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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Which Beatle Are You?

Tuesdays on A Gift of Grace we try to connect the theme for the week with something current like a song or quiz. The Beatles Week seemed to have the most interest...which song were you? Today we find out which Beatle you are most like. You have to tell me who it is, please...

Which Beatle Are You?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Welcome To "The Best Of" Week

This week we will be repeating some of your favorites. Check Facebook to let us know what messages you liked the best. Today click the Gracenotes link above for one of our favorite podcasts.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sabbath Sayings

“The they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:17

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Saturday Reflections...

Have I studied the Bible? Why or why not?

What fears do I have about studying God’s Word?

Do I reflect on the readings that I hear at Church or do I daydream and plan my week?

How has my perception of the Holy Spirit been enhanced by our study this week?

What have I learned about the Sacrament of Confirmation?

Would I have listened to Philip if I was in Samaria that day?

Would I have rejoiced with the city? Or would I have refused to believe?

What would it have been like to be confirmed by Peter himself?

Would I be happy to see the Church increase or would I be jealous like the Pharisees and want to control it and keep it to myself?

Do I rely on the Holy Spirit for advice?

Do I know that I am not alone because the Holy Spirit lives within me?

Am I looking forward to more Bible study?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Ask Ellen: Since I have been baptized in another church, why can't I partake in communion at the Catholic Church? Cheryl, ME

Thank you for your question, Cheryl. It is the source of confusion for many so I am very glad that you asked. Please know that the Catholic Church does recognize your Baptism into the Christian faith.

The “why can’t I receive Communion part” is the tricky piece. Let me begin by explaining that Catholics believe in the “Real Presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist, meaning that we believe that the bread and wine are changed into the actual Body and Blood of Christ. We even have a fancy name for it, Transubstantiation. This is very different from communion in Protestant churches, as they believe it is symbolic.

Another unique aspect of being Catholic is that when we receive the Eucharist, we are stating with our minds and bodies that we are in full communion with the teachings of the Catholic Church. This means that we are trying to live lives faithful to all the teachings of the Magisterium, another fancy word for the teaching office of the Catholic Church.

As we approach to receive the Eucharist, we enter into a covenant with God each time. By responding, “Amen” to the priest, we are saying that we believe that we are receiving Jesus’ actual Body and that we are in communion with His Church. If a Protestant receives the Eucharist it would be, in essence, forcing that person to swear a false oath. The Church takes covenants very seriously (look at marriage) and would rather have you not receive than force you to say something that you don’t believe.

I respect you for asking the question, Cheryl. I know that it is a source of hurt and confusion for many. I encourage all of my non-Catholic readers to ask questions. It pains me to know that many misunderstandings have led to such division among the Body of Christ. Although I make no apologies for my Catholic faith, I would love to be able to reach out to the many denominations in truth and love..and maybe start to answer some of the questions about Catholicism that you’ve always had. Keep those questions coming!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Has Anyone Ever Told You To See A Counselor?

The Gospel on Sunday is John 14:15-21. Take some time to read it now.

Jesus promises His followers the Holy Spirit in this passage. This is the same Holy Spirit that came to the Samaritans. (see yesterday). He tells us that we must love Him and keep His commandments. In turn He will ask the Father to send the Holy Spirit.

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “a Counselor” Mirriam-Webster tells us that a counselor is someone who gives advice.. This Counselor, once received, remains with us forever. Jesus tells us that the world will reject this idea because it can’t be proven. But He continues to say that a believer will know because the Holy Spirit will live within us.

Jesus promises not to leave us alone but to give us this Holy Advisor to help us along the way. If you have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, this Counselor lives within you.. He has the answers to your questions and He is readily available 24 hours a day. What a gift that is! What are you struggling to find answers to? Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.

I need to go off on another tangent here. The Catholic Church in all her wisdom has organized the perfect Bible study. You see by placing these readings together this weekend, we get a picture of the Holy Spirit that we might have missed if we read each one in isolation. But taken together, it paints a beautiful picture of Confirmation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Today be thankful for the gift of Confrmation. If you haven’t been confirmed, begin to pray that God opens the doors for you to receive the gift of the sacrament.

Promise me that you will think of me and smile when you hear these readings on Sunday. I will be thinking of you.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

City of God

The first reading on Sunday is Acts 8:5-8, 14-17. Please take a few minutes to read it now.

The first thing to do when beginning Bible study is to pray that your mind is open to the message God has prepared for you. Go ahead and do that now..I will wait for you.

Philip is one strong deacon. Here we find him taking the message to Samaria. This is interesting for two reasons. 1) Acts shows us how the Gospel spread from Jerusalem, to Samaria and then to the ends of the earth. This means we are in phase two. 2) The Jews despised the Samaritans because they were a mixture of pagan nations and were no longer orthodox Jews…so this means that most Jews are not going to like that these Samaritans can be saved through Jesus’ message.

Philip drove out demons and healed people. We are told that “there was much joy in the city.” I guess so! I’d be happy if this was happening in my town…Can you imagine what it would have been like to witness something so dramatic? Take a few minutes to picture yourself in Samaria that day. What would you be thinking? Would you believe what Philip was saying?

Word gets back to Jerusalem about what was going on in Samaria. And Peter and John head there to check it out. (side note: I love the way Acts make the structure of the Early Church so clear…when something big happened or a decision had to be made the other 11 always deferred to Peter, the first Pope.) Sorry I get excited about this stuff.

You can also see our Catholic sacraments in this passage. Deacon Philip preaches the message and baptizes the Samaritans. But when it comes time for Confirmation, Peter and John are there. They are the Bishops who instill the Holy Spirit on the people. “They laid hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Sounds like the Sacrament of Confirmation to me! Take some time to think about this scene. What would it have been like to be confirmed by Peter or John? To be touched by people who had touched Jesus?

Check back tomorrow to learn more about this Holy Spirit that the Samaritans just received.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Come, Holy Spirit

This is Bible Study Week..we are studying the Scriptures that we will hear at Mass this Sunday.  My hope is that it will increase your understanding of the Scriptures that you will hear at Church this weekend.  I hope it gives us all an "aha" moment.

As Catholics we are liturgical people.  Because we are in the Easter season our readings come from the Acts of the Apostles.  The Gospel introduces us to the Holy Spirit who descended on Pentecost.  Enjoy the song about the Holy Spirit today and check back tomorrow for some serious Bible study.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sabbath Sayings

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds.”  Psalm 9:1

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Saturday Reflections...Beatles

What do my favorite songs say about me?

What types of songs speak to me?

Have I ever thought of God when listening to popular music?

Or do I leave Him in the hymns at Church?

Would my taste in music change if I let God in?

What did the quiz reveal about me?

Do I let God drive?

Do I surrender control to God?

Am I thankful for the people and places that God has brought into my life?

Do I put Him at the top of my list?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ask Ellen....About Bible Study

Why is it that I was never offered the opportunity within the Catholic Church to participate in a Bible Study Program until I was 51 years old? Joanie, ME

Thanks for the question, Joanie. It is one that peaks my interest. First let me begin by defending the Church (on some level). The Catholic Church was in existence before the Bible, meaning long before there was the written Word. The value of the Church in and of itself cannot be underestimated. That being said, there came a point in Church history, when the printing press came on the scene and Bibles became accessible to a wider audience. At that point many people were not educated. They looked to the Church for explanations of Scripture. These factors are very important in understanding where we find ourselves today. Times have changed. People are educated and but still are looking to the Church for answers.

Since I started out praising the Church, let me focus on what I see as the downside. Many parishes are failing to meet the needs of their people. Our Protestant brothers and sisters know their Bibles. In general, Catholics do not. This is why many people leave the Catholic Church falsely believing that it is not biblically based. It also explains why many Catholics stammer through answers when Protestants question them about their faith. I think we really do want to know.

So what does the average Catholic do about this? We learn to study our Bibles. Ideally this is done in your parish among a community of learners. I implore you to only look at programs approved by the Church. Why? Because much like our ancestors mentioned above, we need the guidance of the Church when interpreting Scripture. It is such a blessing for us to have this as it assures that we won’t get off track and into our own agenda.

I encourage all of you reading this to approach your priest and tell him that you want and need Scripture study in your parish. If he refuses, pray for him and get the study for yourself…maybe even invite a group of friends. A Gift of Grace started just that way. Before I had the pastor’s approval to lead Bible study parish wide, I led them in my home with my bffs and a quality Catholic program.

Someone just told me that their priest said the last thing we need is another packaged study. I say that is exactly what we need. Now, let’s make it happen!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I'll Never Lose Affection

Today’s song could be a message from God or a message to God.

If God is singing to you, He is telling you that although he created all people and places, He loves you the most. The cool thing about God is that He loves you the most and He loves me the most because He is love. Maybe you needed to be reminded today of how special you are to Him.

But what if you were singing the song? Who do you love the most? The song tells us that it is OK to have affection for people and places. But the song wants the person who is listening to know that they are loved the most…a beautiful sentiment really. We can and should love the people God has placed in our lives. The song causes us to pause and remember the many faces God has used to touch us. But it begs the question, Who do you love the most?

Is God even on the list? For today, let’s all make sure that God is at the top…and let’s be thankful for the many others on our lists too.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Beep, Beep

Let’s pretend for a second that God wrote this song for you.  What would He be trying to tell you?  In my opinion, this song is about control.  The girl in the song has a dream and needs help attaining it.  The boy wants to he offers her a way to get there.  In doing so both people turn control over to the other.  That is what love does.  But what if it was God offering to drive you?  Would you let Him?

If you let God drive your car, it would mean that you allow Him to make decisions in your life.  It would mean a life of prayer and discernment to know what choices He would have you make.  It would mean surrendering control. 

Surrendering control is scary on a human level.  The two people in today’s song run the risk that they will be hurt.  But surrendering control to God prevents many hurts.  Is it easy?  No.  Is there risk involved?  Trust me, yes.  He requires you to do things you would never imagine doing on your own.  But He drives you there and picks you up after.

He can show you a better time.  If you let Him.

So, who is driving your car?  Today turn over the keys to God.  Cause, Baby, He loves you…beep, beep.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Good Day, Sunshine!

Take the quiz below to see what Beatles song best describes you:

Beatles quiz

Mine is "Good Day Sunshine." (which I would enjoy more if the sun was shining)

So I'm dying to know...what is your song?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Welcome To Beatles Week

Click the Gracenotes link above to listen to today's podcast.  Don't forget that you can also subscribe to the Gracenotes podcasts on itunes.  Use the following link:

Link to Gracenotes on itunes

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sabbath Sayings

“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”  Gen 1:31

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday Reflections

What have I discovered about myself this week?

What creative things have I always wanted to do?

What has stopped me from doing them?

Am I brave enough to try something new?

What can I learn about others from things they create?

What can I learn about God from His creation?

Am I willing to share my creative side with the world?

What one thing am I going to do today to embrace my creative side?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Ask Ellen: Who do you like better Matthew, Mark, Luke and John or John, Paul George and Ringo? JG, PA

What a fun question for me!  This obviously comes from someone who knows me very well.  I am a huge Beatles fan and a Bible nerd so this is tough.  Let me see…

Both groups of men have written things that have touched my heart.  Both have some profound things to say.

Luke is my favorite Gospel.  Although that may change in a few weeks when I start my next class on John.  Who am I kidding?  John will be my favorite then because I always like whatever I’m studying.  I bet John was the cute Gospel writer too.

Now my favorite Beatle hands down is Paul.  In fact, I have had a huge crush on him for decades.  After all, he is the cute Beatle.  I have to say that I have a new appreciation for John these days too.  He had a way of bringing out the best in my man, Paul.

I can’t choose…so let’s just…Let it Be!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Making Something Out Of Nothing

We cannot talk about creativity without mentioning THE CREATOR.  Just glance through the first chapter of Genesis  

And see how its done.  Now God’s kind of creation is a bit different than ours.  His is “ex nihilo” meaning He made something out of nothing.  We use material things when we create.  God took something that had no form and was empty and dark and created all that is.  When He said, “Let there be…” there was…no questions asked.  He had some great ideas…light, earth, sea, and sky.  But He didn’t stop there.  He created things to fill the space….plants, birds, creatures of the sea and land, animals and humans.  He obviously had a sense of humor too…look at a giraffe or manatee and see an artist who doesn’t take Himself too seriously.

But what does this mean to our creative nature?  We are made in the image and likeness of God.  If He creates, so can we.  We don’t have to make something from nothing because God stamped us with creativity.  He wants you to share in His creation.  He has given you talents and passions that will make the world a better place simply because you shared them. 

Sharing our creative side can be risky because it reveals a great deal about our inner selves.  It can be intensely intimate to create things that didn’t exist before whether it be music, art, books or recipes.  You put yourself out there when you embrace your creativity.  But aren’t you glad God did it?  Aren’t you glad that He reveals His personality to you by the things He created?  Aren’t you glad He was intimate with you when He knit you in your mother’s womb?

So what’s it going to be?  Are you going to join The Creator in making something beautiful?  I’d love for you to tell me what you are inspired to create.  But even if you can’t tell me, share it with God.  He will be so proud of you.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Little Miss Linear Gets Creative

Six months ago I would have told you that I was the most uncreative person in the world.  I didn’t think that I had a creative bone in my body.  But all that has changed and I feel that it is for the better.

To me (as evidenced by yesterday’s quiz) creativity is intimate and personal.  This is exactly why I avoided it in myself.  Yet I was always attracted to creative people because I wanted to know what made them tick.  I have always loved to travel and visit museums.  So was my creativity just trying to find a way to express itself?  The answer is a resounding “YES.”

In the last six months I have had my creativity pulled out of me.  In fact, in many ways, I’ve been tricked into creating things.  But much to my amazement I have loved every second of it.  I cannot convey how mind blowing it has been for me to realize that this has been part of who I am all along.  I have written and stretched and laughed more than you can imagine.  It brings me such peace and causes me to examine all facets of life in new ways.

A dear friend of mine, who also happens to be a writer, shared an interesting thing with me.  We were working on a project together and we got stuck on some part of it.  He said it was time to take a break and do some other creative activity.  He shared that when he does that, he comes back ready to write in a new way.  I was panic stricken…..another creative pursuit?  Is he out of his mind?  I am not even a real writer, how can I manage something else?  So we talked about what other things I might be interested in.  He reminded me of my love of the piano and I admitted that I’ve always wanted to paint something.  So, dear reader, I hope you are sitting down..cause Little Miss Linear is now learning to play piano and beginning to paint and writing full time.  I will admit that there are many moments in a day when I have no clue who I am anymore.  But it has been quite a ride.

It seems to have unlocked unspoken potential in me.  I was recently in Spain and thought, I loved speaking Spanish.  Why not go back to it, Ellen?  You could you know.  Anything seems possible these days.  So add speaking Spanish to my list. 

I am so thankful that my friend knew me well enough to know that my creative side was in there and that he knew how to pull it out of me…even with my kicking and screaming at times.  I now pay it forward by offering you the same.  If I am embracing my creative side, so should you!  All of us have been gifted with the ability to create.  What things excite you?  What things have you always wanted to do?  What is stopping you?  Are you brave enough to tell us what you are going to try?

Check back tomorrow to see what biblical character teaches us about creativity.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

What Is Your Creative Style?

Take the quiz below to see what your creative style is:

I found out that I see creativity as a way to communicate parts of myself to the outside world.  What did you discover?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sabbath Sayings

you shall bind this scarlet cord in the window.”  Joshua 2:18

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Scarlet Reflections

What do my favorite colors say about me?

How has God used color to grab my attention?  To soothe my soul?

What does the Bible convey by using red?

Am I bold in my faith?

Have I died to myself?

Do I wear my faith for all to see?  Or do I just blend in?

Do I witness to the scarlet cord of my redemption?

What hope have I found in Rahab?

Do I trust God..and wait?

Am I bold like Rahab?

Do I take a chance on God?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Ask Ellen: What Are The Sacraments? How Many Are There? Fifth Grade Student, PA

The sacraments in their most basic sense are meetings or encounters with Christ.  We cannot encounter Christ and remain unchanged.  The sacraments give us grace, a “share in Jesus’  everliving and lifegiving” (CCC 1116) nature.

Jesus instituted the sacraments and entrusted them to the Church.  They show us who Christ is and allow us to share in communicating Him to the world.

The sacraments help us to live godly lives by infusing us with grace each time we receive them.  Some are received only once, others can be received daily.

There are seven sacraments.  Baptism and Confirmation are sacraments of faith that we receive once.  Baptism initiates you into the Church.  Confirmation makes you a full-fledged member.

There are two more that are only received once as well:  Holy Orders and Matrimony.  These are sacraments of vocation.  Holy Orders transforms a man into a priest.  Matrimony unites a couple as one.

There are three sacraments that can be received more than once.  Anointing of the Sick is a sacrament of healing that is celebrated in times of illness.  Reconciliation can be celebrated anytime we are in need of God’s forgiveness, which for me could be on a daily basis.

The summit of all that we are and do as Catholics is the Sacrament of the Eucharist.  This is where we encounter Jesus in His bodily form.  We receive His actual Body and Blood.

The sacraments are beautiful gifts that Jesus gave to His Church.  We understand that Jesus is present in them and beckoning us to come.  How can we not?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hang Your Cord

Yesterday we focused on the scarlet cord.  Today I want to focus on our sister, Rehab.  Read Joshua 2:1-22.  

Rahab’s story is one of hope and faith.  She was a harlot who was redeemed from her sinful life by the scarlet cord.  She is proof that we cannot outsin God’s love and that there is hope for all of us.  But this redemption wasn’t easy for Rahab.  She hid the Israelites and risked her own neck.  She heard what God had done for Israel and she took action.

But Rahab was also one smart sister.  She had street smarts. (those had to be learned given her occupation)  She cut a deal with the Israelites.  She told them that they owed her protection for what she had done for them.  This is where the scarlet cord fits in.

Rahab had to make her faith evident to the outside world.  She had to hang a red symbol for all to see.  Then she had to trust God…and wait….

Are you feeling like Rahab?  Are you feeling like you’ve gone out on a limb for God and you are waiting for Him to deliver you?  Take heart, my Friend!

If you haven’t felt like Rahab, I ask why.  Are you too beige?  Are you trying not to make your faith evident?  Are you trying to blend in?  Wake up. My Friend, because redemption is passing you by.

The most excellent part of Rahab’s story is that she becomes part of Jesus’ family tree.  A harlot becomes a forerunner of Christ!  Why?  Because she took a chance on God.  What is stopping you?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Frankly, My Dear Scarlet.....

I like the color red.  It is bold.  It makes a statement and it shows off my dark hair..  But what does God convey through the color red?  It certainly evokes a bloody image many times in Scripture.  Red is seen on the lintels of doorways at Passover and in the Cup Jesus gave us at the Last Supper.  But today I want to focus on the scarlet cord in the Book of Joshua.

Rahab is instructed to hang a scarlet cord in her window so the Israelites would pass over her house during the invasion of Canaan.  Why do you think the color mattered?  I think it represented blood and in essence a dying to self.  Rahab needed to make a statement of faith and it needed to be bold.  She had to hang a cord that no one would miss.  She had to risk being “found out” as a believer.

Aren’t we called to the same?  We as believers are called to make a statement with our lives and its supposed to be bold.  We are not called to be beige.  We are not meant to blend in with the world around us.  We have been “passed over” by the scarlet cord of Jesus’ death on the Cross and His Resurrection.  We are called to witness that to the world.

Find a way to express your faith in bold red today.  Because frankly, my dear Scarlet, you should give a darn!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sabbath Sayings

"For the Lord God said, 'it is not good for man to be alone.  I will make a helper suitable for him.'"  Gen 2:18