Youth headed to Catholic Heart Work Camp in Denver
How many teenagers and adults do you know that would give up a whole week of summer vacation to travel 1000 miles across the hot, dry deserts of Nevada and Utah to go fix up, clean up, paint and serve people of all kinds in a city far away? Our group of thirty-five generous volunteers from the Diocese of Reno will be some of them. Heading out to Denver, these youth and adults will represent all of our parishes at Catholic Heart Workcamp from June 16-22.
Catholic HEART Workcamp is about SERVICE, CONNECTION and LOVING OTHERS. It all started in 1993 in Orlando, FL with 100 participants and has grown to over 11,000 serving in 2011. CHWC provides parish youth groups, teens and adult leaders service opportunities to restore homes and HEARTS, feed the hungry, lift the spirits of children, bring joy to the elderly and disabled and offer assistance while partnering with social agencies. It is a youth-friendly Christ-centered week of caring for others. Catholic HEART Workcamp faithfully and enthusiastically serves the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings and is an excellent opportunity to “love the least of these”.
Check out their website: http://heartworkcamp.com/index.html.
St. Gall’s Paved the Way
The example of youth and adults from St. Gall’s Catholic Church in Gardnerville participating in other CHWC events over the past several years has inspired more parishes from the Diocese of Reno to get involved and participate in this service experience. Youth and adults have done everything from leading vacation Bible school to cleaning city parks to repairing and painting family homes to caring for children in daycare facilities and senior citizens in assisted living homes.
The list of service projects varies according to the hosting city and its social service agencies. Youth and adult provide details about their skills and volunteer experience in the registration process and the CHWC staff matches volunteers with people in need. It works out to be a win-win situation for everyone. Youth get the opportunity to share the work of their hands with those who need help and thereby put their faith into action.
Morning praise and worship programs send campers off to their daily work with a catchy song on their lips and a prayer in their hearts to let God shine through them as they offer a helping rake or paintbrush or hammer. When teens return to their home base, evening fun and games, skits and more praise and worship prepare them for a good night’s sleep and the next round of work. Throughout the week, youth can join in a daily Rosary, and celebrate Eucharist as well as the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is a powerful experience for young people and the adults who accompany them.
CHWC coming to Reno in 2014
All of this paves the way for us to host Catholic Heart Workcamp here in Reno in 2014! Our preparations are already underway and we will be working hard to identify the needs for service projects in and around the city. If you would like to help, let us know. Contact our office at 775-329-9274 or email to: email@example.com.
In Certain Situations
So that title is a bit generic… because we can get stuck in all kinds of situations and many times, the answers are pretty common-sense.
Like if you’re stuck in the mud… either wait for the mud to dry or get some help and slog your way out. Or if you’re stuck in a traffic jam… turn on the radio as loud as you can and start singing at the top of your lungs with the windows open. Maybe you’re stuck in a lie… be brave and tell the truth before it gets out of hand.
But sometimes we just get stuck in life. Some days, it can feel like our feet are hardened in concrete or our careers are stalled out in routine or our hearts are swallowed in apathy. What to do on days like that?
Be gentle with yourself.
When we feel stuck, usually that’s a sign that there are bigger stressors going on in other corners of our lives. It is helpful to take some quiet time in prayer to reflect on what else is happening inside the heart and soul. So be gentle with yourself. Allow some time for good rest, healthy eating, love and laughter with friends and family, and most importantly, conversation with God. You might even write a letter to put on paper all the reasons why you feel stuck. Put your letter in a prayer jar or tuck it away in a safe private place to look at later. The key is to give yourself some space and time to identify what’s going on inside your spirit.
Take a walk.
It is easy to fall into the trap that the present moment is all that can ever be… wherever you are / whomever you are with / whatever you are doing. The world can feel small when all we see is what is right in front of us. So go take a walk! Change your scenery!
Allow your mind to wander and release all that feels old and stale. Fill yourself with fresh air and fresh inspiration and give your feet a workout at the same time.
Look for out-of-the-ordinary things.
Every day on the way to work, I look for something that I haven’t seen before. It’s not always readily apparent because most often I take the same route to the office. But maybe there is a bumper sticker or a billboard that’s new. Sometimes I see someone doing something crazy in their car… like playing the drums on the steering wheel and head-banging a bit. Recently I noticed some extraordinary color on blossoming trees.
When we go through our days looking for things that seem out of place, we have opportunities to see with new eyes. Our imaginations wake up with inspiration and our steps feel just a bit lighter. It calls us to pay closer attention to the gifts that God puts in our paths every day. What you see can inspire you to new action. You might even change the world.
Dwell in possibility.
When you’re really stuck and not moving in any direction, that’s a sign that you need to hunker down and focus. Put in the extra effort and attention to figure out what is making you feel fear or despair or lack of confidence. If you work at it, you will find your own answers.
There was a time in my life when I was lost and completely empty of hope. I woke up every day for a lot of days feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach… literally. I couldn’t see any way forward. It was a dark time.
Then I stumbled upon a poem by Emily Dickinson titled “Dwell in Possibility”. Google it to find some inspiration of your own. I clung to the thought that better days were coming… if only by sheer luck and God’s grace. I began to dwell in possibility believing that God would not leave me to face the world alone. The same will be true for you.
So when you’re stuck… give those ideas a try and see if they make a difference. Perhaps one thought will lead to another and you’ll find another way to get yourself unstuck. Come back and share with us!
Music/Books/Movies to Speak to a Disciple’s Heart
Looking for Inspiration? Here is a list of all kinds of media that speak to a disciple’s heart. Check them out and then come back and tell us about your experience.
- Read the Bible!
- Winter Rain—a biographical film about Thomas Merton’s call to faith
- The Gift of Peace—writings by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin
- Romero—a film about the life of martyr Archbishop Oscar Romero
- Come Be My Light—the private writings of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
- The Interior Castle—the way of prayer by St. Teresa of Avila
- Seven Sacred Pauses—daily Benedictine way of prayer by Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB
- Let Your Life Speak—excellent book by Parker Palmer about recognizing God’s voice
- The Soul of Rumi—poetry translated by Coleman Barks
- Come Alive—Christian music by Mark Schultz
- My Paper Heart—new music from Christian music phenom Francesca Batastelli
- Joan of Arcadia—a great former TV series
- Eli Stone—another great former TV series
- Jonah—A Veggie Tales movie: great messages for all ages in any Veggie Tales movies!
- The Naked Now by Richard Rohr, OFM
- Second Chance—DVD film by Christian music artist Michael W. Smith
- To Kill a Mockingbird—classic book & movie
- For the Sake of the Call—Christian music by Steven Curtis Chapman
- A Book of Wonders—daily prayer by Fr. Ed Hays—short, simple and oh so sweet!
- Glimpses of Grace—daily prayer by Madeleine L’Engle: read any of her books, especially the classic A Wrinkle in Time
I rolled up my sleeves last weekend – more of the same tomorrow – and fired up the mower, pulled the rake through the dense, snow-packed grass, and sifted a trowel through pots of dark, musty soil to plant a few handfuls of squirrel-resistant flowers. I know, those are hard to find!
Spring! So much is going on! Even the “purple rain” tree is flowering up a storm!
This wasn’t the first time I’d been out in the garden however; healthy plants in Spring mean that you have to work the soil while it’s all still dormant at the end of winter. Around February I made the rounds of all the plants and trees in the yard to work some systemic fertilizer and bug-preventer into the soil.
We forget sometimes that we, too, are connected to the earth’s changing forces, the tides, and the cycles of the moon…by the time Spring comes around we are ready to GO and life is flowing at full force.
The grape-vine that I wrote about last year is looking mighty iffy.
Call this “grape-vine-itis” – this plant is full of potential and just when nature is showing off in other places, all systems are NOT go for the grapevine.
Are your branches bare? It is so hard sometimes, for us as people of faith, to be patient. We want to be closer to God – now - to have a more vibrant prayer life, to enjoy Mass a little more…to love God more than we did yesterday. It is especially hard when we compare ourselves to others around us. Everything is coming up roses for everyone else I know, but not for me.
Comparing yourself to someone else is deadly. When we compare our spiritual progress to the spiritual progress of others it is even worse than deadly. We are SURE that they have a secret that we have never learned, or never earned, and that is what gives them the advantage.
The thing is – even when the vines are bare and nothing can be seen with the naked eye but distressed wood – powerful things are happening. These branches don’t just grow lush, green leaves, eventually they will strengthen to support wild, sweet fruit that will invite even more life back to the garden.
So don’t be discouraged. You are NOT one of the “have-nots.” There is SO much more to you than meets the eye – you are growing. It could be time for the mystery of your life in God to unfold.
Put in your time to till and feed the soil of your soul.
Do some spiritual reading that tunes you in to the mysterious work of God taking place inside you.
Find a quiet space to allow for the whisper of God.
Your soul feeling a bit naked right now? There is so much more to come! That is what the resurrection is all about – the gift of NEW LIFE. New life does not equal MORE of the same life – it means it’s all new in order to prepare you for new ways of living.
How do I know if it’s really God’s voice?
Then from the cloud came a voice that said,
“This is my chosen Son; listen to him.”
Read the story of the Transfiguration in the Gospel of Luke 9:28b-36
There are many places in Scripture where we hear God telling us to listen to Jesus. We heard the story of the Transfiguration during Lent. It is one of the most mystifying stories in the Bible and there are myriads of diatribes abounding about its meaning.
Peter, James and John don’t have a clue what’s going on, and in typical foot-in-mouth fashion, Peter says: Hey dude… let’s build some tents!
Jesus must have just shaken his head in discouragement thinking… O God, what do I gotta do to get these guys to understand?!?!
We have all probably been there at some point in time with a family member or friend or coworker. Helping people to understand a task or a job or an idea can be hard work. It requires a deep listening and a persevering spirit to come to a place of understanding. That’s how it is in prayer. So how do we know if it’s really God’s voice we’re hearing?
Prayer of the Moment
One theme that we take with us as disciples is: prayer of the moment. Traditionally, we think of prayer as a time to be set apart for quiet meditation and devotion, spiritual reading and reflection.
But what if…. you’re a BUSY parent on the go? Or what if your work schedule means that you’re ExHaUsTeD by the time you get home? What if you’re already doing everything you can just to survive?
Prayer of the moment is just that—bringing to the front your mind whatever prayer or God-thought is on your heart in that minute. And it doesn’t have to be as big as a Hail Mary or an Our Father or some other set of words. Prayer of the moment can be as simple as taking a breath and saying “God, I’m here.” It’s about making yourself aware of God’s presence in your life at that very moment. There’s an ancient desert monk saying:
Bidden or not bidden, God is present.
Whether we know it not, feel it or not, understand it or not, God is there—all the time. If we ask, if we don’t ask. God is there. When we remember that God’s presence permeates every corner of our lives, then we will start to hear God’s voice speaking to us everywhere. In all things, in all places, in all people, in all ways.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself
So how do you know if it’s God or not. Ask yourself these questions and then decide:
- Does it resonate with what I already know to be true?
- Does it take me closer to or further from God and others?
- Is my ego or self-interest trying to get its own needs met?
Honest answers will help you hear God’s voice in your own life.
Pray for Patience
Once upon a time, I asked God to give me patience. Be careful what you pray for. Now I have lots of opportunities to practice patience, forgiveness and compassion in my life. You probably do too.
I think we all have those moments where we can choose to react negatively or positively. I am seldom without another chance to perfect the skill in the moment. I am starting to think that this is the whole of the spiritual life… to forgive and reconcile for offenses great and small… conscious and unconscious.
How about you? Does God put lots of opps in your everyday path too?
The Art of Duck-ness
I know that all of these kinds of encounters with people / disruptions in my plans / unexpected challenges are meant to guide me down the road to real holiness. But sometimes, it can all be too much.I need to practice and re-practice the art of duck-ness… that is… letting the hurts roll off my back without presuming that people are intentionally malicious or that God is working hard to spoil my life. The art of duck-ness is a very important skill to craft. It comes in mighty handy, usually when you least expect it.
When I was at the National Conference for Catholic Youth Ministry back in December, I was lucky to sit in on a session by Fr. Richard Rohr… check out the Center for Action and Contemplation if you haven’t seen it. And I heard him say this:
Only the false self takes offense.
So I’ve been going back to that wisdom again and again to assess my own duck-ness. And it’s true… only my false self feels the sting and hurt from the inconsiderate or ignorant or plain rude people that I encounter. So the art of duck-ness actually is helping my false self to shrink. I am moving toward a greater degree of wholeness and holiness. [Definitely not there yet but I'm making progress.]
So I just share that with you all today in the hopes that you too will become a Mighty Duck!
If you are joyful
it will shine in your eyes and in your look, in your conversation and in your contentment. You will not be able to hide it because joy overflows.
Mother Teresa said
Joy is very contagious. Try, therefore, to be always overflowing with joy – wherever you go. Joy must be one of the pivots of our life. It is the token of a generous personality.
Sometimes – it is also a mantle that clothes a life of sacrifice and self-giving. A person who has this gift often reaches high summits. He or she is like a sun – providing the safety and warmth which allows others to grow.
Joy is reciprocal
Here are my top three for the person I am thinking about:
1. This person is someone who has suffered – and yet, doesn’t let the pain, experience, or memory of that suffering shape everything in their life.
2. This person knows how to laugh at themselves…roll with the punches…roll their eyes at what life dishes.
3. This person loves…or tries to love…most of the time. Love motivates their patience and their presence.
You know what? It makes me feel good around them…it makes me joyful, too! Joy IS contagious – yet, a joyful person is not someone going through life with rose-colored glasses.
JOY looks at life straight on – with both eyes – and then blinks.
Yet, there is a price to pay for being joyful…I guess…or we would all be that way. Is our cynicism too precious to us?
Ok – so…two seconds…list three things that you would have to give up to be JOYful. What would it cost?
Worth the price?
Mother Teresa also said this:
We should ask ourselves, ‘Have I really experienced the joy of loving?’ True love is love that causes pain – that hurts – and yet brings us joy. That is why we need help, we must ask God’s help – we must ask for the courage to love.’
Who would have thought that love and joy had so much in common?
I want to be that joyful person that looks at life straight on and blinks. I want to be more loving. Some people would say it takes a village. OK – I pick you for my team! What if – this week – you and I tried to bring a little joy, a little more love, into our world? What would that look like for you?
A Common Cliche
Many of us have heard the classic quote about time:
Yesterday was history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the present… that’s why it’s a gift.
We know it is a meaningful saying with spot-on truth. But how often do we abide by its wisdom?
With such a fast-paced life anymore, it can be really difficult to focus on the present moment and not get caught up in the future… or even thinking about the past and whatever good things we’ve done or bad mistakes we’ve made. We are a culture in constant motion and rarely do we let our brains settle into something slow and still.
But the present moment is a gift… most definitely a present wrapped up in smiles / hugs / conversations / experiences / laughter and tears. Sometimes the present moment is bittersweet… other times it feels like sitting in front of cozy fire in a hidden vacation spot. Whatever the present moment brings in your life, savor it… because once the moment is gone, it’s gone for good.
How to Be Present
Perhaps one of the most beloved Scripture verses of all time is this:
Be still and know I am God.
But who has time to be still? More than that… how do we be still anyways?
It can be very unnerving for those who are on the move all day and only stop to crash into bed at night. The physical act of sitting quiet and still… turning off your brain and allowing all activity to drain away… is challenging. Not impossible, but challenging.
So how do you do it? Akin to the old Nike commercial… you just do it. But here are some helpful hints to make yourself be present in the moment.
Reduce the Noise
Gradually break yourself into the stillness by turning off the distractions of noise in your life… radios / televisions / computers / cell phones / iPods / landline telephones / video games / and all those other devices that put out some kind of audio stimulation. Take 15 minutes a day for a week. Then bump up to 30 minutes a day for a month… and on and on… until you can go for at least an hour without the noise. As you slowly readapt to the quiet, take inventory of how your heart and spirit are feeling. Do you notice less anxiety? Maybe more peace? Do you hear the people around you better when they are trying to tell you something?
One Thing at a Time
Stop multi-tasking and give your undivided attention to whatever task or person is at hand. Use the break-in idea above if that will help. For one or two projects in the course of a day, only work on that project. Don’t check email. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t send the text message. And that project could be as simple as driving to or from home. Give all of your mental energy in that moment to what you are doing. Especially if it involves a conversation with a family member / friend / co-worker.
Taste your food. Smell the air. Feel the touch. Hear the world. See the people. Sounds simple, huh? But too often we skim right over what stimulates our basic senses. We live in a frenetic world usually on sensory overload. Check in with yourself in this way and you will learn how to be present to the moment.
What other ways help you to be present in the moment? Please share in the comments. We would love to hear from you!
When it’s hard to pray
Sometimes it feels hard to pray… because first of all, you need to find the desire. Then second of all, the question of what to pray for and how jumps onto the scene. And thirdly, sometimes it can just feel like work.
So here are a few ideas to try:
Stop wherever you are and take one intentional deep breath. As you inhale, think silently or say aloud: Peace. As you exhale, think silently or say aloud: Thank you, Jesus.
Holding your cell phone / iPad / computer mouse / landline telephone in hand… mentally scroll through your contact list of family and friends and picture one person’s face in your mind. Focus on the love and joy that person adds to your life… just for 30 seconds.
Take a moment to step outdoors… whatever the weather… and raise your face to the sky and take a deep breath. Open your ears to hear one particular sound that catches your attention. Identify the origin of the sound whether natural or manmade and relish the gift of hearing.
At some less-than-crazy moment in your day, take a minute to open and close your hand so slowly that you can feel and see every muscle that moves. Like reeeaaaallllyyyy slowly. What a marvelous idea from God… to give us hands.
Take a sip of water and say a quick Thank You Jesus! for clean water. Many parts of the world are not so lucky.
Smile at someone you don’t know. It will help you feel happy.
Let someone else go in front of you in line. A simple act of kindness can make a world of difference.
Intentionally slow down your driving. Let others get in the lane ahead of you… drive the speed limit everywhere you go… turn off the radio in your car. Be silent and still inside amidst the rush of traffic.
Stop thinking about the past moment… or the future moment. Place yourself in the present moment and see what gift it offers.
Tell God that you really don’t feel like praying right now. It’s okay.
[ btw... did you catch that last one? Tell God... also known as praying... sneaks up on you sometimes when you're not thinking about it ]
Does God love slackers?
The first gut answer that escapes the mouth before the brain clicks into gear might be a resounding “No!” After all, the old adage is true… God helps those who help themselves… right?
Then… after a few thoughtful moments, the brain says… Okay, let’s backtrack a bit. It is God we’re talking about after all.
Maybe a little while later, the heart kicks in and says… Hmmm… that whole Easter dying-and-rising-thing was for everyone… so I guess that includes slackers as well.
And then in prayer, the spirit jumps up and chimes in: You know, I might be a slacker… and I sure do hope that God loves me, even when I’m slacking.
I am a slacker too.
I don’t like to admit that out loud… like it even less to say it on a blog. But I’m human and so are you… so I’m banking on the fact that you might be able to relate to this.
I have dropped the ball frequently… on occasions when I had really good intentions but didn’t follow through for one reason or another.
There is a pile of laundry stacking up in the corner. I really need to sweep my floors. Dishes are filling the sink. I need to write some more blogs here. Nothing overly critical… but a lot of things I really need to catch up on.
How about you? What’s on your list of To-Do’s that need attention? What’s keeping you from crossing them off?
I could justify and rationalize and offer a bunch of reasons why certain things have fallen off my radar, but honestly, I can’t give you any good excuses. We all know that we make time in busy schedules to do the things that are really important to us. And so the deductive answer might be that none of these things I’ve let slide are significant to me. Except that wouldn’t be exactly true.
I love living in an organized, clean environment where everything is neat and tidy and in its place. I love wearing fresh clothes, walking on non-sticky floors, eating off of sparkling dishes. I love writing and sharing stories of faith with people. I suspect that all those are important to you… although perhaps you too have piles of laundry and dirty dishes hanging around. So what’s the deal?
For me, it’s procrastination. I have known for a long time that I work better on deadline. I always rise to the challenge of an impending due date… and frankly, some of my best work happens in a crunch. Still not an excuse for delaying.
I don’t really have any other best guess. I try really hard to not be a slacker… but sometimes my motivation fails. When I am not invested in a project or circumstance, it’s easy to let others carry the ball. I’m happy to be the cheerleader on the sidelines.
Eventually, it all catches up with me and I have to pick up the ball again.
God loves slackers too.
My great comfort comes in remembering that God loves slackers too… not just the ones who are always on top of their game. Not just the ones who can show off a clean and organized office or a color-coordinated closet.
When the rest of the world gets frustrated with me because I haven’t crossed every ‘t’ or dotted every ‘i’, I can rest assured that in the end, God’s got my back and loves me just the same.
So for all you blog-followers out there, I apologize for a sporadic presence these past weeks. It’s not that you aren’t important to me… you definitely are. I’ve just been a slacker. After our pre-Easter encounter with Peter denying Jesus and how he will be transformed in our coming weeks leading to Pentecost, I feel like I might be in good slacker-company.
Hope that you are not feeling like a slacker… but if you are, hold onto hope. God loves you deeply and all shall be well.