Branching Out Blog

It's Amazing!

Posted by Sharon Krause on Nov 13, 2023 6:00:00 AM

There are so many terrible things happening in this world right now! It has been suggested that much of our troubles come from excluding God from our lives, our country, and our schools. We get so busy with our personal goals and desires that God may not come first, if we see him there at all. God sent his Son to teach us and redeem us. Let’s take a walk today through the Gospel of Mark and let us be amazed and astounded at the wonders of God’s love.

Mark 1:21-22: Then they came to Capernaum and on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:26-27: The unclean Spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”

Mark 2:12: He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Mark 4:39, 41: He woke up, rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm….They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”

Mark 5:20: Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.

Mark 5:42: The girl, a child of 12, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 6:2a: when the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished.

Mark 6:51: He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded.

 Mark 7:37: They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

 Mark 9:15: Immediately on seeing him, the whole crowd was utterly amazed.

 Mark 10:32: They we’re on the way, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus went ahead of them. They were amazed….

 Mark 12:17: So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.

 Mark 15:4-5: Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.

 Mark 16:5: On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe. They were utterly amazed.

 Prayer:

Lord Jesus, your words, your deeds, your teachings and your love are truly amazing. We are astounded by the wonders of your saving love every day of our lives. Increase our awareness and help us to share our amazement with others so they will come to know you more and more. We thank you, amazing Lord, for suffering, dying, and rising for us. Praise be to you, Son of God, Messiah and King!

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Topics: forgiveness, Sharon Krause

Football Lesson

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

There it is! The football is still there! It has been lying on that lonely, small patch of grass for almost a year. Whoever takes care of mowing that area has mowed around that object and left it undisturbed. The football has started to come apart after weathering numerous Florida rainstorms. No one has decided to throw it into the trash bin, despite the fact that there is a nearby town sign discouraging littering. The football sits there day and night, seemingly as a monument to procrastination or stubborn littering. Whoever first put it there will undoubtedly not come back for it.

That football brings to mind certain things about our human condition. Any of us could have a prejudice or grudge against another person, and that impediment could hang around for a very long time. We might not even remember what started the problem. Other life experiences and relationships could be running along very smoothly and seem very happy. That tainted feeling that we feel for a particular person could actually be wearing out, but we are not paying attention.

In the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Maybe we should think about those little parentheses we put around certain people and start the business of forgiving those who have trespassed. Our football may be a little apology or attitude adjustment we should make to someone else.

I have heard of long-standing grudges in families. Sometimes a grudge can be almost a legacy that is perpetuated as a “family thing.” Other times, we might have a falling out with another person who has moved away. We may not see the person, so the bad feeling has never been resolved. That little football on the green does not take up much space, but it is still there!

Whatever our own little football may be, it is probably time to throw it away. It may be helpful to pray with Colossians 3:12-15:

 

   Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion,

   kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and

   forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord

   has forgiven you, so you must also do. And over all these put on love, that

   is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the

   peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful.

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Topics: forgiveness, spiritual renewal, Sharon Krause

Think Again

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 30, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Ouch! I cut my finger on the lid of a can of tuna. Sharp edge! I proceeded to the medicine cabinet for some peroxide and a Band-Aid. It was just an easy, normal thing to do—something I just take for granted. Then I heard on the television news how, in the war-torn Middle East, doctors are operating on children by the light of multiple cell phones and are using vinegar as the only available antiseptic.

We all take many things for granted. There are so many daily blessings that we are accustomed to that we don’t even think of them as blessings. Maybe it is time to think again.

In the gospel reading in today’s Mass, (Luke 13:10-17) the woman whom Jesus cured of an 18-year infirmity was able to stand up tall and think again about her life possibilities. Scripture says the first thing she did was glorify God.

We go to Mass weekly, or even daily, and receive the precious Body of Jesus in the Eucharist. Do we really understand what a blessing that is? What an encounter! Do we just take that grace for granted? Do we savor the experience of meeting God’s Son in a truly physical way?

As we pray for peace in this troubled world, let us try to pay attention to all the blessings we experience each day of our lives. It is easy to take everyday gifts for granted.

Let us pray.

How can I truly praise you, Lord?

The best I can do is to pay attention,

   and acknowledge your wonderous actions,

   to find you in all things—-somehow, somewhere, everywhere;

   to call it out: credit where credit is due!

My praise words help to remind me joyfully of who is in charge.

My praise is bursting with thanksgiving.

My heart’s desire should be only what your will sanctions.

I find it hard to understand sometimes,

   but you know that, and you have patience with me.

You are merciful.

Teach me to praise you better and to give you glory in the highest!

Amen.

 

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Topics: give thanks to God, gratefulness, gratitude, Sharon Krause, thanking God

Another Sign

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 23, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Way back in the Easter season, I wrote a blog post about a sign I saw in a neighbor’s yard about just being kind. Well, that neighbor has done it again! This time the yard sign reads: “Be the Good.” How fitting at this time when much of what we read and hear about is war, hate, and protests. How can we be “the Good” while the media are loaded with news about Gaza, Israel, and the disasters and repercussions associated with fighting.

In today’s liturgy, we read the parable of a rich man who was very greedy (Luke 12:13-21). He was self-centered and selfish with his bountiful harvest. He planned to build bigger barns for his bigger-than-expected harvest. How about us? What kind of richness might we hoard or forget to share?

We are gifted with the good news about our Savior, Jesus Christ. Do we share that news even in little doses? Do we go out of our way to volunteer to assist someone in need? Maybe “being the good” will involve a financial donation to a worthy cause. It could mean going to an extra weekday Mass and praying for peace in our world. Perhaps we could provide companionship to someone who is recovering from an illness or a recent loss. We could not just “be the good” but also be the good example for someone who is watching our response to a problem?

 We can find inspiration from St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians (6:9-10):

    Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest,

   if we do not give up.

       So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially

   to those who belong to the family of the faith.

 Matthew’s Gospel (5:16) teaches us,

    Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds

   and glorify your Heavenly Father.

 In the Old Testament, the prophecy of Micah (6:8) gives us advice:

    You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you:

   Only to do the right and to live goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

 So let us try to “be the good” and a generous inspiration to others in this busy, often self-centered world!

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Topics: good christian lives, good deeds, good will, good works, Sharon Krause

Problem Solving

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 9, 2023 6:00:00 AM

In today’s Mass, we read about Jonah and the big fish and about the Good Samaritan. In both readings, men made decisions as to how to solve problems. In the case of Jonah, the mariners decided to solve the problem of a storm, which threatened to capsize their boat and drown them, by throwing Jonah into the sea. In the parable in Luke’s Gospel today, a priest and a Levite solved their problem of dealing with a severely injured man by avoiding any contact with him. There are many ways we can devise solutions to problems and challenges in our lives; some solutions can be drastic, some can be avoidance, and some can be wise, caring and systematic.

As we begin the colorful season of autumn, we might consider what colors our decisions as we solve life’s problems. Fears, worries, memories can all influence our choices. We know it is so important to call upon the Lord in prayer when we have problems to solve. He has enriched us with gifts and talents, and we need the Holy Spirit’s help to tap into our resources to find proper and loving solutions.

 Autumn Chores

Our autumn is full of truer colors with frost on the growing edges.

We rake together our cherished gifts: the shapes, shades, shadows, shifts, and shivers.

The breath of the Spirit scatters our leaves as we pile up countless blessings:

Patterns, passings, pauses, pursuits and passions.

And there, in the season, we find the Divine Artist who endeavors to teach us wisely

how to harvest his handiwork,

And somehow, in all the changes, distribute our wealth to those we love.

 As we prepare for the secular and holy celebrations as the year winds down, may we not get swallowed up by the size of any problem. May love be our response when we encounter a stranger in distress. May we color our lives with trust in our loving Creator!

 

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Topics: trust in God, Sharon Krause, problem solving

Twelve and Counting

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 1, 2023 6:00:00 AM

We humans are very involved with numbers. We use numbers for identification, for communication, for evaluation, for measuring, and for much more. We count up, we count down. We add and subtract, multiply and divide.

 So, let’s count down to Christmas Day and consider how many weeks until we will celebrate our Savior’s birth. Did you count? I did. Twelve weeks from today is Christmas Day. We often use an Advent calendar to count down to Christmas. Let’s do more. I suggest, just for a prayer exercise, to devote each week a few extra minutes in our daily prayer time for some intentions that we say we are going to pray for but might postpone or even unintentionally forget because of distractions or busyness.

 Here are 12 suggested topics, but, of course, you can personalize to fit your needs and preferences.

 Perhaps for this first week of October, we can pray for the repose of the souls of those friends, or relatives of friends, for whom we have said we would pray. So many times I hear people say, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” and that is that. We can pray for the deceased friends and relatives and for comfort to families experiencing loss. We can even ask our Mother Mary, who experienced grief, to pray for the deceased.

  1. Week 2 could be filled with extra prayers for those people experiencing natural and manmade disasters and their aftermath–Maui and Libya, to just name two.

  2. Maybe for the third week of October we can add prayer minutes for peace in this world, especially in Ukraine. We can ask our Lord for peacemakers to encourage peaceful resolutions in nations that threaten and feel threatened.

  3. During the week of October 23, we might pray for more people to return to praying and worshiping God. We need to remember who really is in charge! I am sure we all have family members and friends who have lost their way to God’s truth.

  4. The week beginning October 30 could include extra prayers for innocent victims of crimes and various forms of abuse and war.

  5. We hear about thousands of homeless people. We can pray for wise solutions, and for safety and healthcare for these men, women, and children.

  6. The week of November 13 can be punctuated with extra prayers for health and wise preventive measures for us and for family members and friends.

  7. November 20 can start a week of adding a few prayers for safety for our first-responders and gratitude for all medical caregivers.

  8. The last week of November can include prayers for Pope Francis, our bishops, priests, and religious, and for an increase in vocations.

  9. So much in life seems to depend on spending money. As Christmas gets closer, we start spending money for gifts. We could say extra prayers for wisdom in financial matters for ourselves and for those in government.

  10. December 11 could start a week with added prayers for our military personnel. We are not at war and can forget all the sacrifices our service members make in peacetime.

  11. The week just before Christmas can be very busy. Of course, we focus on the miracle of God coming to earth in human form, but we can add some special prayers of gratitude for the blessings we have received over the past year. We might include those little graces that seem like lucky coincidences but are really God’s love strokes.

 

 

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Topics: Christmas, Advent, praying, Sharon Krause

Congestion

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 25, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Have you ever tried to give nose drops to a cat? Well, that was our job after our old cat, Buddy, saw the veterinarian who told us that that medication was to be the treatment for Buddy’s nasal congestion. What fun!

After we moved from Connecticut to southern Florida last November, not only Buddy but also my husband had a problem with congestion. My husband now uses an inhaler and some prescription pills for his bronchial allergies.

And, while we are talking about congestion, the traffic congestion where we live is quite challenging too! Lots of people live around here, and especially at rush hours, there are so many cars and trucks on the roads that even the spray of frequent thunderstorms does not ease or slow down the volume!

There are other kinds of congestion. We can get a bit thought-congested in our busy schedules and in our minds. We are bombarded daily with social media websites, questions about choices and priorities, and challenges to our beliefs. Just as we have to hold Buddy very still as we administer the drops we need to take time to hold still so that we can pray and listen to God’s truth and counsel. The Holy Spirit is very generous with inspiration and help. The reading from the Prophet Isaiah (55:6-9) at yesterday’s liturgy is a good place to start:

   Seek the Lord while he may be found,

       call him while he is near.

   Let the scoundrel forsake his way,

       and the wicked man his thoughts;

   Let him turn to the Lord for mercy;

       to our God, who is generous in forgiving.

   For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

       nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.

   As high as the heavens are above the earth,

       so high are my ways above your ways

     and my thoughts above your thoughts.

 

Lord, help me to stay close to you today.

Help me to think clearly and to reflect your

truth and love in my words and actions.

Assist me as I resist even the smallest of temptations to sin.

Help me to clear the way for others to find you.

Direct my paths and lead me to be grateful for your constant care.

I ask this in Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

 

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause

Pop-ups

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 18, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Sometimes, out of the blue, a person or event you have not thought about in a long time pops up in your memory. It might be hard at first to figure out what has triggered the thought. There are a number of possible explanations.

A certain word, location, scent or even melody can somehow connect your brain to a relevant moment in your life. The experience can be interesting and thought-provoking. It may also be a prompt for prayer. Maybe the Holy Spirit is suggesting you say a prayer for that person who is unexpectedly popping up in your mind. Perhaps it is time to slow down a little bit and just say a thank-you prayer for that blessing you are recalling or for the time the Lord gave you strength to weather a life storm.

Have you ever had the pleasant surprise of a favorite song that just happened to play just as you turned the radio on? How about the time an old friend crossed your path without notice? More occasions for thank-you prayers! We always hear, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” when tragedies occur, but isn’t it a good idea to think and pray during those small blessing times, too?

In today’s world it is easy to get so used to instant responses whether on our computers and tablets or on our phones. It could be that these little pop-up incidents are opportunities to acknowledge our very creative Creator and his gifts to us.

It might be a good personal prayer exercise to ask the Lord to remind you of a particular event in your life in which you took for granted him or some gift he had given you. Gratitude is a wonderful bridge to prayer. It could be time for a bit of remedial self-reflection.

Certainly, there are times the pop-ups can remind us of sad events or a bad feelings, but even in those times we can acknowledge that we have had the strength of our faith and the availability of saving graces to encourage us and give us hope.

Let us pray and consider what St. Paul recommends in his first letter to the Thessalonians, verses 17-22:

Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

 

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause

Feet of Jesus

Posted by Sharon Krause on Sep 11, 2023 6:00:00 AM

Jesus, when you were a baby lying in your mother’s lap,

   did she kiss your feet so precious, each small toe, both front and back?

When you helped in Joseph’s workshop, did sharp splinters pierce your toes

   from the scraps and jagged fragments as the crafts you came to know?

John the Baptist felt unworthy to loosen sandals on your feet:

   feet that never stopped when weary, feet that bore rough roads and heat.

A sinful woman was repentant when she washed your tired feet

   with her long and flowing tresses and her tears of sorrow sweet.

Jesus, when you walked on water, did it feel so fresh and cool

   as you gently beckoned Peter to trust and walk on water, too?

You washed the feet of your disciples, though, at first, they did protest.

   You taught the worth of service to those who follow in your steps.

Three times your feet gave out beneath you as the heavy cross pressed down;

   What pain you must have suffered when they drove the nails so long!

Jesus, when you hung there dying, did your mother come and bless

   the feet she knew before they walked, that now had climbed the road to death?

When you appeared, on Easter morn, to the women on their way,

   they caressed your risen feet and worshipped Savior Jesus, that holy day!

Your feet, Jesus, now in heaven, your feet, Lord, that walked with men,

   are the feet that lead to glory. Guide us to our Father. Amen.

 

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Topics: Sharon Krause

New Dwarfs

Posted by Sharon Krause on Aug 28, 2023 6:00:00 AM

I recently heard that Disney may be coming out with an updated version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Wouldn’t it be interesting for those who work with little children to challenge them to come up with names for “holy” dwarfs and use those ideas to teach about good religious practices? I have some suggestions for dwarf names, but I am sure these are not the only possibilities.                                

Prayerful – This dwarf prays every day. Which prayers does he know? Does he make up his own prayers too? Prayers don’t have to be long and full of big words. They just have to be sincere, from our loving hearts.

Gentle – This dwarf is kind and treats others gently. He tries not to lose his temper or say unkind things. It isn’t always easy, but Gentle loves God and God’s creations.

Thankful – Thankful dwarf tells the Lord how grateful he is for his many daily blessings. Lots of time people pray for things they want but forget to take as much time in praying thank-you prayers for wonderful things they have received.

Sorrowful – This dwarf reminds us how important it is to be sorry and to tell God we are sorry for the sins we have committed. Jesus is always ready to forgive us as we try to do better. We all make bad choices now and then, but the sacrament of reconciliation is there for us to start over. And Sorrowful never holds grudges against anyone.

Joyful – This dwarf is always full of joy because he thinks about his sharing in God’s life through the reading of the Bible stories and the sacraments of the Church. What is your favorite Bible story?

Singer – This dwarf loves to sing hymns about our wonderful, generous God. He does not have to be in church to sing; he can sing in his room or with his friends. He even makes up his own songs sometimes.

Blabbermouth – This dwarf is not your normal “blabbermouth” who can be annoying and unstoppable. Blabbermouth loves to spread the word about the good news of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He talks about Jesus’ teachings and healings and other miracles. He tells everyone about the great gift of Holy Communion and even about the comforting sacrament of the sick.

It is important to teach little children and encourage their feedback. How about drawing pictures of what they think the new dwarfs might look like? And how about us adults? Do we take advantage of my fictitious dwarfs’ good attributes? Being young at heart is a good thing.

 

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Topics: praying, Sharon Krause, words

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