29 March 2009

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"But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my refuge in times of trouble.
O my Strength, I sing praise to you;
you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God." Psalm 59:16-17


What a week it's been...once again, there was too much discouragement and bad news. Only one remedy that I know of, so let's get to it.

1. Praise God for a new day and another chance...to do better, to love more, to be grateful.

2. Praise God for my home that is my haven from the world.

3. Praise God for the encouragement of good friends and true followers of Christ.

4. Praise God for forgiveness.

5. Praise God for the wisdom of those who have gone before me and lit the way so clearly.

6. Praise God for true, real freedom. Free Indeed.

7. Praise God for the brilliant person who first figured out how to make chocolate, and for all the other brilliant folks in the world who make delectable, rich, heavenly dark chocolate treats for me to eat!


What's on your list? Mr. Linky is set up below, so link up and shout out some Praise! Can't wait to read your lists!

Have a blessed Feast day,
Jennifer

27 March 2009

Free Indeed

I've been doing a lot of thinking this past week about things like God's will, our will, autonomy as our current culture defines it, and true freedom.

We have such an egocentric society these days. Everything is seen through this lens of self-interest and "rights." Words like "obedience" and "submission" have become laughable or even disgusting, and faith is more than ever dismissed as a crutch for the intellectually inferior.

But when you look around at all the chaos, don't you ever wonder, "Who's really free, here?" If these enlightened secular folks are so liberated, why are their lives so fractured? They are so free to choose, they end up choosing everything, and as a result end up with nothing. Having built no walls of safety or sanctity, they are unable to keep anything of value within...everything is fleeting and subject to the day's whims. When "anything goes," then nothing worthwhile remains.

More than 20 years ago I was introduced to a remarkable poem on this subject that encapsulates it better than I ever could, and I offer it to you today in the hope that it blesses you as much as it has blessed me for so many years now.

(It's based on Romans 7:15-25)

When I want to be free at all costs

I am already beginning to bind myself

When I pursue my own wishes

I throw myself in chains

I do what I don't want to do

I am at my own mercy

And when I finally consider myself free

Freedom becomes a burden

Because I must make decisions

Which I am unable to make

And my freedom turns into a new prison

I can only find freedom

In the ropes that bind me

To You

Ulrich Schaffer


God bless your day today, and may you cling tightly to those liberating ropes that keep us tied to Him who has set us FREE.

Jennifer

25 March 2009

Our Lady's Students Respond!


Students of Notre Dame have issued a release stating their opposition to President Obama's speech at their commencement. Read the full statement here.

I encourage you to send the students a message of support and thank them for their courage. This can't be easy for them, and many are still discerning whether they can even attend their own graduation. Let's send them our thanks, keep them in our prayers, and give them our support.

You can email them at : ndresponse@gmail.com

I just did! Here's my message:

ProLife Students of Notre Dame,

Bravo!
Thank you so much for releasing this statement, and for your unwavering commitment to life, and your respect for our rich Catholic faith. I am pleased to know that not all of ND's students are excited about Obama's presence at your commencement. It is truly a betrayal of our faith and a profound insult to Our Lady.


Please continue to be courageous and firm in your opposition
to this terrible decision on the part of Jenkins. Surely our Blessed Mother and her Divine Son will be with you every moment of the way, and will bless you immensely for your witness to the truth. You may face a difficult struggle, but it is not in vain. I know you may have to make the sad choice to not even attend your own graduation, and for that, you have my sympathy. However, there is a greater good being served, and you can always feel proud knowing you stood up for LIFE even when the cost was high.


I will be praying for you and for ND
...I truly hope that one day, Notre Dame will once again be a faithful Catholic university in every respect.
May God bless you all and keep you sheltered under His wing.
I know Our Lady is smiling at you, her faithful children.

In Christ,

Jennifer

23 March 2009

Notre Dame Scandal



I cannot keep silent about Notre Dame... they have spit in Our Lady's eye with this betrayal.


I don't care if he is currently the leader of the free world. Obama is the most pro-abortion President in history. For Notre Dame to present him with an honorary degree and ask him to be their commencement speaker is so gravely offensive, it's hard to even wrap words around it.




It is simply unjustifiable.


Even if you are not Catholic, if you are Pro-Life, I urge you to go to this site and sign the petition being sent to ND's president, Fr. John Jenkins. Tens of thousands of people have already signed it, and I would love to see it reach into the hundreds of thousands. Jenkins does not speak for the Catholic Church, and he needs to be told in no uncertain terms that his terrible decision will not go unchallenged.

Please send an email, make a phone call, and definitely sign this petition. We must speak for the babies...we must lend them our voice and our power, for they have none.



We must pray for Notre Dame and the students there. The school still bears the name of our Blessed Mother, and there can be no doubt that she is weeping over this disgraceful action.

May Jesus have mercy, and may hearts be changed.

Jennifer

22 March 2009

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"Praise the Lord, O my soul. I will praise the Lord all my life.
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." Psalm 146:1


After a rather crazy week in our house, I am thankful for many things...

1. Praise God that daughter #2 is feeling better after a double ear infection and missing two days of school.

2. Praise God for my sweet husband who makes me laugh!

3. Praise God for the joy of being a mom.

4. Praise God for my big sister, who has taken her first vows as a secular Carmelite this weekend! What an awesome woman she is...an inspiration to me.

5. Praise God for the progress we're seeing with daughter #1 in her preparation for making her 1st Communion this May. It's only because of lots of prayer...

6. Praise God for the unmatchable pleasure of rich, decadent, dark chocolate! (C'mon, you know I had to mention chocolate!!)

7. Praise God for His endless mercy and love and encouragement.


I've set up Mr. Linky again below, and I hope you'll link up and make your own list of Praises! Can't wait to read them!

Have a blessed Feast Day and a great week ahead!

Jennifer

18 March 2009

"Dear God, I need a new gene..."



Far be it from me to question or criticize God's choices in which natural talents and gifts to give me, but there's one thing I really wish I was good at, but I'm just not.

I would love to be organized. Really efficiently, neatly, a-place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place kind of organized.



I dream of closets perfectly put-together, with things hanging neatly and containers stacked just so, and me getting a feeling of calm and satisfaction when I open the door to gaze admirably at the pleasant order of things.



Playrooms that look like something out of Pottery Barn for Kids...



...wouldn't it be lovely?




It just doesn't come naturally to me. In fact, it doesn't seem to come at all! I try,
oh, how I try! It's not for lack of "want-to." Oh, I got the "want-to" in spades! What I don't got is the "know-how-to!" I have made so many attempts to tackle this messy beast in my life the number would make your head spin. Yet somehow, my efforts fall flat as a flimsy pancake.

I zoom in on magazine headlines that promise to get me organized, once and for all, with little or no money involved! I devour them, and think, "What a great idea! I can do that!" They assure me it's so easy... anyone can do it! Yes,
even me!! And I excitedly try to implement their clever strategy, and not long after, I look around and realize I have failed once again. The same clutter, the same stuff everywhere, the same messes, the same ol', same ol'.

Aaarrrgghhh! The frustration this causes me is
maddening!


It is also very discouraging. Despite my best, well-intentioned and sincere efforts, I never seem to accomplish organization. Maybe I just haven't yet found the right "How to get organized" book and once I do, my home and my life will "poof!" magically change. Uhhh...yeah, I doubt it. So what is the deal? I swear there is something at the genetic level that I'm missing. I know because other women have it, and they seem to run effortlessly like the Energizer Bunny, leaving tidiness, order, and efficiency in their wake. Yes, other women have this gene a hundred times over, and I am genetically defective.


(sigh) At least I make killer chocolate chip cookies.


Jennifer

17 March 2009

Stations

WOW...



Do yourself a huge favor and order this booklet, if you haven't already. On Patrick Madrid's blog, he has a link to a booklet of Meditations on the Stations of the Cross published by Belmont Abbey College, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I got mine yesterday, and I wept through the whole thing. It is phenomenal!

It will bless and enrich your Lenten walk for sure.

Peace be with you all today,
Jennifer

15 March 2009

Praise!

Time for something sweet and uplifting!

Things are tough all around, in so many ways, and the best antidote to despair is praise...
praising GOD for all His goodness!


"Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God,
how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!" Psalm 147:1


Thus, I welcome you to the first installment of "Praise and Chocolate!"

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I have a life overflowing with goodness and blessings, and I can never thank the Lord enough.

Here are just a few things I'm praising God for today...

1. Praise God, it's Sunday, (Feast Day!) and I can have some
chocolate!! Thank you, God, for feast days during Lent!

2. Praise and thank you, God, that my DH is home with us, alive and well. No small miracle when you're a military family these days.

3. Praise God that my kids are all healthy and whole. Need I say more?

4. Praise God, I've had a few more days of winter-like weather to enjoy before the warmth of spring arrives permanently. And all the bugs that come with it....ugh. (oops.. no "ugh". Just praise!)

5. Praise God (again) for chocolate! I adore chocolate, and it is unquestionably one of the sweetest earthly pleasures.
Oh Chocolate, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

6. Praise God for flannel sheets, down comforters, and a very soft, comfy bed that I never want to get out of. Mmmm....

7. Praise God for the sound of my girls giggling.



How about you? What are you praising God for today?

I've set up a Mr. Linky list below so you can share your own list of praises! I can't wait to read them!


13 March 2009

Sorrowful, part 5

The Crucifixion


“When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him, along with the criminals – one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:33-34


“It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:44-46



Let this mystery teach us to be always faithful to God.


This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go…somewhere I resist going with all my might.


The bitter truth is this: I really don’t want to die.


Will I walk with You along this distressing road only to shrink in fear when the moment comes? Lord, You know that is exactly what I do, time and time again. My spirit may be willing, but my flesh is so weak. I start out well enough and I pray “not my will, but Thine” because I love You…and then the choice comes, and I stop short of the dying. I choose to spare myself… instinct kicks in. But in sparing myself, I lose my life.


“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” Luke 9:23-24


Clearly, there’s no getting around it. Following You means dying.





It means the death of my own will; in small choices, in big decisions, in little ways, in old habits. It means relinquishing my right to myself, over and over again, day after day.


I wonder, dear Jesus, what does a heart really sound like when it has died to itself? I think it sounds like this: “I am at His disposal – He can do with me just as it pleaseth Him, without even a thought of consulting me. I just want to be His own little one – if He so wants, otherwise I will be happy to be just nothing and He everything.”


How does a face look when the self has given up its rights? Like this: “Take whatever He gives and give whatever He takes with a big smile.”


Those are the words of Your faithful servant, Mother Teresa. She put hands and feet to those words every single day while privately enduring the darkest interior pain. Is that kind of faithfulness within my grasp, Lord? Will I ever learn to lay my life down without reservation?


I am most definitely not Mother Teresa. My vocation is quite different, but the call is the same: take up my cross and follow Jesus. I’m still being called to die.


Today, my dying looks a lot like the mundane, thankless, routine chores around my house that I have no motivation to accomplish. Dying sounds like me not venting my frustration in anger just because I’m tired. Dying is me choosing patience and mercy over my “justified” hot temper. Dying is me forgiving the one who has hurt me – really forgiving; no grudge, no animosity, no hope of vindication…just release.


Dying is me, freely and generously, choosing someone else ahead of myself. Dying is making a sacrifice that hurts, and doing it with a full heart, asking nothing in return.



Dying is freedom.



That’s what you want me to discover, isn’t it, Lord? That when I am emptied of myself and my own will, You fill me to overflowing with vibrant life. When I agree to die to myself, it’s my fear that’s burned to death, and real faith rises out of the ashes.


With You, there is only life. Even death can no longer harm me because Your wondrous cross has rendered it void and powerless.


You held nothing back. You willingly gave it all so that I could have abundant life. I desire that kind of faithfulness, Lord! Teach me to give my all, even in little things, and withhold nothing. Grant me the courage to carry my cross and submit to the dying it asks of me, and then I will live...truly live.


©2009 Jennifer Hartline
nd then I will come alive

07 March 2009

Pilate Nation


“What shall I do then with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked. They all answered, “Crucify him!” “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!” When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility.” All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Matthew 27:22-25

“Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty… But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. So Pilate decided to grant their demand.” Luke 23:20-24 “The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” Luke 19:7

As I read these verses recently I was struck between the eyes with an eerie sense of the familiar. Just a quick recap of a few recent headlines and news stories from the past week is all it takes to see the thread.

I saw a video of college girls in Oregon staging a protest across the street from a Crisis Pregnancy Center, holding their signs and speaking to the camera about how dangerous these “fake clinics” are because they don’t tell women the truth. Then they all sang their chant, “Raise your voice, stand up for choice.” (Or something silly like that.)

Then there’s the continued ranting from Congress and the White House about being committed to protecting health services for women, and of course, to achieve that it’s absolutely necessary to force doctors and nurses to perform abortions despite their own moral objections. So, away go any Conscience protections for medical providers.

Next, there was Governor Sebelius, and Chris Matthews worrying about how she’ll fare against the “terrorism “of pro-lifers who object to her nomination for HHS.

And finally, another horrific story of attempted infanticide… an Arizona college student tried to kill her baby by stuffing him inside a plastic bag after she gave birth in the bathroom. Her 7-pound son was found gasping for air when the bag was finally opened.

One week, people. Dear God, what is wrong with us?


The proud and powerful Land of the Free and Home of the Brave has become so stingy, so narcissistic and hard-hearted that we celebrate the killing of our children as though we had won some glorious victory over a brutal enemy. We have sunk to the unthinkable low of rejoicing over the “right” to murder a helpless baby. We are at once the crowd screaming at Pilate that Jesus be handed over to them to be killed, and Pilate himself, who ignored Jesus’ innocence and washed his hands of the guilt.

“It is our right!”

“We have a law and according to that law I have the right to kill the baby!”

“It’s my body, my life, my choice!”


“But why would you do this to an innocent child? The baby has done nothing wrong. Why must he die?”

But with loud shouts they insistently demanded their right to choose, and so the courts granted them their request. Then the leaders washed their hands and said, “We are innocent of this bloodshed. It is your responsibility.” And the people shouted, “Let our children’s blood be on us and on our children…”


At least the children we haven’t killed. Truly, their innocent blood
is upon us.



We have become a nation of Pilates. Our government, our states and cities, our universities, our schools, and even our
churches are infected with this insidious disease that is one part egocentric and another part Teflon. It sounds like this: “Personally, I believe abortion is wrong, but I’m not going to tell someone else what they can or cannot do. That’s their choice and their right.”

This Teflon argument is simply insanity:
“Well, I think it’s wrong and I would never do it, but not everyone feels that way, and I think women should have the choice.” That is an intellectually lazy opinion, and a demonstration of complete moral cowardice.

Let’s apply that statement to a different crime:
“Personally, I think slavery is wrong, but that’s just me. I’m not going to tell my neighbor he can’t own one. That’s his choice.”


You knew immediately what an outrageous remark that was, and you can shout out a dozen reasons (just for starters) why slavery is evil and no one has the
right to “own” another person. You’re absolutely right, of course, because slavery is objectively, intrinsically evil. It devalues a human being and grants power to one person over another person’s very life.


So, too, abortion is objectively, intrinsically evil. It devalues human life, and gives one person the power to end another person’s life. It is not just wrong for some;
it is wrong, period.


I will say again, I believe everyone knows that the child in the womb is a person; they know that person has the right to live, and they know abortion is murder. It is the natural law written on the hearts of all mankind by the One who created us. It is inescapable.


This is why the efforts to make sure this “choice” is enshrined as a sovereign “right” in our laws are being stepped up so dramatically. This is why the insistent shouting of those demanding “choice” reaches such a fever pitch.

They need something to drown out the nagging truth that will not leave them alone. If the laws are cemented in place to protect their supremely selfish and violent demands, then perhaps they can feel justified. Perhaps then they will be able to quiet the uneasiness in their hearts. They have washed their hands, but the guilt remains. For them, there is no peace.


As a mother, I weep to look down the road, not that far ahead, and realize that my daughters may have no hope of even finding an obstetrician who does not abort babies because such a doctor won’t be allowed to practice medicine anymore. The shouts of the people have overwhelmed too many of our lawmakers and judges, and they have simply handed the innocent over to be killed. They disguise their cowardice with the unrelenting chant of “protecting health services for women” as though abortion is a
necessary and healthy service.


As a woman, it is deeply, profoundly agonizing to watch the most wondrous place on earth, the womb, being turned into something akin to a Nazi death camp. The miracle of new life has been gripped by the most depraved evil.


If ever we had courage to fight for the sanctity of life, to protect the unborn child, to welcome the unwanted child, to truly care for women in the U.S.,
now is the time to call upon that courage. No amount of legal justification will ever wash away the stain of blood. May God show us His Divine Mercy.

©2009 Jennifer Hartline

04 March 2009

Sorrowful, part four


4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross


“Finally, Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.) John 19:16-17


Let this mystery teach us to persevere and be patient with our crosses.



He was still standing after a brutal flogging that should have left him dead. His flesh is already mutilated and profusely bleeding, and His body is weak and shaky from the blood loss. Yet somehow, He withstands the pain and keeps going. I wonder if maybe the soldiers, besides being irked, weren’t just a little impressed that He was still alive after all they’d done to Him.


Maybe that’s why they enlisted some help for Him and made Simon carry the cross the rest of the way to Golgotha. “A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country and they forced him to carry the cross.” Mark 15:21


But whether Jesus could walk or not, they were determined in their cause. Nothing was going to stop them from their final goal of execution.


Jesus persevered. So did Satan.


Satan was every bit as determined as Jesus that day and he was getting plenty of help from those blood-thirsty Roman soldiers. In this battle between Love and Evil, it was beginning to look like Satan would prevail. Thus far he had succeeded in shredding Jesus’ body and utterly humiliating Him. Not a bad day’s work for a fallen angel.


(Ah, but things are not as they seem! Evil was about to be soundly, eternally defeated.)


I think it must have been tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He thought, “I can’t take another step.”



How many times have I had that thought?


It seems to me that my cross is getting too heavy, or I have been carrying it for too long, and I can’t take another step. I feel weakened by some harsh blows, and it looks as though the enemy is winning.


In faithful obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus persevered. So must I.


Though it seems the enemy is scoring too many points against me, I must remember he has already lost. Though I’m sapped of strength and in pain, if I remain faithful, Satan will not prevail.


“Keep walking,” Jesus says to me. “I will carry you when you are weak. I will never leave you. I have been to hell and back for you, and there’s nothing to fear.”


“Keep walking.”


©2009 Jennifer Hartline

02 March 2009

Sorrowful, part three

The Sorrowful Mysteries, part three


3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns


“They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.” Mark 15:17-20


Let this mystery teach us to accept mockery and scorn for being disciples of Jesus.


Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package. It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. In other words, we can either accept humiliation for the sake of our Savior, or live as hopeless worldly cowards.


This cuts right to the core of my insecure heart. I long to be accepted, well-liked, sought after, validated, successful, etc. All the things the world says are good and desirable. It certainly seems easier to get along in the world when you are not scorned for holding an unpopular belief. And it feels a lot less lonely to have the company of friends rather than be an outcast.


It’s not easy being a follower of Christ in a culture that feeds on public opinion and popularity. It requires moral courage and conviction.


We’ll never have it both ways. If we’re truly following Jesus, we are going to be mocked. We will be the object of scorn and ridicule. We are going to be dismissed as closed-minded, prudish, old-fashioned, intellectually-stunted, bigoted, fanatical, and yes, un-cool. If we’re not being treated as such, perhaps we’d better reexamine our lives and our faith.


If we don’t stand out from the world, if we don’t seem any different, then we could be in serious trouble.


I know how often I still try to lessen my humiliation or even dodge it completely. It costs dearly sometimes to stand firm in my faith, to go against the current societal tide, to defend the truth that others say is irrelevant.


But my sweet and humble Savior quietly listened to the vile mockery spewing from the soldiers’ mouths and thought of me. He decided that my soul was worth the humiliation. He could have sucked the air from their lungs with just a thought in his mind and silenced them, but He loved me – He loved them – more than He minded being insulted by those ignorant buffoons.


Discipleship will exact a price…at the very least, humiliation and scorn for His sake. Someday it might even cost our lives. But what is the cost of the alternative?


©2009 Jennifer Hartline


As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Jennifer


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2nd Mystery

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