Branching Out Blog

Thoughts and Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

Slogans and Shortcuts

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 21, 2020 6:00:00 AM

Did you ever notice how we use catchy sayings in the name of efficiency or expediency in getting messages across? Certainly, it can be profitable in merchandising and advertising. Good ol’ Benjamin Franklin knew that proverbs and maxims were useful. For example, he wrote, “God helps those who help themselves,” in his Poor Richard’s Almanac.

These concise sayings can be like little lectures or sermons that are easy to remember and repeat. There are a number of these verbal shortcuts that mention God. I will mention a few and maybe some timely implications.

Let’s look at that selection from Mr. Franklin I just mentioned. The implication is that God is always there to help people who take the initiative to help themselves. While the maxim might have the purpose of encouraging us not to be lazy or dependent upon others, it is important to remember that in all circumstances, God is ever-present to us to give us physical, intellectual, or emotional strength.

Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread that of them,
because it is the Lord,
your God who goes with you;
he will not fail you or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)

“In God we trust” is a brief statement we see on our currency; we may not really stop to think about the implications of such a familiar idea. Especially in these stressful days of pandemic, political sparring, and civil unrest, do we really trust God? Many institutions have managed to remove references to God, so it would not matter if he were trusted. How about us, personally; do we really trust God? Perhaps we should pray and ask the Lord to make us more trusting.

There are numerous prayer resources available online, but even a simple ad-libbed shortcut is useful: “Faithful Lord, I trust in your mercy and love. Strengthen my faith and trust in You.” We might want to read the story of Shadrach, Mechach, and Abed-Nego again in Daniel, Chapter 3.

I have heard people rattle off this Bible quote: “for God loves a cheerful giver.” ( 2 Cor 9:7b) and just smiled in passing. Again, in these days of businesses being closed, people scrimping and scraping to pay for necessities, and anxiety affecting many households, being a cheerful giver to those in special need is a very good idea. There are food banks and community collections that truly need cheerful donors bringing aid and support. While we know God loves us all, this short scripture quote brings home the truth that God especially loves donors whose hearts and attitudes are joy-focused.

We often hear the expression, “What would Jesus do?” There were T-shirts and various other items carrying that logo. While only four words, the question had a wide range of implications, all begging the question of how Jesus would react to our modern-day situations. Do we ever think about that now?

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Topics: catholic renew progam, prayer, RENEW International, thanksgiving, COVID, In God We Trust, What would Jesus do, slogans, Poor Richard's Almanac

The Seventeen

Posted by Sharon Krause on Oct 19, 2020 6:00:00 AM

One summer morning my husband and I were on the way to accomplishing some errands. As we drove past a church, we caught sight of the busy movement of wildlife. Filled with curiosity, we turned into the church driveway to get a better look. To our amazement, there was a flock of turkeys: one hen, one tom, and 15we counted ‘em—15 very little turkey chicks! They were busy looking for breakfast and did not disappear into the cluster of bushes bordering the parking lot. We got a good look at our feathered friends as they cavorted around the nearby neighbor’s backyard. What a family! What a serendipitous morning ride for us!

In retrospect, those turkeys remind me that, throughout the course of any given day, a few large and a number of small blessings come my way, and I don’t always pay attention or thank the Lord for them. Perhaps we should teach, or, by our example, at least remind others about gratitude.

I remember being challenged to jot down things for which I am grateful, beginning with each letter of the word, thanksgiving. That might be a good lesson for children who have extra time and challenges learning at home instead of in classroom settings nowadays. Young children could use just the letters in their first names or their pets’ names.

For adults and children, however, gratitude is not a word game. It is a means of prioritizing and resetting our thinking. I used to belong to a small faith-sharing community, and its purposeful existence was focused on thankfulness. We were called “the Glory Gang,” striving for a measure of gratitude in action and not just words. We all might be pleasantly surprised at our creativity when we tap into it.

There are a number of passages in the Bible about gratitude. Psalm 100 is short enough to copy and keep handy and visible, perhaps on the refrigerator door or nightstand:

     Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come into his presence with singing.

     Know that the Lord is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

     Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.

     For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

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Topics: catholic renew progam, gratitude, prayer, RENEW International, thanksgiving, Psalm 100, wild turkeys

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