DIY Palm Cross Sacramental

I am not very crafty. Truth. But it doesn’t stop me from trying.

A couple years ago I noticed old palms being returned to my church in advance of Ash Wednesday in various styles of crosses. That’s pretty cool, I thought. So after Palm Sunday I gave it a whirl. It was easy, and I now do it with each year’s palms and tuck them behind picture frames or over a doorway. They help me remember that the truth of the palms is not easy.

As Catholics, we keep palms as a public display of loyalty to Christ, who by laying down His life became our Redeemer. As such He is the King of our homes, and palms are a great everyday reminder—a touchpoint of our belief—of the ultimate sacrifice He gave for others, even those who don’t believe.

Symbolism and Importance of the Palms

In the Catholic Church the palms are blessed; they are physically prayed over by a priest or bishop, just as is the Eucharist, the gifts of bread and wine—body and blood of Christ. In so doing they become sacramentals, or sacred in the eyes of the Church.

Think about it this way. As Jesus entered into Jerusalem, just one week before beginning his Passion, the multitudes gathered, rejoicing and laying their cloaks and palm branches on the ground in preparation for His approach. Why? Because that’s how a king or victor was welcomed home from war or conquest. It was a sign of respect and admiration; it was public acknowledgement of something or someone great or revered. A New Testament advance homage to today’s “red carpet” ceremonies…sort of, but waaay more important.

And just as the blessing over the body and blood of Christ Jesus on the altar each Mass is meant to prepare us to receive the blessed sacraments, the blessing of the palms is a means of preparation for celebrating Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, where He was hailed by some, erroneously, as the coming political savior, and by others as the Messiah He truly was.

In blessing the palms they become Sacramentals; that means they should be treated with respect. They cannot merely be thrown away, discarded with the trash and the leftovers in the fridge you never got around to finishing. Nope. Palms may only be burned or buried. They require our care and attention, long after they become brown and dry and brittle. If we’re not careful in doing so, if we don’t pay attention to the seemingly small things like sacred items, how much more likely are we to grow dry and brittle in our relationship with God, rejoicing openly only on occasions like Palm Sunday when there’s an extra special something in the Mass? Take care. It’s in the small things that we are meant to see the Big Picture; it’s in the small things that we foster greater love for the TRUE KING.

I try to seek out the Truth in the everyday of things, and the simple, routine steps of making a palm cross gives me a small but fruitful way of paying attention to the sacred throughout the year, each time I see one tucked behind a picture frame.


Forever Young

Alphaville - Forever Young

Alphaville – Forever Young

Today one of my favorite 80’s selections came up in my iTunes shuffle, “Forever Young”by Alphaville. Yes, I still love my 80’s music. MTV was a disruptive force in the music industry, we had VJs, and dudes wore parachute pants and more hair gel than girls.

Back then, I didn’t really give much thought to the lyrics; I just loved the shadowy feel of the music and its melancholy vibe (yep… still do). But hearing the words now, they touch me in a very different way, piling on 30 years of life since college and the changed perspective that brings. One of the verses throws out the sadness of things let go, unattained:

So many adventures given up today,
So many songs we forgot to play.
So many dreams swinging out of the blue
Oh let it come true.

Then the plaintive chorus:

Forever young,
I want to be forever young.
Do you really want to live forever,
Forever, and ever?

In 1984 I would have answered that question with an equivocal Yes! Life was about dancing and loving and thinking that everything was still in front of me, and it all would be great. Why not live forever, bound to my earthly delights? And I had LOTS of earthly delights, many of which later only brought sorrow, and the beginnings of perspective mentioned above.

Now, when I hear this song, I can still get caught up in the music, but I hear the words differently, or rather, they pull out a different response in me. At 19, I was without God, by choice. I didn’t think much about Him or the exacting reality of “forever.” I lived moment by moment with no regret, and with no discernment for how the things I was embracing then would reflect for me years yet in the future. And so I danced on. I gave all of my soul to someone who said they would love me forever, and who less than three years into our marriage gave up on our adventures and dreams to start a new dance with someone else. Since then, there have been many, many more instances of lost dreams. But I have found new ones, and much of that—all of that—has flowed from God’s hand, once I accepted that it was me who needed to get my act together and begin discerning the reality of forever.

The truth is I don’t want to live forever. As much as I find exquisite beauty and awe-inspiring radiance in a summer beach sunset or full-out joy in a ‘Girls Night In’ with my besties (and a good cabernet), I am still seeking my best adventure yet…to be filled and fulfilled. And I know beyond doubt that it can come only in the presence of being unified to Christ, Lord and Savior, when my time with earthly things is done. That’s the adventure that I long for when, truly, there will be a great promise of forever.

For those of you who are 80’s fans, I wouldn’t leave you in the wrong way. Here’s the link to listen to Forever Young. Go ahead. Turn up the volume. Dance it out.

Trust, even Afflicted

One of the first concrete experiences I could point to when I I began looking for  ways God asks my trust in Him was one I couldn’t even remember, and yet I knew it was certain: my adoption.

My adoption was the first indication of God’s love for me, but really it began at conception and the decision of the young woman who carried me not to terminate her pregnancy. God was at work through all that, and yet it took me almost half a lifetime to have my eyes opened to it.

I am enriched with that knowledge—there are moments when it overwhelms me—of being a life choice by someone I will never know. And yet, my trust can still flag in ‘dark’ moments that pull me away from trusting God, despite that He’s shown me a most impressive love in my being here on this earth. It’s those dark moments that cause me to teeter toward falling or tumbling into disbelief and doubting God hears me when I call out.

This is a real area of concern for me, as I’m currently working through a personal quagmire that’s lasted many months and at times brought great despair. I’ve found myself asking how can a God so good be so silent to my pleas. Am I the one spoken of in the Psalm for the Afflicted? (Psalm 102). In truth, there has been more good than bad in my life, yet I still wrestle with doubt, wondering where God is leading me, and how I’m to confidently walk with Christ. I haven’t yet seized the surety—the unfailing absoluteness—of not doubting God’s plan, and that pains me.

I long to develop a spirit that’s stronger than my doubts, one that recognizes the promise and context of Psalm 46:10 to “Be still and Know that I Am God.” In my stillness as an infant I never crawled…I went straight to pulling myself up on nearby furniture and walking.

My goal on my earthly journey is to pull myself up and walk in trust with Christ.

State of Readiness

A few years ago, my husband and I redid our family room — basically the hub for our TV watching. At the time, I found the perfect accessory in a reproduction antique wall clock but, like most things today, it hasn’t lasted very well and, eventually, it’s stopped working.

I’ve spent countless hours over the past year trying to get it working again, even replacing the clock movement, which worked for a short time before it again stopped keeping time. I can reposition the clock hands, and it will work for an hour or two, and then woefully decline, so when glancing at it the true time is unknown. This scenario reminds me of the biblical caution that Jesus has given us, that we  “do not know the day or hour” of His return.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday moments that direct our lives, the things that we think important at any given time, the moments where we let down our guard and lose track of the very thing we have been cautioned against. And it’s a subtle reminder, each time I see the clock that I’ve now all but stopped trying to fix (and it may subconsciously be the reason I no longer feel the necessity to fix), that the time may be later than I think to fix the things in my life that have stopped working. None of us know the hour of His coming, whether we have a clock to mark the time or a conscience that is keen on hinting that the hour is drawing near.

A Fruitful Mother

Blessed Mother statue in rose garden holding baby JesusJohn’s Gospel message “I am the vine, my Father is the true gardner,” (John 15:1) offers terrific symbolism. But God first planted the seed of “fruitfulness” in the Virgin Mary; she was the essence, the receptacle, of true fruitfulness. She allowed herself to be truly in God and God in her to bring forth our Redeemer and King. With no words of argument or doubt, she knew intuitively what John would so much later preach: “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” 

When We Fall…

pink azalea blossoms lying on ground after rain Today, a simple act of nature brought me around to thinking about how God sees us as “beautiful,” even though we are part of a fallen world.  A spring rain has caused many of the blooms on my azaleas to drop, leaving those blossoms compromised — still beautiful, but separated from the branches where they found life. For me, in that moment, when I saw these petals lying on the wet concrete, it was an illustration of how God sees our singular beauty and potential for beauty, even in our frailty. Even when we’ve fallen, we are, to Him, a beautiful creation.

The Egg In Me

tie-dyed easter eggsResearch studies show that humans can absorb and concentrate on about only seven ideas at once, with regard to what’s happening around us and how we process those things. It might be one of the primary reasons that we hold to certain traditions — things that we are familiar with and that don’t require a lot of new information to learn. Through tradition, we can find joy, often in the most simple of things, like coloring Easter eggs. We can decorate them to a certain theme or we can try something new, but the job itself is familiar to us. In the end, however, each one is a unique creation. Just like us.