Sunday, March 27, 2011

Super Easy Handmade Headbands and Hair Clips

It's not really a secret that I love embellished headbands. I wear them as an accessory way more than jewelry. This month my friend, who typically does the craft at my mom's group, had a baby! So... I jumped on the opportunity to be in charge of the craft, basically because it's been a dream of mine to craft my own headbands and this gave me a budget to do it.

Yesterday I went to the craft store with an open mind and came home with supplies to make theses...

For $2.00 a person each momma will go home with a headband, clip and 3 personalized flower that can be interchanged. That's like 6 different headbands (you can put 1 or 2 flowers on a headband) and 3 different clips. The best part is there is no glue or sewing involved whatsoever!

Here's what you'll need:

  • Headbands (4 for $1.00 at the Dollar Tree)
  • Hair Clips
  • Flowers from the Scrapbook Aisle
  • Craft Brads from the Scrapbook Aisle
  • Small Hole Punch
  • Sheet of Felt
*I bought everything but the headbands at Michael's for 40% off because their entire line of Recollections scrapbooking supplies were on sale. This was phenomenal because I had to buy multiples of everything. I'm sad to say the sale ended yesterday, BUT there's always the coupons!

Step 1: Cut out a small circle of felt and punch 3 holes in a line. If you don't have a small hole punch, you could fold the circle in half and cut 3 small slits on the fold.

Step 2: Stack your flowers. Notice that they have slits in the middle of them.

Step 3: Stick a craft brad through the slits in the middle of the flowers.

Step 4: Flip the flower over and add the felt circle by putting the brad through the middle hole. 

Step 5: Open the brad and push it flat. Line up the metal arms with the holes.

Now you can loop the flower either on a headband...

OR on a clip...

Super easy right! My 4 year old was even able to design and make one mostly on her own, which she LOVED and has been perpetually wearing for 2 days now.

I think these are the perfect way to add a little spring to your wardrobe!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Catholic Perspective on Love Wins by Rob Bell -- Part 2 Heaven

Note: I'm currently reading Rob Bell's new and extremely popular book Love Wins. I will be posting reviews on various sections of the book as I read them while giving a Catholic perspective to the questions he poses. 

Other posts on Love Wins
Part 1--On Salvation
Part 3 -- On Hell

Chapter 2 is called Here is the New There.

The key question in the chapter: Are there other ways to think about heaven, other than as that perfect floating city hanging suspended there in the air above that obvious red and black realm with all that smoke and steam and hissing fire?

Overall, I agree with most of this chapter (there are some minor things that I don't totally buy into to). Because of their significance, I will just review the areas of agreement with Catholicism.

Area of Agreement #1--Heaven on Earth

The overall thesis of this entire chapter is that ultimately heaven will be here on earth (as alluded to in the title). Bell uses many of the images from the prophets and teachings from Jesus about the age to come to show, "It's here they were talking about, this world, the one we know--but rescued, transformed and renewed."

"When we talk about heaven, then, or eternal life, or the afterlife--or any of that--it's important that we begin with the categories and claims that people were familiar with in Jesus' first-century Jewish world. They did not talk about a future life somewhere else, because they anticipated a coming day when the world would be restored, renewed, and redeemed and there would be peace on earth."

Bell notes Revelation 21, which is an image of the end of the world, and how "God's dwelling place is now among the people."

Heaven on earth is a very Catholic concept. Catholics believe that Jesus set up His kingdom here on earth. While still not heaven, the kingdom is an image of what is to come and we are supposed to be living out heaven on earth.

Catechism of the Catholic Church: "The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that "the Kingdom of heaven," the "Reign of God," already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time...Then all those he has redeemed and made "holy and blameless before him in love," will be gathered together as the one People of God, the "Bride of the Lamb," "the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God" (CCC 865).

Bell states that this perspective isn't just theoretical. It has huge implications for what we do here on earth.  He observes, "It often appears that those who talk the most about going to heaven when you die talk the least about bringing heaven to earth right now, as Jesus taught us to pray: 'Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.' At the same time, it often appears that those who talk the most about relieving suffering now talk the least about heaven when we die."

Is this why Catholic never talk about heaven? On a serious note, it does explain Catholics strong sense of social action. No other religious or non-religious organization does more humanitarian aid each year. We specifically take the earth seriously in our teachings as well. The Pope has put solar panels on the Vatican and purchased forest space in order to offset the Vatican's carbon footprint. Not to just be green, but to reflect Catholic teaching about an earthly heaven and a renewal of the earth.

Compare Bell's quote to the Catechism quote that follows: "A proper view of heaven leads not to escape from the world, but to full engagement with it, all with the anticipation of a coming day when things are on earth as they currently are in heaven."

"Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come. That is why, although we must be careful to distinguish earthly progress clearly from the increase of the kingdom of Christ, such progress is of vital concern to the kingdom of God, insofar as it can contribute to the better ordering of human society" (CCC 1049)

Area of Agreement #2--Fire in Heaven (Purgatory?)

Rob brings up a passage in 1 Corinthians 3  about purification. To quote him directly, "(on the day that) inaugurates life in the age to come, will 'bring everything to light" and 'reveal it with fire,' the kind of fire that will 'test the quality of each person's work.' Some in this process will find that they spent their energies and efforts on things that won't be in heaven-on-earth. 'If it is burned up,' Paul writes, 'the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved, even though only as one escaping through flames.' Flames in heaven."

To my enjoyment, Bell continues: "Much of the speculation about heaven--and, more important, the confusion--comes from the idea that in the blink of an eye we will automatically become totally different people who 'know' everything. But our heart, our character, our longings--those things take time."

All of what Rob is talking about here is exactly how a Catholic would about purgatory (Catholic confusion note: All those in purgatory go to heaven. It is a purification before the elect go to heaven.)

Catechism of Catholic Church:  "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire..." (CCC 1030-1031).

Final thoughts:
Overall, I think Bell's thoughts on heaven stem from his view of salvation in chapter 1. Salvation is a process, not simply a prayer. This very much affects his purgatory like position. In addition, Bell's questioning of the Protestant tradition allows him to read the Bible outside of it. In doing so, he sees that Scripture paints a very different picture of heaven and in doing so radically changes how we act here on earth. To see all of these thoughts in one of the most popular Protestant books of the past 10 years is very encouraging.

In the end, Bell will basically transfer the idea of purgatory above to what hell is like. We will cover this next time.

Thoughts on this chapter or the book?

To close, here is a Simpsons video on the differences between Protestant and Catholic heaven--definitely worth the watch--notice the earthiness of the Catholic heaven (although it still does involve clouds).
Other posts on Love Wins
Part 1--On Salvation
Part 3 -- On Hell

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Catholic Perspective on Love Wins by Rob Bell -- Part 1 on Chapter 1

Note: I'm currently reading Rob Bell's new and extremely popular book Love Wins. I will be posting reviews on various sections of the book as I read them while giving a Catholic perspective to the questions he poses.

Other Posts on Love Wins:
Part 2 -- On Heaven
Part 3 -- On Hell

As I mentioned before, both Rob Bell and this book are highly controversial. Chapter 1 is no different. Bell begins by questioning how Christians are saved.

Bell poses the key question: "Isn't that what Christians have always claimed set their religion apart--that it wasn't, in the end, a religion at all--that you don't have to do anything, because God has already done it through Jesus?"

But then, gives example in Scripture where people do have to do something.

He eventually summarizes all the examples in Scripture (he actually gives a few more later).

"So is it what you say, (John 3, Luke 20)
or what you are, (John 3, Luke 20)
or what you do, (Matthew 7)
or what you say you're going to do, (Luke 19)
or who your friends are, (Mark 2)
or who you're married to, (1 Corinthians 7)
or whether you give birth to children?" (1 Timothy 2)

(Scripture verses provided in the book, but added by me to this summary quote).

I'm not sure I could have written a chapter on this any better.

Salvation and entry into the Church as a Christian is one of the most foundational acts in the Christian Church. And yet, there are so many different opinions in Christianity on how this happens exactly. Which one is it?

I love this chapter because I feel that Catholicism (and perhaps Orthodoxy and Anglicism to some degree) has a response that is able to handle the various Scripture passages and the complexity and depth of this topic. Whereas, a Christian church who only believes in saying a prayer and committing to once saved, always saved ultimately falls short.

How do Catholics handle the various claims and ways to salvation in Scripture?

Answer: Both/And; All of the Above

We believe that "being saved" or justification is an absolutely unmerited and free gift from God made possible through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross (cf. CCC 2010). This is good news. We are adopted into God’s family through God’s grace. The idea that we can save ourselves by our own actions is a heresy called Pelagianism and is condemned by the Catholic Church (cf. CCC 406).

This grace is symbolized (and is made actual) by Baptism, especially infant Baptism. The infant does nothing to merit the grace received. In fact, it is the faith of the parents and godparents that enter the baby into the Family of God (just like Bell's example in Mark 2).

We do believe that in order to be saved we must respond to God’s invitation of salvation (cf. Matthew 22:1-14, CCC 1993, CCC 2002). By the way, even this response can only be done through God's grace, but it still involves our free will (CCC 1996; 2002).We begin this pilgrimage of salvation through our Baptism and continue the process by responding with faith in words and deeds (cf. CCC 1253-1254; Matthew 7). 

The best summary on the issue I have seen is by Catholic Answers.

"I am already saved (Rom. 8:24, Eph. 2:5–8), but I’m also being saved (1 Cor. 1:18, 2 Cor. 2:15, Phil. 2:12), and I have the hope that I will be saved (Rom. 5:9–10, 1 Cor. 3:12–15). Like the apostle Paul I am working out my salvation in fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12), with hopeful confidence in the promises of Christ (Rom. 5:2, 2 Tim. 2:11–13)."

Bell's critique of Protestantism's view of salvation doesn't fall on Catholicism. It reveals a need for a Catholic perspective on the topic.

Have you read the book yet?

What are your thoughts on this chapter?

Note: Despite a more robust theology on the topic, I think Protestants have done a fantastic job of simplifying the acceptance of Jesus Christ into our lives. Historically, Catholics seem to have so much depth they fail to know how to present it to others. If we could marry this simplicity with rich Catholic theology, this would pack a powerful one-two punch. Here is one example of how to do this. If you follow the links, it works you through how to present the Gospel to someone in a Catholic context.


Other Posts on Love Wins:
Part 2 -- On Heaven
Part 3 -- On Hell

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Catholic Perspective on Love Wins by Rob Bell -- Intro

I (Kevin) just started reading Rob Bell's Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived. I thought I would blog about a few of the chapters as a way to shed some light on the book from a Catholic perspective.

The book itself is widely popular. To give some credence to this, see this link about his blowing up the blogosphere. At one point, Rob Bell became the top trending topic on twitter (no small feat)...and this was before the book came out. Bell has been on Good Morning America and other programs to talk about the book.

Currently (March 22, 2011) the book rests at #4 on Amazon's rankings (Pope Benedict's is #25). That's not #4 out in the religion and spirituality section, but overall. The #1 book is probably the best book that I have personally read all year Heaven Is For Real.

So, why is Bell's book so popular?

First, Bell is one of the most popular pastors in America today and has been called our generation's Billy Graham. He has released incredibly popular short films called Noomas and several other books, Velvet Elvis perhaps being the most popular. He does a fantastic job of getting after questions people want answers to and does so in a way that takes a unique view of history and theology that few can pull off.

Second, this book is about hell and in particular Bell proposes that perhaps hell doesn't last forever and that eventually everyone goes to heaven. See the video promo for the book. This could be also called universalism, although Bell won't except this title and others support him in this. If you are confused with all the titles in regards to salvation, Scot McKnight wrote an article to help straighten everything out. For a really good interview with Bell on this, watch his recent interview on MSNBC.

Third, some people do not like Rob Bell. And this is their opportunity to go after him.

Personally, I really enjoy Rob Bell. I like to ask people the question, "If you could have lunch with any three living people, who would they be?" Rob Bell has been in my top 3 for the last 7 years.

But, this doesn't mean that I agree with him on everything.

I have yet to read the entire book, so I don't want to critique Bell's argument just yet. Certainly, there will be some truth in it and at other times we will have to part ways. In the end, I always enjoy Rob because he brings tough questions and the reality of Christianity to the forefront. If we merely avoid the questions, I believe Christianity ultimately become irrelevant to modern men and women. I like THAT he addresses them even if I don't always agree with the WAY that he addresses them. But, I usually walk away with a deeper perspective on the issue and a greater historical understanding. 

Of course, as a Catholic it is easier to agree to disagree with an evangelical. I don't expect to or need to agree with them on everything. If I were an evangelical, this might be a different story.

Because Bell's argument is so popular and he opens up some great questions, I wanted to give a Catholic perspective to all of it. Through it, I hope to personally come to a better understand of what the Church teaches on these subjects and why. Also, I don't think the Church has answered all of these questions definitively yet. There is room within orthodox Catholicism to wrestle with these questions. At the same time, we are fortunate enough to stand with a tradition that has wrestled with these questions for 2,000 years.

The journey should be exciting....

Have you read the book?

What are your thoughts on it so far?


Other posts:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

St. Joseph's Altar Symbols and their Meaning

The Solemnity of St. Joseph is one of our favorite liturgical days to celebrate. Between our love of the Saint himself and the fact that it interrupts Lent by ceasing all fasting, makes this feast day an easy winner. We began hosting an annual party to celebrate with friends and are in the midst of preparing the house and altar for 40 guests right now. I wanted to interrupt the prep to share with you the symbols and meaning of each item on our altar.

To begin, the tradition of making a St. Joseph's Day altar started after a devastating drought brought famine to Sicily many years ago. After seeking the intercession of their patron St. Joseph, rain poured down and nourished their crops.

There are three tiers to the altar, representing the Trinity and the three members of the Holy Family; Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. A statue or picture of St. Joseph, white lilies (the store only had tiger lilies and the others were a gift) and candles are staples of a St. Joseph's altar.

Next comes the food... and lots of it. Below is most of the traditional fare, but items vary depending on local customs and traditions.

Sfinge di San Giuseppe (Cream Puffs of St. Joseph) 
Simply the traditional treat of any St. Joseph’s day. Sfinge is to St. Joseph’s day as turkey is to Thanksgiving. I hear pastry shops in Italy sell these by the thousands for the Solemnity. It's true, ours hail from the freezer section of the grocery store. If you are brave try making these from Catholic Cuisine

Breads Shaped into Symbols
Several breads are made that represent both Jesus and St. Joseph. The symbols include ladders, hammers, nails, saws, lilies, and a staff for St. Joseph; and crosses, palms and wreaths (for the crown of thorns) for Jesus. We cheated and used canned Pillsbury crescent rolls to make our, but if you want to be authentic a recipe is here at Catholic Culture.

Pupa Cu L'ova
Another traditional bread includes adding whole dyed Easter eggs. This serves to remind us that Easter is coming! I just put plastic eggs in circular Pillsbury rolls, POST baking. It only took one can to make all of the pup cu l'ova and symbol breads above. Check out some of these authentic examples!

Symbolic Fig Filled Pastries 
Pastries filled with dried figs represent the fig orchards of Sicily. Authentic fig pastries are detailed works of art that are not edible. The symbols can include a monstrance, chalice, cross, fish, Bible or heart. Ours are made out of fig newtons, thank you Lacy from Catholic Icing for your brilliant idea!

The 12 fish represent the 12 apostles. You’ll notice that there is not meat at a St. Joseph’s altar. This is because the Feast of St. Joseph is always celebrated during Lent! We opted to make paper fish so the alter wouldn’t smell fishy. 

Fava Beans
The fava bean was the main food that kept families in Sicily alive during the drought. Italians would carry this "lucky bean" with them for good fortune. These are lima beans, sorry, but you get the idea.

Breadcrumbs represent St. Joseph the Carpenter’s sawdust.

Olive Oil and Wine 
These serve as a reminder of the many vineyards and orchards in Sicily. 

This treat is a pine cone shaped fried pastry, which serves as a reminder of the pine cones Jesus played with as a child. Not sure where they got the idea that Jesus played with pinecones. We just put out pinecones, certainly not edible. Check out the read deal at Gourmet with Me

Our friends will be bringing over other delicious desserts and drinks to complete the feasting in 15 mintues! Gotta go!

Check out Catholic Icing for more ideas!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day

The kids are holding the snakes they made this morning, I'll explain later.

We started off the day in traditional Cotter fashion, as in Kevin did this as a little boy, with green pancakes and milk. Because Kevin is a pancake master he made them in the shape of shamrocks. 

The leprechaun says "Top o' the mornin' to ya", the flowers are fake and the book is sorta heretical, but doesn't the display look nice?  One day I'll actually buy the Tomie dePaola book on St. Patrick instead of grabbing what's left at the library.

I've never shared Kevin's pancake secret, but I think I will today. It's the pancake pen by William and Sonoma. The man has made a pancake of a monkey swinging on a branch holding a banana. Yes, it's that awesome.

Skeptical, still waking up Pal, shared his glass of green milk with the camera.

And for the adults...

There's actually no Bailey's in them, the cups are just cool.

Now on to the snakes. Irish tradition says that St. Patrick drove all of the snakes out of Ireland, so we made our own snakes to drive out of our house because I didn't want to do that with real ones.

It's a green half sheet of paper cut into a spiral with googley eyes, nothin' to it.

While the kids took their nap I hid them throughout the house and when they woke up they ran around finding snakes. They were supposed to drive them out of the house, but instead they kept hiding them for each other. 

Tonight we used our felt board to teach another Irish tradition about St. Patrick, his use of the shamrock. It is said that St. Patrick taught that the Trinity is one in three persons, just like a shamrock is one plant with three leaves. The pattern and idea comes from the preschool book Little Saints.

We ended the day reading a portion of the Breastplate of St. Patrick to the kids.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

In the full version there is a line that says "Christ in the poop". 

It's referring to the poop deck of a ship, HA!

May the road rise to meet you...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Emotionally Faithful Wife Audio Talk

A few weeks ago for my mom's group at church I gave a talk on being an emotionally faithful wife. I have been speaking on emotional chastity or emotional purity to singles for over 2 years, but have never applied the principles to the married life until now.

If you have never thought about the need to be not just physically faithful, but also emotionally faithful in your marriage, this talk is for you (and even if you have, I still say give it a listen :). My mom's group friends all assured me that my recognition of this struggle is real and I'm not crazy, phew! From what they tell me if you take the time to listen to it be prepared to have some things to take to thought and prayer.

I welcome any comments or suggestions on the talk as I continue to dive into this topic!

Monday, March 7, 2011

What we're doing for Lent

In case you have been wondering where we've been, we have decided to begin our Lenten sacrifices early... okay it's actually been forced upon us. Sometimes when you have kids they get sick, that's where we've been.

What we are actually doing is one thing from each of the three big types of Lenten penances: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. So without further ado, here is how we are participating in Lent as a family.

1. Prayer - Stations of the Cross Box

I wish I knew who originally came up with this fantastic idea, but I've seen too many versions of this on the web to tell.

This is our stations box. It is filled with 14 symbols, one for each station. As we pray the stations each Friday the kids will pull out each symbol as we go. I'm hoping this interactive way of praying together will help keep their attention. For ideas on what to use for each station check out Catholic Icings round up of boxes... because I didn't picture all of the symbols... because I'm still gathering them.

I grabbed my wooden box at Michael's and painted it purple. Of course I used a 40% off one item coupon. If I ever hear that you purchase something at Michael's for over $1.00 without using a 40% of coupon I will be thoroughly disappointed.

2. Fasting - Crown of Thorns

Throughout Lent the kids will be pulling thorns from our crown of thorns each time they make a sacrifice such as sharing, letting others go first or skipping a treat. The hope is to remove all the thorns before Easter so Jesus has just a crown!

The wreath hails form The Dollar Store and we painted it brown and stuck some toothpicks in it. A happy alternative to making the salt and dough crown that we have in made it the past, because this version will last for years as opposed to making a new one each year.

3. Almsgiving - Purple Piggy Bank

Each time the kids do an extra chore throughout Lent they can earn a quarter for the purple piggy. At the end of Lent we will go to the grocery store to buy food with their money to give to our church's food bank.

The piggy is from The Dollar Store too, right next to the ugly statues of chubby puppies and Precious Moments knockoffs. Sorry if I just offended you.

Also we have signed up for Holy Heros Lenten Adventures. Not really sure what to expect, but it's free, so if things go really bad I can just unsubscribe.

I hope your preparations are going well, we are so excited for Mardi Gras tomorrow!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Crepes for Mardi Gras

Crepes are a traditional treat for both Mardi Gras and The Feast of the Presentation, or Candlemas.

Up until recently I was intimidated by crepes and I'm not really sure why, they are just thin pancakes. Maybe it's because they are a French food and thanks to Julie Child I think that any food that comes from France must be beyond my culinary skills. Nothing here but a servantless American cook, yet I am able to pull them off.

With Fat Tuesday just a few days away I'm posting my full proof crepes recipe so you enjoy this tradition before you begin your Lenten sacrifice.

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1. t vegetable oil
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Step 1: Place all ingredients in a blender

Step 2: Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth

Step 3: Place batter in the fridge for 1-2 hours

Step 4: Heat a skillet on medium heat. Once it is hot remove the skillet from the heat and pour on a few tablespoons of batter onto the pan.

Step 5: Using a spatula, spread the batter in a circular motion until it is a thin layer. I learned this trick from watching the French make crepes in France. It works way better than trying to swirl a pan.

Step 6: Return the pan to the medium heat and wait for it to turn slightly golden, then losen the edges and  flip it over to cook on the other side.

Step 7: Once your crepe is ready flip it onto a plate and...

fill it with your favorite treats! 

Our favorites are strawberries, bananas, chocolate syrup, carmel syrup, whipped cream, powdered sugar and jams.