Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent: Preparing for Christ

He is Coming!

Turn on the radio, visit any shopping place, and you might be misled into believing that the Christmas season has already begun. Christmas music and decorations assault us throughout our shopping and preparations. However, the official Christmas season does not formally begin until the first Mass celebrated on Christmas Eve. Ironically, when the retail world deems Christmas over, on December 26, it’s really just beginning! The formal Christmas season continues through the Epiphany on January 6.

Yesterday Catholics celebrated our New Years Day, the beginning of the new liturgical year, with new missals, new songbooks, and new readings. This season that kicks off our year is called Advent and it’s a very special time where we prepare our souls for the coming of Jesus.

Remember when you were a child how the anticipation of an event thrilled you. You couldn't concentrate on anythine other than what was coming - a birthday, a vacation, some exciting event? You went over what it was going to be like contantly in your mind. This is Advent, focusing on Christ's approaching birth to save the world.

When retailers attempt to force the Christmas joy upon us earlier each year, we risk losing that growing anticipation, the time when we are called to keep watch, to leave behind our sinful ways, to prepare ourselves, spirit and soul, for the arrival of our Lord and Savior. He will be our light shining through the darkness of our befuddled and self-serving world.

One of the first decorations we bring down from the attic is our Advent Wreath. Each Sunday during Lent, we light one of the four candles, and say a prayer from our Family Nights for Advent and Christmas booklet. The Catholic Company offers a beautiful description of the meaning behind the Advent Wreath:

Since circles have no beginning and no end, the circular shape of the Advent Wreath is used to symbolize God the Father and eternal life. The wreath holds four candles which are lit over the four weeks of Advent. There are three violet (purple) candles and one rose candle, each representing 1,000 years. Added together, the four candles symbolize the 4,000 years that humanity waited for the Savior.

Violet is a liturgical color used to signify a time of penance, sacrifice, and prayer. During the first, second, and the fourth weeks of Advent we light violet candles. The Third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday. On this day we celebrate that our waiting for Christmas is almost over. Rose is a liturgical color used to signify joy, so we light the rose candle on the third Sunday of Advent.

Traditionally, each of the four candles on an Advent wreath has their own meaning. The first Sunday of Advent symbolizes Hope with the Prophet's Candle reminding us that Jesus is coming. The second Sunday of Advent symbolizes Faith with the Bethlehem Candle reminding us of Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem. The third Sunday of Advent symbolizes Joy with the Shepherd's Candle reminding us of the Joy the world experienced at the coming birth of Jesus. The fourth Sunday symbolizes Peace with the Angel's Candle reminding us of the message of the angels: "Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men."


It's not too late to start the tradition of the Advent Wreath in your own home. There are so many beautiful wreaths to choose from and dozens of Advent prayer books. Or you can simply display three violet and one rose candles on your table, taking the time each Sunday to light them in order and prayerfully meditate on the excitment that Christ is Coming!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Blessings of Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving Prayer for Families

Our national holiday of Thanksgiving takes its origins from a feast held in 1621 by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag to celebrate a successful harvest, offering thanks, gratitude, and appreciation to God.

Our family includes one particular tradition to remind each of us that Thanksgiving Day isn’t just about the food, family and football. Before our meal, we gather in a circle to listen as each person shares what they’re thankful for, and then we pray together as one family.  This has always been my favorite part of the holiday, to hear everyone, young or old speak from their heart, and you can always count on two things during this circle of Thanks – tears and laughter.

When our Thanks have been offered, we are led in prayer. One year, my Aunt read this prayer to our family.  Though I don’t know whether she found it somewhere or wrote it herself, I kept the copy she read from because I found it strikingly beautiful to be prayed aloud in the presence of my family.
Lord, bless this gathering of our family, a circle of strength and love. 
We are a close-knit group of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins and more.  With every birth and every union, the circle grows.  Every joy shared adds more love.  Every crisis faced together makes the circle stronger.  
Help us realize how much we mean to each other each and every day and guide us so that our bond of love lasts eternally. 
Look down on us Lord and surround us all with your divine guidance and love so that we may continue to be blessed by our children. Grant us the wisdom to embrace their innocence and see the world through their eyes with simple wonder so that we might not take for granted one single moment of the miracle that is life. 
We thank you for the many blessings and great abundance in our lives.  As we gather to celebrate this Thanksgiving, let us remember to share with others and keep the spirit of giving ongoing throughout the year. 
We Thank Thee, Heavenly Father, for all things bright and good.  Please bless this loving family… our lives, our health, our food.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.

May God Bless You and Your Family on This Thanksgiving.  Happy Thanksgiving!
Lisa Jones



Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Pope, The Church and Condoms


Though we have been a little quiet here lately on Of Sound Mind and Spirit, we couldn't head into the holiday without a post about the recent controversy over the Pope's statements.  The mainstream media's reaction to the story would have the casual reader believe the Catholic Church has contradicted it's longtime position on human sexuality.  Pope Benedict's comments are much more nuanced and complex than that.

First thing we know is to not accept any story from the AP at face value.  So when you read a headline screaming,
"Pope says some condom use 'first step' of morality" you should immediately want to find the Pope's actual comments on condoms and read them for yourself.  You may also want to read the Vatican's clarification.

Then head over to read
Thomas Peters at CatholicVote.org for an in-depth discussion with links to others including Archbishop Chaput.  In "Condoms, Consistency and the Vatican's Crisis of (mis)Communication" Peters sums up the discussion by pointing out, 
"the pope has not “softened” the Church’s teaching on condoms by talking about the hope we can have that someone’s decision to make a disordered act less immediately physically harmful to their sexual partner may be a first step towards someone’s eventual conversion."
Lisa Graas makes the best analogy I've seen to clarify and explain the Pope's comments.  AIDS, Condoms, and Catholicism: The Perils of the Pluralistic Society lays out the current controversy in an easy to comprehend and understand manner that helps us all. For further analysis and discussion read her post entitled, "Some Big Change from the Pope on Condom Use?"

I don’t agree with the critics saying the Catholic faithful are "explaining away the Pope's true comments.”  Personally, after reading the headlines and then reading the Pope's actual comments, I understood what he was maybe inartfully trying to explain.  In my mind the media is showing their anti-Catholic bias by putting forth an intellectually dishonest analysis of the Pope's comments.
  
Shelly and I are honored to be receiving a copy of the Pope's new book,
Light of the World: The Pope, The Church and The Signs of The Times, in which the controversial comments appear.  Watch for our review after December 3rd.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Be Still and Live in the Presence of God


As we rush headlong into the holiday season, I find myself driving here and there, crossing items off my never ending “to do” list; preparing for birthdays, holidays among other responsibilities. My determination to achieve all things is so great that I risk forgetting the most important item.

I need to be silent. To be still.  To spend time listening to God.

Sitting in carpool one day, Matthew Kelly’s words in A Call to Joy reminded me of this necessary silence I often neglect.
 
Silence is the best way to remember the presence of God.  When we live in the presence of God, we dance for joy.”

Amazingly, when I do take the time to focus on what is truly important, God, my life feels manageable and calm even in the middle of all the madness.  Being silent and still allows me to place God at the center and surround myself with His presence.  Sitting silent, allows me to reflect on all that is good and blessed in my life this Thanksgiving.  

As you make your own Thanksgiving “to-do” list, be sure to add “Be Still and Live in the Presence of God” to the top of yours.  Grant yourself five minutes or more to become centered and witness the calm blessings for yourself.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Texas Voters Demand Strong Conservative House Speaker


Many of us in Texas take our local state politics for granted. After all, our state legislature only meets every two years for a brief 140 calendar days.  The men and women we elect to serve as Texas Senators and Representatives are typically average citizens with regular jobs who must take a leave of absence during the months the legislature meets.  This keeps our elected representatives from getting too closely involved in Texans lives and business affairs. 

Unlike many other states, the Texas Speaker of the House holds a great deal of power in appointing the committee chairs and ultimately controls what bills and issues will come before the House for a vote.

Before the last legislative session, in January 2009, 11 Republicans with a majority of Democrats formed a coalition to oust the staunch conservative Speaker of the House, Tom Craddick.  This bipartisan coalition then elected Joe Straus R-San Antonio, a moderate Republican who pledged to not show favoritism to his own party.  Speaker Straus stayed true to his word and appointed Democrats and Republicans as powerful committee chairs.

Some will argue that Speaker Straus’ tenure in the 2009 legislative session was quite successful, as the Texas economy has remained strong and the state favorable to business.  Others will point out how the Democrat committee chairs, appointed by Speaker Straus, were able to hold critical legislation hostage and ultimately kill important bills without a vote. These bills included ultrasound legislation requiring a woman presenting for an abortion to receive an ultrasound and be offered the opportunity to view the images, and a Voter ID bill requiring Texas voters to show state-issued ID before voting in an election.


Even though Texas faces some tough financial responsibilities during the new legislative session, we must not lose sight of several social issues considered by voters to be important.  The March 2010 Republican Primary ballot offered voters an opportunity to indicate their level of support for specific social conservative issues.  Republican primary voters in Texas supported the Ultrasound bill with 69% of the vote and overwhelmingly supported the voter photo ID proposition with 93% of the vote.  The results of these ballot measures must guide our incoming Republican legislature.

In 2009, Republicans held a four-seat majority over Democrats in the Texas House; however, for the 2011 legislative session Texas voters increased that majority to 48 seats, just shy of a two-thirds majority.  Those who argue we need to keep a moderate Republican speaker because he is conservative on fiscal issues are ignoring the will o the voters who spoke loud and clear at the polls in support of candidates who will vote for legislation such as Rep Debbie Riddle’s immigration bill, modeled after the AZ law, a voter ID bill, a bill prohibiting "sanctuary cities" and ultrasound legislation.

It’s time for the Texas GOP to recognize their responsibility to the voters by electing a new Speaker of the House who best represents the interests and views of the caucus and the resounding majority of Texas voters. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Support Veterans through The Lone Survivor Foundation

After yesterday's stunning post from Matt about Veterans Day, we thought this would be a good opportunity to highlight a new Veteran's organization.  Three years ago our family took turns reading about Marcus Luttrell and his Seal Team in Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.  A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting Marcus.  A humble hero who survived to share the story of his fallen brethren, he is now focused on creating and developing the Lone Survivor Foundation in order to serve other wounded warriors.  Their first event on October 20, 2010 brought out 600 people and raised over $250,000 to formally launch their project, and they have future events planned to raise awareness and volunteers.  When I learned one of my sorority sisters, Meghan McDermott Roth, works for the Lone Survivor Foundation, I offered our blog to help them spread the word.  After running 3 miles yesterday in her "boots" as part of their  Boot Campaign fundraiser, she sent me the following information.

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The Lone Survivor Foundation was Co-Founded by Marcus Luttrell, Navy SEAL (Ret) and best-selling author of 'Lone Survivor', and MAJ Sharon Henderson. The mission of the Foundation is to welcome home, empower and restore American Wounded Warriors and their families. Further, the Foundation aims to motivate Hometown USA to Pay it Forward to our local Veterans.

The U.S. Government cannot support Veterans alone-- it's a big, expensive task-- that's where LSF steps in. Our goal is to create the Lone Survivor Foundation Ranch. The wellness retreat will be located on 1,000+ acres of Texas ranch land. The LSF Ranch will encompass physical rehab programs and emotional wellness programs, not only for the wounded warrior, but for the entire family.

Until we can raise enough funds to see the Ranch become a reality, we are facilitating custom wellness activities for wounded soldiers. This includes sending wounded warriors on hunting or fishing trips, military-geared marriage retreats, or our big upcoming event-- this holiday season we are partnering with Wounded Wear to outfit all injuried soldiers hospitalized this holiday season.
Never Quit!
Meghan McDermott Roth

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Email them for more information at neverquit@lonesurvivorfoundation.org
If Matt's words yesterday inspired you to become more involved and help our returning men and women, please head over to Lone Survivor Foundation.  Like the Lone Survivor Foundation page on FaceBook, follow them on Twitter, and watch for opportunities in your own community to promote their good work.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Does It Mean to Be a Veteran Today?

To Honor Veteran's Day, we asked my friend Major Matt Rhees to share what it means to him to be a veteran.  You can go here to read a little about Matt.
Thank you Matt for your sacrifice and continuing service so we might remain a free country.

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I was asked to write about what it means to be a veteran today and how best to support our returning veterans from overseas. The first is a hard question for me to answer. I still consider a veteran to be an old dude wearing one of those tall old man caps who served in World War Two, or Korea, or Vietnam. I’m not old enough to be a veteran: in my mind, I’m still a foul-mouthed 20 year old punk who loves serving his country and putting on the uniform every day. I’ve never done what I do for a special day of recognition, I do it because I ‘m not afraid to do what many others are not able to do. I do it so that others don’t have to do what I do.

I’ll attempt to convey what I think and what my peers and I talk about when we get together. That is hard for me to do, because it is not my nature to gripe about things. Putting my thoughts on paper for all to read seems to me to be whining. Do not for one second take this to be the case…

Making Sacrifices

I’ve made many sacrifices to serve in our great country’s Army: I’ve missed birthdays and anniversaries, the weddings of siblings, the funeral of a grandparent, and countless other events because of my service to my country. I’ve never lost any sleep over it, even though it is not always easy. Pretty much every other service member I know to some degree has made the same sacrifices.

As a rational thinker, it boggles my mind that most people have no clue what goes on in the life of a soldier, or their families. They are very rah-rah and supportive, until it is time to step up; then their schedules just don’t work out to help. This is understandable to some extent; my being gone does not affect your day to day life like it does my family. But to offer and agree to support, and then bail, is a significant emotional event for a deployed soldiers family. My immediate family has become very self-contained and self-sufficient because of this; there are very few people we trust to be there when the chips are on the table. That includes family and Church friends.

Put it in Perspective

I deployed to Iraq as a Company Commander to Iraq in 2005. Perspective changes when you get away from the creature comforts we take for granted here at home. Perspective changes when you hear bullets whizzing over your head; perspective changes when you see people in the 21st century who still live in a mud hut and take a crap outside; Perspective changes when you stink even after a shower, or when you go to the funeral of a guy who was killed by an IED, or don’t get to call home for two weeks because the operational tempo is so high that you don’t want to wait in line two hours to use the phone because sleep is more important.

While deployed, I saw the best and worst of mankind. I met many people in Iraq who were happy that we overthrew Saddam Hussein and were very supportive of the US Army, and I dealt with captured insurgents who did not deserve to live because of the atrocities they committed.

My perspective changed drastically, and even though I know most folks have not had the same experiences, it amazes me the piddly, day to day things that put people in a tizzy. I gotta say that OU losing to Texas A&M ticks me off, but really? It’s a football game. That loss totally ruined the night of many people I know. Are you really going to let that ruin your day? I’m not getting shot at, I don’t have soldiers getting shot at, and I can pop open an ice cold, adult carbonated beverage tonight as I sit down with my wife and kids to watch an episode of “Deal or no Deal” after dinner.

Again, I realize that my experiences are vastly different from most people; even though I have been home for four years, the number of self-centered, oblivious people becomes harder and harder and harder to accept, not easier.

Readjusting to Civilian Life

I was in a place where stupidity and not paying attention to detail got people killed, so I have very little patience for stupidity and carelessness. I was “amped up” for well over a year on adrenaline and caffeine, so it took a long time to get into a sleep pattern that was longer than a two hour catnap. It took a long time to not grab for my pistol when I heard a car backfire or any other loud, unexpected noise. Put all of this together and I have a vast spectrum of feelings on what it means to be a veteran.

I read an article the other day about this being the first war the American military has fought this long without a draft. The short of it is that there is now a de-facto “warrior class” of citizens who have nothing in common with anyone outside of the military. I see that in my own life. I am more comfortable around a group of soldiers, even if I just met them, than anyone else.

The news doesn’t cover what is going on in Iraq anymore unless there is a mass casualty car bomb. Even Afghanistan doesn’t lead off the nightly news on most nights anymore. We have an all-volunteer military and the average American does not have to make a sacrifice for the war effort, so the American public, frankly, is oblivious to what is going on overseas. I don’t say this with any animosity, only to point out that what it means to me to be a veteran is affected by this fact.

I’m sure that any veteran of our previous wars can identify with what I’ve written. I wish my grandfathers were still alive so I could talk more with them about their experiences. I know I understand them and their “issues” a lot better than anyone else in my family.

Support with Understanding, Not Sympathy

So, what is the best way to support returning troops? There is not a one size fits all answer, although I can say definitively not to ask them “how many rag heads did you kill?” I was asked this quite a bit, and it wasn’t just the rednecks I know that asked.

Don’t push them to talk; if they want to talk to you about it, they will. Every soldier is different, and depending on the type of unit they were in and mission they conducted determines a lot of things. But I think what I have said today can apply to most. When you meet a returning soldier who is a little standoffish, short-fuzed, or distant, think about what I’ve written today. It may put their demeanor into context, and your understanding (but not sympathy) is the best support there is.

I am very proud to serve my country and I will continue to do so. I can say with absolute certainty that the bad guys are not here because they are overseas going after our military. If putting my life in harm’s way over there keeps my family and friends safe here at home, then I will go as many times as I am asked.

Thanks for your support, and thanks for being worth fighting for!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Introduction to a Guest Post for Veterans Day

To honor Veterans Day, Shelly and I asked the questions: What does it mean to be a veteran in 2010? What can we, as patriotic Americans, do for our returning Veterans?

For an answer to our questions, I reached out to Army Major Matt Rhees, a friend of mine from my teenage years. Matt and I became friends while waiting tables together at a steakhouse in Tulsa, OK during high school. While we kept in touch through our college years living in different states, it wasn’t until joining FaceBook a few years ago that he and I got back in touch.

Matt enlisted in the US Army in 1996 and served for several years before returning to Graduate School at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in January 2000, he joined the Arkansas Army National Guard as a Field Artillery Officer. He mobilized in June 2005 and deployed to Iraq in November as Company Commander of 151 officers and men, where they conducted missions of convey escort and area security north of Baghdad. They transitioned to detention operations to help close down the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. For his service, he received the Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge. He now lives just north of Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife and two children, and is an Active Duty Guardsman.

We are very thankful to Matt for his service as well as taking the time to share his thoughts with us. His words are honest, his statement eye opening, and his point of view is particularly poignant. Please leave him a comment tomorrow to say thank you for sharing this with all of us.

What Does it Mean to be a Veteran Today? by Major Matt Rhees

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Blesseds and Saints: Clarification

Last week in our review of 39 New Saints You Should Know, I stated that I found the title slightly misleading, since those beautified are not officially Saints. Over the weekend, the author, Brian O'Neel, graciously emailed us to clarify this very common misconception. We have his permission to share the clarification:

"There is no difference between blesseds and saints as such, as if one is before the Beatific Vision and the other not. Both are and are thus "saints" in that technical sense. It's just that saints qua saints are proposed for universal veneration, whereas the veneration of blesseds is usually reserved to a particular region or nation. (Or it has been this way traditionally; with the explosion of communications and the media, blesseds are increasingly universal.) This is why Pope Benedict has directed that beatification ceremonies no longer take place in Rome but in the blessed's native area. But in terms of their place in heaven, much less their being in heaven, there is no "saintly" difference between the saints and blesseds in the book."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Heaven

I usually prepare my CCE lesson early in the week, preparing handouts or activities Thursday night or Friday, and then do a quick re-read/refresher on Saturday. But for one reason or another, I left this week's lesson until the last minute – taking my first look at it on Saturday night. After praying, I opened the book and began my outline for the lesson on Grace and Heaven.

As each student arrived in the classroom, they received a blank piece of paper and were asked to draw a picture of heaven. Once they were told that there is no “right” answer, just draw what they imagine heaven is like, they settled down and got right to work. One student drew God sitting in a beach chair at sunset, several drew houses, castles in the clouds, a kingdom, God with their pets or other loved ones. All students drew a happy place with bright colors. Their work reminded me how the Bible describes the vision of heaven in similar ways… the “kingdom of God,” “a paradise,” “my Father’s house,” “a banquet,” and “light”.

We talked about Grace; how grace is a gift from God of free and undeserved help. Grace is sharing in the love of God, participating in the life of God. Grace is supernatural, meaning it is known only through faith. Actual grace comes from the Holy Spirit and helps us overcome temptation, while we receive sanctifying grace at Baptism to heal our soul and make us holy.

I invited students to share their pictures of heaven and we worked our way toward the definition of heaven – a life of eternal happiness with God. The GREATEST happiness we can imagine in the full and complete union with God’s never-ending love. This is our destiny.

After CCE my family took our seats for Mass. As my older daughter performed her duties as an altar server, I proudly considered how today was both the anniversary of her Baptism as well as the completion of her first year altar serving. Because our CCE director likes to coordinate the lesson with the Readings, I wasn’t surprised that the Word also dealt with the concept of heaven and everlasting life.

However, as the homily concluded, it dawned on me that today is also the six month anniversary of my Godson’s tragic death. Looking back it became clear that today’s lesson, combined with the songs, readings, and Psalms used in today’s Mass could not be dismissed as mere coincidence.

I choked on the words of the song: Take me home, to your dwelling place, in your sweet embrace, ready to hold me in your arms. Take me home, to your loving eyes, with you alone I’ll rise, singing forever, in your arms, take me home.

Nick, we miss you more than you could possibly know; it breaks our hearts to not have you with us here in our Earthly lives. Your death caused great suffering to all of us affected by your short life, though we now struggle to find comfort in the knowledge that you exist in communion with God. You have the pure joy that comes with eternal happiness, while we must rely on our faith to recognize God’s grace in our lives, knowing that we will one day see you again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

39 New Saints You Should Know

Though we’ve been focused this week on the election, Monday we observed All Saints Day, the holy day when the Church commemorates all saints, known and unknown.

With over 10,000 named saints throughout church history, it’s not practical to think that we’ll know about all of them, but Brian O’Neel writes about 39 New Saints You Should Know in his new book.

This beautifully organized book introduces the reader to men and women canonized or beautified between 1977-2008, providing short biographies of their lives, and ending each chapter with a prayer asking God to help us recognize and emulate that person’s special quality in our own lives.

During his papacy, Pope John Paul II canonized 482 and beautified 1339 individuals. The author highlights 30 Blesseds and 9 Saints, which in my opinion made the title slightly misleading, since those beautified are not officially Saints, though they are on the path to official Sainthood.

However, without including those Blesseds, we would not be reading the powerful stories of Blessed Ignatius Maloyan, martyred in 1915 for not converting to Islam, or Blessed Maria Restituta Kafka, a world-class surgical nurse beheaded by the Nazi party.

It is shocking to consider that “more Christians lost their lives for their faith in the 20th century than in all the previous nineteen centuries combined,” until you begin reading about the blessed and saints martyred during World War II. Men and women like Blessed Franz Jagerstatter, executed for being a conscientious objector who offered to serve as a paramedic when impressed into the Nazi Army, but refused to fight. Ironically, his beheading occurred on the same day that St. Edith Stein was gassed at Auschwitz.

The book includes several names familiar to many of us: St. Gianna Beretta Molla, Mother Teresa, Padre Pio, though a greater number are new and revealing, and not all are martyrs. Saint Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese slave sold to an Italian diplomat, encountered Jesus while serving as a nanny. In 1893 she received her freedom, and the author’s prayer reads, “Dear Lord Jesus, Josephine was once a slave under human bondage, but you took away her chains. Today so many of us struggle as slaves under sin. Through her intercession, remove us from bondage by enabling us to know you…

The stories offered in 39 New Saints You Should Know connect us with these new Saints. On the surface, these men and women appear to be ordinary people, though the stories reveal their deep and abiding faith. They are “witnesses of the courage we need to stand firm in the face of secularism, the culture of death, and other evil forces.” Their lives serve as inspiration to us that we too can live our faith with courage and conviction, either out loud or quiet and prayerfully, humbly in service to each other and the Lord.

You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-22


This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on 39 New Saints You Should Know - and be sure to check out their great selection of Advent wreaths and prayerbooks while you are there.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Historic Election...Now the Hard Work Begins

Waking up to these historic election results felt great this morning. Overwhelmingly, Americans came out in support of pro-life conservative Republican candidates. Even in states that are considered true blue, conservatives were elected in many House Districts. It was a great night for conservative Republican Governors with most of the gubernatorial elections going red.

Last year, Time magazine proclaimed Republicans an endangered species, assuming like so many others, that Obama’s election signaled a mandate for big government in our country. However, the message sent by American voters yesterday remind us that our nation is still a center-right country that believes in our nation’s founding principles.

I realize that there are pundits and talking heads downplaying the significance of the election results, focusing on specific Senate races not won in the conservative wave. Don’t listen to them. Just look at the facts.

There are many results to be excited about and proud of today. But, now the hard work begins.

This election was just the first step. We still have a long hard battle in front of us to return our country to it's First Principles. We have sent a powerful message to our Government and our representatives. But this is not the end. It is only the beginning.

There will be those in government and in both parties who still don’t understand or comprehend this message. They will try to nullify this movement towards fiscally responsible smaller government in order to hold onto their power. It will take several election cycles to clear out those who do not love the founding of our country and do not want to return to smaller, more fiscally responsible government.

The fight continues. We must not go back to sleep. It is time to take this energy and continue on. It is our responsibility to preserve our great nation for future generations.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

VOTE - Today's The Day!

Today's the Day!  For almost two years average Americans have been waking up, pushing back from the kitchen table, and paying attention to the direction our government is taking.

We've attended Tea Party rallies, called our Congressmen, attended Town Hall meetings and discussed current political issues with our friends and neighbors.

Many of us say we want Washington to hear us, to understand us, to finally get our message of smaller, more responsible government.

Today's the Day!  Turning out to vote today will send a message to not only Washington, but also to the media, political pundits and our fellow Americans.  We will tell them that commonsense is alive in our country.

This is it.  The first step in getting our country headed back in the right direction.  To save our children and grandchildren from insurmountable government debt.  To head back to the First Principles our country was founded upon.  Today's the Day!

Take Pride in the Freedom and Rights of your country.  VOTE!

Monday, November 1, 2010

If I ... I Will - An Interview With the Author


If I ... I Will Book Cover
If I ... I Will Book
Shelly and I were invited to be a stop on a Blog Tour in support of a new Christian book, If I ... I Will about the suffering woman in Mark 5 whom Jesus healed.  Through personal experiences, the author, Debbie Sutton Covington, does a good job exploring the story and suffering of this woman in Mark 5 to help the reader step past our own suffering and reach for Jesus' hand to be healed.   

As part of the Blog Tour, I had the opportunity to interview the author, Debbie Sutton Covington, via email.

What inspired you to write about this topic?
The word “if” jumped out at me one day in study and The Spirit spoke to me about how you have to be willing to take a step and that is the “if.” You will receive healing, but it is an “if” until you do something.  The Spirit prompted me to share with others about taking “the step” - The Step of Faith by writing this story.


What drew you personally to the story of the suffering woman in Mark 5?

Mark 5:25-34 speaks to women. She suffered, She grew worse, she heard, She thought, She felt all emotions that every woman walking and most men have felt at some point in our life! We have all felt every one of the emotions at some point in our journey and will feel them again. If it helps others to share a little bit of my story about those times in my own journey then why not help another? The suffering woman helped others by stepping out and reaching for Jesus and she drew me to Jesus and hopefully I will do the same.

What inspired you to start a new women’s ministry, Journey of Sisters Ministry?

I had been serving in the local church in the role of program director and women’s ministry leader when I began to have that uneasy feeling that The Lord was moving me out once again of that “safe place.” He was starting something new and I wasn’t exactly sure what it was until it had been happening for over a year that the scripture from Joshua 1:9 kept coming to me at events, study, and worship. One day while pumping gas a beautiful African American woman approached me and asked if she could share scripture with me and she began quoting Joshua 1:9. I knew I was suppose to step out in faith, but I wasn’t sure how and where. So I went in and stepped down from the role I was playing and waited. Still I had no peace until one day I realized I was to bring ALL women together to worship Him. It seemed I was being led to break down barriers that we humans have built by our economic levels, skin color, ages, denominations and the list could go on and on about how we built walls, but that we are to bring them down to worship Him. The Kingdom is about Him, and we get in the way. So I felt very strongly the Spirit leading me to host events where He is always our focus and the other stuff is to get out of the way.


What services do you offer in this ministry?

We host community wide events with well-known leaders in worship where we come together to worship God. We always provide tickets for women that are unable to afford the tickets. Our ministry is supported by fifteen local churches and growing daily with the support of the local pastors that see we are truly about Kingdom building ~ God’s Kingdom!

Also, our events always have a mission focus. We raise money for our women’s shelters, after school programs, young women having babies, the homeless and we serve in these settings teaching and loving on these women. We share ourselves and the “light” with women that just need to know that God sees them and perhaps He uses us to let them know that very thing. We are His arms and Legs to love on others in this hard world we live in today.


What advice do you have for women who want to love the idea of your Journey of Sisters Ministry but don’t have something similar available to them at their church?

The advice that I have for women is to listen to the Spirit and step out in Faith. God will hold your hand and provide what He wants the ministry to look like and to be. You just have to be willing to take the step! I always tell women to take the step, because the dance is absolutely unbelievable. I am going to insert our dancing girl which is truly the vision of the way life has been since I took the step God called me to take and follow. So, take the step. It is the dance of a lifetime!

About Debbie
Debbie Sutton Covington writes and speaks on women in the church. She is also the founder of Journey of Sisters, a ministry that encourages women in their walk in faith through weekly devotionals, monthly newsletters, and fellowship opportunities. Debbie and her husband Kenny and their dogs live in Shreveport, Louisiana.


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