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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And Snow Is Angel Dandruff

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

Tuesday Table Talk

Ask your children the following questions about the strip:

Are you afraid of thunderstorms?

What are you afraid of?

What parts of nature do you find most interesting?

What does Gracie mean by God needing shoes that big?

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gracenotes: Bathsheba

Click on the podcast link to hear about  this week's character Bathsheba

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Ask Ellen: Who is the patron saint of art? Anna.

I have to admit, Anna, I had to look this one up.  Officially it is St. Catherine of Bologna.  Her feast day is March 9th.

I think she was named the patron saint of art because she painted the many glorious visions she saw.  She also drew lovely pictures that were contained in manuscripts.

She lived a very private and simple life.  She died when she was 49.  Eighteen days after her death, the people reported a beautiful fragrance around her grave.  It was discovered that her body remained untouched.  It is now housed in the Chapel of the Poor Clares in Bologna.  You should get your dad to take you there.  Get some spaghetti while you are there.

A great way to honor St. Catherine would be to have an exhibit of your art on her feast day.  You could have some fun party foods and celebrate the gift of art in your life.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Heart Condition

When we talk about David, we must talk about heart.  Let’s start by thinking about what heart is.  The dictionary describes it as, “personality, disposition, compassion, the innermost character, feelings, inclinations, the fiber or core, the essence or root.”

To a Hebrew the heart was essential.  It was the emotional center of their being.  They considered it the seat of life.  It included your state of mind and moral condition.

The Bible tells us that David had a heart like God’s.  Therefore, we can understand more of the essence of who God is by looking at David’s heart.  There is so much written about David that we could spend the entire year just studying him.  We could spend another year just looking at the Psalms he wrote.  I encourage you to read about David’s life in 1 and 2 Samuel and the Book of Psalms.  But for this week, I will provide an overview of the highlights of David’s life that I think reveal the heart of God to us.

David was humble.  He was a simple shepherd who was made a king out of the blue.  He never forgot his beginnings and always kept his humble spirit.  Sounds like a carpenter from Bethlehem that we all know

David loved music.  He played to soothe Saul’s troubled soul.  He set poetry to music in his beautiful Psalms.  This matters to me as I love to be surrounded my music.  I like to think that God does too.  Music can soothe, it can excite and it convey emotions hidden in our hearts, sometimes better than we can vocalize ourselves.  If David’s heart was like God’s, then God wants you to enjoy music.

David was a warrior.  We all know the Goliath story.  But throughout his life, David was God’s warrior.  God must value that.  He must want us to fight our demons and slay our dragons.  Of course we know that David was successful because he relied on God.  We are called to the same.

David was a friend.  He made a covenant of friendship with Saul’s son, Jonathan.  Theirs is a wonderful story to read.  It is like an ancient version of Beaches.  This must mean that God wants us to have friends.  Not the people you gossip with in the school parking lot.  But friends like Jonathan.  Friends that when you are running for your life, have your back.  Friends that circle their wagons when times get tough.  You are blessed if you have a few throughout your life.  Know that God wants you to have them.  In fact, He placed them in your life for that season intentionally.  I love that about God’s heart.

David was patient with Saul.  David had to run for his life from Saul.  Twice David could have killed Saul but wouldn’t because David would not harm God’s anointed.  This tells us a great deal about David.  He was not out pushing his own agenda.  He was waiting on God’s timing.  God likes that, if he has a heart similar to David.

When David discovers that Saul is dead, he has words of praise for him.  Even though Saul wanted nothing more than to take David out.  David remembered the good in Saul.  This is less fun for me…..a heart like God’s loves his/her enemies.  Ouch!  That is tough.  David gives us a great example.

David centered his life on God.  The first thing he does after becoming king is to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  One of the most powerful scenes of David’s life is of him leaping and dancing before the Ark.  He wanted Jerusalem to not only be the center of his dynasty, but also the center of worship of God.  God wants our lives centered on the worship of Him too.

These are all great examples that show us the essence of who David was.  Sometimes it depresses me because I think, “if that is a heart like God’s , I’m not even close.”  But let’s not overlook another important part of David’s life, Bathsheba.

David was consumed with desire for Bathsheba.  In fact, he committed adultery with her.  As we know all sin has consequences.  David ordered Bathsheba’s husband Uriah killed in battle and takes her as his wife.  She was pregnant with David’s baby at the time and the baby dies.  Unfortunately, for David, the consequences continued throughout his life.  His own son, Absalom, betrayed him.  David’s grief over Absalom is palpable in 2 Sam 18:28-33.  Surely anyone who has experienced the death of a child can relate to those words.

You are probably saying, “Now wait a minute, this guy commits adultery and has people killed….and has a heart like God’s??  I know it may seem off on the surface.  We have to ask ourselves, “why didn’t God abandon David since he sinned?  The answer….David never turned away from God.  Even when he was sinning, he had a heart to love God.

What a message of hope for all of us!  Here’s an update, we will sin.  At times, we will do things we swear we weren’t even capable of doing.  When you find yourself in times of sin, remember David.  Keep your heart searching for God.  You will find Him.  And in the end, your heart will be more like His because of it.

Ask yourself the following questions:

Am I humble?

Am I creative?

Am I warrior?

Am I a friend?

Am I patient?  Do I wait on God’s timing?

Do I love my enemies?

Is my life centered on God?

Do I allow sin to remove me from God or shape me into who He wants me to become?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fish Out Of Water

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

Share the strip with your child and ask them the following questions:

Tuesday Table Talk

What is Gracie's problem?

What picture do you think is the most funny?  Why?

What does Gracie end up doing?  Why?

Monday, July 23, 2012

David's Heart

Click on the Gracenotes link above to hear this week's podcast on David.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Best Of....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, July 18, 2012

The Best Of...Boaz

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, July 17, 2012

Best Of...Gracieland

Our "Best Of" Week wouldn't fly without a look at the best of the Gracieland.  Please visit:
 to see all of the strips.

Below is a Q and A Jimmy and I did before the first Gracieland came out.  Hope you enjoy!

What inspired the creation of Gracieland?

Ellen: Jimmy was helping me create the AGOG website and my Mother-in-law suggested
that we combine our talents and create something for Catholic kids.

Jimmy: Yes, I remember very clearly getting the call from Ellen. My favorite moment was when she suggested we do a "comic type thing." It was hilarious, because she couldn't QUITE bring herself to say "comic strip" or "comic book.

Ellen: Since most of my memories from high school involve Jimmy rambling on about things like Cerebus and Zot, I choked on my own words when I suggested the idea.

Jimmy: Which was mild really considering my first reaction to her suggesting it was to have an aneurysm. But once we both got used to the idea, it started to sound like fun.

Ellen: It is difficult for me to believe that less than a year later, I have a Scott McCloud book on my nightstand.

Q: How did you go about the actual work of developing the idea?

Jimmy: The first step was to create the characters. Obviously, this is the most important part of creating a new property, because people need to love the characters. But it can also be the most fun. One of the weird things about this particular project is that it was accomplished almost completely on Skype or over the phone as we live like five states away from each other.

Ellen: This was a totally new experience for me. This stuff is second nature to Jimmy. What struck me was how easy it was for me to catch up. The characters quickly took on lives of their own.

Jimmy: Actually, that was very surprising. Comics are an odd medium, and collaboration is always tricky. But it was unbelievably smooth, really. My main concern was to make sure that Gracie was not just a Catholic school version of Amelia McBride. I think we accomplished that. Gracie feels very much like her own person to me.

Ellen: Gracie was the focus from the beginning and she is very much her own person. I thought it was neat to see Anthony develop in the background only to emerge in his own way through Gracie's story.

Q: So tell us about these characters. What can we expect from them?

Ellen: Gracie is a free spirited second grader who gets into trouble quite a bit. Yet she has a sweet side and always wants to do the right thing. Plus I love the glimmer in her eye.
oh, and the band-aid

Jimmy: For me, the neat thing about Gracie, and the main difference between her and Amelia is that Gracie isn't quite as... ahead of the curve let's say... as Amelia is. But my favorite character might be her brother Anthony. Most of my characters tend to be boisterous eccentrics, and I love that he's a much more gentle and mild little boy Most of my characters tend to be boisterous eccentrics, and I love that he's a much more gentle and mild little boy.

Ellen: Anthony is so sweet. As the mother of a son, he stole my heart but mostly because he loves baseball. Since the series will encompass the whole family and some of Anthony and Gracie's friends, I think that most people will find a character they relate to, both kids and adults.

Jimmy: Plus there's a dog, Donut. I resisted doing a "funny animal" for my whole career, but the thing I like drawing best in Gracieland is her dog, Donut. That's the type of thing that can only come out of collaboration... something that pushes you outside of the comfort zone of what you would normally do.

Q: Can you tell us about how a Gracieland strip is created?

Jimmy: Sure. The first thing we did was to just brainstorm a list of Catholic School things. We decided we really want to focus on that aspect a lot in the webstrip. Once we had the list, we whittled it down to the ones we thought would be the most fun to work on, and which would give us a chance to show off all of our characters. Then we would just take a topic and start looking at it through they eyes of these characters. Tossing scenarios and dialog back and forth between Ellen and myself. The whole time we're doing this, I'm doing sketches and taking notes. By the end of that process, we have a fully scripted and roughly sketched comic strip which I then take and do the finished art for.

Ellen: We are also working on a series of Gracieland books but publishing can be a slow process. We wanted to find a way to get the characters out quickly so we thought of the webstrip.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Best Of.....

It is a "Best Of" week at A Gift of Grace.  Check back all week to see samples of what we have to offer here.  Today, click on the Gracenotes link to hear one of our podcasts.  We are focusing on a Biblical character and his or her issue.  This week's podcast focuses on King Saul and his struggle with his jealousy of David.

Tomorrow we will have a "Best of Gracieland" segment.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Fun

I need your help again.....

Jimmy is in San Diego for Comic Con.  He is the one who makes our Friday links active.  So, I am hoping that for today, you are willing to simply cut and paste.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Ask Ellen: Are Catholics even Christians? Julie.

I do not usually answer questions as forcefully as I will this one but it pushes my buttons.  Yes, Catholics are Christians and anyone who told you we aren’t was telling you a lie.  All Catholics believe in Christ which is what defines a Christian.  But there is more to it.

Catholics are different from all other Christians in that we do not belong to a denomination.  All other Christians denominated from Catholicism.  The term “catholic” means “universal.”  From the very beginning, the Church spread universally.  In the Early Church, if you were Christian, you were Catholic.  It was that simple.  That is all there was.

The Catholic Church was founded by Christ Himself.  He made Peter the Rock on which He built the Catholic Church.  This Church is apostolic, meaning it has been passed on through unbroken succession for the last 2000+ years.

All other denominations broke off from this one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church and were founded by a man or woman.

So, yes, Catholic are Christians.  I would go as far as to say the original Christians.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Hey, Jealousy!

We have met Samuel.  This week we meet the first king Samuel anointed, Saul.  The Bible tells us that Saul was tall and handsome, better than all in Israel in fact.  Saul looks aren’t his issue.   It is his personality that is the problem.

Let’s look at some critical errors Saul made.  Saul refused to wait for Samuel, the priest, to offer sacrifice, a no-no in God’s book.  Look at what Samuel tells Saul in 1 Sam 13:13-14.  Obviously, Saul was impatient and felt he could do things better on his own.

Saul commits another error in Chapter 15.  The Lord had instituted a ban on Israel’s enemies.  This meant that everything belonging to the enemy must be destroyed.  God did this to protect His people from pagan influence.  It was a matter of security for them.  Saul spares the king and some of the best livestock.  Another no-no in God’s book.  Look at the consequences in 1 Sam 15: 24 and 28.  This reveals another problem with Saul’s personality.  He was hasty and disobedient.

This week we are going to focus on another one of Saul’s character flaws, his jealousy.  When Saul learned that David was given the kingdom and was to become the king, he lost it.  He became consumed by his jealousy of David.  In fact, Saul chased after David for years, trying to kill him.

Biblical Scholar Alert- many of David’s Psalms were written during this time when he was running from Saul to spare his life.

Look how jealousy begins to take hold of Saul in 1 Sam 18:7-16.  Another thing to note is that twice David could have killed Saul but didn’t because he refused to harm God’s anointed.  That speaks more of David’s character and we will talk more about that in weeks to come.

The rest of First Samuel details how Saul’s jealousy of David ruined him.  He died a coward’s death.  Read about it in 1 Sam 31:1-6.  So much for the prettiest boy in all of Israel.

Jealousy can do the same things in our lives.  The dictionary describes it as, “intolerant of rivalry, hostile to one believed to have an advantage, grasping, envious, suspicious, petty, spiteful.”

Saul overlooked all he had been given and focused on what he perceived he did not have.  I am afraid we do the same thing.  Someone will always be smarter, prettier, skinnier, more successful, or maybe even happier than us.  At least we will always think so.  But when we allow jealousy to define us, it saps what is good in us and leaves a void that nothing can fill.  Let’s not end up like Saul with our heads on poles.  Let’s nip jealousy in the bud and begin to enjoy our own gifts and talents.  Lets start this week.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What am I jealous of?

How does it make me feel?

What gifts have I been given?  Why do I not focus on those?

What feelings can I focus on to displace jealousy?

Who can help me?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jump or Don't Already

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

Tuesday Table Talk

What is Gracie complaining about?

Who actually turned water into wine?  Tell me the story.

What does Anthony mean by saying Gracie turned the water into whines?

What things do you like and dislike about swimming?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Gracenotes: Saul

Click on the podcast link to hear about  this week's character Saul, and his problem with jealousy.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Other Self-Evident Truths

Click on the Gracieland icon to see this week's special 4th Of July webstrip.

Tuesday Table Talk

Ask your child:

What does Gracie think in the beginning?

What people do you depend on?

How do you depend on God?

What is your favorite part of the 4th of July?