Stewardship of Leisure Time: Refreshing Our Spirits

In a recent newspaper essay titled In Defense of the Three-Week Vacation, the writer makes the case for longer American respites from work. Jynne Dilling argues for trips that take us away from cell phone coverage and internet, and urges relaxation that includes re­flective walks at dawn and time to get lost in a foreign habitat (New York Times, 9 June 2016).

Many of us have neither the time nor the resources for long overseas sojourns, but all of us can resonate with the need to really “get away” from work or the daily grind or the constant demands of social media. Good stewardship of our bodies, minds and souls obliges us to get away on a regular basis (see Luke 5:16).

As Christian stewards, we aren’t just encouraged but obligated to con­sider how we approach our steward­ship of leisure time.

Stewards are aware of their need to be busy doing God’s work, but often forget that down time is equally important to spiritual growth. Leisure time, whether it’s our evenings, our weekends, or our vacation, pro­vides spiritual, physical, mental and emotional recharging. Leisure is nec­essary for human wholeness. Leisure reconnects us to the wider mysteries of our world and our God. It helps us daydream, imagine, pray. It refreshes our spirit.

Today, connectivity has become almost an obsession. People check their emails, their messages and calls with alarming repetitiveness. Acci­dents, both pedestrian and automo­bile, happen because people can’t put down their phones.

Employers ex­pect their workers to be available for evening emails. The lines between work and free time increasingly blur, as do the lines between solitude and always being present “online.” We can’t imagine putting aside screens for a two-week vacation. But we must give ourselves time to renew and re­charge, not just two weeks of the year, but each day and each week.

July offers an opportunity to re­connect with the rhythms of God and nature. We need to take time off from screens and phones, and practice giv­ing undivided attention to the things before us.

When we pray, we commit time and silence. When we enjoy time with our friends and family, we practice being totally present. When we sit on the patio or at the beach, we give our­selves wholly to the wind or the waves. Be a good steward of your body, mind and soul. Don’t overschedule your time off. Listen to the quiet whisper of God encouraging you to relax.

 

Stewards Find Hope in the Cross

Do you ever think about how you experience the cross of Jesus Christ? Do you ever think about the power of that cross in your daily life? Is the cross even relevant to your life?

It is to stewards of the Lord, who recognize the hope Christ brings through the gift of his cross. They acknowledge that for them, the cross is their only hope.

Being good stewards of our life in Christ is not easy, but to embrace the cross is not only countercultural, it seems absurd. Then again, we cannot avoid what Jesus said to his disciples: “If you wish to come after me you must deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow me. For if you wish to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for my sake you will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).

The cross is more readily embraced by people of faith who suffer, are poor, broken, or are the victims of such things as violence, oppression or natural disasters. They see the cross as the hope that no matter what has happened to them, God will see them through. The Father did it for Jesus who hung on the cross, so surely their sufferings will be redeemed by Jesus’ sufferings.

Where people possess much material abundance, comfort and leisure, how¬ever, there is a tendency to de-emphasize the cross, to draw away from it. They can’t touch it or feel it so they wish to “save” their lives by looking to other things: power, wealth, fame, relevance, being the center of attention. What is preached about the cross from the pulpit sounds good, but in reality something more tangible is desired.

Christ emptied himself completely in humble obedience, allowing himself to suffer and die out of compassion for the world (Philippians 2:6-11). Good stewards follow his example and work day-to-day to empty themselves and live com¬passionately; most noticeably by sharing their lives with others.

As we continue on our Easter journey, let us ask the Holy Spirit for an even deeper awareness of the cross in our lives. Let us find hope in the cross and pray that as we embrace it, we too will experience in a special way the joy of new life in the risen Lord.

The clergy and parish staff wish you abundant blessing for you personally and your families. And may we continue to grow stronger every day as a Parish Family. Happy Easter!

Stewardship and the Power to be Transformed

How were you first introduced to stewardship as a way of life? When did this spirituality first begin to shape the way you live, the decisions you make, and the way in which your faith directs your daily life? I have been thinking about this quite often of late, as I have reflected on the potential each of us has to touch others with the stewardship message.

Many years ago now, a friend who worked in publishing and I were talking about parish life. I was fumbling around, trying to explain the impact that stewardship was having on our parishioners and on the parish. My friend suddenly stopped me and said, “Well of course this is happening! Stewardship can really change our lives, can it not?” His comment broke through my stumbling thoughts, as his remark echoed the U.S. bishops’ insight in Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response. At the very beginning of the bishops’ pastoral letter they write: “Stewardship is an expression of discipleship that has the power to change how we understand and live out our lives.”

What stunned me about my friend’s comment was how passionately he expressed his understanding and how clearly he saw this.

I realized that my experience of him as a giving and generous person was a result of his growth as a steward. His witness in the course of an every-day conversation between friends has remained with me for over ten years, and has urged me on in times when my own “disciple’s response” has seemed weak or lagging.

It seems to me that if we are to lead others along the stewardship journey, we must ourselves live, grow and allow ourselves to be transformed by the power of stewardship. We must be prepared to witness to the ways in which stewardship has changed how we “understand and live out our lives.” We may never know the impact our personal sharing or ministerial co¬ordination will have on others, but I can tell you from my own experience of being touched by my friend that the potential is there for us to truly make a difference.

What is your story? With whom might you share it during this Lenten season?

This article was written by Leisa Anslinger, author and co-founder of Catholic Strengths and Engagement Community (CSEC) and originally published in the ICSC March 2016 newsletter.

A story only become a story when it is told. Before that it is just a though or a diary. It is in the telling that another life can be impacted.

What I have found is that I rarely learn something new from a person’s story. (How much “new” is there at my age?) But what I do learn is to see a situation from a different perspective. Or I’m inspired by someone’s bravery, dedication, faith. Or I’m encouraged on my own journey by way of another’s example.

I have found that I get the most comments on Barbie’s Corner when I tell a story. Trust me, I don’t think I’m all that wise. But I do realize that it is the telling of one’s personal story that is most impactful. Don’t be afraid to share your story, particularly your faith journey. You never know who needs to hear it.

DON’T OVERLOOK HOLY WEEK

Next weekend begins the most important week of our liturgical year. On that weekend, we will celebrate PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD. This is the time when Jesus is proclaimed as priest and victim, prophet and God, King and Lord. As the Gospel reading of the day, we experience the Passion of Our Lord. It can be quite moving, especially when the congregation shouts “Crucify Him!”. I know that personally I feel so conflicted about that. On one hand, I am living in a “hindsight is 20/20” world. I know that if the Jesus did not suffer and die on the cross, we would not have been redeemed from our sins. (The people of his day certainly did not have this insight.) On the other hand, I love Jesus with all my heart and soul and to ask for his crucifixion is devastating.

This scenario reminds me of the prologue of Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. If you found out that your son could be sacrificed for a medical cure that would save the world, would you do it? What parent can make that kind of a choice? Well, apparently God the Father did. Pretty powerful, right? And the other part of the equation is pretty powerful as well. Why would Jesus allow himself to “go through with it”?

I think it puts the whole “GOD LOVES ME” in perspective, doesn’t it?

So, one last thing about Palm Sunday before I move on. I want to invite you to come on Sunday night to experience the Passion Play that is acted out by members of our Spanish-speaking community. Yes, the dialogue is in Spanish, but I think the story tells itself quite well even without words. It will be presented in the Parish Center parking lot at 6 p.m. All are welcome.

On Tuesday, you are encouraged to come to our TAIZE MEDITATIVE PRAYER SERVICE at 7 p.m. Taize worship is a prayer service consisting of meditative singing and periods of silence in order to reach a contemplative state. During this service, the environment is filled with candles in a darkened church. You will feel so calm and centered by the end of the service. It puts you in a grounded place as you approach the Sacred Paschal Triduum.

The Triduum is a single feast, the Paschal Mystery and they are the three most solemn days of the liturgical year: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. If there were ever three days that Christians should want to go to

Church to pray, it would be the Triduum. These days are meant to be celebrated with the community at liturgy and are referred to as our “pilgrimage feast” when we ought to make a pilgrimage from our homes to church to commemorate and honor how the Lord Jesus laid down his life for us, his friends, and for our salvation.

Please make it a top priority to go to church to celebrate the Triduum this year. Reserve the time. Rearrange your schedule if necessary. Take some personal time off from work. Suspend errands or jobs around the house. Drop everything. Plan to attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. These days may not be Holy Days of Obligation, but none are more important.

And I promise you that if you attend these sacred services, your faith will be increased. You will not be the same person spiritually that you are today. I have printed the Holy Week schedule in this week’s bulletin for planning purposes.

Our parish motto is Gather, Worship, Share, Transform. These three days offer the opportunity to experience all of those elements.

Happiest Place on Earth?

No, I’m not inviting you to go to Disneyland… Actually, that might make a fun parish adventure… Hmm… OK, sorry. All kidding aside…

I’m talking about our parish (with a little bit of poetic license). We have some really great things happening right here at St. Mary’s!

Two weeks ago, we hosted a concert featuring Renée Bondi. She is a quadriplegic (following a bizarre accident 27 years ago) who trusted in the Lord and He proved to be faithful! He gave her a life she never anticipated and she has been richly blessed. She shared her testimony, told with tongue in cheek and some comic relief, with close to 100 of our parishioners and friends from other communities. And with the voice of an angel, she shared God’s message of Mercy and Forgiveness with a moving meditation. She had us in the palm of her hand.

While the event was arranged and hosted by the Stewardship Team, the cookies and lemonade were hosted by our ladies of the Altar Society. There was even an impromptu set-up team from a prior event. I am seeing more and more cooperation and coming together of our various groups in the parish. This is what we’re about as a parish—a faith community, a faith family. I am very grateful to all who helped with this special event.

Just two days after the concert, our parish hosted a Lenten Penance Service to share God’s Mercy during this holy season. Many people came together to arrange the service and to host an evening meal and fellowship for eight priests prior to the liturgy. Our priests lead such intense lives within their own parishes that they look forward to opportunities to get together as friends. Thank you to all who helped with the process.

(If you were unable to make it to our service, be sure to refer to the Reconciliation Services available in other parishes during the season of Lent. )

This past weekend, our parish was bustling! Our Altar Society held a two-day Rummage Sale in the Star of the Sea Center that was successful because of our parishioners

who donated items for sale and/or came to purchase lots of goodies.

And on Sunday, we were treated to a Gran Kermess after Mass. Who can turn down a fresh carne asada taco and an agua fresca? And the music…so lively and happy. Even a short visit makes for a good time.

The common theme here is that it is through cooperation and team-work that good things are happening at our parish. We need to continue to support each other’s events and ministries as much as possible. You can already see the results just by looking around you.

Through your on-going generosity, we have enough funds in our designated Major Maintenance account to accomplish some much-needed projects. We have just replaced the fascia, many of the exterior rafters, and the rain gutters on the Juan Diego/Guadalupe building. The frame around the garage door will complete the project.

And the best news of all… We are having the Star of the Sea Center sewer replaced from the drinking fountain to the property line. This will permanently fix our plumbing issues! YEAH! The building will still be used during the project; we will have porta-potties for your use. Thank you for your continued support!

Your Lenten Journey

Ash Wednesday is a special day of devotion for Catholics. Churches are packed like no other day except Christmas and Easter. Even though the Church does not designate Ash Wednesday as a holy day of obligation, Catholics flock to receive ashes. Along with this outward sign of the beginning of a season of penitence, we embrace the call to conversion that Ash Wednesday heralds. Christian stewards will greet Lent with the best of intentions. But sometimes, we reach Easter disappointed in our own efforts. Here are some suggestions for keeping us on task during this Lenten season:

Plan ahead. Give thought and prayer to what will most help you draw closer to Jesus during this special season. Write your intentions down, and review them often.

Keep it simple. Like those folks who sign up for gym memberships on Janu¬ary 1 and give up by January 15, sometimes we approach Lent with too many resolutions. Be realistic and don’t set yourself up for guilt.

Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are the pillars of Lent. Try to do one thing in each of these categories. Stretch yourself a bit and come up with something new and challenging.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. Coming closer to him through his passion and resurrection is our goal.

Prepare your home with Lenten reminders. If you have no crucifix in your living areas, place one there. If you have a crucifix, perhaps affix a spot of purple to it as a reminder of Lent. Find a special picture or holy card that speaks to you and display it.

Simplify something tangible in your daily life, like your closet or your schedule.

Take your family to the Stations of the Cross at least once. The devotion is held at St. Mary’s every Friday in Lent at 12:10 p.m.

Place a special candle on the dining room table, and when your family says grace each evening, encourage them to share the struggles and joys of their Lenten resolutions, or perhaps an act of kindness they did that day. This is a good activity for kids.

Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and encourage your family to do so. Our parish is hosting a Communal Penance Service with private confessions on Tuesday, February 23 at 6:30 p.m. In addition, several priests are available every Saturday morning at 8 a.m. to hear your confession.

Take five minutes every day during Lent and read a chapter in Rediscover Jesus. If possible, refer to the “Best Lent Ever” app as well.

Make it a point to prepare for and participate in the beautiful Triduum liturgies of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and even the Easter Vigil. Celebrate the completion of your Lenten exercises.

After Easter, reflect on your Lenten practices. Remember, God’s mercy to us is unlimited. It’s not all about what “we” did, but what God does within us.

ARE YOU READY FOR LENT?

The Season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 10. That’s just 3 days from now! So now is an appropriate time to think about your Lenten Journey.

You will notice on the back page of this publication, I have printed all the liturgies, devotions and events that are being offered at St. Mary’s this Lenten Season.

Please take the time to read it over. Think about the various opportunities made available to you. Maybe you’ve never spent time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. You can sign up for a specific hour each week, or you can just drop in at any time the Chapel is open. Jesus is there in the Blessed Sacrament, just waiting for your visit. It’s like stopping in to see your best friend. You’re friends whether or not you see each other often, but isn’t it amazing when you get together and share a little of your precious time?

When was the last time you came to the Stations of the Cross? Or received the Sacrament of Reconciliation?

Catholics tend to think that Lent is all about giving up. “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” Soda, coffee, cigarettes, candy? There’s nothing wrong with making a sacrifice during these 40 days. After all, Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us. But what if, this year, right now, you look at Lent in a different way. Instead of “Sacrificial Living”, you think about “Sacrificial Giving”.

Sacrificial Giving is what some people call Giving ‘Til It Hurts. I don’t know that we are expected to hurt ourselves, but I do believe we are expected to go out of our comfort zone.

The principles of Stewardship challenge you to accept God’s gifts gratefully, cherish them and attend them in a responsible manner, share them in justice and love with others, and return them with increase to the Lord.

I would like to take that a step further and encourage you to give outside your comfort zone. Usually we give what is comfortable for us. Sure, we write a check each week to support the church, but could we dig a little deeper into our purses, pockets, and wallets. Could we give a little more generously to our parish, the church outside our parish (Annual Catholic Appeal of our Diocese), the world church, or any other charity of our choice?

This goes for time as well. Try to spend just a little more time reaching out to someone. It can be in a formal program, or it can just be by following the Corporal Works of Mercy (visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry…) Offer to pick up the newspaper or the mail for your neighbor who doesn’t get around well. How about picking up a loaf of bread for that neighbor next time you go to the store?

The Lenten Season would be an appropriate time to mentally review the promises you made with God in your Covenant. Did you resolve to add just a few minutes a day to your prayer time? (Or establish a prayer time.) Pray for a deeper understanding of the Stewardship Way of Life.

Were you planning to take advantage of more Adult Education opportunities? Read Catholic books and literature? Hopefully your picked up a copy of Rediscover Jesus this weekend and are ready to read the book. It is meant to be read as a daily devotional during Lent.

The parish made the book available to you to help in your Faith Journey and to help make your relationship with God stronger.

I encourage you to sign up for the “Best Lent Ever” at DynamicCatholic.com. It will provide you with a daily inspirational video to be used as a companion to the book.

Whatever you choose to do to observe Lent this year, don’t let it slip by unnoticed. Step outside your comfort zone and return your gifts to God with increase.

FAST & ABSTINENCE
There are five precepts of the Church that are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor. (CCC 2041)

The fourth precept tells us that “you shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church”. (CCC 2043)

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the following is the direction on Fast and Abstinence during Lent:

Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are obligatory days of fasting and abstinence for Catholics. In addition, Fridays during Lent are obligatory days of abstinence. The norms for fasting are obligatory from age 18 until 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal which can be divided into two smaller meals. The norms concerning abstinence from meat are binding upon Catholic from age 14 onwards.

Advent: A Time to “Fast and Feast”

In a few months, our parish will welcome a dynamic and inspiring singer/songwriter to share her faith-filled personal journey with us. Her name is Renee Bondi and I encourage you to visit her website at ReneeBondi.com to become familiar with her story. We can all learn something from her (and everyone else we encounter). I have chosen to share a story that Renee wrote in a blog several years ago.

Here we are in the season of Advent which encompasses the four weeks leading up to the celebration of Christmas. Advent comes from the Latin “ad venire” or “to come to.” As a child in church I always heard, “Come Lord Jesus, come Lord Jesus” to which I’d think, “Well, hasn’t he already come? He’s already been born and walked the earth otherwise we wouldn’t be celebrating his birthday, right?” I confess it was always a bit confusing to me.

It wasn’t until later that I learned that Advent is a season of preparation directing our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time, in addition to preparing for the anniversary of the Lord’s birth on the day we celebrate as Christmas.

Directing our hearts and minds to Christ’s second coming at the end of time…hmm…now that’s a bigger directive than just decorating your local church in purple and making sure we have enough ushers for Christmas masses or services. We’re talking eternity here. Admittedly, as a wife, mom, in-law, sister, aunt, godmother and friend, it’s easy for me to forget to direct my heart and mind to Christ’s second coming. After all, there’s a lot to do to prepare for the parties and presents!

But here are some great, practical ideas from American author, teacher and pastor William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) on how we can prepare for Christ’s second coming as well as for the anniversary of his birth

Fast from emphasis on differences – Feast on the unity of life.

Fast from apparent darkness – Feast on the reality of light.

Fast from thoughts of illness – Feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute – Feast on phrases that purify. 

Fast from discontent – Feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger – Feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism – Feast on optimism.

Fast from worry – Feast on divine order.

Fast from judging others – Feast on the Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from complaining – Feast on appreciation.

Fast from negatives – Feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures – Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from hostility – Feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness – Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern – Feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety – Feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragements – Feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress – Feast on verities that uplift 

Fast from lethargy – Feast on enthusiasm. 

Fast from thoughts that weaken – Feast on promises that inspire. 

Fast from shadows of sorrow – Feast on the sunlight of serenity.

Fast from idle gossip – Feast on purposeful silence.

Fast from problems that overwhelm – Feast on prayer that strengthens.

SIX-MINUTE DAILY DEVOTIONAL “Little Blue Book for Advent”
Last week, the Stewardship Team handed out Advent Daily Devotionals (free of charge) for any parishioner who wants to have a mentor on their journey this Advent. There are still some available in the vestibule. Please take one for yourself; you’re welcome to take another to share with a friend.

“BEST ADVENT EVER”
During Lent this year, you were invited to Join Matthew Kelly, America’s bestselling Catholic author, and other leading Catholic voices of our time on a life-changing journey with “The Best Lent Ever”.

Dynamic Catholic is offering “Best Advent Ever” Rediscover Mercy. All you need to do is visit the website at DynamicCatholic.com and sign up. It’s free. You will receive daily inspirational emails with short videos, encouragement, and coaching for Advent.

ADVENT WREATHS AND CANDLES
This holy time of preparation is upon us! One of our beautiful Catholic traditions is the daily lighting of the Advent wreath. All families are encouraged to have a wreath in their home and spend a few minutes every day during Advent to light a candle and say a short prayer. It can be as short or as involved as you want it to be.

Advent candles ($5) and Advent wreaths ($10) are on sale this weekend before all Masses. This is not a fundraiser but a convenience that we offer to you in hopes of making the season all that it is meant to be. We also have copies of Advent prayers to accompany the wreaths and candles

In the Footsteps of Pope Francis

About a month ago, seven members of our parish Stewardship Team traveled to Chicago to absorb all they could about Stewardship as a Way of Life at the 53rd annual International Catholic Stewardship Council (ICSC) Conference. The theme was “In the Footsteps of Pope Francis” and it followed on the heels of the Pontiff’s historic visit to the United States.

Like many, I was impacted by actions and comments of the Holy Father. There is no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was holding him up as he invested so much of his time and energy in us. Many of us want to walk in his footsteps because he walks with Jesus.

To me one of the most memorable statements was one given to Congress. Pope Francis said: When you dream dreams for your own children, dream them for other children as well. What an incredible request so lovingly and authentically spoken. Through the secular ear, we heard “do what is right for all the people in your care.” From the faith perspective, we heard love at a level that transcends something that is self-centered and finite.

When you consider it through the lens of stewardship, you can hear Jesus saying “stay close to me, be grateful for your abundance, nurture your gifts and dream big, but remember they are not just for you.

Share your abundance and help me to build the joy that is my kingdom.”

I believe this is one of the foundational blessings of living a stewardship way of life. As ministerial leaders—even if you don’t have a formal role in a parish ministry, we are all ministerial leaders—have the opportunity to understand, live and share the Gospel in such a way that goes beyond setting goals and checking things off our bucket list. When people of faith dream dreams, we dream with God and the fruit of the dreaming becomes so much more than we could have ever imagined.

As ministerial leaders, we are all called to evangelize. We all lead by example every day by acting on the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Don’t be afraid to live your faith out loud. Live it proudly. Don’t make people wonder if you are a Catholic. Make them want to be part of something so wonderful.

Live gratefully for the many blessings God has bestowed on you and your family. Take a few minutes on Thursday before you pick up your forks to say a heartfelt Prayer of Thanksgiving.
(You can never say Thank You too often.) May God bless you as you continue on your faith journey.

There are still copies of “The Words of Pope Francis” that was compiled by Patty Mann. They are available for $3 in the parish office.

November: A Month to Focus on Gratitude

November brings raking leaves, mid-term exams, plenty of football, and the beginning of our Christmas plans. But for those of us in the U.S., November’s highlight is that great national holiday, Thanksgiving. It’s wonderful to have a day to call attention to the need for gratitude, but this holiday also reminds the Christian steward that every day should include thanksgiving because gratitude is essential to discipleship.

One year when I was the family’s host for Thanksgiving, I found short scripture passages on gratitude. I made place cards for each family member and on the inside of the “tent”, wrote one of the passages. Instead of formal grace, each person read their passage and then said one thing for which they were grateful. I was worried about doing this, because, although everyone in the family was born and raised Catholic, not everyone in my family was still practicing their faith.

I also knew that it would take a lot longer than saying grace, but in the end, everyone was openly moved by the experience. Don’t be afraid to evangelize when you have an opportunity. You never know who is ready to hear the Good News.

Feeling a deep appreciation for the giftedness of our lives can’t be con¬fined to one holiday when we spend a few minutes around a laden table remembering our many blessings. Neither can gratitude become a rote response.

Gratitude is good for our spiritual lives in so many ways. It reminds us of our neediness before the Lord, without whom we have nothing. The mere daily act of focusing on our blessings makes us more mindful, more present to God’s mystery and gifts, and more aware of the needs of others around us. Gratitude is best achieved by daily, focused attention. So perhaps a good exercise for November would be to write down, each day, some things for which we are truly grateful. Your list will no doubt include people – a teacher who inspired you, a coach who believed in you, an aunt who made you feel special, an employer who mentored you. Your notes might include simple things – the aroma of freshly ground coffee, a lunch invitation that brightened your day, a phone call that brought a smile. Focus on things you sometimes take for granted – the warm home in which you live, the sunshine that peeked through a cloudy day, the bright redness of a leaf on the lawn, the faithful presence of your spouse.

And during this month of thanks, remember to give thanks to the risen Lord:

Let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one an¬other, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:15-17).