Firstfruits began with an idea: How could women’s needs to gather with other women, experience God’s love and go forth more centered on their own giftedness and purpose be met? Then the Holy Spirit stepped in and something powerful happened!
In the beginning … Firstfruits began as a vision for a women’s ministry whose purpose was to gather women to experience God’s love. And as a result, be transformed!

As word spread about this unique opportunity, other parishes became interested in hosting a Firstfruits gathering. It became apparent to the founders of Firstfruits that this “gathering” needed to be moveable. We became known as a moveable feast of spiritual opportunities for women.

Sounds of Silence

I attended a movie today with my daughter as part of the annual Milwaukee Film Festival. It was entitled Moonlight Sonata. This documentary told the story of a boy who was born deaf but with the aid of cochlear implants was able to hear. He was also a very accomplished pianist, thus the connection to Beethoven and his Moonlight Sonata, which he composed as he was losing his hearing. The interesting part of the movie for me was that when given the option, often the young boy would purposely remove the device from his head that allowed him to hear because he came alive in his silence. It was in the silence he found his voice. It was in the silence he found freedom and his greatest creativity. Think of how many words we hear and utter in the course of a day. How full our heads are with useless information. (Especially if you spend any time with three to five year olds.) Every day we have the choice to fill our heads with the noises of the world or turn it off and enter the silence.  A silence waiting for us.  A silence where our greatest source of creativity exists. Where true freedom lies. Where our true selves lie. And where God is present whispering His truth. And I don’t mean cloistering ourselves in a room isolated from life. I mean choosing throughout the course of the day to take minute “vacations” from the noise and just listen. Even if all you hear is a quiet din, let it be. The boy in the movie had a set of grandparents who were deaf from birth and didn’t receive implants until much later in life, and when they could hear better, they commented that it really wasn’t all that meaningful to them. The words they had missed all those years didn’t keep them from experiencing what really mattered in life. There are many ways to express ourselves other than through words and often those ways are much more powerful and leave a lasting impression. A tender touch or a smile goes a long way. Not to mention the trouble we can get into with our words. So better to limit them anyway. That goes for written words too. Joan...

Set It Free

Well, it happened again. Only this time it came from a somewhat unusual place, not the norm for Firstfruits. There was a gathering of high school basketball coaches at the Firstfruits space this week. Our son has had a passion for all things basketball as long as I can remember. He went from dribbling in a bib to dribbling in a gym with little time in between. As a coach he knows and respects the powerful impact you can have on players, good and bad, and strives always for the former. He likes to gather like-minded coaches to share strategies and to support each other as they strive to be the best coaches and role models for their players. One such gathering took place this week. As I was making the coffee and putting out the donuts in the Kiwi Café, one of the coaches came up to me and thanked me for letting them meet at the space. He said, “I really like this place. It’s so peaceful.” When all the coaches left, my son mentioned how being in the space made it easier to have some really open, honest conversation. It was noticeable. Much different than when they meet in a classroom or conference room. That’s the kind of comment we get all the time from the women who come to Firstfruits. To hear that same sentiment from men made me smile. We are in the process of producing a video for our website (Watch for the premier sometime in January!) and as part of that process we taped some testimonials from Firstfruits regulars and so many of those testimonials touched on that feeling of peace that is prevalent at the space or the feeling of being filled up with whatever it was they needed when they walked in. Whether it was calm, comfort, assurance, wisdom, or hope. What is this invisible thing that continues to touch all who enter Firstfruits? That fills them up? That breaks down defenses and opens up communication? That gives some goosebumps? That is the Holy Spirit. Arguably, the most misunderstood of the Trinity. It’s not a ghost or a dove or a tongue of fire. At least not at Firstfruits.  There, it’s a gentle but powerful presence that brings with it all the intangibles. And all we had to do is invite it. Welcome it with open arms. Set it free. From day one we have invited the Holy...

Loose Lips

Loose lips sink ships. Not sure exactly what that old idiom meant but the basic message is clear and very true. There is great power in our words. Power to lift up and power to destroy. Our conversation at Well Time this week at Firstfruits still has me thinking. It was about being impeccable with our words. The topic came from the book, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. The word impeccable was defined as “without sin.” How do we sin with our words? Let me count the ways. Think of the last conversation you had. Were your words impeccable? Or were they despicable? Were there subtle hints of criticism, judgment, passive aggression, or anger? Did they leave the person feeling ashamed, guilty, insecure, or worthless? How easy it is to sin through our words. Oh, the power we have in our mouths. And then there is gossip. It is so prevalent by the number of comments we had about it in our group, and so destructive. How often we find ourselves in situations where there is gossip going on and we don’t know what to do. Our options are limited. Or are they? What is the right thing to do? Tell the person to stop. In most cases however, that isn’t going to happen. We don’t have control over anyone else’s use of their words, but we can have control over our own. One of the women in the group gave us a valuable tip on how to break the habit of destructive words. She heard it in a homily at mass. The priest said to “put love on your mouth.” Like physically touch your lips and imagine putting love on your mouth. Like a filter or screen. Every word must pass through that screen of love. When I picture doing that I immediately thought of those oversized, bright red wax candy lips I used to wear when I was a kid. So when I am tempted to use words that I know will be destructive, I imagine putting on my wax lips of love. It makes me chuckle a bit and in that moment of visualization I give my mind a chance to regroup and my mouth a chance to save itself. It really is working. Give it a try. That is what I love about Well Time at Firstfruits. We have the best conversations about such relevant topics and come away with such...

Generosity

My dad was a generous man.  I remember when I would ask him for money to go to a movie, which back then was under five dollars. He would give me a ten-dollar bill and say, “Buy yourself some ice cream.” He was generous in his compassion. He cared about people. When he and my mom would travel, if there were women travelling in their group without a partner, he made sure they were never alone. He included them at meals and on tours. He was generous with his forgiveness. He was quick to move on from the teenage follies of my brother, like when he let a friend drive the family car and he crashed it. He was generous with his time. He worked hard to provide my three siblings and me with a comfortable home, quality education, and a lasting faith life. I was blessed from early on with a good example of what it means to be generous. My dad knew how to celebrate generously too. From the almost weekly Saturday evening get-togethers with my aunts and uncles and cousins to the Luau (always a luau, see picture) themed block parties and anniversary parties, my dad gave it his all. He loved to see people having fun. Too often we only associate generosity with monetary giving. There are so many other ways we are called to be generous. The priest at mass today gave a homily on generosity. In it he said, “Be generous in all that God is.” Think about that. All that God is? I started to make a list. God is: kind, merciful, forgiving, caring, loving, wise, tender, faithful, truth, available, aware, involved, and good just to name a few of His attributes. So we are to be generous in our kindness, mercy, forgiveness, care, love, wisdom, faithfulness, availability, awareness, involvement, tenderness, and goodness just to name a few. Good food for thought. I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity ever since the Firstfruits Anniversary celebration a couple weeks ago. We are still receiving cards in the mail, offers of help and promises of prayer. It’s amazing. One amazing supporter of Firstfruits is Jamie O’Donoghue who owns O’Donoghues Irish Pub in Elm Grove. He has generously provided us with abundant and delicious food for our events the past two years. To show our appreciation to Jamie and to have an excuse to gather Firstfruits friends more than just once a year, we will begin something...

A Dream Come True

The Firstfruits second anniversary FUNraiser last week raised a lot of fun and much more. A big thank you to all who so generously supported us with your attendance, your donations, and your prayers. There were definitely some powerful prayers being said because the anticipated rain didn’t arrive until much later than was forecast so we were able to move things out into the beautiful courtyard in the Village Court where Firstfruits has its new home. Ironically, the minute my head hit the pillow later that night, there was a loud clap of thunder and the downpour began. I smiled and said “Go ahead, bring it on.” I didn’t care at that point because I had witnessed a dream come true. At one point during the evening I looked out at the courtyard and saw a vision I have had floating around in my head for a very long time playing out right before my eyes. A crowd of men and women sitting at tables and around the wooden gazebo under twinkling lights eating, drinking, talking, and laughing in a very secular setting yet they were all there to celebrate the faithfulness and goodness of God. The common ground we all shared was a deep sense of gratitude and ever increasing awareness of the constant presence and love of God. I stood out there to thank everyone for coming and to share with them stories of God’s faithfulness to Firstfruits. It felt surreal, a bringing together of the worldly and the other-worldly. Bringing God out of the sky and into the courtyard, into our everyday lives. A dream come true. I felt so blessed that God had cared enough to make my dream come true. And he used many of you to do that. I am so grateful. Being together with so many Firstfruits supporters, eating delicious, generously donated food from O’Donoghues, and dancing to an amazing band of local talent called No Expectations which includes a singing dermatologist as the lead singer, just added to the magic. The Holy Spirit is alive and well at Firstfruits! In addition to the weekly events we have going like Weekly Word on Mondays, a bible study of the book of James on Tuesdays, and the ever-popular Well Time on Wednesdays we have some exciting new offerings coming. Because of the popularity of Well Time we will be adding an evening Well Time beginning October 16. If you have wanted...

The Eight-Year-Old

We have a lot to celebrate this week! Firstfruits turns eight years old and will celebrate the second anniversary of settling down into its forever home in Elm Grove. If you have the pleasure of hanging out with any eight-year-olds for any length of time, you know how fun that age is. Every once in awhile you get a peak at their maturity and are in awe but for the most part they still have that innocent curiosity about life. They have come a long way but still have a lot to learn. They still need your help. Eight-year-old Firstfruits is much the same. I think back to its birth and early formative years with a smile. God had a plan and nothing was going to stop it. A vision of gathering women to grow in their relationship to God was given life. A community of support was established in a safe and loving environment. There were lots of growing pains along the way but nothing a little prayer, patience, and perseverance couldn’t remedy. And now, eight years later, by the grace of God, there are signs that this baby has matured. Firstfruits isn’t just a ministry that provides programs for women. It has grown into a lifeline, a life giving community. Firstfruits isn’t a calendar of occasional events. It has become a lifestyle. Firstfruits isn’t a just a legal 501c3 non-profit organization bound by lots of rules (Well, kind of.) It is a movement of the Holy Spirit full of creativity, curiosity, openness, and FUN! That’s just a peak at the maturity of this eight-year-old and isn’t it awesome? But Firstfruits still has a lot to learn. It still has much to discover and do. And with that will come more growing pains, I’m sure. It still needs your help. We are celebrating God’s faithfulness to Firstfruits this coming Thursday, September 12 from 6:30-9:00 at our Second Anniversary FUNraiser. We hope you can be there with us! The celebration will take place in the courtyard of the Village Court in Elm Grove with live music, good food and drinks, and lots of FUN. For more details check out our website at Firstfruits.info. Come raise some fun with us and some praise and gratitude to the One who makes it all possible! Joan...

Read the Manual

Someone once told me the bible isn’t a museum piece to be displayed on a shelf. It isn’t just a textbook to be studied. It is alive. It is the living word of God. It has the power to transform lives. It contains the wisdom we need to live our lives as they were intended to be lived. In short, it is our life’s manual. Well if that’s the case, I did the first thirty-three years of my life never having read the manual. Which is typical for me. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t read instructions or recipes thoroughly and then gets totally frustrated when the tent collapses during the first basement “camp out” or the chocolate chip cookies are hard as a rock. (I always blame it on the oven or the pans.) I never read the booklets that come with appliances. I’m sure my washer and dryer can do so many more things than I give them credit for but who cares, as long as they wash and dry. So ok, I ‘m not the wisest consumer and my appliances aren’t maintained as they were meant to be. That’s not a good habit to have when it comes to life. Doing life on our own without the wisdom of God can lead to much worse than hard cookies and underachieving washing machines. It can lead to unnecessary hardship and suffering. It can leave us mired in anxiety, doubtful of our purpose, fumbling with decisions, and caught in resentment to name a few. God’s word addresses all these things and many, many more of the daily challenges we face in our worldly walk. I experienced the “aliveness” of the bible for the first time in my early thirties. Up until then I was doing life on my own. I had what I thought was a faith life but now I see it lacked intimacy with God. I didn’t really know God. Then I met Anxiety. It took up residence in my life and refused to leave.  I tried everything to deal with it on my own. One day it just became too much and as a last resort I prayed. Immediately, I felt a peace that I knew was not of me. It was a comfort and a call. God wanted me to know the wisdom He had for me in his word. I opened the bulletin from our parish and saw that there...

Celebrate You

I’m writing you this blog on my birthday. Happy Birthday to me! At my age birthdays are a mixed bag of emotions. There’s the wide-eyed six year old in me, still a bit excited about the prospect of presents and cake and candles. But there is also the realistic sixty something year old trying to be excited in spite of the prospect of more sagging body parts and social security checks coming in the mail. All those things that remind me life is moving very fast. There are two things I like to do on my birthday. I like to reminisce about birthdays past. Since my birthday is in August I never got to celebrate it in school so I felt very deprived. That was back before half birthdays were ‘invented’. Now kids get to bring a treat to school and get sung to and fussed over six months before their birthday. But what I did get to do because of my summer birthday was to have a birthday party at the local mini golf course. I was queen of the greens for a day! I also remember my surprise party when I turned sixteen thrown by my parents which was a bit embarrassing but made me feel very loved. And the year my grown children threw a Family Reunion-themed birthday party for me. It was a joke because I complained about how my family never had family reunions and I see them on Facebook all the time. Everyone looks so happy in their matching tee shirts. The other thing I do on my birthday is thank God for me. Sounds a bit conceited? Well you should try it if you never have. How often we thank God for other people he has put in our lives. Our spouses, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and friends. But when is the last time you thanked God for putting life in you, bringing you into the world? For gifting you with the amazing gifts you have? For being the blessing you are to so many?  You are worth celebrating. Shout it from the rooftops! So much of the time we dwell on our shortcomings. We see so well where we fail but not where we don’t. We need to give ourselves a pat on the back and a good dose of “way to go”  at least once a year, but really we should do it more often. I know...

Home

The focus of my summer series of blogs has been to relay to you the findings of my quest to answer my Powerful Question which came out of a pilot group I was part of at Firstfruits last winter. My Powerful Question is, “What language other than words, can I use to express the deepest longing of my heart?” And the deepest longing of my heart is that everyone meets God. So I set out on this quest to find “languages” without words that when encountered help us meet God. So far I have found creation, expressions of love, new life and loving service to be such languages. Well, this week I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. Remember she set out on a quest only to find that her answer was right in her own backyard. She came to realize there was no place like home. My quest has brought me home, back to my own backyard, too. It has brought me to Firstfruits. Since the very beginning of Firstfruits eight years ago, I have struggled to be able to explain what it is in words. I have gently corrected those who call us Fresh Fruits. I have politely explained that no, we are not a produce co-op to a few. Oh and then there are the awkward times at a party or other social event when someone has the great misfortune of asking me “So what do you do?”  Thirty seconds into my elevator pitch their eyes glaze over and I long to be skipping along the yellow brick road myself. You see, Firstfruits is a language without words that when experienced helps us meet God. The key word being “experienced.” The true essence of Firstfruits is felt not heard, just like any truly powerful spiritual encounter. So often our knowledge of God is from words and we overlook or shy away from truly experiencing or meeting God. Fear is probably the biggest reason we stick to words. The thought of “meeting” God sounds a bit scary and for some a bit presumptuous. Firstfruits is a safe and comfortable place to meet God. We hear it all the time. So many women and men, who have crossed the threshold of the front door at Firstfruits, comment that they have such a feeling of calm and peace. They want to linger. With no words of explanation or orientation people feel at...

Service with a Smile

One of my blog readers emailed me with her idea of a language without words that when expressed causes us to meet God. Rosie is her name. She had been reading my series of blogs on this topic and was kind enough to share her thoughts.   Rosie’s language without words is service. More specifically, serving others without judgment and with joy. When we witness that kind of service or are the recipients of that kind of service we meet God’s love and tender care in a powerful way.   I just wish it wasn’t so hard.   Think of all those we are called to serve in a day: spouses, children and elderly parents, co-workers, customers, clients and patients, the marginalized, the lonely, the poor, and the stranger. In short, our brothers and sisters. That is a tall order. On top of our call to serve, we are to do it as Jesus did: free of judgment and with joy in our hearts. Often with no gratitude or recognition.   To serve without judgment. To serve with joy. Which one of those “languages” is hardest for you? Which one requires the most grace to accomplish?   How often we deem someone not worthy of our service as we judge his or her choices, motives, and attitudes. How often do we approach our service to others with resentment and mediocrity rather than joy? Rather than seeing them as brothers and sisters in need we see them as a burden and our service as an obligation, an unavoidable task.   When this is our approach to service, others meet our weaknesses rather than God.   The only way we can express this language of service, as it was intended is to open ourselves to the unlimited power within us in the Holy Spirit. To fire up the fruits of the Holy Spirit that are at our disposal so that our judgmental attitudes are transformed into love and acceptance and our attitude of obligation is transformed into joy.   The pay off is that through that kind of service we bring others face to face with God. Service then becomes a gift and a privilege.   Mary, my Firstfruits partner in crime, speaks this language of joyful, non-judgmental service very eloquently. Whether it’s coming in after hours to scrub the Kiwi Café floor before an event or rearranging chairs at the last minute because I didn’t think they looked right (Don’t judge…), there is a joy in her heart. Her joy...