Happy 4th of July! May God bless America and every inch of this precious Planet Earth!
We’re about to begin a new month, and guess what? Two weeks until Valentine’s Day! Despite the media hype and commercialization, February 14th still invites us to reflect on friendship. We all know that friendship doesn’t just happen. It’s a process that takes time—a lifetime.
How about trying something new this year and take the 14-day Valentine Challenge? Between now and February 14th spend time each day reflecting on your friendship with Jesus. After all, that friendship is the most important one we have! Consider things like: How friendly am I with Jesus? Are we bff’s? When did we last spend time together? What do we usually talk about? Who does most of the talking? How much do you really know about him? I’m sure you’ll think of more questions! Consider placing red flowers somewhere in your home to remind you of your commitment to deepening friendship with Jesus. Then, when February 14th arrives, you’ll really have a reason to celebrate!
Christmas trees seem especially exquisite this year, beautifully decorated and attractive. In the traditional carol, O Christmas Tree, we sing, “how lovely are thy branches.” This song originally referred not to Christmas but simply to the fir tree as a symbol of constancy and faithfulness. It does, however, seem just perfect for this season.
So don’t take that tree down too quickly! Contemplate its splendor during these days between Christmas and the New Year. Settle down in a comfortable chair, dim all other lights, and let the tree sparkle. Graceful branches that stretch out in silent praise are firmly rooted together. Each one carries a bit of light that collectively brightens a whole room. Ornaments that adorn each branch hold tender stories of family, friendship and life’s milestones.
Are we not those branches, beautiful, strong, and bound together? The love brought by the babe of Bethlehem continues in us. As we prepare resolutions for the New Year, we might keep in mind that Christ, our light, will be more visible when we respect the unique goodness and beauty within ourselves and others and resolve to let it shine. O Tree of Life, how very lovely are your branches!
Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas. Nicholas is beloved in many parts of the world, and often invoked interchangeably with Santa Claus. I came to appreciate the life of St. Nicholas when I attended St Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston, IL. Early December was filled with activities based on the life of our patron saint. Also during those years we hosted an Ursuline Sister from the Netherlands for whom December 6th was a most festive celebration of gift-giving, delicious treats and surprise acts of kindness. That experience has lived with me ever since.
We’ve probably all experienced giving or receiving “random acts of kindness.” That was what St. Nicholas was known for. As a young man, he used his inheritance to secretly help villagers when they were struggling to make ends meet. Families and individuals would find bags of gold coins at their door or tossed down the chimney. As I reflect on this, I wonder what secret acts of Advent kindness I could do for someone? I’ve got a few ideas. What about you? I invite you to join me in a conspiracy of kindness during these next weeks of Advent and beyond.
About this photo: Last week I visited St. Ferdinand’s school in Florissant, MO. Artwork from the Pre-K classes adorned the hallway. This one tickled my fancy. I think Leo definitely has the spirit of St. Nicholas!
During these days before Thanksgiving, I find myself intentionally trying to slow down—not just my pace, but my thoughts, activities, desires and expectations. In the Big Scheme of things, not much of it really matters anyway. For me, life is about living with an open heart. The more I practice this (and it takes a LOT of practice!), the more I find myself overwhelmed by gratitude. I catch glimpses of myself and all of creation with new eyes. It is pure gift. Is there a practice you have for living with an attitude of gratitude? We’d love to hear it.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough. -Melody Beattie