Thursday, July 30, 2020

Listen, Imagine, Pray: A Review of Beheld Media's Time With Jesus

My kids know about God… but do they know God? Why do they sometimes dread family prayer time? (Why do I sometimes dread family prayer time?) 


When Beheld Media introduced an innovative prayer resource for kids to CatholicMom, it resonated with a need in my own family. I hoped it would be as good as it sounded:


Time With Jesus (TWJ) is a collection of 13 Bible readings and corresponding meditations, in which scenes from the Bible are brought to life with natural sound effects and music. By listening to Scripture and then using their imagination, children are led to an encounter with Jesus.


My kids, ages 4-10, love the prayer experience of TWJ. Each night for the past two weeks, after tucking them in bed and turning out the light, I've played one of the tracks from my phone. Each night, they've begged to hear another. 


"I helped Jesus pull the boat onto the sand!" declared my 4-year-old after an immersive story of Jesus calming a storm.


After the same guided reflection, my 8-year-old shared, "You know how I get worried a lot? I think Jesus was telling me that He can handle all the stuff that worries me."


Each TWJ contemplation is 5-7 minutes long. The word choice and story format are perfect for kids of any age. The music is calming. The sound effects are an integral part of the story, not distracting or overbearing. 


Catholics will recognize TWJ as a modern-day, kid-friendly experience of lectio divina, an ancient prayer tradition of Scripture meditation that "engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2708) 


"I helped Jesus find a lost sheep!" one of my 5-year-olds shared after listening to a parable.


"And we are the sheep!" his twin interjected. "We are Jesus' sheep! He wants to comfort us."


Time With Jesus isn't preachy. In fact, there's no preaching at all. And yet, through each guided, open-ended conversation with Jesus, the Holy Spirit stirred differently in each of my kids—and in me. While listening to TWJ, God impressed on my heart a friendship I needed to reconcile. This is an approach to prayer that's engaging and effective for every age, even adults. 


Several of the Bible stories in TWJ are also mysteries of the rosary: The Visitation, Jesus' Birth, Baptism, Transfiguration, and Resurrection, and The Coming of the Holy Spirit. After listening to the Scripture of Mary's visit to Elizabeth, children are invited to talk with Mary about how excited she is to be Jesus' mother and how much she wants everyone to know her Son. 


Cate Kensey, creator of Time With Jesus, explains: 


"​TWJ is the fruit of my own faith journey. My own relationship with God was transformed when, in 2003, I was introduced to a community of missionary women whose vocation is to show people how they can meet Jesus personally and be changed by His love, through prayerful contemplation on the Word of God. I have continued to pray in this way and it is what sustains my daily walk with Jesus." 


While there's a notable Aussie accent—Beheld Media is an Australian company—my kids didn't even notice. (TWJ could be a simple introduction for American kids about the universality of faith: Christians around the world read the same Scripture in different languages with different accents).


"I like imagining the details of the Bible stories," my 10-year-old shared after listening to his favorite track, The Coming of the Holy Spirit. "It makes it easier for me to talk to God."


"Jesus was talking to me!" my 4-year-old declared in a run-on sentence of excitement after listening to The Resurrection. "I was pretending like I was running to get to Jesus, and when I turned, somebody was right in front of me, and I know it was Jesus, and He said, 'I am alive.' And I said, 'How did you get off the cross?!' And He said, 'I am alive.'" 


TWJ offers a creative way for kids to know God, to encounter Jesus personally, as they engage meaningfully and joyfully in prayer.


You can listen to The Transfiguration as a free sample track and purchase Time With Jesus as a CD or mp3 download at Beheld Media's website (www.beheldmedia.com).


*Also published July 2020 at CatholicMom.com




Monday, July 20, 2020

She Laughs at the Future

I ran a Catholic homeschool co-op with 4 kids under 6 while pregnant with #5. 
"What an impossible job!" another mom said. 
I laughed smartly.

I emailed in my letter of resignation at midnight while changing buckets during a family stomach bug.
"What a time to quit!" my boss said.
I laughed tiredly. 

I made pizza with tomatoes and basil from our garden while teaching my children to make homemade crust.
"What a good dinner!" the kids said. 
I laughed proudly.

I served 5 bags of extra butter microwave popcorn to my children while letting them watch TV.
"What a good dinner!" the kids said.
I laughed gratefully.

I brought 5 kids to Parent Night while pulling 2 preschoolers in a wagon with a toddler on my back.
"What a fun family!" the principal said. 
I laughed appreciatively.

I brought 5 kids to an Author Celebration while their heads were unknowingly but visibly crawling with lice.
"It happens! Don't worry about it!" the school nurse said. 
I laughed self-consciously.

My child told his whole class about Jesus while reading his story at Show & Tell.
"What a good writer!" the teacher said.
I laughed agreeably. 

My child told his whole class about how loudly I yell at home while reading his story at Show & Tell.
"What vivid description!" the teacher said.
I laughed awkwardly.

My kid brought his Bible to read while waiting for a chair at the orthodontist. 
"What a big book!" the assistant said. 
I laughed reverently.

My kid brought Captain Underpants and The Attack of the Talking Toilets to read while waiting in line for Confession. 
"What an… interesting book!" the secretary said. 
I laughed sheepishly.

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come. 
- Proverbs 31:25


*Also published July 2020 at CatholicMom.com

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Can You Hold Me? (A Reflection for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on the readings for Mass this Sunday, July 5, 2020, at From His Heart, our parish blog.

"Can you hold me?"


Our 4-year-old gets overwhelmed easily. Especially these past few months, he doesn't understand why our busy household  work, school, parish life, extracurricular activities  stopped with little warning back in March. Almost hourly each day, he finds us, reaches up, and asks, "Can you hold me?" 
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones."1
As parents, we carry similar anxiety, wanting to control circumstances beyond our expertise and understanding, frustrated when things don't go the way we think they should, feeling pressured to count ourselves among "the wise and the learned" instead of the "little ones." 

Father, Lord of heaven and earth, can you hold me? 

A few years ago, we were cutting down a large dead tree in our yard. One wrong estimation, and we'd have a 30-foot tree across the road, in our kitchen window, or worse, on top of one of us. The sound of a chainsaw called our neighbors to their driveways to watch.

After several cuts, we began talking anxiously under the precarious tree. Had we cut far enough through the trunk? Why wasn't the tree falling? The YouTube video showed you cut this way and then that way and then it comes down. 

We finally swallowed our pride and called over our neighbor for help. Within minutes, he pulled the ropes and directed the tree in a perfect crash onto our yard. 

A job that was causing great anxiety became instantly simpler with the presence of a caring, competent friend. 
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest."2
Am I receiving the comfort and rest of God's presence? Or am I trying to carry heavy burdens alone? Father, Lord of heaven and earth, can you hold me? 
"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves."3 
"Take my yoke upon you," Jesus offers in this Sunday's Gospel (emphasis added).

Am I carrying Jesus' yoke  with his help  or am I carrying burdens alone? Things become so complicated when we push forward alone. Father, Lord of heaven and earth, can you hold me? 
"...For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."4 
Lord, please transform the worry of my daily work and the overwhelming concerns around me with the peace of your presence. Father, Lord of heaven and earth, can you hold me? 


2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.