Tag Archives: catholic

ACTS Retreat: Over a Year Later

20 Dec

It has been over a year since I was active on my blog. I’ve had a lot of life changes, and for 2015 I want to make it a point to become more active. I had completely forgotten that I had ever blogged about the ACTS retreat over a year ago, and ironically, my husband just got back from the retreat this month. My husband is Catholic, but aside from Sunday mass, he was not very active in the church. Since coming back from the retreat, he has made friends at church and looks forward to going to events more. So now, after having had both of us go on the retreat, and having a year to reflect on my own experience , here are my thoughts:

PRO: You meet and become friends with a lot of people in the parish who you may have never otherwise had the opportunity to get to know. This means that you have “friends,” at mass and do not get lost in the sea of people rushing about. For the first time ever, we do feel like we are part of a community of believers.

CON: If you do not go on the retreat, you may never get this sense of community. That could lead a lot of people in the parish to feel “left out.” The ACTS community (where I live at least) could do a better job of reaching out to everyone, not just those who went on the retreat.

PRO: Because this is a retreat, you get the opportunity to pray and think about your relationship with God. You come face to face with your own sinfulness and are humbled by the experience.

CON: Depending on the group of people on your retreat, you may learn or hear more than you are comfortable with. I think that the retreat needs to incorporate more “joy,” and more talk about the redemptive act of salvation. That’s just my opinion

PRO: Because of the fact that the retreat is kept a secret, you feel “safe” talking to people and are able to let your guard down.

CON: When you get back from the retreat, you don’t know if you are still able to talk to people about things or there is no opportunity to do so. The community encourages small groups, but with many different schedules, it is difficult to maintain them.

To my visitors: What other pros and cons do you see after experiencing an ACTS retreat?

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Reflections on ACTS retreats and Overcoming a really bad attitude

10 Aug

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After completing my Daniel Fast, I stepped away from the blog-o-sphere for a while. When I began this blog, it was with the intent of documenting my journey through the fast, and I wasn’t really sure to go after that. Truthfully, I am still not quite sure, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

For all of you Catholics out there, I am sure you have heard of the ACTS retreat program. Women and men throughout the parish leave usually on a Thursday night and come back for Sunday morning mass much louder than they were before and much more engaged in parish activities. If you have never been, you probably wondered what it is all about and what to expect.

If you have asked someone what it is about…they probably didn’t tell you. Before I went on my ACTS retreat, I dug around the Internet, asked parish members and still couldn’t find answers. “I can’t tell you exactly what we do, but I can tell you that you should definitely go and experience it,” was the canned answer I got from everyone.

Still somehow, when I saw the retreat advertised in the bulletin, I felt compelled to go. I registered, packed my bags and on Thursday night I boarded a bus of about 40 other women who I didn’t know and ventured off.

The first night of the retreat, I had the worst attitude you could ever imagine. Really. I felt like a cartoon character with a little devil sitting on my shoulder. “Why are you here? Don’t you have something better your could be doing? This is stupid. You’ve never been on a retreat, and you shouldn’t have come this time because there is no point. If Jesus wants to talk to you, he can do that at home.”

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Somehow, in the midst of this horrible self-talk, I realized that I was so busy listening to the voice of the enemy, that I couldn’t hear Jesus speaking through the noise if I had wanted to. I’ve heard it said that the devil doesn’t put much effort into those whose attention he’s already got, but rather he tries to distract those whose attention God has already got.

“Help me, God,” I prayed. “I am allowing my attitude to prevent me from opening up to you.” And help He did.

Though I have promised not to talk about the rest of my retreat or give away the secrets, this is what I will tell you about it:

  1. There was an amazing team of people who were there to help, guide, feed and serve us from a place of genuine love.
  2. I was brought into a much more regular practice of my faith that has continued. No longer do I “just go to mass,” but I have become an active participant. I find myself praying the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, reading the Magnificat, studying scripture and really engaging with God in a deeper way.
  3. I met people who were real believers, not just ‘cafeteria Catholics,’ but women with a real living relationship with Jesus Christ. These women were not perfect and many have struggles, just like me, but they were beautiful.

So, what happens at an Acts Retreat anyway?

I can’t tell you exactly what we do, but I can tell you that you should definitely go and experience it.

Daniel Fast Day 19…A letter from God

8 Jun

love letter envelope

I stubled across this on the Internet today, and I LOVE,LOVE, LOVE it. It is a love letter from God to each of us. I’m not going to add to much commentary because it speaks for itself. To see the original site visit: www.fathersloveletter.com

My Child,

You may not know me,
but I know everything about you. 

Psalm 139:1

I know when you sit down and when you rise up. 
Psalm 139:2

I am familiar with all your ways. 
Psalm 139:3

Even the very hairs on your head are numbered. 
Matthew 10:29-31

For you were made in my image. 
Genesis 1:27

In me you live and move and have your being.
Acts 17:28

For you are my offspring. 
Acts 17:28

I knew you even before you were conceived. 
Jeremiah 1:4-5

I chose you when I planned creation. 
Ephesians 1:11-12

You were not a mistake,
for all your days are written in my book. 

Psalm 139:15-16

I determined the exact time of your birth
and where you would live. 

Acts 17:26

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. 
Psalm 139:14

I knit you together in your mother’s womb. 
Psalm 139:13

And brought you forth on the day you were born. 
Psalm 71:6

I have been misrepresented
by those who don’t know me.

John 8:41-44

I am not distant and angry,
but am the complete expression of love. 

1 John 4:16

And it is my desire to lavish my love on you. 
1 John 3:1

Simply because you are my child
and I am your Father. 

1 John 3:1

I offer you more than your earthly father ever could. 
Matthew 7:11

For I am the perfect father. 
Matthew 5:48

Every good gift that you receive comes from my hand. 
James 1:17

For I am your provider and I meet all your needs. 
Matthew 6:31-33

My plan for your future has always been filled with hope. 
Jeremiah 29:11

Because I love you with an everlasting love. 
Jeremiah 31:3

My thoughts toward you are countless
as the sand on the seashore.

Psalms 139:17-18

And I rejoice over you with singing. 
Zephaniah 3:17

I will never stop doing good to you. 
Jeremiah 32:40

For you are my treasured possession. 
Exodus 19:5

I desire to establish you
with all my heart and all my soul. 

Jeremiah 32:41

And I want to show you great and marvelous things. 
Jeremiah 33:3

If you seek me with all your heart,
you will find me. 

Deuteronomy 4:29

Delight in me and I will give you
the desires of your heart. 

Psalm 37:4

For it is I who gave you those desires. 
Philippians 2:13

I am able to do more for you
than you could possibly imagine. 

Ephesians 3:20

For I am your greatest encourager. 
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I am also the Father who comforts you
in all your troubles. 

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

When you are brokenhearted,
I am close to you. 

Psalm 34:18

As a shepherd carries a lamb,
I have carried you close to my heart. 

Isaiah 40:11

One day I will wipe away
every tear from your eyes. 

Revelation 21:3-4

And I’ll take away all the pain
you have suffered on this earth.

Revelation 21:3-4

I am your Father, and I love you
even as I love my son, Jesus.

John 17:23

For in Jesus, my love for you is revealed. 
John 17:26

He is the exact representation of my being. 
Hebrews 1:3

He came to demonstrate that I am for you,
not against you. 

Romans 8:31

And to tell you that I am not counting your sins.
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Jesus died so that you and I could be reconciled. 
2 Corinthians 5:18-19

His death was the ultimate expression
of my love for you. 

1 John 4:10

I gave up everything I loved
that I might gain your love. 

Romans 8:31-32

If you receive the gift of my son Jesus,
you receive me. 

1 John 2:23

And nothing will ever separate you
from my love again.

Romans 8:38-39

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party
heaven has ever seen.

Luke 15:7

I have always been Father,
and will always be Father.

Ephesians 3:14-15

My question is…
Will you be my child? 

John 1:12-13

I am waiting for you. 
Luke 15:11-32


Love, Your Dad
Almighty God

Father’s Love Letter used by permission Father Heart Communications 
©
 1999-2013 http://www.FathersLoveLetter.com

Daniel Fast Day 18… “Hanging” out with Absalom

7 Jun

This week, I am wrapping up my study of David from the book of 2 Samuel. Prior to this study the only thing that I knew about David was that he was a king, he knocked out Goliath when he was a boy with a slingshot and he danced through the streets. I have learned however, that his life was so much more than that.

Yesterday, I finished reading about the story of David and his son Absalom. I read Faulkner’s “Absalom! Absalom!” back in a college literature class and I vaguely knew that it was related to the biblical story, but Faulkner’s writing (run-ons anyone) was difficult to make it through and I didn’t really study the parallels.

Absalom Absalom

However, as I read the story…I became captivated. David’s life was better than reality tv and the story of him and his son was so full of conflict, emotion and action that I literally thought to myself “you can’t make this stuff up.”

Here is how the story goes… (short version of course):

Amnon and Absalom, were two of David’s sons. They had a beautiful sister named Tamar. Amnon was in love with his own sister and raped her. Absalom, being the protective brother that he was, was horrified at his sister’s victimization. He allowed Tamar to move in with him and even named one of his own daughter’s after her.

David found out about the rape, and he was furious that this happened. However, he did nothing about it. So, Absalom let his anger over-take him and he killed his own brother and fled. A couple of years went by before David saw his son Absalom again, but he did eventually receive him and hug him after Absalom devised every way possible to get his father’s attention.

Absalom’s bitterness toward his father continued to multiply until he finally decided to take his father’s throne. He turned some of David’s people against him and David and his men literally left town.

When Absalom’s men came after David’s men, David instructed his soldiers to not harm and ‘be gentle’ with Absalom because he was his son. As Absalom was riding in to the battle on a mule, his hair got caught in a tree and he was left hanging trying to get free (I told you that you can’t make this stuff up!) and in his anger Joab, the leader of David’s men, killed Absalom while he was still hanging.

Absalom Hair Caught

David, as Absalom’s father, was of course devastated. He wept and mourned the loss of his son even though his son was guilty of treason and murder. Before he died, Absalom had built amonument to himself which you can visit today (maybe not the same monument, but tradition has it that it is in the same location). 

Absaloms Monument

What I really liked about this story, and what really ‘spoke to me,’ during this time of fasting, was how Absalom took something that was good (his protection of Tamar, his disbelief that his father refused to punish the crime) and turned it into something bad.

  • How easy is it for us to do the exact same thing?
  • How easy would it be for me to turn this time of fasting into just another weight loss attempt?
  • How easy to turn my interpretation of right and wrong into judgement of someone else?
  • How easy to give ourselves credit for God’s work?

Let us remember that nothing we have is of our own doing, but everything is a gift from God. Let us not let bitterness, ego and self-righteousness drive our decisions, lest we too be left hanging by our hair from a tree.

Not I, Lord, but YOU.

I will exalt you, Lord,
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.

(Psalm 30:1-3)

Daniel Fast Day 17…on Sin and Cupcakes

6 Jun

I have never stuck to a diet, an exercise regime, even a plan to wash my face every night before bed. This is the first time in my life, that I have actually made a commitment to a lifestyle change and stuck it out….

Almost.

I work full-time Wednesday through Sunday which leaves my days off as Monday at Tuesday. Tuesday morning, me and my little bug (4-year-old daughter) went out on the town to celebrate the last day of 3-year-old preschool. We had a girls day, complete with manicures and pedicures.

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After being out in the Houston heat all day (95 degrees!!), and still being about a 45 minute drive from home, we decided to stop by Barnes & Noble. Immediately, I was captivated by the smell of coffee, and if you remember from the beginning of my fast–there is nothing I love more than a grande white mocha with extra whipped cream, nothing I tell you!

Now, I know that I am fasting and at that point I had made it past 2 weeks without so much as cheating even a little bit. But, my daughter wasn’t fasting….

“Hey baby bug, would you like to have a snack from the café?”

“Sure Mommy! Let’s go!”

So off we went to the café. I was resolved. I was determined. I was not going to cheat even though I hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and we were going on 2 o’clock.

Then she ordered a cupcake. Not just any cupcake either. A strawberry cupcake with cream cheese filling.

Oh. My. Heavens.

I ordered a nice bottle of Fiji water and then took a bite of that cupcake.

“Would you like to share with me Mommy?”

Who can say no to that?

I ate half a cup cake, right there in the Barnes & Noble café. Yes I did.

And it was not nearly as good as I had hoped. Afterwards, I was sad and I had a stomach ache. I felt like a failure. I felt like I had let myself and God down. I felt awful.

Which led me to this post. Everything that happened was a perfect example of the Christian struggle with sin:

  • We do not prepare to face temptation or occasions of sin.

“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. Luke 22:46

  • We are tempted.
  • We do not turn to God when we are tempted and ask for help.

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Mark 14:38

  • We put ourselves in a situation which is a near occasion of sin.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

  • We rationalize, use other people and look for reasons that what we are doing is okay. (I am hungry, she ordered it-not me.)
  • We try to minimize our sin.

Taking this one step further, we then have two options:

1.) Confess and acknowledge our wrong doing and turn away from future sins.

Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. (Acts 3:19)

2.) Feel ashamed, embarrassed or even afraid of God. Refuse to acknowledge the sin and keep on sinning.

God, help me to choose the first. Help me to recognize my sins when I commit them so that I am aware and can turn to you instead. Hopefully, if I can overcome the small with your help, then the big things will be easy too.

Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6:9

Daniel Fast Day 9…Ice Cream dreams and Prayer Reminders

29 May

Last night I dreamed about ice cream. It wasn’t just any ice cream though, it was creamy and covered with chocolate syrup. I woke up *convinced* that I am having sugar and dairy withdrawal and that my body is trying to tell me that I am deficient in some way. Then, it occurred to me: I am deficient in the ‘prayer’ way .

I admit it. I am blogging about God and the Bible and fasting, but I am not good at praying. I typically fall asleep, get distracted, fail to find time….well you get the idea.

However, those days are behind me..I have a solution! The other day, while browsing my local Lifeway Christian Store, I came across this little ‘notepad to go’:

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Not impressed? Just wait. The minute second I saw it, I knew that I could use this.

And the best part? It was only $3.50!

back veiw

How many times have you heard that someone was having a rough time and you offered to pray for them?

Now, how many times have you actually sat down and intentionally made that prayer request? Be honest.

That’s what I thought.

This simple binder ring binds together about 200 or so papers that I can use to write prayer requests on. It is small enough that I can take it with me wherever I go.

So, after paying for my new ‘notepad to go’ I pulled out my handy Sharpie box (I really do carry this with me, because you just never know when you might need a purple or green sharpie) and began to work on my new prayer cards.

Sharpies

There are so many things that I want to talk to God about or pray for, but my daily needs get in the way. For instance, Memorial Day just recently passed, but I have rarely ever really prayed for our men and women in the service unless I knew them personally. I often get so busy ‘asking’ God for things, that I forget to praise Him. These cards will serve as a reminder so that whenever I have ‘just a minute’ I can truly pray for those things.

Here are some ideas that I have for what I will be putting on each page:

  1. The names of people I want to remember to pray for .
  2. Specific prayer requests that I have.
  3. Bible verses to meditate on.
  4. Traditional prayers for times of need.
  5. Things that I am grateful for.
  6. Prayers for those who have passed before me.
  7. Causes in the world. (Ex: hunger)
  8. Prayers for our civic, church and community leaders.
  9. Praise and adoration.
  10. ….many more!

Strength          Gram

I predict that the opportunities to use these will be great. For example, I can use them when:

  • Waiting at the doctor’s office
  • Sitting in the car wash
  • When my kids are bored and need something to do (ask them to make a card with a special request, ask them to pray)
  • During down time at work
  • While I’m eating a meal

As I make each card, I am offering that prayer up. As I come back to each card, I have the opportunity to be reminded of the prayers He has already answered.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

What do you do to help you remember to pray? Do you have a prayer routine? Feel free to share your comments!

Daniel Fast Day 8…Jesus served, but do I have to?

29 May

I am over a week into my Daniel Fast, and so far I feel great. I have not cheated a single time, and though I have been tempted (by the rotisserie chicken that I picked up for my family which filled my car with it’s chicken-y goodness smell) I have yet to cave in. Like I said before, if God calls the fast then He provides the strength to get through it.

When I began the fast, I knew that food would at first be central but as my body adjusted it would become less of a focus as God filled the hole left by the food with His own agenda. At first, I contemplated the food choices that I have made in the past for myself and my family. I became more aware of myself as a consumer of food in the world and what that means for the environment and I weighed the merits of veganism.

As the days progressed, began to look into God’s word to see what it is that He wants from a fast. I came across Isaiah 58 which says that fasting is supposed to be an act of service.

Lesson 7: You cannot serve God without serving others.

If you haven’t noticed already, I love contemporary Christian music. The new Matthew West album (Into the Light) has a song that practically screamed out at me the first time I heard it. It’s called “Do Something,” and the lyrics say:

Children sold into slavery

The thought disgusted me

So, I shook my fist at Heaven

Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”

He said, “I did, I created you”

(For More, read the story behind the song.)

If Jesus was here to serve (“…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28), and we are called to live a life like His, then I too am called to serve.

Lesson 8: When a cup is full, it overflows. God has filled my life with so many blessings so that I may pour them out and bless others.

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As I began to look for volunteer opportunities, I prayed that God would show me how I could be of service in my very own community. There are 2 primary types of Christian servitude:

    1. Charity: This is the type of service that most of us think about when we conjure up Chrisitian service. It is giving a direct service that will provide temporary results. Meals on Wheels, visiting prisoners or the elderly, and providing Christmas gifts are all examples of Charity.-
    2. Justice: This is the type of service that empowers people to help themselves. Examples of justice as Christian service include: providing job education, social/legal activism such as minimum wage laws, or providing short term loans.

I wanted to be able to help people in a real and tangible way in both of these areas. But, I am busy. I work full time outside of the home. I have two children with school projects, friends, extra-curricular activities and needs of their own. And I have a husband who occasionally likes to spend time with me too.

How am I supposed to find time to serve when I barely have time for myself?!

So here is what I did to find the best charitable opportunities for me, my family and my schedule:

  1. I prayed about it, “God you show me where you want me to be.” After all, if it is His will, then He will help me make a way.
  2. I made a list of ’causes’ I was interested in: refugees, feeding the hungry, women and children.
  3. I found a local charity that offers services to all of those, I filled out a volunteer application and I went for my interview today.

In other words…I did it anyway.

Yes, my schedule is busy.

Yes, there may be times when I just don’t feel like it.

But guess what?

It’s not about me.

Catholic-Charities_web_logo

As it turns out, I am not the only busy/working/mother/wife/wanna be volunteer out there. There are a ton of opportunities for me to serve that will work in my schedule. Some I can do with my kids (wrap presents for Christmas, serve in a food bank) and some that I never thought of (use my professional skills in mortgages to teach families about home ownership).

I also looked through the church bulletin–and low and behold–they are in need of people to make sandwiches on Tuesdays which just happen to be my day off.