Let’s Get Personal

(Personalizing Christ the King Novena)

(In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit)

Jesus, my Savior, and King

I humbly pray before you

May you grace my heart to love and adore you more,

to give me the grace of deepening faith

to give me the grace to place my trust upon you above all others,

and to give me the grace to be confident you are ever present in my life.

I proclaim you Prince of Peace and lift you high above all in this mortal realm.

As I wait for your second coming, let me not waste a moment

I ask that you grace me – this unworthy sinner –

with the inspiration and confidence to use the gifts you have given me

to share your story and love with others.

So that they may also rejoice in having a living God in their lives.

(In the name of the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen)
Grant Whitty (@grantwhitty) | Unsplash

I started praying the Christ the King Novena yesterday, and following the lead of my sponsor, I have reflected upon it, and personalized it. As I think in the abstract, one of my challenges is to bring it down a notch – or to bring it out of my headspace into the everyday.

Through prayer, especially the Rosary, I feel the depth and width of my love for Jesus growing with each passing day. There has been a few instances when during prayer I have been overwhelm with emotions and tears as visons of sin unrealized and unconfessed come to mind. Jesus has also shown me through prayer that He has always been with me, and He has also shielded me on numerous occasion from falling into the clutches of darkness. Just as he has opens my eyes, He also comforts.

Once a part of the darkness, the road back to the light is soul wrenching. There is no other way to describe it. I know that meeting my husband was God send – His unconditional love for me never faltered through our 30 year plus relationship. Just as my children were gifts from God – to me – a woman who fervently claimed I would never bring children into this world. God blessed me with two adopted children.

The goal is making Jesus Christ real in every facets of our lives.

Since the start of the Advent, my sponsor and I have each chosen a Novena to focus and pray on. Through the process of sharing our thoughts each day via phone or text, I have come to realize how each of us have personalized and made praying real based on our personalities and character.

Through a process of self reflection and reflecting on key words or concepts, it opens up for each something uniquely special and personal. It leads to a journey of deepening faith and love for Christ. It guides us to prepare our hearts for celebrating not only Jesus’ arrival to us through His birth, but preparing our hearts and soul to receive Him upon His second coming.

Having a partner during this prayerful period has enriched me. As I am a person of extremes, my prayer partner reminds me to maintain a balanced life. This has been an enriching experience for me, as I realize through our conversations and text messages that not only are we two unique individuals, with different approaches to prayer, she has shown me her own process of personalizing the Novena. This has helped me to bring abstract concepts from my headspace into my daily life. Coming down to earth so to speak – as I think in the abstract – personalizing my Novena, brings it down to my everyday.

From the Mouth of a Child

My daughter often says to me, “Mom, use normal words, I don’t know what you mean.” Upon which I would stop and rephrase my sentence, or explain to her what I mean.

The other day I reminded Aleeza to pray (and ask Jesus for the confidence to stand in front of her class for her oral). Her adamant response was, “Mom, I don’t pray. I talk to Jesus.” I smile now as I recall her statement. Yes, that is what we do when we pray, we talk to Jesus. I like the way she has personalized her relationship with Jesus. He is her friend.

Finally, from the mouth of a child, “Jesus is our friend”.

Aside: God has a way of grounding us through our friends and family.

God Bless.

Digging Deep in Prayer

Why do I pray the Rosary?

I have been reflecting upon this after my daughter asked me why I pray the Rosary. I simply told her I am asking Holy Mary – who was Jesus’ mother on earth – to intercede on my behalf. Very much like when she asks me to talk to her math teachers because of a bad grade due.

There are many views by well meaning individuals who have written at length about their views on praying the Rosary. They give warnings and use scripture to reinforce their claims that praying the Rosary is a form of idolatry. On the other side of the pendulum are Catholics in defense of the Rosary. I will not comment on this debate, and for those readers who are interested, you can do your own research, and then draw your own conclusions. This is what I did when I found myself moving towards Catholicism. There is a difference between viewing from the outside, without understanding the context within.

Photo by Marco Ceschi on Unsplash

For myself, the rosary is a deep contemplation of the journey and major events of our Lord Jesus Christ. His time on earth is represented by decades. It guides me to think more deeply about his life. It starts from the beginning of his human life in Mary’s womb up, and includes His crucifixion, and His resurrection. I am deeply moved when I pray the Rosary. Not only is it auditory, but I visualize in my minds eyes His extraordinary journey here on earth. His cry to God in the garden of Gethsemane , His humanity, and His Crucifixion are all made real for me. There are moments I find my eyes well up in tears as I relive those moments in pray. It is a living prayer, and it moves me to deeply meditate. It also enriches my understanding God’s love for me.

Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. De Agostini / G. Sioen / Getty Images

Holding the Rosary in my hands is something that is tangible, and it’s smooth surface helps me concentrate on Jesus’ journey as my hands move from one bead to another. It keeps me focused and on track in my prayerful journey.

Praying the Rosary, is asking the closest human to Jesus during his mortal time on earth – His mother – the Holy Virgin Mary to intercede on my behalf. It is that simple.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Jesus,

For the many ways you draw us.

In prayer we fall into Your embrace

Through prayer you comfort us,

It’s one of the many ways you show us.

Your death on Calvary is the ultimate sacrifice

so that we may have life ever lasting.

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Jesus.

Throwing Out the Debris

Social media – whether it be Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Parler, has a way of drawing me in so that my time is sucked away and my mind starts to look like the inside of my vacuum bag – full of the debris of my world – ominous and darkly troublesome for my soul. Before I know it, I’ve wasted 2 hours.

photo by Christopher Ott at Unsplash

Two hours later, I feel overwhelmed by a deep sense of sadness. From this I start to feel angry. I see the great divide between the truth and the narratives being pushed on social media and main stream media outlets. I see one side pushing a narrative that hides corruption, and lies to cover it. After the anger, a feeling of helplessness sets in. Then depression as I feel the demised of our humanity. Is what I am reading real or fake? How can we discern the truth from the lies?

I recently deleted FB, Twitter, Snapchat (I miss taking cute pictures with it!), and use only Instagram, Pinterest (for sharing recipes), and Parler. I also adjusted my browser settings (on my laptop) so that I don’t see the newsfeed (MSN news).

One thing for sure – I can only put my absolute trust in Jesus. With the Holy Spirit working in me, I am thankful, I can discern the difference between light and dark. The word of God – Bible – becomes my foundation for Truth. It also ignites within me a fire to seek out the truth, and that means doing my own research and being responsible for what I believe in.

Photo by Josh Applegate at Unsplash

I pray for God to give me the confidences to live in these stressful times, and despite all the negative news around me, guide me to grow deeper each day in Faith in HIM.

The Gospel reading for today’s Mass (Luke 21:5-11), gives me the confidence that what is unfolding in front of me is expected to happen before His return. I don’t know Gods’ timeline, and it may not be in my lifetime, but it gives me the confidence to know that HE is in control.

16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Ephesians 6:16 NIV

Thanks for reading. I pray each of you find the confidence to follow Jesus. Peace and Love to all of you. God Bless!

It’s Starting to Feel Like Christmas

Many homes in my area have already decorated for the holidays. It’s so nice to see the outside adorn with pine garlands, Christmas wreaths, and lights.

After being pestered by our children to decorate for Christmas, my husband finally took out our artificial tree and several boxes of decorations.

Joy to All

As my daughter and I decorated the tree, I shared with her the stories behind some of our ornaments. There were “Baby’s First Christmas” bells and balls, to their first kindergarten Christmas crafts, to their own collection (my husband’s best shopping day is Black Friday and Boxing Day. He delighted in a yearly trek amidst the crowd to let them chose a decoration for their own collection – at 50% off). There were also decorations gifted by my mother-in-law, as well as decorations to Meimei from her aunt.

Meimei’s Tree from Aunty Joanne as

It’s touching to see our children decorating their rooms this year. They wanted to personalize their room with their own decorations.

For many, it will be the first Christmas alone or with the immediate family. We normally travel to Toronto to see my side of the family, but due to Covid-19 restrictions we are not traveling. My side of the family decided to keep it simple, and we’ll have a zoom gathering on Christmas Day.

Christmas Past

In Montreal, Christmas has changed in the past few years. We live in an age of political correctness. Christmas is now refer to as the “Holiday Season”. Festive window decorations in stores are a thing of the past.

People of all ages use to come downtown just to see Oglivy’s Christmas window.

There was a sense of wonderment when children watched the mechanical display. I use to bring my children to see this display after the Santa Claus parade.

Oglivy’s has since donated their window decorations to the local museum.

Since the onset of Covid-19, one of the things I miss most is going downtown. I have fond memories of walking along the main streets to look at all the colourful Christmas lights.

Boulevard René-Lévesque lined with trees wrapped with lights is beautiful at night.
Along Mountain Street, Montreal
Hotel Crystal
Along Mountain Street, Montreal

Christmas Present

My husband and I have always focused on the birth of Jesus at Christmas. Pre Covid-19 Christmas Eve, we would attend Candlelight service and sing hymns.

This year most churches will have a limited seating capacity of 25. Most have adapted to COVID-19 restrictions and will use zoom or live stream to celebrate the birth of Christ. I pray that all of you will be able to celebrate Christmas via one of these technological platforms.

Today as we live and adapt to new norms, I find we need to create our own Christmas tradition. A tradition that embraces and envelopes those around us in love and peace. After so many years of celebrating Christmas with the family, we are kind of forced to isolate. We shouldn’t let this stop us from sharing with one another. We can text, zoom, email, or call someone on the phone. We can use snail mail and send a card. I think the important thing is to not leave anyone out.

I really appreciate my neighbours decorating early this year. They drew me into their warmth. This helped create the mood in me to decorate and celebrate. My neighbours added to the Christmas ambiance by sharing their joy and love of the season. I think this is the most precious part of this year’s Christmas – sharing the peace and love of Christmas with one another with a festive heart.

From our house to yours, God Bless❤️

My Story

How many are your works, Lord!
    In wisdom you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
Psalm 104:24 NIV

I have always painted, sketched and took photographs, but I hated the gallery process of submitting my work, and every rejection was a blow to my ego. I have often incorporated narrative in my work as well. As sharing with others was never really my goal or intent, hence I put minimal efforts in showing my work. I was happy to simply express creatively and silently. However, since I have been called to walk closer to Jesus – He probably also got tired of my many request for “signs” – I feel the push to step out from being a lukewarm believer, to one who will gladly share my faith. The “Parable of Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30), and the another in Luke on the “Parable of the Money Usage” (Luke 19:11-27) reminds me that Faith is freely given by God. We are call to invest and build up our faith and share it. Just as the “nobleman” in this story calls his servants and gives them “ten minas”, what they do with this “gift” is up to each servant. However, there are consequences. Those that reap more are given more “authority” over cities, and the one who beget nothing more is cast out.

I don’t want to find my self before God with empty palms.

This is my main motivation for creating a resource page. The goal is to help those who would like to explore their own spiritual journey. My testimony can be found by clicking this link: https://rejoiceandpraise.ca/testimony/

I also created a Portfolio page, and this actually arose out of a discussion with my son who is an active social influencer on Instagram. Our discussion centered around photography. His aunt had given him a digital camera, and we were discussing all the difference between the old days when I studied photography and today. In my days, using a manual camera meant understanding the mechanics of a camera. One also had to understand how and when to use different features such depth of field and aperture settings, along with a slew of filters and lens. Developing negatives was another thing the purist in me had to do. To get special effects, also meant hands in toxic solutions. Special effects was based on trial and error. Today, special effects are easily achieved by a touch of a photo apps. Whether using a digital camera today or one on any phone, one can create awesome images which would have taken me hours to achieve in the dark room.

With the handy apps and camera on our phones, I/we can literally create beautiful images out of the most mundane. This literally changes how I/we view my world.

I enjoy my daily walks with Candy our keeshond. It gives me the opportunity to look at the beauty of God’s creation – the life around us, and to see or capture some of that beauty in every day snapshots.

Snapshots and the photo images I create are used as conversations in my journey to God. Sometimes I work with an idea or theme, and sometimes, questions arises out of this journey. It is another vehicle in my walk with Jesus: https://rejoiceandpraise.ca/portfolio/

Praising God

Almighty God, I lift up my hands praise!

I’m embarrassed to show my watercolours, as they are often quick ink sketches. They are like journal entries, expressing of my thoughts about Jesus and my relationship with Him.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him. And he with Me.” Revelation 3:20

They are also about finding hope in Christ in our lost humanity. His Salvation and Glory is free. All we need to do is accept it as Zaccheus (Luke 19: 1-10) did.

“Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, The Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” Revelation 4:8
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34

Jesus died for the mankind’s original sin (The Fall of Man in Genesis 3) so that we may be redeemed if we believe in Him. When I think about His death on the cross, I am thankful that an unworthy sinner like me can be forgiven all my sins. I thank God for letting me draw closer to Him.

In return I send praises to my Almighty God, to Jesus the Son, and to the Holy Spirit for giving me the gift of faith. I, in turn, share my faith with all of you.

That each of you find the time to pray and draw into a closer relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

God Bless.

The Parable of the Talents

This week the “The Parable of the Talents” surfaced a number of times for me. It was discussed in a book I was reading, upon which I looked it up in the Bible (Matthew 25:14-30). It was also the Gospel reading in both yesterday’s and today’s Mass.

Three times the charm so to speak! What is God trying to tell me?

Needless to say, this parable was on my mind.

Who am I in this parable? Am I the one with the 5 talent? Am I the one with the two Talent? Or am I the one with 1 talent?

After praying on this Parable and rereading 3 different interpretations of it (NASB, Passion, and the NRSV) I can discern many different ways to look at this verse – from the standpoint of popular financial management to the more profane and spiritual.

But what does this parable say to me specifically?

I believe God is asking me, as well as all of us, to step out and use my/our “gifts” in praising and serving Him.

God knows us, and He will never give us more than we can handle. To those who can take on more, He will give more responsibility, but the fact remains, God does not want us passive and living in fear.

What skills or gifts?

In my case it could be through writing, my art, or my ability to time manage or multitask. It could be through the simple act of giving donations to your Parish or your Church.

Many local churches along with parishes are having a hard time financially especially in light of the restrictions imposed by the government due to COVID-19. Many parish, like mine have laid off staff, yet despite all these challenges, Gods work is being done. That’s thanks to volunteers who serve God and their community with love.

In many neighborhoods many families have been hit hard financially especially in the service industry or restaurants. Giving groceries to your local church and parish will allow them to send out food baskets to those in need. This is much needed as we head into December and the holiday season.

Believe me when I tell you receiving a food basket makes a difference to a family in need. 10 years ago my husband lost his job, and we were in deep financial difficulties. We were at rock bottom. A stranger from an organization sent us 2 bags of groceries along with gifts for our children. It was one of the most touching and humbling experiences in my life. I remember praying in thanksgiving to God. Sometimes it’s only when we experience pain, that we can see the salvation of Jesus. Nothing could contain my tears.

Gods immense love for us in the Holy sacrifice of His Son Jesus – a man who was sinless and divinely perfect – is a mystery many may never fully comprehend. I am unworthy, yet God calls me and you to his presence. He gives us the freedom to decide if we want to be a part of His family or not – how can I not shout with happiness and joy.

I have the freedom to chose. I can do do nothing, like that man with 1 talent, or I can be proactive and use all the skills and gifts I gave to glorify Him and make a difference.

We all have talents – whether it be the art of story telling, teaching, blogging, or something in the creative field in web design, painting, drawing, or photography. Then there are those with musical talents who can sing like an angel. Some are musically inclined, while others have talents in other areas. Cooking is another skill, one I wish I had. I do try cooking up a meal using Pinterest, but somehow it’s never as tasty as my sister-in-law’s cooking. Of course there are other skills like being able to manage time, multitasking, or use a computer. Some have the talent to make money through their investments. The skills and gifts we have is unique and different from one another.

There are also many of us who possess skills we may not be aware of. Why? We never challenged ourselves to step out of our comfort zone. I bet many of us have skills burrowed within us – and not yet actualized.

God calls for us to use our gifts.

What does the Parable of the Talents mean to me?

So what does the “Parable of the Talents” mean to me? It means showing how much I love God in all that I do, whether it be in writing, making a meal for the family, or stepping out of my comfort zone to show kindness and love to my family, my neighbours, my Parish community, my colleagues and the people around me. It is to make that 1 talent double, triple and grow by using the gifts I have with a sincere heart to glorify God – My Master!

The Parable of the Talents

14“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them; 15to one he gave five talents,[f] to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. 16The one who had received the five talents went off at once and traded with them, and made five more talents. 17In the same way, the one who had the two talents made two more talents. 18But the one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19After a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20Then the one who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me five talents; see, I have made five more talents.’ 21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 22And the one with the two talents also came forward, saying, ‘Master, you handed over to me two talents; see, I have made two more talents.’ 23His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and trustworthy slave; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’ 24Then the one who had received the one talent also came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew that you were a harsh man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed; 25so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ 26But his master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy slave! You knew, did you, that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter? 27Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have received what was my own with interest. 28So take the talent from him, and give it to the one with the ten talents. 29For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 30As for this worthless slave, throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:14-30 NRSV

Aside: Basically we give and help where we can. My son asked me if we were having take-out tonight. For a family of four that’s almost $75 plus. I told him instead of take out, I’ve donated the amount to our local parish. Seeing his disgruntled face, I explained to him I could cook a meal. I furthered explain, how would it look if God were to ask me, “what did I spend on this month?”

❤️

I Believe in God’s Promise

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39
Passion Edition

Nothing can separate me from Jesus! I believe! No matter how chaotic our world is, or burdened we are, we have salvation through Jesus.

We are not the first of His people to face tribulations, distress or persecution – it’s part of the history of mankind and it’s not about to change.

I can live each day with the knowledge, belief, and assurance – nothing can separate me from my (our) Saviour Jesus.

I can imagine how this statement must have given the early Christians much strength. It was during a time of great upheavals and prosecution of Christians. This statement comes from Psalms 44:22 – Paul’s draws from this verse (Psalms) to reassure Early Christians. Nothing can separate them “from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” even in the most difficult times.

I believe!

Why?

I believe – is the self realization in my own shortcomings of my limited human understanding. To believe is to be humbled by the knowledge that my humanity leads to a venerability – an innate understanding that there is something unseen that I cannot comprehend, nor necessarily articulate – that is greater than (i). It is an inner knowingness of something unseen. It is an inexplicable trust in the great “I Am”.

Yes, I’ve been asking myself these fundamental questions (back to basics) as I explore my own conversion – My Catholic Life (book). I re- examine basic principles of faith, prayer and contemplation of God’s word, and as I ask myself – “What do I believe?”

14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” Exodus 3:14 NKJ

This verse totally floored me. It’s Truth humbled me speechless – it is a simple statement, yet profound and deep!

Hence, I believe is a heart felt emotion that transcends logical explanation or understanding. It is an awareness in an absolute truth. I believe in God’s abundant love for me, in His Son Jesus. Just as I believe in the Holiness of the Virgin Mary. These are unexplainable but heartfelt Truths.

Knowing this gives me great comfort and joy that nothing can separate me from God’s unconditionally love for us. His sincere and pure sacrifice of His Son Jesus for my (our) salvation!

I pray in humbled thankfulness.

Wow! Sorry if my ramblings seem all over the page. I just feel this need to shout it out…thank you for taking part in this journey into my walk with Jesus with me. In my walk I celebrate the heartfelt joy as I get to know Jesus more. I am moved to the depth of my soul – to tears.

Expressing my thoughts and journey in a blog let’s me share this with my tech savvy children via text message. It is also my legacy to them.

For my children – a song from U2 (who is U2 they will ask? “Ask your Dad”, I’ll tell them:

https://youtu.be/IZggv0UpgwI