Following God – even to Lubianka Prison

Solitary confinement, middle of the night interrogations, work camp in Siberia, starvation – Fr. Walter J. Ciszek, S.J.‘s chilling story is severe enough to capture me but, moreover, his reflections about God leading him warm and attract my heart.   In my mother-in-law’s collection, I just recently stumbled upon this 45 year old book, He Leadeth Me.  It contains the reflections of an American Jesuit who answered Pope Pius XI’s call for priests to work for the conversion of souls by entering into Russia.  Fantastic as our family’s summer fun has been, I couldn’t go more than a few days without returning to the comfort of this book.  Peace and strength followed him through out his 22 years of imprisoned punishment.  It flowed from his acceptance of God’s will in all that he experienced, in offering all the minutia of his days, the steadfastness to daily prayer, apostolate and most importantly, his total reliance on Christ.  He boldly and simply says what very few say- God’s will in everything. 

A familiar melody seems to accompany his writing.  Have I heard this song before in Scripture or the writings of the Saints?  It will hum to your heart about the depth of Christ’s incarnation in the mundane details of your life.  The cadence invites us to participate intimately in the Divine Life by accenting to His Will.  How I long to learn this tune with my children and with all of my friends and family!!!  I personally have lacked the courage and ability to articulate plainly it’s message and so I put forth Fr. Walter who has humbly lived what I have only foggily dreamt.

When I actually try to relay the core of what he has said, it seems to slip through my fingers like sand.  Never the less, I hope to summarize in future posts what he wrote about vocation, the Mass, daily prayer, trust and God’s Will.  Still, you may want to take “Best Sellers” advice on the back cover of the book, “His message is both timely and practical.  We urge everyone to read this book as soon as possible.”

 

 

Weekly Bible Verses

“May the word of God dwell in you richly.” – Col 3:16  Oh, how I long for my kids to experience this!  I know that they can be “transformed by the renewing of their minds” and touched deeply by the “living and active word.”  But the Words of Scripture first need to enter into their thoughts.  Seems like such a simple thing- for a parent or teacher to “feed” the word of God to her children but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling frustrated at the difficulty of this task.

Here’s an idea to help a bit:

Post a scripture verse for the week somewhere in your house.  Have one of your kids pick the verse out from a list of suggestions (see below).  Decorate it.  Read it out loud when you pass it.  Mention it.  During bed time prayers, see if they remember it.  Add more highlights and decorations to it as the week goes on.

Continue reading “Weekly Bible Verses”

Aspirations

“My God and my all.”  “Have mercy on us.”  “Jesus, I trust in you.”  Phrases like these, issued in correspondence with the rising and falling of your breath are part of an ancient and natural method of prayer called aspirations.  My dependence on something like this type of prayer began at about age 5, as it probably has for many frightened children…

I wasn’t supposed to be watching.  The movie which took my parent’s attention away from me as I struggled to fall asleep was evidently not good for kids.  As I crept down the stairs for the third time this night in order to softly beckon my mother’s presence, I paused, crouched behind the chair to see what this attention stealer was all about.  A couple was scuba diving in beautifully dark blue water.  Bubbles cascaded from their mouths as they communicated about the lady exploring something in a darker section.  He motioned upwards but she continued.  Suddenly an eel like creature with pale orange skin, flat eyes and needle like fangs sprang from below, pulling the flailing diver into the abyss.  I winced, drawing the attention of my surprised parents.  Sternly sent to bed once more, I was paralyzed with fear lying there alone.  Ball-like and taught, even my toes fiercely dreaded the end of my bed which surly contained the eel, hidden under my covers.  With my parents lost in reprimanding mode, God was my only hope.  I envisioned a light coming straight from heaven, flooding around me, loving and protecting me.  Over and over again, I said the name of Jesus (mentally only, of course because to open my mouth would be to risk too much).  His name, first spoken at lightening fast speed, eventually slowed to a soft rhythm.  God’s presence was with me.  I calmed and slept.  Thus began my life long spiritual practice of aspirations. Continue reading “Aspirations”

Personal Prayer

Do you ever want to pray but not really know what to do?  Here are some ideas for about 10-15 minutes of quiet personal prayer.  What do you usually do?  What are your ideas?  What is best for you?  Leave a comment if you wish!

Ideas of things to do during personal prayer time

  • With Jesus, read, think and talk about part of the New Testament, slowly.
  • Lift up your family to God. Imagine that you are standing next to them and you are all right before the throne of God.  Smile at the Lord and show him your people.
  • With God, list your responsibilities. Tell Him what you are having the most trouble with.  Note the ideas that come to mind as solutions.
  • Sit with Jesus and discuss life.
  • Go for a walk with Jesus.
  • Just be quiet.
  • Lie down and hide yourself in God’s arms. Let go of your troubles.  Trust in the Lord.  Let your breath speak His name.

Continue reading “Personal Prayer”

Cultivate New Growth

While many of us are planting seeds, preparing soil for saplings, feeding established plants, pruning to create new growth and fighting weeds, we can take a tip from the natural world to more clearly understand what is happening in our souls and how to care for those of our children.  Perhaps you could sit outside for 5 minutes this weekend, visually considering horticulture (urban as it is) as analogy for your interior growth.

Simple Scripture Study – with syrup and kids

A little while ago, my family of 6 studied one of the Psalms while eating a nice pancake breakfast.  We didn’t fight.  It wasn’t awkward.  I didn’t preach.  I wasn’t pulling teeth.  It worked.  Was it the fresh strawberries?  The fact that my husband made the pancakes extra fluffy?  Or maybe it was a good Psalm.  Or was it that it was a simple approach?  We have used this a few times since and it is so easy and open that I want to pass it on:

Draw a big heart on a paper and say,  “the point of reading the bible or praying is always to love God and to receive his love.  So, let’s keep love in mind.”

Notice – Draw a pair of glasses in the heart.  “In this Scripture passage, what do you notice.  What do you imagine?  What do you see in your mind?  If this bible portion were part of a movie, what would you see or hear?  What do you smell or feel?”  Read the passage and then let each person say something.

Wonder – Draw a think bubble (cloud with dots below).  “What does this passage make you wonder?  What are you curious about?  What is confusing?  What ideas pop up for you?”  Read the passage again if you wish and then let each person say something.

Act – Draw a stick figure running.  “What does this part of the bible make you want to do?  Make some change or resolution? Pray about?  Keep in mind?”  Let each person share.  This last one can perhaps be done as a prayer.  “Jesus, I would like to …”

“Thank you, Jesus, for this time in your Word.  Please help us to do the things you brought to mind.  We love you.  Amen”

 

 

Springtime Sports – God’s Team

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Springtime brings an emergence of outdoor sports and with it – mania.  Meals on the run. Insane amounts of games on the weekend.  Lots of laundry which needs to be done quickly.  Waterbottles.  Sunblock.  Silly after game snacks that I never would buy for my kids.  But where is God in all the hubub?  Especially when the sports which dominate seem to throw ripples into the rythm of good family times, meals and even Mass.  Yet, most parents (myself included) love it.  Because Christ is truly incarnate, my faith drives me to cherish and look forward to the spring time sports mania.  We can truly find God on the field- and be thrilled that our family is in the mix of it all.

Here are a few suggestions for coming out on top at the end of the season.

  1.  Read a few bible passages that relate to sports and talk about…

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Daring to Hope – Pentateuch

Here are some of the Old Testament passages Katie Davis referenced in her book, “Daring to Hope.”

Continue reading “Daring to Hope – Pentateuch”

Daring to Hope – New Testament Epistles

Here are some of the letters of the New Testament that Katie Davis references in her book, “Daring to Hope.”

Continue reading “Daring to Hope – New Testament Epistles”

Daring to Hope – Gospel

Here are some passages of the Gospel that Katie Davis references in her book, “Daring to Hope.”

Continue reading “Daring to Hope – Gospel”