Tag Archives: Jesus

Reflections on ACTS retreats and Overcoming a really bad attitude

10 Aug

Image

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.”

Image

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.

Advertisements

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’:

front veiw

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.

004-jesus-washes-feet

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.

Daniel Fast Day 6…Revival is Never a Coincidence

26 May

Around the time that I began to hear God calling me toward a fast, my local radio station (KSBJ) began to play a song called “Starts with Me,” by a singer I had never heard before. His name was Tim Timmons, and in an interview, he said that he too had been diagnosed with Cancer. As I began my fasting, Tim’s song became somewhat of a ‘theme song’ for the background of my life.

You’re my revival song, You start where I belong
On my knees, on my knees
When I am weak You’re strong, You meet me here
When I’m on my knees, on my knees
Oh, it starts with me

tim timmons

Do you remember when I told you a few days ago that someone close to me had been diagnosed with cancer? That ‘someone’ was my husband. He is 33 years old, we have 2 young children, and after months of my nagging gentle urging he decided to visit the doctor.  Three days after his initial visit, we found out that he had Clarks stageIV malignant melanoma. After multiple trips to MD Anderson Cancer Center and one surgery to ‘cut out’ the tissue around the original tumour and remove some lymph nodes as well, we were worried.

God called me to this fast then, as a way to petition Him for the healing of my husband. Early on, God showed my that my obedience was seen and rewarded.

Today, He did it again.

This evening, my family and I went to mass at 5:15. As the priest was speaking, I began to pray silently that God would use the words of the homily to reach my husband. I prayed that my husband would be comforted and that …

In the middle of my prayer (no exaggeration here!), the priest began to talk about a young man (Zach Sobiech) who had a video called Clouds about his battle with cancer and how he wanted to make sure that he spent his days making people smile. Click here to see the video of Zach.

At the word ‘cancer,’ I saw my husband sit up a little straighter and I knew that the message was for him. God answered my prayer while I was still praying it.

After the homily, we all went up to receive communion and then after everyone was back  in the pews the music began to play. I’ll give you one guess what they played. You got it….”It Starts with Me”

This week has been amazing for me. God has made himself real and apparent. He has shown that He does answer prayers, even the smallest. I have never seen His work so apparent and so immediate in my life, and I praise Him for giving me the grace to recognize it.

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”-Mattheww 17:20