The Truth Will Set You Free

Posted on April 5, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Post by Steve Botsford

“If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” John 8:31-32

The Truth Will Set You FreeIn today’s Gospel reading Jesus tells the Jews who believe in him a simple formula for success. It is so simple, however, that it can almost seem impossible to completely understand. How is a good steward to interpret this statement?

Literally

The word “if” could almost be taken as a threat, for “if” one does not remain in his word one will not be set free.

The word “remain” could mean that one could be set free unless they do not “remain” in his word.

The word “word” could mean the scriptures as we sometimes refer to scripture or the bible, yet, the “word” might refer to Jesus himself, as we understand Jesus as the “word” of God.

“Truly” could mean that one might possibly could be a disciple but not “truly.”

And so on. Imaginably, we could be overthinking it!

In Context

Ironically, the Jews listened but didn’t hear. They listened to Jesus literally and missed the point entirely! Jesus wasn’t talking about literal slavery or earthen fathers. He was talking about doing the RIGHT THING! He was saying to follow him as the way, the truth and the life, and they would be free from the slavery of sin.

The Good News

We can also interpret today’s gospel within the context of the Good News. When we read The Appearance on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24:13-35, we see Jesus as a companion on our faith Journey. The Latin meaning for companion is derived from two words: com meaning “with” and panis meaning “bread.”

With bread. As we recall in the Bread of Life Discourse, “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” John 6:35.

As we continue our faith journey this Lent, perhaps we should consider our companion for the journey. We are never alone as long as we are receiving, and walking with, the Bread of Life.

Lord, in my effort to become a better disciple, a mature steward, and your hands and feet, let me remain in you today trusting that to be with you is to become truly free from the slavery of sin.

Steve Botsford is a husband, father, catechist, educational consultant, blogger,  and game designer.

Spotlight Makeover: Refreshing St. Bernard Parish’s Website

Posted on March 31, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

St. BernardsThere are a few things to consider when refreshing your parish website including knowing what your audience needs, wants, and expects, and making sure the look is consistent with your parish communications. After that, all you need to update your parish website is a brighter, more modern design and a little reorganization.

When Christine, the webmaster at St. Bernard Parish in Wauwatosa, WI, asked LPi for help this is exactly what we did to refresh her church website.

Choose a new look

If you are using a website service with templates, choose a template that has the colors you use in your church communications or offers the choice to use those colors. In this case, we chose a template that would show off the beautiful brand identity already created.

Add a headline

The headline on your website is the first thing a visitor will read. We recommend the headline stay between 5 and 7 words. For St. Bernard Parish, we selected the tagline they already use with their logo and on their church communications.

Simplify the home page

Working closely with St. Bernard’s parishioners, Christine had specific content she had identified that was needed and wanted on the home page. The next step was to simplify how it was presented by placing the most important information first and reorganizing the related content together. This is important not only for readability on a full desktop, but also for a mobile-friendly environment because the content will display vertically from left to right.

Reorganize the menu

A menu should have no more than seven items visible when the page loads. One way to think of these menu items is as categories. So, all other Web pages must be moved under these categories. For St. Bernard, we adjusted the menu options to be one word that communicates simple categories for easy assessment, readability, and organization of all the content within the website.St Bernards Image 2

Adjust the layout on other pages

When you change a template, it is important to review all existing pages to make sure they are displaying correctly in the new template. Through the assessment of the St. Bernard website, we identified several pages where we could combine the content into one page. Then we established guidelines for which header style to use on every page. Lastly, we rearranged pages to match the menu bar and included images and videos.

Sin and Compromise

Posted on March 17, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Post by Chuck Frost

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” – C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Sin and CompromiseWe’ve heard of the drug dealer cliché, “The first hit is free.” You have to take the first hit to begin the slow decline toward full blown addiction, and if vulnerability is detected the dealer may gladly get us started free of charge. Not too many people think that one little indulgence will end up that way.

We go through life making small moral compromises here and there. Maybe it’s something that seems too insignificant to get all worked up about. Things that we think don’t rise to the level of serious sin.  Things we may joke about or shrug off.

And though I think it’s possible to become scrupulous to an unhealthy degree, it is important that we take account of those small compromises for they can be the devil’s delight.

The DevilThere is a great episode from the nineties television show Northern Exposure called “The Robe”. Shelly, the wife of a local bar owner, despises her husband’s old bathrobe. It looks hideous on him, but he adores it.

So the devil comes to her as an engaging traveling salesman and tempts her to burn the robe while her husband is away. She almost does it, but then turns back at the last minute.  When the devil angrily scolds her for not following through, Shelly replies: “Why did you go after me? I’m nobody.” So he says:

“You’re my bread and butter, Shelly. Look, say I get some corporate raider to suck up some company, turn 3,000 employees out on the street. Where’s the victory there? But if I can get somebody like you, pure of heart, to let her bumper stray over that white line just a little bit…You know that expression, ‘God is in the details’? Well, it’s a little bit like that for me.”

Is it really a big deal if I eat from that tree?  I mean, it’s just a piece of fruit

Chuck Frost is Pastoral Associate at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia

Secret Ambition

Posted on March 15, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Post by Steve Botsford

Godly AmbitionIn the summer of 1980 I went to stay with my grandparents for six weeks. They had a ten-unit apartment building on the Intracoastal in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, a very prominent area of town.

My plan was to work for my grandfather doing painting, yard work, and basic upkeep. I had calculated the amount of money I would make by working forty hours a week for the entire time and it would give me just enough to purchase a new synthesizer. I was a budding musician and it was an ambitious endeavor to say the least.

My grandparent’s plan was to have an extended visit and help me with some spending cash by paying me to do some chores a few hours a day for the duration. Needless to say, I couldn’t afford the purchase when I returned but left with memories that remain with me today – a much greater reward in hindsight.

I went on after high school to work for my father hanging wallpaper and eventually started my own wallpaper business. When he lost a battle to lung cancer a few years later I was left with a profitable trade-and an appreciation for the gift of music and the time we shared doing both. I was ambitious and successfully remained in that business for nearly ten years until I had an epiphany.

Through a series of events I had a spiritual awakening in my late twenties. Interestingly, I lost my ambition to seek fame and fortune but found a new ambition, sharing the Gospel. You see, my value system was altered and my new ambition was driven by the Holy Spirit.

I remained in youth ministry for ten years, went on to Catholic publishing for eleven years and have just embarked on a journey as a parish DRE. The fruits of my youth ministry can be seen today in many of the youth who became productive citizens driven by Gospel values. A few have become youth ministers or teachers and many are parents raising their children as faithful Catholics while maintaining productive value-driven jobs.

In the Gospel today, we hear of the mother of two of the disciples who also had an ambition. She asked Jesus to seat them at his right and left and he said she didn’t know what she was asking. Is it possible we have ambition without really knowing what we’re after?

The thing is, there are two kinds of ambition, the worldly and the otherworldly. One seeks prominence and the other servitude.

Jesus had a secret ambition. He was to be the King the Jewish people had been waiting for, only they couldn’t easily grasp what that meant. He was to usher in a new Kingdom of love, service and sacrifice.

In spite of two thousand years of faith and tradition, we still struggle today with ambition. As we continue our journey through the season of Lent, let us pause to ponder what is truly meant and implied by our Lord’s secret ambition.

Steve Botsford is the Director of Religious Education at St. Ann Catholic Church in Marietta, GA. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a Master of Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans. Steve is married with three children and is the creator of FeastDay, the Liturgical Year Board Game.

Analog Faith

Posted on February 17, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

A post by Chuck Frost

Record AlbumsI remember going to the record store almost every Tuesday when I was young to sort through the new releases.  I recall one particular album that I knew was forthcoming, so I trekked weekly into the shop to ask the clerk: “Is it in yet?”  When it finally arrived, I called my friends over and we ‘dropped the needle’ and listened together. 

Those days are pretty much gone.  If you have a Smartphone, you have all your music in your pocket.  People walking down the street, earbuds on, is a common sight.  Outside of concert attendance, music listening has become more private.

Modern music formats are also heavily compressed.  The music piped through your phone and earbuds has a different sound than it does on a vinyl record.  One artist, reflecting on his new album, said this:

“When it comes right down to it, I feel like the earbud generation is missing out a bit…. It’s a little bit soul-crushing to imagine, with the amount of work that went into the frequency spectrum of this record, that it would all be squished into tiny little laptop speakers or earbuds.”

Another difference between analog (vinyl/tape) and digital formats (CD/mp3) are the imperfections in the sound waves.  Audiophiles will tell you that it’s those imperfections in the analog recording that help make it sound more real, more alive. I think this in part explains the recent resurgence of vinyl records.  People are looking for authenticity.

I believe there’s an insight here relevant to the Christian life.  It is tempting to compress our faith to the point that it becomes a mere private practice or personal matter – just ‘me and Jesus’.  We might go to Mass but leave it there.

Faith, however, is communal, full-bodied, and meant to be shared.  We gather not for our own private Mass experience, but to worship the Lord together and share in the joy of being brothers and sisters, with all our imperfections.   And from there, we are called to go forth and emit the full spectrum of faith to a listening world.

Chuck Frost is Pastoral Associate at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Roanoke, Virginia. Chuck was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in 2000 after spending 10 years as a United Methodist Pastor in Mississippi and Alaska.

“Cross” Eyed

Posted on February 16, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

Post by Steve Bostford

Jesus Heals the Blind ManWhen Jesus and his disciples arrived at Bethsaida, people brought to him a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. Putting spittle on his eyes he laid his hands on the man and asked, “Do you see anything?”

Looking up the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” Then he laid hands on the man’s eyes a second time and he saw clearly; his sight was restored and he could see everything distinctly. Then he sent him home and said, “Do not even go into the village,” (Mark 8:22-26).

After my confirmation class my co-teacher confided in me that she was suffering because of her job and personal circumstances and compounding responsibilities. She wondered if God was listening as he prayed as her situation had  progressively gotten worse over time. I certainly wondered how to respond to such a dire situation and desperate plea for help.

In today’s Gospel reading Mark tells us three important things about healing: 1) the faith of the community is important, 2) reconciliation to the people of the community is important, and 3) the gift of faith is important. Jesus’ healing love enables us to see the world anew with the eyes of faith.

What should our response be to people in need of healing? As part of the community of faith we are called to have faith and lead others to Jesus and the Church, his and our community. We are to embrace those in need with compassion and offer tenderness and support. And together, we are to gaze upon the cross of the one who has gone before us in great suffering. By keeping our eyes on the cross of Jesus we are able to humbly approach the one who understands, loves, and reconciles.

Steve Botsford is the Director of Religious Education at St. Ann Catholic Church in Marietta, GA. He holds an MBA from the University of Phoenix and a Master of Religious Education from Loyola University, New Orleans. Steve is married with three children and is the creator of FeastDay, the Liturgical Year Board Game.

Press Release: LPi acquires ParishPay

Posted on February 16, 2017 by - LPi News


NEW BERLIN, WI – Liturgical Publications and YapStone today announced a definitive agreement to divest YapStone’s ParishPay™ merchant portfolio to Liturgical Publications (“LPi”), a Catholic stewardship and communications company. The sale is consistent with YapStone’s focus on providing end-to-end payment solutions to global marketplaces and large vertical markets. LPi’s acquisition of ParishPay’s merchant portfolio continues their expansion as a single source provider of digital, print and service solutions helping parishes create more vibrant and fiscally secure faith communities.

ParishPay customers will be transitioning to LPi’s WeShare service, the largest electronic-giving provider serving the Catholic Church both in the US and abroad. WeShare’s easy to use interface is compatible with all mobile devices and tablets, integrates with most church management systems, and provides the ability to set up parish events and formational offerings taking payments and registrations online. WeShare maintains a PCI Level 1 certification, the highest in the industry, and also conducts an annual SSAE-16 audit of its controls. WeShare customers are assigned a dedicated, (more…)

Hope in the Midst of Division

Posted on February 14, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

A post from Teresa Keogh

Crochet 2Where can I be hope in a divided place?

Work took me to Cyprus this weekend and I decided to Visit Buyuk Han, an old camel trading post in the city of Nicosia – but on the Turkish side. The Han is now a craft market and restaurant.

I crossed the checkpoint, showing my passport on first the Greek and then the Turkish side. Inside I found this crochet. Here I found hope in the midst of distrust.

Crocheting squares and joining them together is joining these two communities that have been divided for so many years.

CrochetA simple act of crochet has done what politics has failed to do. It is breaking down barriers and then building anew in a spirit of trust.

Where is God inviting me to spread peace when there is fear? I ask for the courage to work for unity whether in my home, the workplace or the world.

Teresa Keogh is Advisor for Stewardship for the Archdiocese of Southwark in London, England and previously served as Advisor for Stewardship and Collaborative Ministry for Portsmouth Diocese. 

How to Speed Up Your Website

Posted on February 7, 2017 by - Catholic Tech Talk

How Can I Speed Up My Website?Nearly half of people who use the Internet expect a website to load in less than two seconds. Within four seconds, 25% of your website viewers will leave if it doesn’t.

This means, if your website take four or more seconds to load, and there are one hundred people visiting your website, you will lose twenty-five of them. That doesn’t seem like a huge number, but the ones willing to wait the extra time are most likely your existing parishioners, so you just missed out on twenty-five new parishioners.

Here are two things you can do to decrease the amount of time it takes for your website to load, images and all. Best part is, you don’t have to be tech savvy to make these changes.

Optimize your images for Web use

How to Optimize Your ImagesOptimize? That’s a big word. Let’s simplify it. Every file you place on your website is made of megabytes. The Internet reads information in megabytes per second. The goal is to make your image so small that it only uses a tiny fraction of the megabytes that will load in 1-2 seconds.

To do that, save your images in the exact dimensions you will need it to be at a resolution of 72 pixels, or dots, per inch (ppi or dpi).

Each program, app, and software has a different way of doing exactly that. Here are some articles to help you in the program you use:

If you don’t see your program listed here, type “Save for web in [the name of your program]” in the search box on the Internet.

Website CleanupClean up your home page

Just like the images, each bit of information is made up of megabytes. Plus, if you throw too much information at a new visitor on your website, you are going to overload them and scare them away.

In short, remove unnecessary information and shorten long sections to small excerpts.

Rooted in Faith

Posted on February 1, 2017 by - Everyday Stewardship

“So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith,” (Mark 6:6).

Cross of FaithEvery day we are presented with opportunities to question and think critically. It may be a situation that someone else presents or, in fact, may be something we face directly. Let me explain.

Recently, I read about a long time school principal that pled guilty to embezzlement of school funds. Apparently, he had served flawlessly as an educator for many years, growing in responsibility, and rising in the ranks. In his new role, however, he found himself with access to school funds. Experiencing personal financial hardships, he made the decision to skim money, which led to several years of the same activity.

There are so many lessons here but is it not true that we are all faced with temptations every day? Temptations may vary in penalty but are equally rooted in a lack of faith.

Recently, my 15-year-old daughter woke up late and missed the bus. This is hardly an equal temptation compared with embezzlement, but potentially as poisonous just the same. I questioned her level of responsibility, her ability to take school seriously, and her priorities. I was tempted to make her stay home as a punishment. I then asked a different set of questions. How could I best help her, by punishing her or taking her to school?

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching in the Synagogue on the Sabbath. Some who heard him asked where he got this knowledge, what kind of wisdom was this, and what great things would come. Others recognized him as the carpenter’s son, son of Mary and identified him as a local. The first set of questions were built on faith yet the second came from doubt and lack of faith.

Perhaps the school principal could have had faith and asked God for help but took the situation into his own hands. Today, let us think critically about the everyday situations we face and identify the questions that are rooted in doubt and ask the ones rooted in faith.

Steve Botsford is a husband, Father, Catechist, Educational Consultant, Blogger, and Game Designer. There’s only one life to live, so let’s live it to the fullest! (John 10:10)