Tag Archives: joy

The Art of Accompaniment

accompaniment in prayerOur sister company Twenty-Third Publications has published a booklet called The Art of Accompaniment, which talks about how parishes are called to journey with their parishioners through their lives of faith.

Creative Communications offers products that help with this endeavor. Shepherd Guides cards are for use by the parish to send at milestones and church year holidays to those who were married in the church, who had a child baptized and who buried a loved one within the last year. (See links below.)

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/GU1/shepherd-guides-resources-for-baptisms.aspx

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/GU2/shepherd-guides-resource-for-weddings.aspx

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/GH6/complete-set-of-five-cards.aspx

Creative also offers a journal for godparents to give to their godchildren to encourage them in their faith at their confirmation:

http://www.creativecommunications.com/Products/CA4/called-and-confirmed-confirmation-journal.aspx

There are many ways beyond these publications, of course, to accompany fellow members of God’s family on their faith journey. I know that I personally have been on the receiving end of some uplifting faith-filled texts or emails from church friends who knew I was having a hard week. Those little gestures go a long way to help people stay strong and keep growing in their faith.

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Happiness is …

fireflyA few Christmases ago, there was a special on TV celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. As part of the program, Kristin Chenoweth sang the song “Happiness” from the You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown musical.

That particular clip is no longer available on YouTube, but here is another older, shortened (much slower, sorry) version for you to listen to:

My favorite line from that song is “Happiness is catching a firefly, setting him free.” I can feel the joy in that, and it makes be nostalgic for childhood. The song eventually concludes, “Happiness is anyone and anything that’s loved by you.” Though I love this song, that’s a pretty broad brush!

That got me to thinking about what happiness is to the Christian. St. Paul helps us in this regard when he says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12).

For us as Christians, the circumstances of our lives are not what bring us ultimate happiness. For the Christian, happiness is knowing we have a gracious and forgiving God who will never abandon us.

Therefore, happiness for the Christian is not centered on what we love, but on the fact that we are loved by Christ. And that love is revealed to us in flesh and blood through the Babe of Bethlehem who came to live with us and love us in person all the way to the cross, that we might be saved and live with him forever. That is the true and lasting happiness that brings joy to the world this Christmas and always.

If I had to write a new verse to the “Happiness” song, then I would add: “Happiness is Jesus who loves me, knowing he cares so. He died for me!” May that be your song this season, too, and may it bring happiness to your heart.

 

The Joy of the Creator

potterOn June 16, 2017, the Friday before Father’s Day on the Moment in the Word on 99.1 Joy FM in St. Louis, the DJ talked about the joy he sees in the eyes of his children when they bring him gifts they have made themselves for him for Father’s Day. His children are overflowing with pride in their creations.

That must be how God felt after creating each of us, the DJ said. The Bible reminds us: “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand” (Isaiah 64:8). God is the one who has formed us and shaped us and molded us into exactly what he wanted us to be. And he could not be more excited about his creation of us. He wants to show us off to the world. Each creation is precious to him.

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Hedonism and the Church

pizzaHedonism is a system of ethics in which pleasure is the sole goal of life. The motto of the hedonist is: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” As much as we would not like to admit it, much of the motivation for things we spend time doing in our American culture is rooted in hedonism. So many spend their days seeking to find pleasure for themselves. The problem, of course, with a hedonistic lifestyle is that other areas suffer as a result: commitments to family, work and the Church fall by the wayside many times when personal pleasure is your sole focus.

What can the Church do in regards to the prevalence of hedonism in our society? Guiding people to the greater good beyond personal indulgence is one of the most important qualities that the Church can provide. Christ himself spoke about overindulgence of selfish desires when he said: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed,” which hedonism essentially is (Luke 12:15).

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12 Days

12 daysWe all know the song about the 12 days of Christmas that starts, “On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me … ” But do we really celebrate the full 12 days of Christmas in our homes? Our society tends to want to end the celebration on the 25th. But our church year calendar has the 12 days of the Christmas SEASON built into it.

The 12 days on the church year calendar span the time from Christmas Day to Epiphany (Jan. 6), when we celebrate the arrival of the wise men to worship Jesus.

So we as followers of Christ and followers of the church year calendar should do all we can to enjoy the entire 12 days of Christmas and not pack everything up on the night of the 25th.

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Risen

I saw the movie Risen in the theater a couple weeks ago, and was especially struck by how the actors portrayed the disciples’ individual reunions with their Savior. There was utter joy on their faces at seeing their Master again and Jesus responded with pure exuberance at seeing them again as they embraced one another. The movie’s portrayals of these interactions spoke to the depth of the bonds that Jesus had with his disciples and the eagerness they all had to be together.

empty tomb

He is risen indeed!

It reminds me that Jesus desires the same sort of relationship with me and with each one of us. But I find myself not as quick to respond as the disciples did. I moan a little when I wake up on some Sundays before heading to church. I hesitate to pray before a meal or at bedtime, because I feel uncomfortable about engaging in the activity.

But worship and prayer should be something that come naturally to us as Christians. They should be things that we crave and that we are eager to involve ourselves in. Why? Because they give us more personal time with our best Friend, Jesus. They help us to grow closer to him, to build a stronger relationship with our Lord who only wants to be with us and love us. Continue reading →

Easter Eggs

I am always fascinated by the attraction to Easter egg hunts. Why do we get so excited about them? I know that lots of parishes hold them every year, and even the Easter Egg Roll at the White House on Easter Monday is a huge event with thousands in attendance.Easter eggs

I thought to myself, “What does an Easter egg hunt entail?” First, there is the act of first dying the eggs in various colors for the hunt. Then there is the hiding of the eggs, and finally the finding.

Then it hit me: the Easter egg hunt is a microcosm of what happened that first Easter.

First, Christ died for us and drops of his red blood fell to the ground, much the same way dye drops onto the pure white of the egg. After Jesus dies, he is hidden, buried in a tomb behind a large Continue reading →

Palms to Passion

I consider Palm Sunday to be one of the most bipolar days of the Church Year. In fact it is given two titles on the liturgical calendar: Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion.

It begins with a parade of people waving palm branches joyfully praising God for Jesus as he enters Jerusalem. Children and adults alike enjoy re-enacting this scene in our churches on this day. I know I enjoy waving a palm frond my church provides each parishioner as I sing “All Glory, Laud and Honor” as much as the next guy. There are usually little kids laughing and people smiling as we do this sort of playful activity as worship leaders process in.

palm branch

Parishioners wave palm branches like these at the start of Palm Sunday worship.

But eventually the tone of the service shifts abruptly (by design) as we turn our faces to the cross that looms before our Savior as he fulfills the purpose for which he came: releasing us from sin, death and the devil through his suffering, death and resurrection.

The church I attend often has various readers speak portions of the passion narratives as parishioners go to Communion toward the close of the service. The mood is somber and reflective and evokes a sense of dread.

As I think about the effect such a shift in tone has on me, it reminds me of how shocking and disconcerting this must have been for the disciples. Here Continue reading →