Psalm 139

My Bible memory for the month of June…Psalm 139. This is a great passage to meditate on during adoration in my prayer time. I hope to have it hidden deep in my heart by the end of June. Each day after I give my day, myself and all I have, desire, and plan to do to my blessed Jesus, I read thru the entire passage out loud, then ink out a word or phrase and read through it again. I do this for 5-15 minutes every morning before I read the daily Mass readings. My pie in the sky plan is to have one chapter of Sacred Scripture memorized each month.

Do you memorize Sacred Scripture? Share your best tips and favorite passages with me.

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Sacred Scripture – what’s the point?

My poor, neglected blog…I wonder if I can remember how to do this.

I have been mostly on track with my resolution to read through the entire Bible in 2017. I fell off the wagon a few times when life got a little busier than my schedule could compensate for, and I am still playing catch up, but if my calculations are correct, I should be finishing the New Testament in a couple weeks, and the Old Testament by the end of December.

This is a first for me on several levels. One, I have never kept a New Year’s Resolution any deeper than the resolution not to have any resolutions. Two, I have been a baptized Christian, attended Bible School, Christian School, and attended church faithfully since I was six years old; I have read a lot of Scripture, done countless Bible studies, even memorized large portions of Scripture, but have not ever read through the entire Bible, until this year. It is SO COOL to see the big picture. All those passages that I have committed to memory take on a whole new level of understanding when read in the context of the whole story of salvation. If you have not done this, I highly encourage you to do so. I also encourage you to memorize portions of Scripture. You will be amazed at the times those words that you have put to memory will come to mind in a season of need.

So…what is the point of reading and memorizing Scripture?

There are several (Biblical) reasons why reading and memorizing Scripture is beneficial.  I will list the first few that came to my mind, and if you have others, I would love to see some discussion here at New Things…leave me a comment, and let’s chat!

Psalm 119:11 I treasure you word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you.

Romans 1:16 says that Scripture is God’s power that leads every believer to salvation.

Hebrews 4:12 states that Scripture is active and powerful; sharper than a double-edged sword, and able to discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Isaiah 55:11 reassures us that God’s Word does not return to Him void (or wasted, or empty), but accomplishes all that He desires, and will prosper according to His intentions.

2 Timothy 3:16,17 instructs us that Sacred Scripture is inspired by God; it is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction, and for training in righteousness, to make us competent, and equip us for every good work.

Sacred Scripture is God’s recorded voice. It is His words, given to us, His creation, for the sake of a relationship!  The very thought!  The same God who created this world and everything in it wants a relationship with me!

He speaks His words to me in these Scriptures…warning, comforting, and reminding me of His loving will for me, His own beloved child.

Seeking God through Sacred Scripture in faith, hope, and love is part of prayer. We are much more familiar with the prayer that WE speak to God, but can easily forget that prayer is a two way street.  He is speaking to us as well…prayer is both speaking and listening…just like any healthy relationship.

How would you feel if your best friend monopolized all your conversations with all the details of her life, her drama, her joys, sorrows, and various issues, but never gave you the chance to get a word in edgewise? It would get old.  Isn’t that what we do to God?  No wonder He seems so quiet sometimes, huh?

Reading and learning Sacred Scripture is our loving response to the God of the Universe who stepped down from His glory for the sake of a conversation with His creation. Seeking Him and His will through His Word is our response to His initiation of a relationship with Him. It is us affirming that what He has to say to us is important, and in obedience, we enter into His Presence by opening the door, His Word.

It is no surprise, then, that Jesus is called “the Word” (John 1), and also “the Door” (John 10).

We enter into the Presence of God through Christ (Hebrews 10), who boldly stated that His very words are spirit and life (John 6:63). When we treasure God’s Word in our hearts, it becomes active and powerful in us and discerns our innermost thoughts and intentions of our heart. Jesus, the Word,  is God’s power in us, leading us to eternal life with Him. When we treasure Him in our hearts, He will accomplish everything that God wills in our lives, and none of it will not return void–or empty–or wasted to the Father.

Jesus gave us an example of how to rightly use Sacred Scripture to overcome temptation. Rich Mullins referred to this as “quoting Deuteronomy to the devil”. When Jesus was tempted by satan in the wilderness, he responded with Sacred Scripture. We can too! When we are tempted to doubt the love of God, we can pull up a defense of the love of God from His very words to us in Sacred Scripture. When fearful circumstances arise, and we are tempted to fret, we can answer with confidence, “The Lord is my helper!” and be assured that His Word is true…because He cannot lie. We can actually use Scripture to retrain our brain, did you know that? In fact, we are INSTRUCTED to do so.

Romans 12:2 Do not conform yourselves 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.

When our minds are renewed, we can understand what God wants from us.

How do we renew our minds? How can we hide God’s Word in our hearts? This is what I have been asked to share, and hope to so in the coming weeks. I believe the first step is the simplest, ask Him to plant and grow His Word. As you seek Him, He promises to be found. Make yourself available and ready to hear and obey what He tells you in His Word.

A disclaimer here: ATTENTION! Reading and memorizing God’s Word will do you NO GOOD if you are not willing to do what He tells you in it.

If you are not ready to obey His Word, memorizing it will only make you headsmart…(and probably obnoxious to others) and you will miss the mark of storing it in your heart by 18 inches.

Heavenly Father, thank you that you have not hidden from us, but have revealed yourself and your will to us through your Holy Scriptures.  Thank you that they are a lamp for our our feet and a light for our journey.  Teach us to read and obey what you have spoken to us. Comfort us in our sorrows with the consolations contained there and help us to speak forth your Word at appropriate times to build up your body, the Church here on earth. Most of all, Lord, we ask that your Word will guide us into doing your will. May we be doers of your word, and not hearers only as James instructed. In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we ask, for your glory only. Amen.

Forty Ideas to Incorporate or Give Up this Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.  Today we remember our station, that we are dust, and one day will return to dust.  It’s a time of personal reflection on the passion of Christ, and the imitation of Him.  It’s also a time of intentional resolve to follow the exhortation of Philippians 2, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  The sacrifices we make should be from a heart of obedience, and not for outward show.  In this, we draw near to the heart of God, as obedient children, and have the opportunity to participate in His suffering and death.  The practical application of this participation is denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. We give up things, attitudes, or bad habits that may have taken a place in our hearts that is reserved only for the Lord.  We put these things aside, and work on developing good habits while we nourish our souls.

If you don’t know what to give up for Lent, I’ve compiled a list of 40 ideas for you to choose from:  If you’e already made your Lenten sacrifice, there’s an idea for each day of Lent for a little extra sacrifice to keep you extra focused.

I’m always on the lookout for new ideas, and would love to hear yours.  Feel free to share your Lenten inspirations with me in the comments.

  1. Spend some time developing your prayer life this Lent.  I’m still adding to and organizing my own prayer journal, and working on making better habits.
  2. Give up social media.  So much time is wasted here.  I’ve actually fasted completely in the past.  This year, I’ll be partially fasting, because of work that requires me to be on social media.  My goal is balance, my plan is to abstain from sun up to sun down, then prioritize the time acquired between work, familly, and ministry. I hope to be able to continue this even after Lent is over.
  3. Television.  Turn. It. Off.  Seriously!  We actually are planning to disconnect cable altogether as soon as this billing cycle ends.  What a waste of money and resources.  It’s just a vast wasteland of mind rot.
  4. Replace TV time with reading a good book.
  5. Read Story of A Soul, or if you prefer, listen to it online.
  6. Give up some sleep.  Wake up an hour earlier than usual, or stay up an extra hour before going to sleep.
  7. Replace sleep time with prayer and/or contemplation.
  8. Learn and pray the Divine Office.  It’s online here.
  9. Give up your telephone.  Turn it off for an hour, or an afternoon, or all day.  Let your voicemail pick up important calls and you can return them later.
  10. Make and send a handwritten greeting card or letter.  Don’t you love to get REAL mail?  Give, and you will receive.
  11. Give up laziness.  When you feel like sitting and relaxing, get up and DO something.  Combat laziness with activity…go for a walk, exercise, garden….
  12. Offer up your hobbies.  We enjoy them, but sometimes they take more time than they should, time away from necessary things, even.
  13. Give up worrying and fretting.  Aint’ nobody got time for that!  Replace it with thanksgiving, and allow His peace to fill your soul.
  14. Memorize Philippians 4:6,7
  15. Pray the Rosary.  If you are a baby Catholic (like me) or are just learning the Rosary, it is helpful to listen and pray along with one of the many youtube videos available.  Check it out, and pick your favorite.
  16. Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet.  I prefer to sing it.  This is my favorite version right now.
  17. Give up your pride.
  18. Pray the Litany of Humility
  19. Turn off your electricity for a day and meditate on Jesus being the Light of the World.
  20. Pray for those who do not have electricity for refrigeration, cooking, heating/cooling, and etc.
  21. Give up your favorite Alcoholic drink.
  22. Replace your usual alcohol beverage with water while you meditate Jesus’ first miracle.
  23. Give up caffeine (!)  (I have to admit this one is a huge sacrifice for me, I really, really love and appreciate my morning coffee.  If you can’t give it up completely, what about cutting back and limiting yourself to just one cup instead of half a pot?)
  24. Cut out all sugar and carbs and replace them with healthy alternatives.
  25. Give up one meal.  Offer it up and replace the time with a Rosary for world hunger.
  26. Give up meat.  Try some new meatless meals on another day besides the usual Friday fast.
  27. The ever popular “sweets”.  Give up candy, sodas, desserts, etc.
  28. Give up that second helping.  That dinner was good, and you could easily polish off another plate of it?  Resist.  Offer it up.
  29. Give up salt. Experience the absence of salt while you do a topical study on all the times salt is mentioned in the Bible.  You won’t forget it.
  30. Visit a shut-in
  31. Read Thomas A’Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ 
  32. Did you know Thomas A’Kempis has another beautiful work?  I’m reading The Imitation of Mary this Lent, after finding it in our church’s bookstore.  So far, I don’t see a free version online, but Amazon has them if your church bookstore doesn’t.
  33. Give up your inclination to anger.  When you feel it rising, offer it up, and and look for an opportunity to exercise your compassion.
  34. Memorize Colossians 3:8-13
  35. Give up grumbling and complaining, replace it with thanksgiving.  This requires you to think before you speak, a worthy habit to develop!
  36. Memorize Philippians 2:12-16
  37. Give up shopping for 40 days.  Learn to be content and make do with what’s on hand.
  38. Memorize Hebrews 13:1-6
  39. Give up procrastinating.  Whatever it is you’re putting off, do it, so you can get it done!  You’re not getting any younger.
  40. Memorize Ephesians 5:14-17 — in fact, if you’ve got serious penance in mind, memorize the whole chapter.  It is RICH, isn’t it?

Prayer Journal: Thanksgiving Tab

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The last couple years, I have participated in “Thankful Thursdays” on facebook.  This is an area that I have come to firmly believe is necessary for joy, and an attribute that I want to develop into my quirky personality.

Thanksgiving is the key to a joyful and contented heart.  How often I lose my key.  Do you do this?  Seriously, I know this works, I’ve seen it in action…yet I forget to be thankful, and am frustrated at my lack of joy.   I want to have a joyful, contented heart; how easy it is to slip into envy and discontent if the door of our minds are locked to the joy that thankfulness brings.

Since I already have a naturally optimistic bent, you would expect that thankfulness would come easy for me.

Yeah.  Not.

While I am naturally optimistic by nature, I also am terribly idealistic, and I expect things to work out like I envision they should.

Yup.  One of those.

Much of the time, with effort on my part, I can make things happen.  But obviously, not all the time.  I am bitterly disappointed when things fall short of my ideal, and I tend to fall (as Anne of Green Gables would say) into the depths of despair.  How easy it is to slip into the devil’s trap of comparison, envy and discontent when the door of my mind is locked to joy.

There is a reason that I choose thankfulness to follow contrition and confession in my quiet time routine.  After the confession portion of my prayer time, I tend to still be a little bit raw.  Really, this should not be surprising, after all, I’ve just examined myself, and admitted my sinful thoughts, actions, intentions and omissions; that is, those things I’ve done and failed to do that have offended my Father.  I’ve brought it all to Him, offered it up, and asked him to forgive me, and now…well…like I said;  I feel a little bit raw.  So, as I remind myself of His precious promises of forgiveness and restoration, and experience the grace that He pours through my broken heart, I begin to praise Him for:

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  • Answered Prayer – Those petitions I have brought before His throne, favors granted, and His provision, including those things that He has withheld from me, or things for which He has chosen to make me wait while continuing to ask.  This part of my prayer time is a real hurdle while I’m suffering with my disappointment and impatience, but it is so necessary, for me, in developing the ability to follow Ephesians 5:20.
  • His mercy that is new every morning – that is, His sparing me from the ultimate penalty of sin, and His faithful, steadfast love through the years. (Ps 25:6, Lam 3:23).
  • Who He is – going back to adoration, and incorporating thankfulness…reminding myself again of the attributes of God, and thanking Him for all that He is to me, for me, and with me. (1 Cor 16:29, Ps. 34:7)
  • My loved ones – family, friends, spiritual leaders, etc. (Eph 1:6)
  • His grace and the indwelling of His Spirit that frees me from sin’s bondage.  Because of His grace, I am not enslaved to sin.  I have the choice to do what is right, and experience victory through Jesus Christ, my Lord.  (1 Cor 15:57)
  • The presence of His Spirit with me. I know He is with me when I experience the fruit of His Spirit in my life.  I continue to pray that my life produces the fruit, evidencing that I am His child, and He lives and reigns in me…by faith…so that everything I do can be done in His Name and for His glory. (Col 3:17)

Thanksgiving does not come naturally, it has to be cultivated!  Because I need frequent reminders of the importance of being thankful, the back of my divider is filled with Scripture reminders of the importance of developing thankfulness with an acronym of sorts of the word “gratitude”.  I have tried to keep these verses at the top of my memory, as I work on this attribute…or rather, as I allow the Lord to develop this attribute in my life.  I don’t have them all memorized, but reading through them in my quiet time has cemented their truths into my routine, and I like to think they are there for when I need them.  As I’m giving thanks, I try to write something down in this section, so that on my down days, when it’s difficult to think of something to be thankful for (I can be a big baby, did I tell you that already?), there is a list of things that I can remember and thank God again.  This is an act of obedience for me, so sometimes I need a little prompt….this totally works!

Act before you Ask
Adoration Tab
Confession/Contrition Tab

 

 

 

 

Ephesians 5:1-5

Last month, I set out to memorize Colossians 3 on my facebook page.  I loved having it broken down into bite-sized pieces and taking it a bit at a time, chewing slowly, and thinking through some of the really cool word pictures there.  When I finished I wished that I would have blogged it, and I still may, but I’ve decided this month to memorize Ephesians chapter 5.  I’ll be blogging my progress and thoughts on it here, then sharing to my fb page.  Funny, the similarities between this chapter and the passage in Colossians…Almost like God is trying to cement some truths down, huh?

I find that blocks of 5-7 verses work best for my mind to take in and remember at a time…so that’s how I’m breaking these up. Funny, they seem to kind of flow in complete thoughts accordingly, at least this chapter.

1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children,

2 and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

3 But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints.

4 Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving.

5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

I will never forget the real life example shared with me about this passage.  My good friend’s husband had contracted polio as a child and from then had developed a noticeable change in his gait…a very pronounced limp.  Their son, as a young boy developed this same limp when he walked…as he imitated his daddy.

If we are following Jesus closely, we are looking at how He walks, talks, and behaves, and we are instructed to imitate him; “walk this way!”  When we do this, we will be living (some translations actually say “walk”ing) in love as verse 2 says, as Christ loved us…giving himself up for us.  By doing so, he became a fragrant offering…a sacrifice to God.  If we are imitating Him, we’ll have that same scent on us.

All the yuck in vs 3 and 4, will not be associated with us, because we are not imitating that…we are imitating Christ.  Those qualities cannot co-exist with love and giving of thanks.  And just in case that wasn’t clear enough, we are specifically warned that fornicators, impure, greedy persons (and idolaters) will not share in any inheritance of Christ.  Again, they cannot co-exist with the qualities inside an imitator of Christ.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and have your company as I commit this passage to memory.  Won’t you join me?

Learning to Pray the Rosary – Hail Mary

After the sign of the cross and the Apostles’ Creed, we come to the “Our Father” bead on our rosary.  I have recently done a series of posts on the Lord’s Prayer that you can read here, here, here, and here; so I’ll move to the first series of the “Hail Mary” prayer.  These are repeated three times along with the request of an increase in the virtues of faith, hope, and love, then again on the ten beads of each decade.

hail maryHail Mary…Ave Maria

I love the greeting, don’t you?  The salutation in this little prayer is the same that the angel Gabriel addressed Mary with when he appeared to her (Luke 1:28) at the Annunciation.  Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.  As near as I can tell, the word “Hail” is a word of greeting, like hello, but with a more respectful tone.  It says in this passage that she is troubled by these words, and wondered about this salutation to her.  I can only guess that it is her humility that wonders “why is He addressing me…a simple girl…with such a respectful greeting?” 

The only other places I could find where it’s used in the Bible is when Judas addresses Christ before betraying Him with a kiss (Matt 26:49, Mark 14:45); when the crowds mocked him in the accounts of His being mocked by the crowds (Matthew 27:29, Mark 15:18, John 19:3); and in his own greeting to the women at His tomb after the resurrection (Matthew 28:9).

Full of grace

I love that the angel Gabriel addresses her this way.  Before she has conceived the Son of God in her own body, she is told that she is “full of grace”.  Some translations say “highly favored one”…but I think “full of grace” is so much richer and deeper than just being highly favored.  As a new Catholic, this phrase holds the key to understanding Mary and her role on this earth.  She was “highly favored”, or “full of grace”, even before she said yes to God.  Isn’t that amazing?  I think that insight has helped me more than anything to fully grasp the Church’s teaching of her Marian doctrines.  She was endowed with a special grace that has not been seen elsewhere in Christ’s followers.  The early Church Fathers very matter-of-factually taught that Mary was the “new Eve”, preserved from original sin, and kept pure for the sake of her destiny.  You can read more, including quotes from the early Church Fathers here.

The Lord is with thee—blessed art thou among women

Again…all this affirmation of grace…God with her…blessings, before she even says yes.  I can’t get over it, for me it’s such an epiphany of proof of her being set apart for this specific purpose.  Where the first Eve tied the knots of sin and bondage, Mary, our new Eve, unties them because of the graces given to her to say “yes” to God and His wonderful plan of salvation.  She recognizes it herself when she affirms that all generations will call me blessed.  Reminds me very much of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31.  “Her children arise and call her blessed”.  Mary, the ultimate Proverbs 31 woman!

…blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus

This line is taken from Elizabeth’s reaction to Mary’s presence, and the wonderful miracle that she was given insight into.  When Mary visited her cousin, the Bible tells us that Elizabeth’s own baby (John the Baptist…Christ’s forerunner)  inside her womb “leaped for joy”.  This is the only instance I can find of one being filled with the Spirit in-utero.  Elizabeth recognizes the beautiful, miraculous thing that is happening inside her own belly is in direct response to the wonderful thing that God is doing in her cousin.

Holy Mary, mother of God

Since we know that Jesus is God in the flesh, then Mary, being the mother of Jesus, is the mother of God.

…pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death

When Jesus was on the cross, he said to Mary, “…behold, your son”, and to John, “…behold your mother”.  In effect he was giving them to one another, to love, cherish, and provide for.  I have no doubt in my mind that Mary loved her Son’s followers, after her loss, as her own children.  And as followers of Christ, she is given to us as our own mother as well.  My mother here on earth loved her children deeply, and she took in our friends as her own, loving, nurturing, and praying for them as if they were her own.  I love the thought of my mother, Mary, knowing my needy sinful state, taking me as her own, loving me, and praying for me, now, and through my life, and at the hour of my death.