! That’s all we are supposed to keep thinking about as we try to find wonderful Christmas gifts for the people we love. We see decorations displayed in stores and neighborhoods. Lights everywhere! Spend your money! Spend your time shopping! Keep looking! Give your attention to the holiday festivities! It is all exciting and colorful!

Yesterday, we celebrated the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, King of the Universe. It would be spiritually beneficial for us to focus on our loving King, Jesus, who teaches us about a different kind of giving of gifts and attention. Certainly, we use material objects as gifts to show our love, but our personal talent—gifts of understanding, hospitality, sense of humor, and gentle solicitous listening—are valuable ways to show others we care about them. Jesus is our perfect example of gift-giver! Our eyes should be on him!

We might think of kings in the context of pageantry, wealth, and spectacle. Our Christ, the King, is a teacher, a loving chastiser, the Son of God who willingly gave his life for the redemption of all of us. His self-sacrificing love for us can sustain us even in the bleakest of times, but we have to keep our busy eyes on him. Every now and then, it is a good idea to check our priorities. Take time to visit his throne room.

One of the best things Jesus taught us is to trust in his Father’s will. At this busy time of the year, let’s be sure to take time to pray to our King, Jesus. Let’s ask for his help in following His Father’s will for us, even when it seems very difficult.

 

The Scarecrow

The rabbit approached the scarecrow:

“Won’t you teach me how to dance.

I watch you here in the cornfield.

Such moves cannot be by chance,”

The scarecrow replied quite modestly,

“Our Creator is my teacher.

He sends the songbirds with music,

And the winds to set the meter.

I’ve learned to rest upon this pole,

To stay ready day and night,

I trust in the Master’s direction,

In this Spirit-filled dance of life.”

 

  

Read More

Topics: Christmas shopping, Jesus Christ the King, Sharon Krause

Timely Sequence Reflections

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 20, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Pentecost Sunday was quite a long time ago, but the Pentecost Sunday Sequence prayer that is included in that liturgy is a favorite prayer of mine, and one that does not have to be stashed way until next year.

 In today’s liturgy, we hear the story from Luke’s Gospel (18:35-43) in which a blind man had his sight restored by Jesus. Maybe, with reviewing the Pentecost prayer, Jesus will give us some new ways to think and pray to the Holy Spirit.

 Come Holy Spirit, come.

And from your celestial home

Shed a ray of light divine.

Come, Father of the poor.

Come, source of all our store.

Come, within our bosoms shine.

 We should openly invite the Holy Spirit into our lives every day. The Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, does accept our invitation and is very active and helpful, even in small ways. We should pay attention, even if we have been slow to respond in the past.

          You, of comforters the best;

You, the soul’s most welcome guest;

Sweet refreshment here below;

 We all need comforting now and then, but in today’s very troubled world, divine comfort is needed and appreciated more than ever! One look at the news in the media tells us we are lacking in the kind of sweet refreshment only the Spirit can provide.

 

In our labor, rest most sweet;

Grateful coolness in the heat;

Solace in the midst of woe.

 

The Holy Spirit helps us in extreme times and situations. It is a blessing to rest in the Lord, to find a respite when life is demanding, when we are in the heat of anger or temptation, resentment, struggle, or great sadness. Maybe our labor is persistent praying for some urgent need of a loved one. The Spirit is there to help us.

         O most blessed Light divine,

Shine within these hearts of yours,

And our inmost being fill.

 

Where you are not, we have naught,

Nothing good in deed or thought,

Nothing free from taint of ill.

 Again, we do the inviting. By virtue of our baptism, we know the Spirit is ready to assist us right into the center of our hearts. This world is so full of distractions, perversions, temptations, and roads to emptiness. We are human, the Holy Spirit is divine! The Spirit will correct us and fill us!

 Heal our wounds, our strength renew;

On our dryness pour your dew;

Wash the stains of guilt away;

 

Bend the stubborn heart and will;

Melt the frozen, warm the chill;

Guide the steps that go astray.

 The Holy Spirit brings positivity and hope. Healing flows from the Spirit in a way that renews our strength and provides new life that is cleansed and redirected. The Spirit resets us and reboots us, if you want to think in computer-age terms. We can be reprogrammed.

 On the faithful, who adore

And confess you, evermore

In your sevenfold gift descend;

 

Give them virtue’s sure reward;

Give them your salvation, Lord;

Give them joys that never end.

 Amen. Alleluia.

 That sevenfold gift—remember what the “seven” are? The gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. Wow! What a package of gifts from a very generous Lord! Let us adore and confess the Lord, and be very thankful for his loving generosity, those “joys that never end!”

  

Read More

Topics: Sharon Krause, Gifts of the Holy Spirit, open to the Holy Spirit

Subscribe Here!

Recent Posts

Posts by Tag

See all