This is Amy. Well, actually, it isn't Amy. It's a random picture of a beautiful little girl. However, this is a true story of a little girl who inspired me, but I wanted to keep her identity confidential so I will call her Amy.
I love prayer. I love it so much that I began Give Him 5 to encourage people to pray. Unfortunately, I will be the first to admit that I sometimes have a difficult time finding time to pray. Yes, I attend Mass a few times a week. Yes, I say my Rosary most days, (often while doing dishes at my kitchen sink.) Yes, I think about Jesus and talk to Him throughout my day. For the most part, these are all very good things that keep me connected to the Lord and submersed in my faith. My struggle is with carving out that quiet time each day to have a conversation and to sit with my best friend, Jesus.
Now, back to Amy. She is a little girl in the second grade who attended a retreat last week in preparation for receiving her First Reconciliation. At the retreat, there were different activities and stations to learn about the sacrament and to keep the kids interested. It was a three hour retreat! There were sixty children in attendance and it was a beautiful day. The Director of Religious Education at the parish did an amazing job of coordinating and coming up with creative ideas for the kids.
On that day, Amy received a Give Him 5 prayer bag and door hanger to hang up when she is praying. Included in each bag is a prayer card with steps for prayer. The first step is to, "Find a quiet place." According to her Dad, Amy didn't miss a night of prayer time and loved using her bag. "She has been praying every night," said her Dad.
Things were going well until one night when Amy ran into a little problem. There was a lot of extra activity going on at home and she was having a hard time finding a place to pray. The house was louder than expected and her usual spot for prayer wouldn't work. Amy didn't let that stop her. According to her Dad, "Amy went into the bathroom and hung up her door hanger outside the door." This was the signal that prayer time was going on and she was not to be disturbed!
When the DRE told me this story, it affected me in two different ways. First, my heart overflowed with joy at the thought of Give Him 5 having such an impact on a young life. (Every time I hear a story like that I get choked up.)
Second, it made me take a good look at how I'm falling short of my desire to spend more time alone with the Lord in a quiet place. It is in the quiet that the friendship is deepened. It is in the quiet that I can listen more closely for His voice.
I KNOW this. I know what I need to do, but I still struggle at times.
Amy has truly inspired me to think about my priorities and to find time for those irreplaceable quiet moments in prayer. I'm pretty sure that I will have different alternatives than the one Amy chose, but her creativity has motivated me to deliberately figure out how I can add the time for quiet prayer into my day. Because of her example, I am determined to find a way. Thank you Amy for inspiring me!
Prayer can be hard! It seems like it should come naturally but many people will admit they have a difficult time figuring it out. They don't know how to get started and feel foolish asking for help. Praying can also be hard to explain to someone else, especially your kids. Follow these six simple steps to make prayer easy and fun. Get your kids praying! If you want to ignite your prayer life, you can try them too.
#1. Find The Place
Where you pray is important. You can’t have a meaningful conversation with a friend if you are in a crowded room surrounded by noise and distractions. The same is true for a conversation with Jesus. Help your child find a place that is quiet, comfortable, and free of distractions. Some kids like to create their own special place for prayer. It doesn’t need to be fancy. It should include things that are special to your child. Here is one example from a friend of mine. This is where her daughter loves to pray.
#2. Be An Inspiration
Children tend to imitate the important people in their lives. As a parent, you have more influence on your child than any other single person. This can be a daunting realization, but in this case, you can use it to your advantage. Make prayer a priority in your day. Let your kids see you pray and spend time with them together in prayer. Also, explain that everyone needs time alone with Jesus. You can even have your private prayer time at the same time, but in separate locations, and then come together and talk about your time spent with the Lord.
#3. Schedule It In
We all know how easily the day can get away from us. We begin with the best of intentions but become sidetracked by those unexpected events of the day. When we aren’t intentional, the day flies by, and it’s already time for bed before we have made time for prayer. Rather than hastily trying to fit it in when you and your child are exhausted and irritable, put your prayer time on the schedule and make it a priority earlier in the day. Think of it as an important appointment with Jesus. We write other things on the calendar that are important to us, like sports games and play dates. Do the same for your good friend Jesus and schedule Him in.
#4. Find A Visual That Works
I think you will agree that staying focused has become a very difficult thing for many people. Our children are no exception. In our fast paced world of technology, kids have become accustomed to moving images and switching from one activity to the next at lightning speed. They expect to be entertained constantly. This can be a very real problem. Unfortunately, the act of sitting quietly for any length of time has become a difficult thing for most children to do. A simple way to help your child stay focused is to give them something tangible to focus on. Help your child find a picture of Jesus that speaks to them. Looking into His face is a wonderful way to be reminded that Jesus is there. Having a picture of Jesus will help your child to think of prayer as spending time with a friend. Here is one example of a picture that I like to use for myself.
#5. Get Them Started
Now the praying begins. What do I say in my prayer time? Here is a simple formula that really works for prayer. It's called the FAITH message. Each letter of the word FAITH stands for a different step. You can see the steps clearly on these prayer cards that come with the Give Him 5 prayer bag. The prayer bag is a great tool because it includes the 5 minute sand timer and a few other items to help with prayer, but it certainly isn't required.
If you would like an example of how the FAITH message is used in prayer, listen to these free audios that lead you through your five minutes of prayer time. They are a wonderful way to get started and work well for kids and adults.
#6. Write It Down- The Final Step
If your child is old enough to write or draw a picture, gather together a notebook or journal and a pencil or pen before praying. Encourage your child to take the extra step to keep a record of what happened during their time with Jesus. Have your child pray first and then take a few minutes to write down their thoughts or draw a picture. What was important to them today? What did they tell Jesus about? What were they thankful for? Did they ask Him anything? What was the response they heard in their heart?
This step is important in building a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you don’t journal, you have missed an opportunity to hold onto those times spent together in prayer. Too often, we think that we will remember our experience, but time passes and it fades from our mind. Tell your child that if they keep a journal, then they will be able to look back and remember the things that touched their heart and how much they enjoyed their time with Jesus.
Here is one example from the book To KNOW the Savior Prayer Guide & Journal of what a journal page might look like.
Remind your child how much Jesus loves them and how He wants to spend time with them every day. Friends make time for each other. Take these steps to help your child begin a lifelong friendship with Jesus.
Don't forget to use the code "Advent" to receive 20% off reg. priced items
for prayer encouragement products from Give Him 5.
This blog post is part of the Catholic Women Blog Network’s monthly blog hop.
To learn more and read other great posts about Advent traditions click here.
"Why is Mass so boring?" How many times have you heard your children say these words in that, “nails on a chalkboard” whiny voice? How many times, dare I ask, have you thought them to yourself? I will honestly admit that I have had this same thought many, many times during my life.
I despised Mass when I was growing up and I couldn’t imagine a more boring place to be. As a matter of fact, when I think back on going to Mass as a kid, I am sad to say I really have only one distinct memory.
Yep, that is the hat hook on the back of the pew. It was the only thing that kept me from dying of boredom as I played with it during what seemed like an endless droning of music, words and "exercise" (standing & kneeling) that is also known as the Mass.
Some of you who know me may be shocked by this confession. I certainly would be. Maybe some of you can relate to my experience. I will also tell you that my early adult years were anything but stellar when it came to Mass attendance. Once I moved out of my parent’s home, I was gone! I was a grown up so, "Why would I waste my time with Mass?"
BUT- something kept drawing me back. It was a quiet force that kept nudging me and pulling me in. I now know that it was the Holy Spirit. Things began to change, but it didn't happen overnight. Honestly, the change in my heart occurred over the span of many years. But change it did! I won’t go into the details of the transformation in this post, but the short story is- I found Jesus!
And now? I love the Mass! I love being Catholic! On Sunday morning, I can’t wait to go to Mass and I am giddy with excitement! I will ask my husband if we can go early and he will usually oblige. He doesn’t have quite the same enthusiasm, but he is getting there.
I am writing this with the hope that what I have learned might help someone else become more excited about Mass. I also have a few tips for paying attention and staying focused. We are human after all, and our concentration naturally wanders when there is a distraction like a screaming child or a passing thought of lunch. I struggle with it myself. Here is what has helped me:
*Educate yourself – I grew up going to religion classes, but I wasn’t taught what the Mass was really about. I didn’t know why we did certain actions or said different prayers. Inform yourself and learn. There are some absolutely amazing things that are happening during the Mass. Don’t be in the dark.
A book that I really like is A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, by Dr. Edward Sri. Find a book that explains the Mass at whatever level you are at. Don’t be afraid to ask your priest questions. I’m sure he will be thrilled that you are trying to learn.
*Believe- What do you believe? I want you to really think about this. Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. Truly present, right there on the Altar! If you find yourself doubting, educate yourself on the teachings of the church or better yet, check out some stories of Eucharistic Miracles. This one about the miracle in Buenos Aires will blow you away. There was a time that I struggled with my own belief in the true presence, but I don’t anymore, and it has changed how I experience Mass. My belief has impacted me so much that I was inspired to write and produce this song.
*Pray –This seems fairly obvious. However, I’m not referring exclusively to prayer during Mass, although you should be doing that too. I mean pray-EVERY SINGLE DAY! Get used to spending time with Jesus and making Him a natural part of your life. Once you do, Mass will take on a new meaning and you will be coming to see a beloved friend (Jesus) when you attend Mass.
*Close your eyes – No, I don’t mean take a nap! If there is movement in the church or you are distracted by that bright yellow shirt across the aisle, close your eyes. Think about the fact that you are in the presence of God. Picture Him there with you and focus your attention on Him. Pray, ask God to help you with your distraction and make you more aware of His presence.
For you ladies, I want to tell you that wearing a veil is a powerful experience during Mass. I call it my "Jesus tent." I was terrified when I felt the Lord was asking me to veil. My parish is not a place where women veil. My husband wasn’t on board either. Eventually, I felt the urge so strongly that I didn’t care what anyone else thought and I began to veil. I will never go back.
As you attend Mass, remember that the Lord delights in you. He loves your efforts. If you find yourself becoming distracted, draw yourself back in. If you leave the church wondering what just happened or if you are feeling like you didn’t “get anything out of it,” take a good look at what you are “putting into it.” Because, what you put into it, could possibly make all of the difference in the world.
This blog post is part of the Catholic Women Blog Network’s monthly blog hop. To learn more and to read how other women stay focused during Mass, please click HERE.
I want to share with you a secret weapon that I learned about years ago. I will give you one hint- it’s parked outside in your driveway. Whether you drive a Subaru hatchback or a 14 passenger monster van, it makes no difference. Either one can be transformed into an evangelizing, faith sharing, scripture teaching prayer center on wheels.
That hunk of metal is your own private classroom and/or retaining cell, whichever way you choose to look at it. As your family climbs inside, don’t make the mistake of allowing the screens to be turned on. Satan would love it if each miniature human was mindlessly distracted by flashing images for the entire ride. When the screen is on, with games or videos, the disengagement is complete and you have lost them.
The beauty of an automobile is that when those little bodies are clicked safely into place there is nowhere for them to go. You now have their full attention. Even if your children are 6 feet away in the back of a 14 passenger cargo van, they can still hear your voice. Now let the fun begin!
Make your time together happy and light. Regardless of how much tension there may have been while getting ready, once the wheels start turning, begin anew. Put on your liveliest sing-song voice and lead everyone in prayer with, “Good morning! We are going to thank the Lord for this beautiful day! Who has something they want to thank Jesus for?” You can begin and let everyone else chime in.
Then say something like, “OK everyone, who has something they want to pray about this morning?” Let each person add their own intentions out loud.
Perhaps you have a lesson that you’re going over in your faith formation class or something you want to teach. Other options might include learning the St. Michael Prayer, the books of the Bible, talking about what Father spoke about on Sunday in his homily, or putting on a Christian song to sing. Laugh and enjoy the time learning together.
These are the moments you want to seize. These are the times that you don’t want to be filled with crabbiness and rushing to get from one place to another. Don’t zone out when you get in the car! Use this time to get your children’s attention and introduce them to new topics in the faith.
Be ready, plan ahead, and try to prepare with things you can discuss or learn in the car together. Most importantly- talk, talk and talk! Focus on praying for other people. Teach intercessory prayer or try praying to a different saint each day. The options are endless.
While driving, if you see a police car or ambulance with the siren on, take a moment and pray together for peace within that situation. Pray for God to be with them. Give your children the opportunity to think about the Lord even in these everyday circumstances. Spark those flames of faith. Ignite those feelings of love for Jesus and the idea that He is with us each moment of every day. Use your vehicle as a vehicle to bring your kids closer to the Lord and closer to heaven.
Why I Love Lent and You Should Too
Yes- I love Lent. Years ago, a friend of mine seemed perplexed by that idea. Looking back on it, I can see why she had this reaction. In her mind, as is common with many people, Lent is a time to give up the things that are precious to us. It is a time to sacrifice and go hungry or without comforts or the pleasures of this world for 40 days. That is a mighty long time!
So what is there to love?
If you do it right, if you choose to take it seriously, Lent will transform your life.
My recommendations? Don't simply give up something in your life for Lent but give in to more of Jesus in your life. Whether that means time for daily prayer, time for daily Mass, time for Adoration, or some other time for the Lord, it is in the time that the true change will take place.
As you can tell, I feel very passionately that time makes the difference. Wait- don't get discouraged and say, "I don't have time! My life is out of control the way it is!"
Take a deep breath, I'm not talking about something that is unattainable. I'm talking about 5 minutes. Can you carve out 5 minutes of your day for someone who longs to be with you? Of course you can! I know you can do it. I want you to do it because I KNOW it will make a change in your life. I know it changed mine and that is what I want for you.
If you're not sure where to start, pick up a good book on prayer like the To Know The Savior Prayer Guide & Journal and turn to the prayer page that speaks to your heart. Don't forget to journal about your time spent with Jesus and write down what you felt God was telling you. This will make your prayer time more powerful and you can look back on your writings and be reminded of your time with Jesus. I guarantee that the journaling will allow Jesus to speak to your heart in a new way.
Be intentional and give a part of your day to Jesus. He will take what you have given and He will touch your heart. If you are consistent with your commitment to spending 5 minutes every day with Jesus, something within you will experience a complete transformation. You will hear His voice more clearly. You will see Him in your life in a new way. You will be reminded of His great love for you and how He is right there by your side each and every day.
At the end of Lent, when the time has come to feast and celebrate His resurrection, your life will look different, your heart will feel different and your relationship with Jesus will be different. You may be eating your chocolates and indulging in more of life's pleasantries, but your desire for God will have changed. You will see Him more clearly in your daily walk and you will want to stay close to Him because it feels good to know He is there.
Your Lenten journey may have been for a mere 40 days, but the shift in your desire for Him and the intensity of your love for Him will remain with you. Your love for Jesus will have changed and the way you look at your life and everything in it will have changed. Because His love changes everything!
That change is why I LOVE LENT!
A child came to earth, grew in wisdom & knowledge, became a man and died on a cross for you.
How does that change anything? How does that change you? The way you live, the words you speak or the decisions you make at any given moment of the day?
Think about it.
Are you living your life with this idea in mind? The idea, the reminder, the incredible truth, that YOU are important enough for God to become a man and sacrifice Himself for you?
An omnipotent God, the one who created the universe and every microcosm within it, loves you enough the He would give His life for you!
Dare I ask again- how does that change you?
Spend some time pondering that question and ask Jesus what changes He would like to make in your life. Examine your choices and ask Him what He would have you doing differently. Are you afraid to ask? Worried what you might hear Him say? In His own words, Jesus said, "I have not come to condemn." He wants to help you. He wants you to be with Him for all eternity.YOU are the reason He did what he did.
Make the changes in your life that will allow you to follow Him more closely. Ask Him for His guidance and help. Pray- "Jesus, you gave your life for me. Help me to respond to you by giving you mine in return." Amen.
I have a confession to make.