Results filtered by “Erika Reinders”
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Praying Through Music

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I was sitting in a hotel ballroom, staring up at a myriad of fancy stage lighting and three projector screens, the center displaying a fake cathedral type image, and I thought to myself, “what did I get myself into?” This worry and dread grew when the band started up and people all around me started to sing along and raise their hands in the air. I thought, “shoot, what sort of non-denominational Praise and Worship (P&W) music fest did I get myself into?” Then I turned to the person who had invited me on this retreat/training conference, the Life Teen Catholic Youth Ministry Convention, looking puzzled, and realizing how perturbed I was, he mouthed, “Just have an open mind.”

I had a bias against P&W music, because when I was a teen, a friend invited me to her youth group, where there was a projector screen, neon up-lights, and a not very talented band playing songs about a God I wasn’t yet sure I believed in. When I became Catholic, I loved the reverence for God, the focus on the cross, the prayerfulness with which we approach the Eucharist and communion. I thought P&W music couldn’t possibly fit into that. I was wrong. Through the 4-day conference, God opened my heart to this type of prayer in a variety of ways I never thought possible. Even if you are a skeptic, here are some reasons this type of prayer is so powerful for me, and some ways to make it powerful in your own life.

One of the reasons P&W music has been powerful for me is that when we take the words to heart they can transform us. With lyrics like, “You are a good, good father, it’s who you are, and I am loved by you,” the song “Good, Good Father” pushed me to ponder the perfect fatherhood of God. Through singing out loud and wrestling with the words, it pushed me to internalize and believe a truth which my head knew, but my heart struggled to believe. Songs, just like prayer books and written devotions, are vehicles for our relationship with God when we internally experience the words. Lyrics are there to help guide you, challenge you, help you remember God’s goodness, seek out His mercy, or sing His praises.

Another way P&W music transformed my prayer was by adding an emotional energy.  It may be hard to think of prayer as having energy, but I think St. Therese of Lisieux illuminates this need when she says, “Prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” I don’t know about you, but music has always made my heart soar and my voice cry out. P&W music is a vehicle for our hearts to surge towards God. Finding songs that hit you, in the genre you like (Praise music comes in all genres!) can be a way to link the surge of emotions that we all experience through music to God.

If this is still foreign to you, because you like the traditional music sung at Mass, or you don’t like to sing along at all, I still suggest giving it a try with an open mind. Listen to P&W music on your own through the radio station KLove, or find a worship playlist on YouTube or Spotify to avoid the pressure of being with others. Focus on it like you would prayer, start with the sign of the cross, and be focused on a crucifix as this will help you direct the words and your praise to God. Maybe attend a Teen Mass, Surrender, XLT, or Arise Saturday night to experience P&W music in person in a Catholic setting. 

Say you give all that a try and it still doesn’t “hit you.” That’s ok. Different people like different prayer. However, I would still challenge you to continue to encounter P&W with an open mind. Try a different prayer posture, hold your hands out in praise, or leave them open at your sides to receive and embrace the discomfort. Some of the most worthwhile experiences in our lives are uncomfortable, and usually it’s because the Holy Spirit is transforming us for His Glory.

The Continuation of the Gospel

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What does it mean when St. Paul implores us to preach the Gospel?  Does that mean we need to know every word of scripture and shout it from a soap box on a street corner? While this could be one way, I would argue St. Paul is talking about a more personal Gospel.

I once knew someone who was fond of saying that the Bible has many chapters, but it is only the first chapter in the larger Gospel, the Good News of God. She claimed each one of us, our individual stories, are a continuation of that Gospel. We all have episodes of time where we feel close to God, but then something, like sin, separates us from Him. He then restores the relationship with us, causing us to turn back to Him and His Church. Each of these personal stories that we hold in our hearts are little Gospels. When we tell others of these stories we are doing what St. Paul implores in 1 Corinthians 9: 16-19 .

When I first became Catholic, I hesitated to share what God did in my life, because I thought I might sound crazy to others. However, in every instance, when I thought it would be poorly received, I was met instead with open minds and curiosity, even while working in the secular world as a recruiter at ManpowerGroup Solutions. 

As Simon says to Jesus in the Gospel of Mark 1:29-39, “Everyone is looking for you.”  Everyone around us is looking for a savior, most spend years searching in the wrong places. It is our responsibility to share Jesus, by sharing the Gospel He works in our lives, with them, so they might see and hope in Him. 

Woman of Worth

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Proverbs 31 is one of my favorite passages in scripture. In fact, it’s the only page I have dog-eared in my bible. There are a multitude of reasons I love this passage, but right now, when I have a tendency to busy myself with things, and then feel guilty about neglecting silent prayer, this passage gives me new light. This “Poem on the Woman of Worth” shows a woman who is uniquely prepared for Jesus’ coming, not only by working industriously to multiply the gifts God has given her, but also her humility in serving others.

This final week of Ordinary Time is preparing us for the end times, allowing us to assess our hearts’ readiness for Jesus’ second coming. Sometimes in this season we can feel inadequate. We think we are not ready to meet Him face to face. In fact, last week I asked our middle school Emmaus small group teens if they thought they would be ready if Jesus came today, and not a single one said yes. While this is a good reminder that we can always improve, sometimes I think we don’t give ourselves enough credit. Personally, I think these teens, and many of us adults, are ready. God has given us gifts to multiply and as long as we don’t bury them in the sand, but rather try our best to grow them for the sake of His kingdom, I believe He will be waiting for us with open arms when we reach the gates of heaven, exclaiming “Well done my good and faithful servant!”  

So I encourage you, instead of allowing this fear of the Lord’s second coming discourage you, allow it to inspire you to uncover those gifts that maybe you have buried, dust them off, and get creative with new ways to make them grow. Then you will be industrious in the ways of the Woman of Worth, knowing your deeds have sung your praise.