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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Ask Ellen: Why do Catholics use a crucifix and not a regular cross like other Christians? Holly

This is a great question, Holly.  Can you get to Easter morning without going through Good Friday?  I ask because that is what the crucifix represents.  As Catholics, we remember the suffering that was required to bring about the glory of Easter.  We all know that suffering is part of life.  The Church doesn’t want us to overlook the pain and anguish Jesus went through on His way to Glory.  Therefore, we are reminded every time we see a crucifix.  The crucifix is a promise that through our sufferings, we see God.  To take the Corpus off of the Cross, is to take away the power of suffering.  The next time you see a crucifix, think about what Jesus went through for you and bask in the promise that through your sufferings, you will see God.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Glean With Me?

We have met Naomi and saw how she dealt with her bitterness.  We have also met Ruth, an outsider who truly understood the meaning of family.  This week we meet the hero of the Book of Ruth, Boaz.

Ruth is sent by Naomi to glean in Boaz’s fields.  When you gleaned, you gathered grain from a field that was already harvested.  The Torah said that the far corners of your fields should be left for the poor.  This included widows, which means Ruth.  Strangers, orphans and foreigners we also given the right to glean.

Look at what our hero Boaz says to Ruth in Ruth 2:8-9.  This is a great example of the kindness of Boaz.  Look at 2:14.  Here he goes over and above what was required of him.  He offers Ruth her fill of food.  Look at verse 16.  Here he tells his workers to drop some grain for her, making it easier for her to collect.

Ruth goes home to Naomi and tells her of Boaz’s kindness.  Look at what Naomi says in verse 20.  Boaz is their kinsman redeemer.  The footnote in my Bible says “One of our next of kin literally means our redeemer.”  If a male relative died, it was the duty of the next male kin to restore his land, marry his widow and bring sons forth to carry on his line.  This is what Naomi is telling Ruth about Boaz.

The exchange in chapter three is somewhat confusing if you don’t understand that the kinsman redeemer was a common practice.  Let’s read Ruth 3:1-11.  “Uncover a place at his feet” means stake your claim as his.  Naomi was confident that Ruth and Boaz were virtuous so she was not afraid to send Ruth to him like this.  “Spread the corner of your cloak over me” means marry me and protect me, which is your duty as our next of kin.  I love what he says in verse 11.  Remember Ruth is struggling with feeling like an outsider.  Here Boaz tells her that he will restore her reputation.

The story takes a turn here as they have to clear the marriage with another family member.  Read 4:10.  Boaz agrees to marry Ruth.  They have a son, Obed who is the grandfather of David.

Boaz’s issue is that he is “Mr. Right.”  Many of us have spent years searching for Mr. Right.  If you are married to him, Congratulations.  Thank him today.  If you are not, pray he becomes like Boaz.  If you are still searching for him, use Boaz as an example of what to look for.

Boaz was Ruth’s redeemer.  Now, we know that we only have one Redeemer, Jesus.  But let’s look at what a redeemer does.  The dictionary says “saves from danger or destruction, defender, protector, release from blame.”  Sounds like Mr. Right to me.

Boaz is what men are called to be.  He showed kindness to Ruth.  In fact, he saves her from starvation.  He went over and above what was required.  He had virtue.  He didn’t take advantage of her.  He defended her.  He protected her reputation.  He committed to her and married her.  He released her from the shame of being a foreign widow.  Does the man in your life do that for you?

I am not advocating that if he doesn’t you should kick him to the curb.  You need to pray for God to introduce him to Boaz.  I am mainly speaking to those women searching for Mr. Right.  Boaz doesn’t have the qualities our society tells you matter in a man.  But, who wouldn’t want what he gives Ruth?  Accept nothing less, Ladies.  And for all the men listening, step up to the plate and treat your woman the way Boaz did.  Neither of you will be sorry.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Starry Night

Click on the Gracieland icon on the bottom right of the home screen to see this week's webstrip.  To see all the strips, please visit:

Tuesday Table Talk

Do you think the night sky is beautiful?  Why?

What does it mean "to be one with the Divine?"

How does Gracie feel about Angry Birds?

Can you feel close to God even when you are doing fun things like playing a game?

What other times do you feel close to God?

Monday, May 28, 2012

New podcast today!

Just because it's a holiday weekend, doesn't mean there's no new podcast. Click the link above to hear this week's look at a biblical character and their issues.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ask Ellen If I am divorced, that means I can’t receive Communion, right? Lisa.

Thanks for the question, Lisa.  This is one of the most misunderstood things in the Church today.  Yes, you can receive Communion if you are divorced.  You may not receive if your marriage hasn’t been annulled and you are involved with or married to someone else.

In the eyes of the Church, a legal divorce does not end the marriage.  It is still a sacramental marriage (meaning a sacrament took place)  So you can receive Communion as you did in your married life. (assuming you are free from any other mortal sins).

The problem becomes when you are involved with someone or remarry without an annulment.  See, cause in the eyes of the Church you are still married to person number one.  Therefore, you aren’t free to marry anyone else. 

In order to do so, you must seek an annulment.  This is a process the Church uses to decide whether or not a sacramental marriage occurred.  Many times and for many reasons it might not have been a sacramental marriage and it is annulled.  This means you are fee to remarry and to continue to receive Communion.  Does that make sense?  If not, I encourage you and anyone else with questions about annulments to ask your parish priest.  If you are unable to do so, contact me and I will put you in touch with someone who can help.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

All In the Family

Last week we focused on our friend, Naomi.  This week we move to the character that the book is named for, Ruth.  We learned last week that Ruth was a Moabite.  This meant she was a pagan and not part of God’s covenant family.  We also learned that she was widowed at an early age.

Naomi released her daughters-in-law to go back to the families where they would have protection.  Without men women in this ancient culture were very vulnerable.  Look at what happens in Ruth 1:14.  Ruth chose to stay with Naomi, her mother-in-law.

Naomi tries to reason with her.  Lets look at verses 15-18.  In these verses not only does Ruth accept her MIL, Naomi, but she also accepts God and is brought through Naomi into God’s covenant family.

Ruth problems aren’t over though.  She and Naomi return to the Promised Land with no man to protect them and to provide for them.  She is forced to glean wheat in the fields like the poor.  Look at how she views herself in Ruth 2:10.  Even though Naomi has accepted her and she has accepted God, she still felt like an outsider.

I love how Boaz describes Ruth and what she has sacrificed in verses 11-12.  It is clear to Boaz that by accepting Naomi and caring for her, she is part of God’s family.  If you continue to read the verses following, you she what a gentle spirit Ruth had.

At this point, Naomi devises a plan to get Boaz to marry Ruth.  In ancient Israel, if your husband dies, his nearest kin would take you in and protect you.  It was called a kinsman redeemer.  Naomi knows this is Boaz.  Look at how Ruth responds to her MIL in 3:5.  When is the last time you answered your MIL like that?

The plan is set in motion.  Look at what Boaz says about being the kinsman redeemer in 4:5.  Ruth and Naomi are a package deal.  Ruth knew this all along.  The kinsman redeemer gets Naomi’s land but must take Ruth and raise a family with her.  This is a great example of an outsider truly understanding what it means to be a family.

Ruth’s issue was her mother-in-law.  But this week I want to focus on all the people on the fringes of our nuclear families.  They might be your in laws.  But you may also have blended your family with another.  Whatever the case examine how you treat those you gained through marriage (either your own or someone else’s)   The ancient Hebrew culture didn’t differentiate.  When you married, you all became family.  Notice that Ruth doesn’t take the easy way out, even though with her husband gone she had every right to leave.

Too often we see those we’ve gained through marriage as a nuisance or competition.  How would life change if we were welcoming and accommodating?  Maybe we need to realize that the family we married into or were married into didn’t pick us either.  Not everyone has a say in who becomes family.  But everyone has the ability to be kind and nurturing and welcoming.  How have you treated the people on the fringes of your family?  Ask yourself the following questions:

How do I treat my in laws?  My step children?

What can I learn from Ruth?

Would I have left Naomi and returned home?

Am I understanding of the needs of my in laws or step children?

Do I feel jealous of them or compete?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Come On In, Without The Fuss

Click on the Gracieland icon on the lower right of the home page to see this week's new webstrip.

Tuesday Table Talk

Ask your child:

How is tending to a garden similar to being a mom?

What "weeds" does your mom try to keep away from you?

Can zucchini get detention?  What does Gracie mean by this?

What does mom mean by "an early harvest"?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Faithful Ruth

Click on the Gracenotes link above to hear this week's podcast about Ruth and her understanding of family.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Fun

Jimmy has taken a few days off to be with his family.  Why am I telling you this?  He makes the links for Fridays active.  I have no clue how to do it.  So, for today, please cut and paste the link below to see this week's song.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Ask Ellen: Why do we even bother with the Old Testament? It is so boring. Travis.

Thanks for the honest question, Travis.  Many people share your sentiments.  I know many people have told me that they don’t bother reading the Old Testament.  They believe all they need to know can be found in the New Testament.

While it is true that Jesus came and offered us the way to eternal life, many truths are contained within the Old Testament.  I would go so far as to say, we can’t fully understand Jesus and His words and actions or even our Catholic faith without the Old Testament background.

For instance the full meaning of Jesus as the Lamb of God is wasted without a complete understanding of the stories of Abraham and Isaac and the Exodus.

I think the problem is that people have not been taught the Old Testament in an engaging way.  I was fortunate enough to find “The Bible Timeline” by Jeff Cavins.

I have recommended this study before.  I think it should be run in every parish throughout the country.  It was truly an eye opening experience.  In fact, I invite anyone who has done it, to comment below.  When you study the Old Testament, you see how pregnant it is with meaning.  It literally sheds light on Jesus’ every word and action.

We are also fortunate as Catholics that the Old Testament is read at Mass.  It is not a coincidence that it is paired with a reading from the New Testament and the Gospel.  The three are grouped together for a reason.  If you listen closely, you will see the correlation between the three.

My advice would be study the Old Testament.  Don’t give up on it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bitter As A Green Spring Berry

This week we leave the Book of Judges behind and move on to the Book of Ruth.  These two books take place during the same time period.  This week we will focus on our first of three friends from the Book of Ruth, Naomi. 

Naomi and her family are forced to leave the Promised Land due to famine.  She is widowed.  Her two sons accompany her on the journey to the pagan country of Moab.  There her sons marry two Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth.  Quickly we learn that her two sons die as well, leaving her with no male to protect her and her daughters-in-law. 

Read Naomi’s list of woes in Ruth 1:11-13.  Naomi is begging her daughters-in-law to go back to their families for she has nothing to offer them.  In verse 13, Naomi herself reveals her issue, bitterness.

Orpah agrees to return to her family but Ruth vows to stay with her mother-in-law. (we learn more about Ruth next week.)  Naomi and Ruth return to the Promised Land.  Look at how Naomi greets those in her hometown in Ruth 1:20-21.

The footnote in my Bible says the following about this exchange: “Naomi means ‘amiable or pleasant.’ Suggesting God’s favor to her.  The Almighty has brought evil upon me: the ancients regarded adversity as a punishment from God for personal sin, as if good and evil were always repaid in a temporal and material manner.”

Naomi believed her bitterness was caused by God.  Often times, so do we.

The good news for Naomi is that she doesn’t stay bitter.  Unfortunately many of us do.

We are going to skip ahead in this story because we will be spending three weeks in this four chapter book.  By the time we are finished you will know the Book of Ruth and its three main characters very well.

Anyway, Naomi helps Ruth (next week’s girlfriend) snag Boaz (the week after’s best man), her Kinsman Redeemer.  Read Ruth 4:14.  This grandson of Ruth is Obed, who is the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Ruth 4:16 tells us that Naomi placed Obed on her lap.  This is an expression meaning treated him like he was her own son.  Surely Naomi’s tears had been turned into dancing.

This week let’s look at the role bitterness plays in our own lives.  The dictionary describes bitterness as “severe pain, suffering, marked by intensity and severity, grief, regret, deep-seated resentment, hard, discontented, disgruntled.”

Bitterness leaves a person hard.  It takes away any softness we possess and makes us brittle, inside and out.  Naomi refused to let a period of sadness define her.  All too often, people do not do what Naomi did.  Are you one of them?

Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I ever felt that God was the cause for sorrow in my life?

Do I allow my bitterness define me?

When have my tears been turned into dancing?

Do I have deep-seated resentment about things in my life?

Am I discontented?

What can I learn from Naomi?

How can God address my bitterness?  Have I allowed Him to?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Just Keep Swimming

Click on the Gracieland icon on the bottom right of the screen to see this week's strip.  To see all of the strips, please visit:

Tuesday Table Talk

Do you think Jonah is a good name for a fish?  Why or why not?

What does it mean "to convert" someone?

Why is Jonah confused?

What is a vegan?  Why is that important to Jonah?

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Bitter Root

Click on the Gracenotes link above to hear this week's podcast about Naomi and her issue of bitterness.  Check back tomorrow for a new Gracieland.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The "Best Of" Gracieland Week Continues

We will be showing some behind the scenes stuff and featuring some classic Gracieland webstrips all week on our Facebook page.

Stop by each day to see it all:

Or click the blue Facebook button on the home screen.  

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Every Day Is Pumpkin Pants Day

Click on the Gracieland icon on the bottom right of the home screen to see this week's webstrip.

Tuesday Table Talk

Ask your child:

Why is Anthony embarrassed?

Why does your mom deserve a special day?

What things can you do to help make her feel special?

Monday, May 7, 2012

A "Best Of" Gracieland Week

This week we are celebrating all things Gracieland.  We will be showing you some behind the scenes stuff and sharing some of our favorite Gracieland moments.  Today check out our Gracieland podcast.  Click on the Gracenotes link above to hear it.  And check back tomorrow for a brand new webstrip.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Best of Ask Ellen

Ask Ellen- What is the apocrypha? -Cindy, NC

Great question, Cindy.  Thanks.  The Apocrypha is a name given by some to the seven books that have been removed from Protestant Bibles.  Catholics do not call these books the Apocrypha because they are part of our Bible.  The books are: Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, as well as longer versions of Daniel and Esther

To put it in the simplest terms I can, Luther and many after him rejected these books based on the fact that they were not part of the Hebrew Canon at the time of the Reformation.  Most Protestant Bibles do not contain these seven books or have them in section in the back known to them as The Apocrypha.

The Catholic Bible accepts the books for two reasons.  Firstly, the Jewish Canon was not fixed in Jesus’ time.  Therefore, we cannot be completely sure which books were included.  But more importantly, the first Christians, including Paul, used the Septuagint to preach to the Greek-speaking world.  This contained these seven books.  Jesus Himself actually quoted Scripture from the Septuagint.  When the Catholic Church developed its canon it used the Greek translation of the Septuagint that the Apostles and early Church Fathers used which included these books.

If you’d like to learn more about this, I recommend the following article:

Oh and one more thing that bugs Ask Ellen….If you throw out Maccabees, how do you explain Hanukkah?  It seriously perplexes me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Bad Hair Day?

This week we continue in the Book of Judges.  Last week we met Deborah and talked about her issue, reliability.  This week we will focus on a more famous Judge, Samson.  Many of you probably know of Samson from early childhood Bible coloring sheets.  But his story deserves a deeper, more adult look.  So, let’s get started. Samson is born in Chapter 13 of Judges.  We quickly learn that he is a special child.  In fact, he is consecrated for the Lord, a Nazarite.  One of the important things that Nazarites adhered to was that they weren’t supposed to cut their hair.  This becomes key later in the story.

When you read Samson’s story, you will see that the phrase “the spirit of the Lord” recurs many times throughout the narrative.  The way a Nazarite showed that the Lord was with him was in not cutting his hair.  Anyway, watch for the phrase as you read.

Let’s skip ahead in Samson’s story.  Look at Judges 14:6.  This highlights Samson’s issue, his strength.  In Chapter 15 we learn that he defeats the Philistines.  He judged Israel for twenty years.  Look at Judges 16:3.  Samson is using his strength in wise ways. He is very aware that it is a gift from God and he is using it to help God’s people.

Now enters, Delilah.  Many of you have also heard of her.  She is Samson’s downfall.  I’m sure many men can relate to their story.  Let’s talk a look at it.  Read Judges 16:4-21.  Delilah wore him down with her many words.  I think the men in my life might say the same of me.  In the process of trying to appease his lover, Samson reveals the very thing that gave him his strength.  He allows his hair to be cut.  This symbolized his connection with God.  Don’t miss what happens in verse 20, “he did not realize that the Lord had left him.”  Those words chill me.  Oh that we wouldn’t have the same fate.

Samson offered his strength to Delilah to please her.  But see it wasn’t his to give.  It came from God and at this point God removes it.  Samson is weak and alone in prison.  Luckily, God never really leaves us.  This is shown in verse 22.  His hair begins to grow back, meaning his connection with God and his strength.  Lets’ skip ahead to verses 26-30 to see how Samson’s story ends.  He offered his strength up to save his people.  He was successful even though it cost him his very life.

This week let’s look at the role strength plays in our own lives.  It can be a double edged sword.  If you have too little of it, you aren’t using what God gave you.  If you have too much of it, you are using it for yourself and not for God and others.

The dictionary describes strength as “being strong, the ability to accomplish a task, energy, firepower, might, capacity, effectiveness, usefulness.”  When Samson was on, he had these qualities.  When he squandered away what God had given him, he had none.  Let’s look at strength is our own lives this week.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Have I squandered away the strength God has given me?

Do I use my strength to honor God and help others?

Have I allowed others to draw me away from God?

Do I have too much or too little strength?

Has the spirit of the Lord left me and I have been unaware?  What can I do to correct that?

What can I learn from Samson?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

One Size Fits All

Click on the Gracieland icon on the bottom right of the home screen to see this week's Gracieland.

Tuesday Table Talk

Ask your child:

What is Gracie's problem?

What did Lily want for her birthday?

What person in your life needs a hug?

How would the world be different if people hugged more?