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Building a Relationship with Jesus – A Christopher News Note (by yours truly)

Building a Relationship with Jesus – A Christopher News Note (by yours truly)

Over a year ago I was contacted by The Christophers to draft one of their famous inspirational News Notes! I was honored to be offered this subject of “Building a Relationship with Jesus.”

Here’s a sample…

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

You’ve likely seen this famous bible quote from John 3:16, but to explore its depth, let’s personalize the message:
God so loved me that He gave His only Son that I may believe in Him and not perish but have eternal life.

The Good News is that God’s love comes to rescue us in the person of Jesus. In John 14:6, He taught, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.”

Those are pretty credible reasons for wanting a relationship with Jesus. But what truly shapes our belief is to know deep down within ourselves, not only that we believe in God, but that God believes in us. God wants us to know His love.

God Makes the First Move

God initiates our relationship. Indeed, the God of Glory has a vested interest in us. Building a relationship with Jesus means we have to trust this truth. Our belief is a response to God’s revelation of Himself and His love. Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 5.49.54 PM

The attraction of Christianity is not that we are in search of God, but that God is in search of us!

God desires to make us sons and daughters—a family! By faith we respond to Him, offering our intellect and will, our minds and hearts. This is known as “the obedience of faith.”

No matter who we are, from popes to prodigals, all are invited into a loving relationship with Jesus. But we must choose. As it states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “Faith is a personal act—the free response of the human person to the initiative of God who reveals Himself.”

Steve Nelson, from Stillwater, Oklahoma, recalls a time during his graduate school years when he started to drift away from the Church. He said, “I became terribly self-centered and started down the road toward a very un-Christian life. One day, in the church parking lot, I encountered a friend of mine who was in his second year of seminary. When he challenged me on my lifestyle and absence from the Church, I remember saying something like, ‘If God exists, He should prove Himself to me.’ My friend would have none of it and told me that I had to at least meet God halfway by putting myself in the pew on Sunday morning. That was the turning point.”

Nelson soon went on to make Christ the priority in his life: “My relationship with Jesus is important because I remember what it is like not having one. [That] chance encounter in a parking lot [was] not exactly a burning bush, but it was a definite message by God to look towards Him rather than away.”

We are not alone in the building of this relationship. God strengthens us through grace, which is like jet fuel to launch our faith. The prayer of Jesus’ apostles inspires us: “Increase our faith” (Luke 17:5).

You can read the whole thing here. You can even order the pamphlet for your parish or ministry group or retreat team.

I’m a guest at the WINE blog today… talking about wine and music and wisdom

I’m a guest at the WINE blog today… talking about wine and music and wisdom

A little proverb in the book of Sirach gets me started…

“Wine and music gladden the heart, but the love of wisdom is better than both.”
—Sirach 40:20

Ah, wine and music! Two of my favorite things! Yet the proverb from Sirach offers much to consider as we examine the love of wisdom.

The sound of a cork pop remains a signal to my heart that life is good. The influence from the French side of my family taught me the beauty of wine on the table. I grew up a wine drinker and to this day, it is a joy to shop for wine, to taste new labels, to pair a special vintage with a good meal. Even the delicate nature of wine glasses signals to us that we must handle wine with care, savor its bouquet, and drink temperately. Every glass of wine was years in the making. It ought be respected and consumed with gratitude.

Wine is an occasion waiting to happen; through it we toast the gift of family, we honor friends, and celebrate milestones. For Catholics, we intuit the wisdom of Jesus in bringing us together for the Eucharistic meal whereby he shares his very self under the guise of bread and wine. That knowledge alone elevates our notion of wine as a gift that must be shared with love.

I also grew up a music lover and a musician. For me, music is a way to sing, to dance, and to pray. Music moves us, not only to sing and dance, but it moves the heart.

I’ve seen the right choice of music change someone’s day. I’ve been privileged to choose and sing music at weddings where the memories of those songs will last a lifetime. Music offers a soundtrack to some of the most important moments of our lives. Music is the language of the heart.

Wine plus music equals a celebration! From simplest gathering to the more elaborate events—whether an intimate gathering for two, a party with friends, or a wedding reception—wine and music are complementary sensory gifts that make life better, joyous even!

Yet, Sirach reminds us, even as we find the gifts of wine and music enjoyable and inspiring … “the love of wisdom is better than both.” Why might this be?

Read the rest at the WINE blog.

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(WINE = Women In the New Evangelization)

WINE has many events throughout the year, mostly in Minnesota, although its mission is growing.

The 2016 Women’s Conference Feb 6th

The Italy tour – June 2016

My contribution to Word by Word – Slowing down with the Hail Mary

My contribution to Word by Word – Slowing down with the Hail Mary

9781594716409.jpg.232xI’m a contributor to the new book, Word by Word: Slowing down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard. 

Today, I’m over at CatholicMom.com talking with Sarah about my contribution to the book.

I loved what author Amy Welborn had to said about this book: “Reading Word by Word is like participating in a warm, honest, faith-sharing session among good friends. A marvelous way to enter into more intimate communion with the Blessed Mother, which means, ultimately, gazing more deeply into the face of her Son.” Yes, it is! I recall when Sarah first approached me with this idea — I knew it would be a book someday and I’m glad to see it come to fruition — anything for the Blessed Mother!

Read my thoughts over at Catholic Mom.

You can browse or buy the book here.

I’m writing a series on prayer in CATECHIST magazine, order a free copy or subscribe here

I’m writing a series on prayer in CATECHIST magazine, order a free copy or subscribe here

Are you a parish catechist? You should subscribe to Catechist Magazine or ask your Director of Religious Education to get a parish bulk order.

I’m currently writing 7-part series on Prayer.

Get a sample copy or subscribe here. 

I’m at Catholic Mom today with another installment from “Tales from the Empty Nest”

I’m at Catholic Mom today with another installment from “Tales from the Empty Nest”

Over the years, it has been a gift to write for Catholic Mom. Though my frequency there is not what it used to be, I love to add a piece over there a few times a year. Having just launched my youngest into the real world of work and rent-paying, I’m sharing these thoughts from “The Last Serenade” about my son, Peter. You can read the whole piece here.

Maybe your mind pictures a dashing minstrel serenading his beloved beneath her window to win her heart… this wasn’t that. Actually, the last serenade was live classical music floating in from my living room accompanying my morning breakfast prep. I scrambled eggs and fried bacon. Later that same day I would pack the car with my Hubby to move our youngest out of state, the last child to leave home.

This boy-turned-man had won my heart years ago, and his twilight serenades were a staple in my midlife musical diet. Often a private concert just for me, these sessions were much more than recompense for 12+ years of shuffling to piano lessons and recitals.

This breakfast was the last one I would prepare for my son for a long time…

Read the rest over at Catholic Mom.

Honoring Momma Mary, a new book: Word by Word, edited by Sarah Reinhard

Honoring Momma Mary, a new book: Word by Word, edited by Sarah Reinhard

9781594716409.jpg.232xToday is the feast of the Queenship of Mary, so it’s a great time to share this forthcoming book that honors Momma Mary!

My pal, Sarah Reinhard, is an energetic author and a good ideas person. Her latest brainchild is this forthcoming book, Word by Word. So happy to have been able to add my own itty bitty prayers to the pages of this book! When I contributed to this, I just knew it would make a dandy book of meditations on the Hail Mary! So many good writer friends are in this book. Check it out!

From Ave Maria Press: In Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, popular Catholic author Sarah Reinhard compiled an accessible, profound, and unique meditation on each word of the Hail Mary, one of the most important prayer traditions in Catholic life. Each of the reflections encourages readers to “slow down” with the Hail Mary and experience previously unseen dimension in the popular devotion, making it come to life in a new way. This unique, formative, and informative exploration of the beloved prayer is a gift to anyone who wants to be continually changed through it—learning to slow down and examine things more closely.

The book is based on a blog series Reinhard facilitated with popular Catholic writers and social media experts, including Lisa M. Hendey, Brandon Vogt, Paula Huston, Kate Wicker, Pat Gohn, Kevin Lowry, Lisa Mladinich, Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Fr. Patrick Toner, and Jeff Young.

Order your copy of Word by Word: Slowing Down with the Hail Mary, edited by Sarah Reinhard. Note: This is pre-order time, the book become available in October — the month of the Holy Rosary!

My Year to Write Forewords: 3 great books coming from Melanie Rigney, Lisa Mladinich, and Maria Morera Johnson

My Year to Write Forewords: 3 great books coming from Melanie Rigney, Lisa Mladinich, and Maria Morera Johnson

When the first request came in, I was a bit shocked and humbled. Within a couple weeks two more invitations came in. Last winter, amidst the trials of being cooped up by continual snow storms, God gave me three new assignments in support of other writers with new books.

It is with deep gratitude that I share with you three forthcoming books in which I have been privileged to write the forewords.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 4.09.42 PMThe first one is new this month. You’ll be hearing more about it here on the blog soon — Melanie Rigney’s Blessed are You: Finding Inspiration from Our Sisters in Faith. The book’s blog tour stops here next week — look for it here on August 27. However the blog tour is currently underway this week, so go visit MelanieRigney.com for a list of where and get clickin’!

This book is a wonderful mash-up of the Beatitudes-meet-saints stories. If you’ve never had a firm grip of what the beatitudes might look like in daily life, this book will help! I’ll brag on it a bit more when the blog tour gets here! Regular listeners of Among Women may remember when Melanie was my guest when her last book about the saints came out.

Get Blessed Are You by Melanie Rigney now!

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The second book I want to share is Lisa Mladinich’s True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of LifeThis book is due out in October, but I had the pleasure of catching up with Lisa at the Catholic Writers Guild conference that paralleled the Catholic Marketing Network show last month in New Jersey. It was great to see an early proof of the book.

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Me with Lisa Mladinich at CMN and a copy of her new book!

Can you say “I’d like to grow old gracefully?” Its something we all ought to aspire to for ourselves and others. I love how Lisa’s new book points us toward the glory of heaven while keeping our feet down to earth. Lisa is also a longtime friend of Among Women and you’ll find two conversation with me that I retrieved from the Among Women archives here and here.  A lot of good things have happened in Lisa’s life since those two recordings, and this new book is just one fine example… pre-order it today! 

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Third, but not least, is Maria Johnson’s My Badass Book of Saint: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live. Yeah, that’s a mouthful to say but its a great story book… you’ll meet gun-toting nuns,  women who worked in the French Resistance,  and the author herself, a first-generation Cuban-American whose family fled Cuba, telling stories of badass women who kept faith first despite oppressive odds. I can’t wait to see this book finally in print.

Maria and I do a lot together as friends and as colleagues but what a joy to be asked to collaborate on this eye-popping title! Look for it this November, but hey – go pre-order it now! 

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Ok, look for more about each of these books in the weeks to come. In the meantime, here’s one amazing photo that really brought me joy…. two friends with two new books with forewords by moi. They had never met before but they shared their books with each other, and took a photo for the sake of me…. Too funny…

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Maria Johnson (l) with Melanie Rigney (r) both holding each other’s books! (Photographed at the Edel Conference, 2015) (Facebook photo courtesy of Maria Johnson)

For a look at all the books I have contributed to in recent years, go here.

 

I’m over at the WINE Blog… talking about the fantastic… the infinite…

I’m over at the WINE Blog… talking about the fantastic… the infinite…

Women In the New Evangelization = that’s WINE!

I’m happy to be contributing to their blog this week!

Catholics believe in the fantastic, the miraculous, and the infinite!

God. Love. Forgiveness. Friendship. Heaven.

Friendship with God of the universe! Joy for eternity!

Truly, this is the stuff of celebration!

I’m a wine drinker – and a wine lover! One of my favorite sounds is the hearing the pop signaling the release of a cork from a bottle. It’s a cue for celebration – sometimes lavish and sometimes simple! Our earthly celebrations bring meaning to life.

All of our family’s most important celebratory moments happen in the context of good meals with wine – sacraments, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, job promotions, engagements, marriages, victories large and small. And there is a prayer of blessing for each occasion! Besides the food and drink, we also discover the blessing in the love of the people gathered there. In these simple earthly rituals we find nourishment and refreshment, and the presence of hope and love.

It is no wonder that Jesus desired to bring us his love in a way that would be a daily reminder of the reality of his true presence – a way to miraculously make his sacrificial love accessible and experiential.

With his friends, at the Last Supper, Jesus offered his very self through the ancient Jewish blessings of bread and wine…

Read it all. 

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In Napa CA, last fall.

This makes me think… quotes from St Philip Neri

Short effective prayers of St Philip Neri:

“Jesus, be a Jesus to me.” 

“I cannot love you unless you help me, my Jesus.” 

“My Jesus, if you want me, cut the fetters that keep me from you.”

Good advice from him:

“Cheerfulness strengthens the heart and makes us persevere in a good life. Therefore, the servant of God ought always to be in good spirits.”

For more on St Philip Neri’s life and time, read my archived piece at Patheos, “Saint of Joy: Philip Neri”.

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