Helping the homeless in my neighborhood has become a reality for me, finally after so many unfaithful, empty promises to God, to myself and to my children. I started by putting together 5 gift bags to give away to the homeless. Each one costs about $50 to put together and this is what each bag contains:
1. Toiletries from the Dollar Store (about $15 worth of items from toothpaste and a toothbrush to
socks, hand sanitizer, shaving cream and a razor, a rain poncho, a mirror, candy, etc.
2. A $10 gift card to McDonalds
3. A copy of the book by Matthew Kelly called "Rediscover Jesus"
4. A letter of hope and prayer and motivation to the homeless person that includes $25 in cash which
is enough money for them to take a taxi to The Dorthy Day Center, a Catholic Charities center for the
homeless and poor. (In the letter I urge them to use the $25 to take a taxi to The Dorthy Day Center
which is in downtown St. Paul, MN. about 5 miles from my house.)
The Dorthy Day Center will take in anyone who is homeless and help them transition into housing, put a resume together and find a job. In the letter I urge them to use the $25 in cash to take a taxi to The Dorthy Day Center where there are people who will care and help them make a positive change in their life. I also tell them I will be praying for them.
Have you ever heard the quote, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime." This is such a powerful phrase with so much wisdom packed into it. In helping the homeless I wanted to give them more than a handout which would suffice for a day. I wanted to give them a way to be able to leave their helpless situation and be empowered to work again and have a place of their own they can call "home".
To date I have given away four gift bags. I keep them in the backseat of my car. When I stop at a red light and there is a homeless person there begging for something, anything, if I feel led by the Holy Spirit to give that person a gift bag, I do. I had the courage to ask the last two people their names. A woman was named "Barbara" and a man was "Steve". I have added their names to my prayer list and I urge you to do the same if you are reading this. We have no idea why Barbara and Steve are or were homeless. (Hopefully, with God's grace they are no longer homeless). Their dire situation could have been due to bad decisions, a horrible upbringing, no parents or loved ones to care for them. who knows? It really doesn't matter. What matters is Barbara and Steve are our brothers and sisters in Christ and it is up to us to help them. I have no control with what they choose to do with the $25 in cash. I have to leave that in God's hands and hope and pray that they use the $ to go to the The Dorthy Day Center where their lives have the potential to be transformed.
Of course as is part of God's plan, when we do something for His kingdom we are filled with joy and peace. I cannot describe in words how joyful and peaceful I feel when I give a gift bag to a homeless person. It is such a strong example for my children which is a huge motivate for why I was led to do this in the first place. I feel that in my little way I am being obedient to the Gospel and doing God's work on earth while setting a good example for my children. I pray that God can continue to motivate me to keep this small project going!
God Bless You!
For years I have felt unsettled every time I see a homeless person on a street corner with a cardboard sign asking for help. The Gospel clearly tells us to help our neighbor, those who are weak, poor and vulnerable. But the reality is that there is no way I am going to invite a homeless person to my home or into my car as I have to think of the safety of my family and my own safety.
I also don't feel good about giving them a handout, $5 or $10 as that is only going to be a tiny bandaid to their much larger problems. So what to do? How can I, how can we be obedient to God's calling for us and not enable the homeless who beg on street corners? (Incidentally, any of us could be homeless one day-that could be me or you in ten years! Don't think so? I hope not but many homeless did not imagine themselves in this position years ago either.)
So, I think I have a divine solution-what I mean is that my idea could not have come from me-I am not this generous nor this creative. This idea I believe came from God. Here it goes... I am going to prepare ten gift bags at a time and keep them in my car. So whenever I pull up to a stop light and there is a homeless person asking for help, I will reach into my back seat (or better yet ask one of my children to reach for a gift bag) and hand it to the homeless person.
What will be in the gift bag you ask? The following is the list I have come up with:
1. A personal letter from me to them. (to be included in a future blog)
2. A gift certificate to McDonalds or Subway (a restaurant chain that are commonly found around town)
3. Toiletries such as hand-sanitizer, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, socks, soap, shaving items, etc. I will let you know exactly what I buy after the fact.
4. A prayer book-I think this will be "Jesus Calling"-as this is a personal daily inspirational book and easier to read than the Bible-to start off with.
5. Most importantly, enough cash to take a taxi ride to a local homeless shelter-one that I will investigate this coming week and one that will take in the homeless and offer them job skills and a place to live and a chance for them to change their life around.
So this is the deal-I have told my kids that I am going to do this for several years and my 16-year old son called me to the table the other day. He said "mom, you have said over and over that you are going to put gift bags together for the homeless but you'll never do it."
My son's words hit me in the face like a ton of bricks! How unfaithful I have been in God calling me to help His people. And how unfaithful my children have seen me become. So, this morning as I was working out at the gym it hit me. It hit me so hard that as I was doing sit-ups I became overwhelmed with emotion and began to cry! It is at moments such as these that I feel the Holy Spirit taking over my body. When I can go from straight face to tears and emotions so strong I want to scream out-this is not from doing sit-ups! No way, this is God within, alive and wanting to thrive!
This is the thought that came to mind...I will take on one part of the gift bags a day-until they are ready to give away. This should take me about a week, maybe ten days. I thought that if I publish my plan in a blog, I would make myself more accountable and finally be faithful to my words. Each day I do one more task to prepare the gift bags, I will add to my blog. Today I will go to the Dollar Store and buy ten gift bags and while I am there I will look for toiletries.
How am I going to pay for this? That is easy! I have a "God Savings Account." That is right-each time I get paid, I put a small amount into a sub-savings account named "Dios" which means "God" in Spanish. So the funds are there.
Maybe, just maybe you are reading this blog because God would like to motivate you to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters in your city or town.
Ok, that is all for today... I'll be back with an update!
God Bless you!
I have always owned a Bible but for so many years it has been tucked away in storage or collecting dust on a shelf. The Bible used to seem archaic to me, written for people living 2000 years ago, not for our modern times. But thanks to the grace of God, I have gradually come to discover how very wrong I have been all these years about His special book. Think about the following statement that I heard Matthew Kelly, a catholic apologist say:
"The Bible contains the answers to all of life's questions
and the secrets to all of life's success."
Really? It sounds impossible, doesn't it? But it is true! God does give us the answers to all of life's questions and yes, he reveals the secrets to all of life's success in the Bible! The Bible is our creator's "Little Book of Instructions" on how we can lead a wonderful life! And the advice God gives us is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago!
Once you delve into it a bit you will see that in the Bible God gives us concrete advice on how to manage our money so that we can live debt free and have financial peace. God gives us advice on how to nurture a marriage full of respect and kindness, joy and peace, gentleness and love. God also reaches out to us if we are single and tells us what traits to look for in a boyfriend or girlfriend and what kind of friends to surround ourselves with, friends who will build us up and challenge us to take our lives to the next level.
In His Word, God even covers the topic of how to enjoy food, drink and yes, alcohol, in a way that produces a healthy body and lifestyle and in a way that fills us with energy and drive when we wake up each morning. He even teaches us proper table etiquette!
In the Bible God tells us how to use our talents to work in a way that leads to success. He tells us how to overcome stress, anxiety and depression. He tells us the secret to becoming wise and the many blessings a wise person receives. He tell us how to raise our children so that they will become our pride and joy when they grow up. God tells us that if we take care of our parents in their old age and if dementia sets in that our actions will later serve to melt away our sins. God even reveals the secret to how we can receive a blessing on the day we die! I have only scratched the surface with these examples. But name any area of your life and in His book God discusses that area and lays out in simple terms how to thrive and become successful in it!
If it sounds to good to be true, take a look as the few Bible verses below. They are from the Book of Sirach in the Old Testament. If you are like me, chances are you did not even know there was a Book of Sirach. I discovered the richness and amazing advice in this book only because I proclaim at mass and sometimes the first reading comes from this book. I quickly became intrigued by its magnificent wisdom!
Here is some advice on God's secret to us become WISE! Over the years I have prayed for the gift of wisdom. I figure if I have wisdom I will have a much better chance of making the right decisions in life. By the way, wisdom is feminine in nature. In the Bible wisdom is always refereed to as "She".
Sirach, 1: 14
Fullness of wisdom is fear of the Lord; she (wisdom) inebriates men with her fruits.
Sirach, 1: 23-24
If you desire wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord will bestow her (wisdom) upon you. For fear of the Lord is wisdom and culture; loyal humility is his delight.
Sirach, 4: 11-12
Wisdom instructs her children and admonishes those who seek her. He who loves her (wisdom) loves life; those who seek her out win her favor. He who holds her fast inherits glory; where ever he dwells, the Lord bestows blessings.
Here is advice on what type of friends to choose. You know that old saying "Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold." I think that may have come from the Bible and maybe even the book of Sirach!
Sirach, 9: 10
Discard not an old friend, for the new one cannot equal him. A new friend is like new wine which you drink with pleasure only when it has aged.
With the learned be intimate. Have just men for you table companions.
FOOD AND DRINK
EATING AND DRINKING; Sirach 31
Remember that gluttony is evil. Behave at table like a favored guest, and be not greedy, lest you be despised. Be the first to stop, as befits good manners; gorge not yourself, lest you give offense. If there are many with you at table, be not the first to reach out your hand. Does not a little suffice for a well-bred man? When he lies down, it is without discomfort. Distress and anguish and loss of sleep, and restless tossing for the glutton! Moderate eating ensures sound slumber and a clear mind next day on rising. If perforce you have eaten too much, once you have emptied your stomach, you will have relief. Let not wine-dunking be the proof of your strength, for wine has been the ruin of many. Wine is very life to man if taken in moderation. Does he really live who lacks the wine which was created for his joy? Joy of heart, good cheer and merriment are the wine drunk freely at the proper time. Headache, bitterness and disgrace is wine drink amid anger and strife. More and more wine is a snare for the fool; it lessens his strength and multiplies his wounds.
CARING FOR OUR PARENTS
The book of Sirach was written in 200-175 BC! Based on the following verse, dementia was a part of life over 2000 years ago. It is not new to today and God gives us advice on what to do if our parents have dementia.
Sirach 3: 12-15
My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him; revile him not in the fullness of your strength. For kindness to a father will not be forgotten, it will serve as a sin offering-it will take lasting root. In time of tribulation it will be recalled to your advantage, like warmth upon frost it will melt away your sins.
RECEIVING A BLESSING ON OUR LAST DAY; Sirach, 1: 11-12:
He who fears the Lord will have a happy end; even on the day of his death he will be blessed.
BECOMING FREE FROM ANXIETY
I want to share with you one of my very favorite verses in the New Testament. It tells us what to do if we begin to feel anxiety and worry setting in.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
I have prayed Philippians 4:4-7 so many times I have it memorized! (I tend to worry a lot and then anxiety sets in.) When I am beginning to feel overwhelmed at work or at home, no matter the situation, I stop and I say this short Bible verse and I offer up my requests to God and in that moment a sense of peace comes to rest inside of me. I don't know how to describe the feeling. I can only say that I release my worries to God and believe that He is right at my side filling me with the wisdom of how to make it through the task at hand, or how to make a deadline at work or how to juggle many tasks at the same time. After I say Philippians 4:4-7 I have a real feeling of peace and even joy inside of me, almost a giddiness! His peace that surpasses all understanding really does guard my heart and mind when I say this prayer!
If you suffer from anxiety, I urge you to memorize this prayer and pray it every time you feel worry or stress or anxiety set in. It is better than any drug or therapy session and it is much cheaper. In fact, it is free! A free gift from our loving Father! This one little nugget in the Bible has saved me from suffering from depression-I am sure of it!
In just these few verses that I have listed above we learn how to become wise, what kind of friends to surround ourselves with, how to eat, how to enjoy wine and alcohol, how to have good table etiquette, how to melt our sins away and how to be set free from anxiety! Amazing! And I have only scratched the surface here!
Of course we can and we do search out the answers to life's questions and the secrets to life's success in a variety of other ways (we ask advice from friends and family members, we hear advice in song lyrics, magazine articles, on the internet and in self-help books, we try to emulate the lifestyle of people we admire, etc.). Some of these resources for advice on how to live may be wonderful but I believe that unless the advice we receive from others is in agreement with God's advice for us, then the advice will be nothing more than a short-term bandage that leads us back to where we started or maybe even worse off. The only way to a truly happy and successful life is to follow God's answers and secrets for us which He openly shares with us in His living Word; The Bible.
When you stop to ponder all of this it really does make a lot of sense. God created His people for life on this beautiful earth. As our Father he prepared and left for us a His "Little Book of Instructions" which is full of advice on how to live. Just as we give our own children advice so that they may lead rich and abundant lives, so does our Father in heaven do for us. It would be absurd to think of a loving father not giving his children any guidance or advice, wisdom or help on how to live. The cool thing is that leading a life full of passion and happiness, peace and joy does not have to be "trial and error" or a guessing game, not if we choose to turn to the Bible as our source for the answers to all of life's questions and the secrets to all of life's success!
So why not start today by reading the Bible for just 15 minutes a day! I love the book of Sirach and the book of Proverbs for a lot of concise advice on how to live our lives. Matthew Kelly, the Catholic speaker who I really enjoy suggests to start with the four Gospels to learn who Jesus is and how he lived his life. Now that is a life we do want to and should try to emulate! I also love the rest of the books in the New Testament. Kelly then suggests we pick our favorite story or book in the Old Testament and read that. You can even get a guide that explains exactly what each book is about, kind of like cliff-notes for the Bible.
Start learning the answers to life's questions and the secret's to life's success in the Bible today! Don't get overwhelmed, just take one area of your life at a time that you don't feel so great about. Search out our Father's advice on how to improve that area and work on just that one area. Gradually add on more areas. Compliment reading the Bible and following its advice with praying for God's guidance and wisdom. If you begin or continue reading the Bible and seeking out God's answers to your questions for how to live and be successful, you will be excited to wake up in the morning and start the day because you will know you are not starting the day alone any longer. You have your best friend by your side-your Heavenly Father! You will be filled with so much more direction, clarity, peace, joy meaning and purpose than every before. And you will begin to live a life uncommon.
As Matthew Kelly says; Think of the great champions, saints, heroes and legends that lived throughout history. What separates them from us? The only thing that separates them from us are our habits. They had better habits. They just had better habits. Look to the Bible for how to develop new habits in any and every area of your life in which you are not happy or those areas you have always wanted to change or improve on but did not know how. Whether it be financially, emotionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually or organizationally-God offers us fool-proof guidance in His Word.
When I was a teenager (and up until my dad died when I was in my late twenties), he always stressed how important it was to date catholic men. My husband reminds me from time to time of that Thanksgiving Day when my dad asked him point blank, "So are you Catholic?" To be honest, back then the faith and religious denomination of the guys I dated was the last thing on my mind. Rolling the clock ahead to today...oh what wisdom my dad possessed! I cannot tell you the numerous ways today that I am so very grateful to have married a catholic man that shares my faith!
Marrying someone of the same faith has facilitated so many areas and major decisions in my adult life and in my husband’s life; to name a few our family traditions are in sync, there is no question that we attend mass every weekend as a family, in fact our weekend is planned around attending 4:30 mass on Saturday! We pray together as a family before dinner, not only do we say grace but my husband implemented a new plan a few years ago in which we go around the table before we say grace each taking a take a turn to thank God for one thing, one person, one situation that we are grateful that day. It is such a powerful, beautiful tradition that honors our Lord and humbles us as a family on a daily basis. Prayer extends to bedtime. I typically pray with our children at bedtime, sometimes reading from the Bible or from a daily devotional.
Another reason I am so grateful for marrying a catholic man is that when we had children there was never a question in what faith we would raise them. It wasn’t a question of whether we would Baptize our kids, but when. The same with them receiving their First Communion, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and our son was recently Confirmed. Just as our parents did, we are sacrificing and sometimes even struggling to send our children to Catholic schools. Our children learning about God during the school day is way more important than a new fancy sports car in our driveway or a larger home! After all, we are talking about our children who have souls and not some car that will end up in a junk yard someday!
It is so peaceful, so unifying to be in sync with my husband about to how to raise our children and about our spiritual traditions and beliefs. And all of this trickles down to our marriage. Being united with my husband on these extremely important issues that are intertwined with our spirituality, with our core beliefs and morals for ourselves and for our children is, I have to believe a major reason why our marriage is so successful.
I once heard a priest say that our goal for our spouse should be that they spend eternity in heaven! Wow! Talk about a game-changer! Instead of looking at my marriage and my spouse and asking my self questions such as "what can I get out of it?" or "what has he done for me lately?" When my life's goal and questions becomes, "how can I help my husband get to heaven?", suddenly my self-centered questions change to "how can I love my husband today in a way that demonstrates God's love? "What simple acts of kindness can I do to make my husband's day better?" "How can I build my husband up with words of truth, kindness and love?"
Even without words there are so many ways I feel that God calls me to model His love to my husband. Because my husband is Catholic, he is not too surprised if he sees me paging through the Bible or reading a devotional. He has now become accustomed to seeing my Rosary changing spots around our home. I believe that God uses these nonverbal examples for speaking to my spouse too! As St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel at all times, only when necessary use words."
Thank you Dear Lord for my awesome catholic husband, marriage and children!
One spring day in 2012 I was listening to a Cd of the Catholic apologist, Jeff Cavins, and it hit me like a TON OF BRICKS when he said, "your children are going to live for ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever" (I even counted-he said "forever" 7 times!). He continued, "they will either live forever in heaven or in hell, and God gave them to you to take care of." When I heard Jeff say that my kids could live forever in hell, that was a sobering idea for me. I honestly had never thought about the possibility of my children spending eternity in hell, but that day I did and the horrendous, excruciatingly painful and gut-wretching thought made me begin to take my children's spiritual lives much more seriously! God said to me loud and clear, "Hey it is time, there is work to be done, your two children, the ones I have given to you to take care of, I want them to be with me in eternity, it is your job to put things into place now on earth. There is so much you can do to lay the groundwork for their path to eternal life in heaven with me!"
Up until that point my husband and I had done quite a bit to raise our children in a Catholic home and to believe in God. Both of our children were baptized as infants, they have both received their First Communuon and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We have sent them to Catolic schools since kindergarten, we attend mass every week, we pray before dinner and at bedtime etc. I felt we were doing a pretty good job of raising our kids in a spiritual environment but God wanted more! That day God impressed on me that it was my husband's and my responsibility to continue to seek out new ways to insure that our kids will spend eternity in heaven.
I vividly remember the day I listened to that Cd and these words for the first time, I was painting my son's bedroom baseball theme. He LOVED to play baseball at the time so when we switched his theme from a toddler design room to a "grown up" boy room, the consensus was unanimous-A Minnesota Twins decor it would be!
The Cd continued on the theme of prudence, a word I had not used often. Jeff Cavins described prudence as looking at the end goal (my children spending eternity in heaven) then backing up from the end goal and making decisions today that aim at that end goal becoming reality.
The very next day I inquired with our church on how my son could become an alter server at mass and how I could become a reader/proclaimer and distribute Holy Communion. These were small steps that I could take to integrate our family more into our church, our parish and the mass. It took about three months for my son to be trained in as an alter-server and me as a proclaimer and a Eucaristic Minister. It was and continues to be exciting for my son to alter serve (now he trains new servers in). I still get nervous to read at mass and to distribute communion. I leave my comfort zone each time I am scheduled to do either ministry but at the same time it is so exciting and spiritually moving to participate in the mass! I cannot explain the power I feel all around me when I am on the alter reading God’s Word or distributing Holy Communion , all that I can say is it must be I can say is it must be the Holy Spirit! Three years later our daughter is now an alter server and our son has become an usher-which was his own doing!
Since that early spring day when God called upon me to step it up a notch in terms of laying the framework for our children to spend eternity in heaven, nearly every weekend our family is somehow involved in the mass. My husband is completely supportive and I think I am safe to say he is proud that his children and wife are involved in the mass.
But my search for ways to lay the framework for my children’s eternal well-being did not stop there. After much prayer I felt God wanted our family to invite our priest over for dinner. This actually took about two years occur. I brought the idea up to my husband and he was open to it but then I got cold feet and tabled the idea for a while. I always made the excuse that the timing was not right.
Meanwhile there was a transition of priests can in our parish. I immediately felt I knew our new priest because he reminded me of my dad in that he is a proud Irish Catholic and his demeanor and appearance are similar to my dad. I began to feel God weighing on my mind that it was time to invite Father Mike to our home for dinner. This would be another step I could take to expose our children and ourselves to “a glimpse of heaven”.
towards laying the in that he to children spending heaven in eternity is getting to know our wonderful priest more personally. Our family has invited him to dinner which he has accepted and recently he joined our family at a play that my son was in. Our priest is a positive and powerful influence on our kids (and on us) and I am so happy he has become more of friend to our family than a ‘mysterious’ and ‘strict’ man which is how I used to envision priests as a child.
To be continued…
Theresa G. is fascinated by the topics of God, spiritually and the Catholic Church. As her faith and knowledge about these topics grow, her desire to write about them grows as well. Maybe you will be able to relate to one of her articles and maybe they will affect you in a positive way!