Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Things For This Good Friday

Good Music:
All that I am is dry bones
Without you Lord, a desert soul
I am broken but running toward You God
You make me whole
You make me whole

Good Art:
My friend Kayla has started a graphic design business, and I love her stuff.  
She is offering a free 8x10 art print of the above design to a lucky winner
who shares this post on facebook.  It could be you!  Go share :)

Good Stories:

This week, I focused a lot of our classroom discussion around the events of Holy Week and the coming Easter season.  No surprise then that one of the kids then asked this question-

"Miss B, so when we die, is it just our souls in heaven, or will our bodies be there too?"

I was proud of the question relating our eternal home to the death and resurrection of Christ, and I was prepared to share an articulate and theologically profound (yet simple and easy to understand) response about personal judgement, final judgement, and the resurrection of the dead.

I decided, though, to use an example to explain.  So I said-

"That is a great question!  Ok, pretend that I die tomorrow..." I was just planning on jumping into the explanation of what would happen to my soul and my body, but the whole room erupted into a chorus of sad "Awwww!" moans.

Except one student said, "YEEEESSUUH! NO SCHOOL!!!"

The rest of the students gasped collectively and I think my jaw hit my collarbone. 

They were appalled that this student was more excited about possibly having no school then my potential death.

Besides, another student was quick to point out, "Calm down.  We would just have a sub anyways."

So, I see where I rank, but I was able to get their attention back and talk about our heavenly souls being united with our glorified bodies.  You win some, you lose some.

Good Words:

"To have no cross makes one suspect of lacking the indelible brand of being one of His own."
~Venerable Fulton J. Sheen in Life of Christ

Good Pope:

Good Scripture:

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." ~Psalm 23:6

Good Friday:

Praying a good Triduum to you all!  See you back here on Easter!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Passover and The Passion- A Youth Bible Study

The Passover and The Passion
A Youth Bible Study

Happy Holy Week!

This week at school, we are diving into Holy Week, exploring the depths and meaning of each day as we prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday.

One thing that we have done was created these Resurrection Eggs as a class, learned the story behind each symbol, and read the relating scripture.  Then, each 5th grader was paired with a 2nd grader, and they told them the story of the Triduum in their own words using the objects as story telling guides.  I always am amazed at how well the kids can relate their knowledge to their younger peers.  I also love when I catch them using their "teacher voice" while answering a question or telling the other student something. :)

Another project that we are working on is preparing us for watching this movie on Holy Thursday:
Check out The Prince of Egypt: Dreamworks Studios' first animated film, gorgeous music, creative story design, pretty accurate Biblical portrayal.  It's of my favorites :)

To get ready to watch the movie, we did an in class Bible Study of the story of the Passover...and then looked at how Christ's Passion fulfills the Passover.

While reading Exodus 11-12 and discussing Moses, the plagues, the Passover, and God's plans for His people,  one of my students said "Wow, I really like this Bible thing.  We should do this more often."

Point taken.  Very often we TELL kids the story, but it is important to actually get them INTO the story.  It can be done with kids of all ages- there are lots of great age appropriate Bibles out there.

As we began our discussion, I first asked the kids what they already knew about the Passover.  This is what they brainstormed:
  • The Israelites (God’s chosen people)
  • Slaves in Egypt- God said let my people go
  • The first born son of the Egyptians died
  • Story of Moses
  • Lamb sacrificed- blood on the door
  • Angel of death
  • 10 Plagues

We then came up with a list of questions that the kids wanted to find out:
(Many of these we answered as we read the story...and some of them are going to take some further research.  I bet you can pick those questions out of our list.)

  • What was the angel of death?  Was it a certain angel?  Do we know its name?
  • What if a family didn’t have a first born?  Did it kill girls too?  What about babies in the womb?
  • Why a lamb?  Any random lamb?  What did they do with the lamb?  Living lamb or dead?  Could it be an older sheep instead?
  • How did the people know what to do?
  • What did they do with the blood?  Why were they passed over? 
  • Did the blood go on both the top and the sides of the door?
  • Did the plague affect the adults too?
  • Weren’t the people slaves?  Where did they get the lambs then?
  • Were the plagues one day after another or spread out?
We then took notes on the key facts about the Passover as we read the story in Scripture.  You could use one of the graphic organizers below as a guide.  

The next day, we reviewed the Passover, and then jumped into Holy Week.  We read Matthew 26-27 this time, looking for specific connections to the Passover that was being celebrated.  Look at what we found:

One of the kids said that they should have plugged their ears because Their.Minds.Were.Blown.

I love it.  It is awesome to find connections between the Old and New Testaments, and this is a perfect time of year to show students how Jesus is the Paschal Lamb.

I was able to do this with my 5th graders, but I think that it easy could be used to guide a discussion in a middle school classroom, or even a youth group.

Click here for a blank graphic organizer to fill in:

Click here for a version of the study with the Passover side filled in and a blank left column for the Passion connections:

 Click here for the filled in version to use as a guide:

Then watch the movie and see the connections come to life!

Friday, April 11, 2014

7QT- Seven Things You Can Stop Saying to Your Single Friends

As if that title isn't long enough, the more accurate heading of this post would be-
A Public Service Announcement: Here Are Seven Phrases You Should Probably Think Twice About Saying Out Loud to Your Single Female Christian Friends Who Prayerfully Desire to Be Married.
But that seemed a bit much.

Found this Mister.  Not the one I was looking for.

I am almost 29.  I am single.  This tends to bring some interesting conversations into my spectrum.  Sometimes people say things that I know that they can't really mean, or words that they don't realize sound the way they do to single ears.  I am not upset, but think that maybe some people have been married too long to remember what it is like to be where we are at.  So for my seven quick takes this week, I thought I would put together the top seven things that we single people wish we didn't have to hear again.  I admit, I am a bit reluctant to pull this out of the draft folder because I don't want anyone to think this is written in anger (it's not) or about a specific person (most definitely not).  Maybe it will just start some conversations. 

Let's continue the discussion in the comment box.  Married friends, feel free to chime in with the things people like me need to forget from our vocabulary.  And single ladies, I'd love to hear the best quote meant to "encourage" you in your singleness! 

So here are my favorite lines, all real, all on the subject of my singleness:

"Don't worry, God has a plan for you."
Thank you very much.  I agree.  But I don't need it used as a platitude when I am being vulnerable enough to share my thoughts about the future.  Give me good advice, share your story, speak real truth, remind me to pray.  But don't give me lines from a greeting card.

"You are single?  Good for you.  Stay that way."
I am sorry that you are that bitter about the institution of marriage, but don't assume I feel the same.

 "It must be nice to have so much free time with no husband and kids to take care of."
(The negative runner up to this one is: "She can take care of it.  It's easier because she is single.")
Yes, being single usually gives us more radical availability than a woman who is married with kids.  However, remember that flexibility and free time are not the same thing.  Many of us single girls are trying to fill our time with good work and service, not soap operas and bonbons.  Don't look at our work and say, "Gosh, this girl needs to get a husband."

 "I just can't believe you're not married.  You are so awesome and wonderful and sweet and pretty!  
Why aren't you married?"
Good question.  Your compliment is appreciated and kind, but how am I suppose to answer this?  Maybe- "Thanks, I think I am awesome too, but apparently men don't agree."  There is no good way to respond.  We thank you for your nice words, but maybe think about how uncomfortable the conversation might be after you say them.

"You really need to try online dating/bar hop more often/lower your expectations/
meet my husband's-second-cousin's-neighbor's-single-son."
Know me well?  Recommend place that I could be socializing to meet new people.
Know me really well?  Set me up with a good man that has more qualifications for a date than "also single."
Know me really really well?  Call me out on the unrealistic things I believe or do relating to dating and marriage. Challenge me to be the woman I am suppose to be while waiting to meet the man God has in store for me.
Don't know me?  Maybe don't give me advice.

(A quick update- the same day that I posted this, a good friend who is trying out online dating through a Christian site was propositioned by a polygamist.  Yes, propositioned by a polygamist.  Online dating does not fix all woes.)

 "Sure you're not suppose to be a nun?"
This is for all the Catholic ladies out there.

For my Protestant sisters it might be something more like,  
"Might you be called to serve as a permanent  missionary at an orphanage in Uganda?"

The Vocation to Religious Life or other service is beautiful, and holy, and an incredible sacrifice.  I respect all who have given their lives over to Christ for the service of the Church.  However, remember we all have prayed and discerned and looked for the will of God.  You can invite me to consider Religious Life, you can encourage me to discern, but don't assume that being a Nun is some second-best life that I accept after not finding a man.  There is a lot more to it than that.

"Wow.  It must be awesome to have such a fulfilling career
/successful business/sleep through the night/time to travel/incredible hobby..."
Don't think we wouldn't trade it all.  In the end, the jobs, the hobbies, the travel, the recognition... they all mean nothing.  What will be lasting are the children created by a couple and God, the souls led to heaven within a family, the saints made by marriages.

Being single is hard.  Those of us that are honest know that marriage is harder.  But marriage is a work for sanctity, a pursuit of Christ that is done hand in hand with someone else.  The two become one with a single desire for heaven.  There is a great need for holy marriages in the world because the formation of the future takes place in the home.

So while I try to wait in a dignified and worthy manner, these common "single girl" comments and questions are hard to hear.  We single ladies are not all looking for Disney princes and Pinterest worthy weddings.  We are willing to make sacrifices and to model Christ & His Church within our vocations, just like you.  Hopefully, we can all work together for the Kingdom, even when as women (me included!), our words sometimes get in the way of our intentions.

For more Seven Quick Takes, probably all on a totally different topic, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Way of Light Resurrection Eggs

You probably have seen the commercial versions of Resurrection Eggs and the ideas about how to make them yourself, and even ways to make Stations of the Cross Eggs.  

I have posted before about my version of Resurrection Eggs.  You can click here for those ideas:

Resurrection Eggs (and of course, Station of the Cross Eggs) tend to focus on the events of Holy Week- Palm Sunday, the Last Supper, Good Friday, etc. and then end with the Resurrection.

After deciding to create some lessons focusing on Way of Light,(you can see my posts so far here and here), I also wanted to create a hands on craft to help tell the story of the Way of Light. 

I thought that a new version of Resurrection Eggs that focused on the events after the first Easter morning would be a neat way to continue the same idea.  Small objects, each rich in symbolism but easy to understand, tied in with verses from the Bible, all stored in one spot.

Cue The Way of Light Resurrection Eggs:

I actually decided to not put all of the objects inside plastic Easter eggs- I wanted to be able to see all of them at once. You could still put them in eggs for storage purposed if you like.
First, I numbered the inside of the egg carton with a sharpie.  There are 14 Stations of Light, so I found a way to incorporate some of them together, so 1&2 are in the same spot as well as 13&14.
The Stations of Light are:
1. Jesus rise from the dead
2. Women find the empty tomb
3. The risen Lord appears to Mary Magdalene
4. The risen Lord appears on the road to Emmaus
5. The risen Lord is recognized in the breaking of the bread
6. The risen Lord appears to the disciples in Jerusalem
7. The risen Lord gives the disciples the power to forgive
8. The risen Lord strengthens the faith of Thomas
9. The risen Lord meets the disciples on the shore of Lake Tiberius
10. The risen Lord confers primacy on Peter
11. The risen Lord sends the disciples into the whole world
12. The risen Lord ascends into heaven
13. Waiting with Mary in the Upper Room
14. The risen Lord sends the Holy Spirit

Here are the objects that I used to symbolize each Station.  (A printable list is at the end of the post)

Station 1 & 2- An empty Easter egg to symbolize the empty tomb
 Station 3- A jar of holy water, symbolizing the tears Mary Magdalene cried
Station 4- A mini magnifying glass, symbolizing the way Jesus revealed the true meaning of the Scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus
Station 5- A paper "host" that opens up to reveal Jesus inside, just like the disciples knew it was Jesus with them through the breaking of the bread.  You can make this easily by folding a piece of heavy white paper, cutting a circle that has one side on the fold, and putting a sticker of Jesus inside.

Station 6- A Saint bracelet, symbolizing the disciples in Jerusalem that saw Jesus.  You could also use a collection of Saint medals, stickers, etc.
 Station 7- A mini purple stole (just a strip of purple felt) symbolizing the authority to forgive sins int he Sacrament of Penance
Station 8- Hands or feet of some kind, symbolizing that Thomas wanted to see Jesus' hands, feet, and side
Station 9- A Jesus fish twisted from pipe cleaners, symbolizing the disciples meeting Jesus on the shore of the Tiberius
 Station 10- A rock, symbolizing Jesus giving primacy to Peter
Station 11- A large cat's eye marble, which looks kind of like the world from space, symbolizing the disciples being sent out into the world
Station 12- A cotton ball, symbolizing Jesus being taken up by a cloud into heaven
Station 13-  A finger rosary, symbolizing waiting with Mary

Station 14- A candle, symbolizing the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  I used a battery operated tea light and wrote "Come Holy Spirit" around the outside.

There you have it! Fourteen objects telling the story of the fifty days after Easter.
 Place them all in an egg carton, and you have a student-centered teaching tool.

Click here for the printable egg carton label:
And click here for the list of Stations, objects, and Scripture verses:
You can use this as a list to guide your discussions, could cut them in strips and roll them into eggs with the objects, etc.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meanwhile, Over at Reading Catholic...

Today, Nancy is featuring me over at Reading Catholic!  I am honored to be a part of her Lent Book Series.  Go check it out, and make sure to find out what other Catholic Readers are recommending as the best books for Lent.
Here is a little taste of my review:
The cover of my book is battered, and I have added tape, notes, highlighting and some wear of my own. There are mementos still tucked inside from the former owners and some added by me. It certainly wouldn’t win any book beauty contests, but this is one of the most valuable books on my bookshelves. It has a story, and tells a story, and leads me to understand the much bigger Story that we are all a part of.  

Go here to keep reading and find out what book I recommended!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I took my Youth Group to see Noah, and I don't regret it.

I took my Youth Group kids to see Noah today.

It was a gamble, and I have to admit that I was a bit nervous.   I usually don’t even consider PG-13 movies for Youth Group, let alone ones surrounded by controversy, to take other peoples’ kids to.  But ever since they saw previews for this movie, they have been begging to go as a group.  I read lots of reviews, mostly ones that were cautious if not all out against the film.  I heard lots of people speak very poorly of the movie’s interpretation of Scripture, many saying that it was a complete work of fiction.  Someone told me that the only thing the movie had in common with the Bible was that there was a man named Noah and there was a big flood.

But I still wanted to see it, and I knew that most of the kids would end up seeing it with or without me, so I hoped to create a teachable moment.  As Christians, we often want to put a bubble around our children.  To protect them from all that is false, ungodly, and immoral.  However, we also live in the world.  They will live in the world without our guidance someday.  So we need to teach them to think, to look for God in all circumstances, to discern the good and choose to do it.  Going to this movie seemed like a good opportunity to show them how to do that, in a small way.  I read the Plugged in Movie Review, which gave me info to share with the parents about what their kids would see, and I also was glad to read Sr. Helena and Bonnie’s thoughts about the movie.

The kids were required (ha) to read Genesis 6-9 before coming to the movie, and each car had a list of a few questions to discuss on the drive to get them thinking.  We had fifteen people sit and enjoy the movie, completely caught up in the story, cinematography, and acting.  After the movie was over, we posed for some goofy pictures with the big Noah poster in the movie theater, and then drove across the street to get ice cream.  We probably sat and talked for a half an hour about what had happened in the movie, what we loved, what we disagreed with, and what we thought of the message overall.

Here are a few of my thoughts: (Spoilers ahead…)

  •  I loved the casting.  Emma Watson stole the show, and her part in Noah’s family was one of the best “creative license” additions to the story.
  •  I actually really liked the Watchers.  There, I said it.  Genesis 6:4….who knows what those “men of renown” really were?  Why couldn’t there be a part of God’s creation that was only here in those very early years?  I loved how they went from enemies to protectors and how they asked for forgiveness and received redemption. Major creative license, but overall a good message.
  • Noah’s telling of the Creation story was awesome.  So vivid and it encompassed so many ideas about how creation happened.  Loved the symbolism of the light within Adam & Eve, the heart/life within the forbidden fruit, the shadowed symbols of the sin of Cain and Abel continuing through all generations.
  • They went pretty easy on the whole "uncovered his father's nakedness" thing.  You're welcome, Ham.
  • The costuming and sets were awesome.  CGI animals, sometimes not so much.
  •  Loved the last seed from the Garden of Eden creating an oasis in the barren world to give Noah’s family supplies and shelter as they built the ark.
  •  I did not like the over emphasis on the killing and eating of animals being the primary reason the descendants of Cain were evil.  Major agenda showing here- totally contrary to Biblical teaching, as well as what Noah was told by God.  Go back to the beginning after all, and Abel’s offering (of animals from his flock) was the one accepted by God.  I appreciated the message of care and concern for creation, but not the vegan/vegetarian mindset as being the only holy choice.  And God would do all that to “save the animals?” No. Plus there is no way Russell Crowe got muscles like that from only eating things growing on the forest floor. Ain't happening.
  • While God’s will is rarely spoken in black and white terms to us, I didn’t like Noah’s shadowy understanding of God’s plan for him.  His story in the Bible constantly says, “Then the Lord said to Noah…”  I think Noah had a little bit better of an idea what was going on.
  •  I support the creative license in the film, but I think the sorcery/magic/etc. was unnecessary.  There were enough other “unbelievable” elements that having glowing snakeskins, fire rocks, and magic pregnancy tests were not really needed to set the tone for the movie.
  • Tubal-cain stowing away on the ark was dumb.  Ham didn’t need a mentor to teach him evil.  Evil was already in his heart, just like it is in every descendant of Adam and Eve.  The movie gave plenty of reason for Ham to turn away, and Tubal-cain being there was a distraction.  I could rewrite all of the scenes on the ark without him, and make them just as dramatic.
  •  Let’s talk about Noah wanting to kill his granddaughters.  I don’t agree with it, because of my comments above about him knowing God’s will.  However, if in this version of the story, with abundant creative license, Noah was in the gray area of understanding the plan, I can sort of get his thoughts.  Really, I think that the only thing I can take away from it is a mirror of the story of Abraham and Isaac.  He thought he was being faithful to God's will, and God stayed his hand at the last moment.
  • Tubal-cain was an awesome example of how we can take God’s Word and twist it for our own purposes.  He said over and over, “We were made in the Creator’s image and likeness.”  He got that right, and I wish Noah would have picked up on that a little bit.  However, Tubel-cain used that idea for evil and power and greed.  We can do that too easily. I would have loved for them to have portrayed a strong and righteous Noah who knew the real meaning of the dignity of being made in God’s image, and that the flood and the ark and the new start was not for the animals, but was for us, the pinnacle of the Creator’s plan.

These were some major points that we wrapped up our discussion with:
1. Our God is a God of justice AND mercy.
2. It is easy to twist God's Word for our own purposes. The line between good and evil is drawn down the heart of every man.
3. While God's creation is GOOD, mankind was made in His image and likeness, making us VERY GOOD, and valuable beyond measure.

Looking for a literal word-for-word Bible movie to show in Sunday School?  This isn’t it.
Looking for an artistic interpretation based on the story of Noah that will make you think?  I would recommend this.
What to watch it with a group of teens?  Do it, but be ready to talk about it.  If you want some ideas, feel free to use this discussion guide as a start:

Friday, April 4, 2014

7 Quick Takes: At the Foot of the Cross

I found a new favorite band.  This song has been good listening for Lent:
But then there is also this one and this one and this one
I want to sit in an Irish pub and tap my toes while they sing and I drink a good beer. 
They might not be beer drinking people, but we all love Jesus, 
and I bet they would let me sing along, even if I am a Catholic heathen.


It has been good to reread the Gospel accounts of Jesus' last week before Easter with my Young Adult Bible Study this month.  We are prepping for Holy Week and the Triduum, and have been unpacking some details, drawing Old Testament Comparisons, and bringing who we are and what we would have done as an early disciple of Christ.  My favorite discussion this week involved Peter and Judas.
Both followed Christ and were His friend.
Both were shown truths of the Kingdom.
Both were warned of their coming failures.
Both were weak when they should have been strong.
Both hurt someone that they loved.
Both regretted what they had done.

Why is it then that one is a Saint, and for the other it would have been better if he had never been born?

Judas repented, but to himself and to the chief priests and elders.
Peter repented, and returned to God at his first chance.
Judas gave into despair, and took matters into his own hands.
Peter held onto hope, and ran to the Risen Christ, not away from Him.
Two men. Same Christ. 
Last weekend I was able to attend my Parish's Lenten retreat, which was titled "At the Foot of the Cross."   It was a lovely, well planned, peaceful day to remember that Lent is about being drawn closer to Christ.
I very much wish I would have taken pictures of the way the ladies decorated the tables for the brunch.  It can be hard to "decorate" for Lent- keeping it simple, meaningful, and still beautiful.  They combined real "crowns" of thorns, burlap runners, small candles, and little bits of purple.  It wasn't overdone, and it brought peace to my heart to see the beauty of Lent come through.

I was blessed to be asked to speak for the At the Foot of the Cross Day of Reflection.  Now, I sometimes am asked to speak at various places, but it is usually to a group of teachers or catechists, and I talk about crafts.  This was much harder- not about kids, not about crafts, not about teaching... it took some stretching on my part.   I was asked to talk about Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, so I tied his life in with their theme.

Why do we stand at the foot of the Cross? What I have learned from Fulton Sheen:
1. Our Lord asked us to watch with him one hour.  
We are called to pray not because God needs anything from us, but because we are changed by worshiping him.  The same Christ Crucified is present in the Blessed Sacrament.
2. Our Mother is there.
Strong enough to say yes to the Father and become the Mother of God, and strong enough to watch Him suffer and die, Mary is strong enough to become our Mother, too.  She want to bring us closer and closer to her Son.
3. Our suffering is meaningless without His Suffering.
I admit that I know little of true suffering, but no suffering makes sense if nothing matters but this life.  If there is something more, if there is truth in the cross, if Christ's death offers us new life, than suffering is temporary and redemptive.

In Sheen's words: “Unless there is a cross in our lives, there will never be an empty tomb.
there is a crown of thorns, there will never be a halo of light.  Unless there is a Good Friday, there will never be an Easter Sunday.”

I wanted Sheen to speak in his own words during my talk, so I used several video clips of him.  Here are a few for each of the points in the talk:

 Have you been keeping up with Nancy's Lent Book Series?
It's not too late to pick up a great book to read this Lent.  Go visit her blog and read some of the guest posts for suggestions.  I have the honor of being included next week, so check back!

These Quick Takes were suppose to be about drawing closer to the Cross....but apparently it should be titled "7 Quick Takes: Katie blatantly plugs her minor public appearances."  We'll go with that theme, and I'll share this link that you might see if you attend Mass in the Diocese of Peoria this weekend.  Oh man.

Go visit Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes!