Branching Out Blog

Thoughts About Palms

Posted by Sharon Krause on Apr 3, 2023 6:00:00 AM

When I moved to Florida last year, I was surprised at the number of different kinds of palm trees. I had never really thought about the palm fronds that are blessed and distributed at Masses on Palm Sunday. They are suggestive of grace and majesty. How fitting that they were strewn before Jesus as he triumphantly rode into Jerusalem!

What about other kinds of palms? How about palms of hands? Often, we see crucifixes with nails puncturing the palms of Jesus’ hands. Whether he was really nailed to the cross by nails in his hands, or more likely through his wrists, the hands of Jesus were truly hurt. At the Last Supper, those hands were the hands that held the bread that he transformed into his body and the cup of wine that became his blood. Those gentle healing fingers and palms prepared these wonderful, personal gifts for us for years to come.

We also remember the many healings Jesus performed with his touch, even when he mixed by hand his saliva and mud to cure a man of blindness. We read in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus gave a hand to a sinking, doubting, Peter and pulled him from the water (Matthew 14:29-31).

Think about our own palms. We clap them together when we are pleased or impressed with some performance or truth. We rub them together when we are cold. When we are glad about another person’s accomplishment, we might “give them five” and our hands come together in a clap.

Best of all, we can receive the Holy Eucharist host first on our palm before we reverently put it into our mouths. When we pray, we can put our palms together with our fingers pointing heavenward. Many people pray the Lord’s Prayer at Mass with open palms, symbolizing an openness to God’s will and love.

 Let us Psalm 134, a psalm that promotes the lifting of hands:

    Come, bless the Lord,

       all you servants of the Lord

   Who stand in the house of the Lord

       during the hours of night.

   Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary:

         and bless the Lord.

    May the Lord bless you from Zion,

       the maker of heaven and earth.

And Psalm 63:5, a psalm of David, speaks of prayerfully lifting of the hands:

    Thus will I bless you while I live;

       lifting up my hands, I will call upon your name.

 As we pray through Holy Week, may we ask the Lord to take us by the hand and lift us out of any waters of distraction so that we can gratefully appreciate all Jesus has selflessly done for us.

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Topics: Holy Week, prayer, Sharon Krause, prayers of gratitude

New Beginnings

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

Over the past few days we have been reminded by the scripture readings at Mass about new beginnings: the beginning of motherhood for the faithful Blessed Virgin Mary, the second beginning of Lazarus’ life after Jesus called him forth from the tomb, and the chance at a new and better life for the rescued adulterous woman at whom no one would cast a stone.

We all have new beginnings every day during this season of Lent. Each new start comes with challenges. It is up to us to surrender to the will of God, all the while knowing that God loves each of us as only God can love.

Let’s stop and think. We know we can trust that nothing is impossible for God. It is true that our Savior Jesus can untie any bonds that hold us captive. Each one of us is a sinner, but Jesus is ready to forgive even our most persistent sinfulness when we are ready to repent and to keep trying to sin no more. These recent readings give us such joyful hope!

Lent is full of possibilities for new holiness. Here is a prayer/poem about hopeful striving and surrender to the Lord.

                               Song of Prayer

I can almost taste the sweetness, I can almost see the glow,

I can almost hear the whisper of God who loves me so.

This time, the words are very simple. This time, prayer is, oh, so still.

This time, I grasp in the quiet the message of his will.

What has made now such a difference? What has opened up my heart?

What has brought my God so close now, when I scarce know where to start?

Could it be my meek surrender? Could it be my letting go?

Could it be my leap of trusting in God who loves me so?

I can almost smell the fragrance; I can almost feel the touch.

I can almost sense a oneness with the God I love so much!

 

May we be open to the Holy Spirit’s inspirations. May we have a new focus on prayerfulness and gratitude to God because we know that in less than two weeks, we all will be rejoicing!

   

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Topics: Lent, Lenten season, new beginnings, Sharon Krause

Halftime

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

We have all heard that question about whether a glass is half full or half empty, that is, how we see things in life: optimistically or pessimistically. We are about halfway through our 2023 Lenten journey, so we can stop and ask ourselves: Is my Lent half full or half empty so far?

Over the past few weeks, we have read in Scripture about challenges being accepted, thirsts being quenched, blindness being cured, Jesus being transfigured, God’s promises being kept and Jesus being lauded as our Good Shepherd. With such positive experiences, how could we be anything but optimistic? Certainly, fears, doubts, sins, and temptations can get in the way.

It may be a good idea to call upon St. Joseph, whose feast we celebrate today, to be our coach for the rest of Lent. He is truly a model of strength and holiness.

Dear St. Joseph, we ask you to pray for us. You were obedient to the angel of the Lord. You sheltered Mary, protected her, and kept her safe as you traveled to Bethlehem and, later, to Egypt. Teach us to treasure our relationships with Mary, your spouse, and with your foster child, Jesus. Pray for us, that we may be strong against temptations to distractions and despair.

Dear St. Joseph, steady craftsman, faithful worker, you are called “a righteous man” in Sacred Scripture. Pray for us that we may be righteous and persistent as we work at becoming holier and closer to our Lord. Teach us to be courageous on our faith journey.

Dear St. Joseph, as you provided for the earthly, daily needs of your family, pray for us as we work through our daily, mundane tasks. You know the joy of heaven. Pray for us for an increase in the desire to be close to you and your holy family. Help us to follow your example: to be humble and grateful for our opportunities to love and serve God, our Creator.

 Dear St. Joseph, as you watched the boy, Jesus, grow into manhood, pray for us that we might grow into more mature followers of Jesus Christ. Help us to realize our potential as Christians who can encounter Our Savior every day. St. Joseph, you must have been a great comfort to Mary. Pray for us that we may learn to lovingly comfort and encourage others as we prepare for the holy season of Easter. Amen.

 

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Topics: Lent, Lenten season, St. Joseph, Sharon Krause

At the Well

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

What do you say? Let’s go sit at Jacob’s well with Jesus and the woman of Samaria. Let’s say it is hot outside, around the noon hour, as the gospel passage described it in yesterday’s Mass. We might be thirsty as Jesus was. We hear some birds singing. The sun is shining on our shoulders.

We are now into the third week of Lent. We might need a cupful of water that will lead to a spring of water that wells up to eternal life. We can ask Jesus how to worship the Father in Spirit and truth in a way that is more faithful, more sincere and dynamic. As the Samaritan woman carried on a conversation with Jesus, maybe we could try a little more one-on-one with him during our busy day. No one was with Jesus and the woman; his disciples were off buying food. Can we find time to be alone with Jesus, even for a little while? It is so easy these days to get awfully busy!

Did you notice that the woman remarked that Jesus did not even have a bucket to use to obtain the water? However, after speaking with him, she left her bucket behind and went onto the town to spread the news about Jesus. She had a new priority. How about our priorities? Are they in right order? Can we make some adjustments? Do we share Jesus with others, even in small life matters, when we get a chance?

Jesus knew that the woman did not have a sixth husband, that the partner she had currently was not her spouse. Jesus knows all about us as well: our gifts, our talents, our shortcomings, our sins. He will help us deal with the various aspects of our lives when we ask him. Review your inventory together!

 Jesus revealed to the woman that he is the Christ. He reveals himself to us in a very special way when we receive Holy Communion. Is it possible to receive him more than once during the weeks of Lent? Perhaps we remember that little prayer for when we cannot receive Him physically in the Eucharist, but want to receive a spiritual communion:

    As I cannot now receive You, dear Jesus, in Holy Communion, come spiritually into  

   my heart and make it Thine own forever. Amen.

 By spending more time in prayer with our Savior, we might be able to find a new serenity in the days leading up to Easter. Our gratitude to God can increase. Our Easter joy could be more intense!

                                                                        Portrait

Paint my portrait, Jesus, I’ll endeavor to sit still;

Capture, Lord, my best side, if it’s your loving will.

Paint my eyes to find you in everyone I see.

Don’t catch my nose turned upward; I need humility.

Render my lips smiling; a few laugh lines are fine:

They help to show the Spirit, the inner joy that’s mine.

Blush my cheeks, dear Jesus, a vibrant, scarlet red.

Help me to remember the saving blood you shed.

Paint my portrait, Jesus; use forgiving hues.

Create a ready likeness: make me look like you.

  

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Topics: Lent, Lenten season, Sharon Krause, spend time with Jesus

Good Company

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

Yesterday’s gospel reading told us about some of the people with whom Jesus was keeping company. Peter, James, and John were with Jesus on that high mountain when He was transfigured, and then Moses and Elijah made an appearance. Good company, indeed!

 Just think about it! During Lent 2023, we know we are in good company in our journey toward Easter. God, the Father, is with us, and that means we have access to his holiness, power, faithfulness, righteousness, and kindness. God, the Father, is the kind of company that comes to dinner and brings the foodand even prepares the meal!

 We certainly know about Jesus from the gospels. He is the gift from God, the Living Bread come down from heaven, the life-giving, Living Water through whom we are thirsty no more. Because Jesus is fully human, he knows from experience about emotions, challenges, and temptations. He relates to us with fullness of understanding. He gets up with us in the mornings and is with us throughout our days. He saves us over and over again, picks us up and helps us to respond to God’s love. His shoulder is always right next to us if we need to lean or to cry. His approving smile is always waiting when we do His Father’s bidding. Jesus’ name is our password to salvation.

 The Holy Spirit is a motivating and consoling companion, especially during this time as we anticipate Easter. It is the Holy Spirit who gives us those little nudges to pray, repent, or do a kind act. It is the Holy Spirit who can energize us and give us courage to overcome temptations. The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity prays with us, through us, and for us in words that are beyond words, when we cannot find the words. If we let the Spirit work, we can seize our lives’ moments and make them shine. Through the waters of baptism and our confirmation, the Spirit offers us make-overs that no Lenten visit to a health spa can rival. We can have a perpetual newness about us.

 At all Masses, we call upon the Communion of Saints, that is, Linus, Sixtus, Cornelius, Agnes, Agatha, and the holy Apostles, those saints we have heard about and read about, all the faithful in the Church like our families, friends, teachers, acquaintances, the people with whom we live, work, play, and pray. We ask that great company to help us. And, of course, our loving Blessed Mother prays for us generously. Even our guardian angels are keeping company with us. We might forget or ignore them, but they pray for us, too.

 We might want to customize or adapt our prayers today. We could pray the “Glory Be” or “The Sign of the Cross” to help us be more aware of the company we keep:

Glory be to the Father, who is Abba, and to the Son, who saves me, and to the Holy Spirit, who fires me up. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. World without end. Amen.

 In the name of the Father who is so faithful, and of the Son who shepherds me, and of the Holy Spirit who consoles and inspires me, I pray I remain aware of such holy company today. Amen.

  

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Topics: Lent, Lenten season, God is with us, Sharon Krause

Thinking it Through

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

A news report on the TV this morning told of some extra security a convenience store had to employ to discourage the constant increase of fearless, repetitive shoplifting incidents. Obviously, the store owner had thought through the problem and had come to a decision about how to prevent some losses. Potential thieves were probably surprised at the development. The question is, did any thieves think about the possible consequences of the frequent thefts. Did they anticipate this outcome, or did their thoughts only revolve around potential from their illegal activities? In their haste, did they think about repercussions?

In this fast-paced society, it is likely that all of us take speed for granted and sometimes neglect reflective thought. Spontaneity is often applauded as a burst of creativity, and sometimes it is, but there is value in careful thought. We think about things, but do we take time to think enough—especially when it comes to spiritual matters?

In yesterday’s Mass, the passage read from Matthew’s Gospel described Satan tempting Jesus in the desert. Satan might have expected a hungry Jesus to jump at the chance of bread to eat and not think it through to the declaration about the living word from God that offers the best kind of life.

Satan might have hoped that Jesus would throw himself from the temple parapet to reinforce his claim of sonship with God and protection from angels. However Jesus saw through the deception and temptation and took time to recall,

Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Matthew 4:7)

A third time, weary, thoughtful Jesus took the time to defy Satan’s logic and reached the conclusion that God is the only one that should be worshiped, despite Satan’s offer of a ton of magnificent kingdoms.

We are often tempted to do uncharitable things, ideas can come quickly in certain circumstances, and we might rush into saying or doing something harmful. If we were to slow down a tad and consider many of the possibilities or outcomes, we might refrain. Better to spend time thinking before we act than spend time afterwards wishing we had not spoken or acted.

Maybe Lent can be a time of slowing down in this fast society. Maybe we can take time to look for the Lord in a special way and use the time to savor that relationship as we try to be more attentive to His presence.

                           Aha, God!

Aha, God, I see you, I know you are here.

You are near when I pray, when I doubt, when I fear.

You are found in small blessings, and in big ones too.

You surprise me, advise me, because you are you.

You are my teacher, my Savior, my shepherd, my guide;

You know all about me: what I show, what I hide.

I know that you love me, but I do get distracted.

Yet you seek me out, find me, give me friends to connect with.

You’re like gold I uncover, like oil in the ground.

You are more than all that, and your promise is sound.

When young, I kept laws out of fear and as duty.

As I’ve grown, I see you, I see truth, I see beauty.

Aha, God! You call me. May I be quite attentive!

Eternal life with you—heaven. What better incentive?

  

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Topics: Lent, Lenten season, Sharon Krause, thinking

Matters of Self

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

As we age, we become more and more aware of who we are. While not wanting to be too self-conscious, or selfish, or self-serving, we do need to be self-aware and self-assured. We learn that we are created in the image and likeness of God, so each of us has the responsibility to be the self who lives and loves optimally. That is not always easy.

Self-control and self-discipline are skills we try to pursue. With the arrival of Lent, it may be a good idea to focus on little ways of improving such skills. Fasting, for example, does not have to be not eating a certain food. We might fast from watching a favorite television show. We can fast from using our cell phone for a certain hour or more during the day. Maybe we refrain from playing a favorite video game during Lent. How about that favorite sweater that brings you compliments from others every time you wear it? How about not wearing that sweater during Lent? 

Fasting from anything should be partnered with a positive substitution, perhaps a substitution of a spiritual nature. We might attend an extra weekday Mass, or pray some different prayers, or start a spiritual journal. Maybe we could phone a far-away friend and pray a rosary together once or twice a week. God gives us the gift of creativity, so why not use that gift during Lent?

I noticed that “discipline” and “disciple” have the same root; the internet tells me that the words come from Latin and have to do with “instruction” or “being a pupil.” Maybe this Lent can be a time of seeking wisdom and learning to be holy. We hear in today’s first reading at Mass that God gifts us with wisdom—"her” in the quote:

It is the LORD; he created her through the Holy Spirit,

has seen her and taken note of her.

He has poured her forth upon all his works,

upon every living thing according to his bounty;

he has lavished her upon his friends. (Sirach 1:7-8)

It may be a good idea to start each day of Lent by reading and trying to follow St. Paul’s recommendations in Romans 12:1-2:

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourself to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Let us endeavor to make this Lent a time of spiritual self-help which will, in turn, lead us to help those we know and love to grow closer to the human and divine Self-Sacrificer, Jesus Christ.

  

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Topics: Lent, Lenten season, self-sacrifice, Sharon Krause

What to Love

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

“What do I have to do today?” That is a question I dare say many of us ask ourselves as we roll out of bed and try to get ready for life’s adventures. How about asking ourselves, “What should I try to love today?”

 Let us pray.

 Lord, help me to love life today. Yes, there are uncertainties and challenges to meet, but I have breath, energy, and abilities you have given me, so I can do my best. May I be positive, may I be grateful, may I be faithful with you by my side.

 Lord, help me to love light today. In the light of day, and in your holy enlightenment, may I see situations positively. May I find ways to help others quell disparity and disagreements.

 Lord, help me to love leniency today. Of course laws and boundaries are necessary, but may I be understanding, patient. and sympathetic where I can be. Lord, you have been lenient and forgiving with me; may I follow your holy example.

 Lord, help me to love laughter today. As I love it, I hope to find ways of spreading it in gentle and appropriate ways. Laughter can be a way to unity and sympathy. It can ease anxiety. It can smooth the way in life’s demands.

 Lord, help me to love loyalty today. May I come closer to you and endeavor to change my little habits that are contrary to your will for me. In this world, it is so easy to be distracted or tempted to follow its ways instead of being loyal to your holy, saving plan for me. Lord, you never give up on me. Thank you!

 Lord, help me to love learning today. There are so many chances to learn more about you through Sacred Scripture, sacraments, nature, other people, situations. I just have to be alert and attentive to those opportunities. Keep me persistent and open.

 Lord, help me to love the little happy details in daily living, like the wagging tail of a friendly pup, the sweet song of the birds, the friendly wave of a neighbor passing by in his car. It is so easy to complain about little annoyances; change my mind and help me to substitute random praises to God who loves me.

 With Lent coming soon, let’s start formulating a love plan that includes a new outlook on life, light, leniency, laughter, loyalty, learning, and life’s little details so that we will look forward to the best Easter ever!

 

 

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Topics: Sharon Krause

Shortcuts

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

Most of us seem to like shortcuts. In our language, we use lots of abbreviations, some with punctuation, some without. For example, Mister shortens to Mr., United States of America becomes USA, and “until” can become “‘til.” We write or say less in an effort to save time or space. What is a love letter without a final SWAK? (Sealed With a Kiss)? Poets sometimes use abbreviations to achieve a particular rhyme or meter requirement. “Ever” could be “E’er”.

In our travels, we often take shortcuts to make our walk or drive shorter, more efficient, or even less costly. In our manual jobs, little shortcuts can, again, save us time and money. However, at times, haste makes waste.

While many shortcuts are helpful, there are situations in which these detours can leave us missing out on some things. Certain abbreviations may leave us wondering what they mean or may have more than one possible meaning. I read online that S.O.S., while a distress signal originally, stands for more than “Save Our Ship.” If we are reading an important article containing a number of abbreviations, we might have to stop and look up what each one means. If we are traveling, some shortcuts might deprive us of a number of beautiful vistas or local color. We could even end up getting lost or disoriented for a while.

I have noticed that television dramas, game shows, and movies don’t waste any time getting the audience pumped up. If you listen to the background music and the tempo of the shows’ formats, you know it is time to get your adrenaline flowing. Shortcuts to excitement welcomed! Sponsors are watching!

This question arises: Do we use our time wisely and effectively? Modern technology makes many things handy at our fingertips. We don’t have to use the postal system so much. We don’t have to physically travel so much. We can send messages in numerous ways. We don’t have to do things “in person” as we did in the past. Speed is much speedier!

 How do shortcuts affect our prayer life? If we are freed up more than ever before, do we increase our prayer time, or do we take shortcuts?

 St. Paul exhorts us to pray:

    Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. (Romans 12:12)

 

   Persevere in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving; (Colossians 4:2)

 

It is easy to get into a mindset of shortcuts. Is it a good idea to talk less to God? Sure, God knows all about everything. We are the ones that learn more about God and his love for us when we pray and read sacred Scripture. We are strengthened through prayer. We are inspired by the Holy Spirit through prayer. We learn about love when we come closer and closer to Jesus, our Savior in prayer. We are healed and consoled when we pray. When we try centering prayer, we seek to sense God’s closeness to us in a very beautiful way. Using the extra time available to us through the use of shortcuts to stay more in touch with God might be an idea to consider.

 “So be it” or, in a single word: “Amen.”

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Topics: Sharon Krause, take time to pray

GPS

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

A few months ago, my husband and I moved from Connecticut to south Florida. We now live very close to State Route 704, Okeechobee Boulevard, which has, at some areas, six lanes of traffic, and the traffic can legally go 50 miles per hour. There are many, many businesses on that road, and more malls and plazas off of it. Just about anything is available on or near the boulevard.

As we find our way around this new environment, the GPS (Global Positioning System) on our phones is very helpful. The voice on the device gives us timely notice about changing traffic lanes, road signs to look for, and even routes to avoid. When we arrive back at home, my husband's GPS voice even says, “Welcome home!”

I suggest that GPS can also stand for God Provides Solutions. If we are feeling lost or at a crossroads, our Lord is there to show us the way. There may be a tendency to go to God as a last resort, when all of our human ideas seem to be fruitless. From my experience, God should be our first and constant resort. Unlike the GPS on our charged-up phones, God does not lose his power.

In my life, God lays the groundwork for solutions sometimes quite far in advance. For example, God knew I needed to come closer to him, and so, when my daughter was a teenager and less dependent on me for things, he put a desire in my heart to attend some weekday Masses. A few months after that, the pastor invited me to become a minister of the Eucharist. Yes, that might have helped the pastor fill a need for another minister of the Eucharist who would make home visits to shut-ins and distribute Holy Communion at Masses, but the process also helped me to know my God in a more intimate way.

 God gifts us with various levels of creativity. He helps us solve problems using our own and others’ creative ideas. It is so important to be open to positive creativity, and at the same time, through prayer, to ask God’s opinion of these ideas. What we might label as a lucky coincidence could very well be God’s solution to a life problem. In all of this, patience is so important and not always easy to maintain. Creativity often involves some spontaneity, and that may have to be tempered through prayer as well. We have to trust in God’s wisdom and understanding.

 We can be comforted by many Scripture passages that tell of God’s presence and love. For example:

    Romans 8:28: We know that all things work for good for those who love God,

                           who are called according to his purpose.

     2 Timothy 1:7: For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power

                           and love and self-control.

    Psalm 50:15: Then call upon me in time of distress;

                           I will rescue you, and you shall glorify me.

    Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

                             on your own intelligence rely not;

                         In all your ways be mindful of him,

                             and he will make straight your paths.

These passages are short enough to memorize and motivate us as we seek solutions to our problemsuntil we die and go to heaven and hear God say, “Welcome home!”

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Topics: Sharon Krause, God's guidance

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