Thursday, December 28, 2023

Christmas Celebrations Continue

I've thoroughly enjoyed having Christmas celebrations continue though December 25 has passed.  The memes I've seen inviting people to come join the Catholics in our observance of Christmas are great.  Here's one of them:  

Contrary to popular and secular belief, the Christmas season begins on December 25 and lasts (at least) until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6.  Are you feeling down now that your company has left and your calendar full of upcoming festivities is empty?  Cheer up!  We've got you!

The daily Mass readings are good reminders that we are meant to keep contemplating the Nativity this week into the next.  My husband and I are still watching our growing list of favorite Christmas movies, and we're listening to our top three Christmas albums: Charlie Brown, Amy Grant, and Chicago.  In fact, they're playing as I type.  We are still munching on Christmas cookies and holiday treats.

The Advantage of Advent 

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year and is meant to give people time to prepare for the Incarnation.  I have been reading four different books this Advent that have gotten me into the Christmas spirit.   The first of them is called: Messages of Patience for Advent and Christmas 2023.  The next one is titled: Draw Near.  The other two are guided journals which I have written in each day of Advent and into the Christmas season.  Adore by Fr. John Burns and Prepare Your Heart by Fr. Agustino Torres, CFR are the names of the other two treasures by Ave Maria Press. I recommend all four of them.   

Although we only had four presents under our Christmas tree at home this year, Kevin spread out opening them, so they lasted even longer.  I'm happy to say that he loves everything he received!  My favorite gift for him is a memoir by the lead singer of one of his favorite bands: RUSH.  I find it quite helpful that he has something he wants to read since what I want to do during much of my own free time is read books.  You might not know yet that I'm a voracious reader, but you will soon if you meet me or peruse my blog. 

In case I haven't gotten to say it to you in person or you haven't heard it since December 25, continue having a very 

Merry Christmas!! 

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Looking at Advent Again

It's yet again time for Advent, the beginning of the liturgical year. I think I'm ready this time, even if my Advent wreath candles are a little warped and melted. I'm ready for a new start, some old family traditions, and some ancient Advent practices. How about you? 

Several years ago I did a series of seven Advent posts based on suggestions to make the most out of this special season. I was rereading some of those ideas this evening and thought I'd share them once more with family and friends. If I've needed these reminders, perhaps others will benefit from them as well.

Excellent Advent Advice Reflection Series 

Part I: Stay Awake The Scripture readings lately have often mentioned the importance of being alert, staying awake, being ready. I find this rather ironic considering that this is often the time of year when people run themselves ragged doing things that they feel are part of getting ready for Christmas… 

Part II: Seek Him Who Seeks You …So often, we think of it being our responsibility to seek the Lord, spend time learning about Jesus Christ, and communing with the Holy Trinity in prayer. When we consider that we are so loved and precious to the Lord that He seeks us out, draws us closer to Him, and creates opportunities for us to know Him better, it’s reassuring… 

Part III: Hold on to Hope …I’m still utterly amazed that she made it through such a difficult period while hiding some very painful secrets by holding on to a pinpoint of light and hope. Her story is further proof God never gives up on us or stops seeking to have a relationship with us that allows us to walk in the Truth… 

Part IV: Celebrate the Season …The house was so warm and inviting. Christmas music was playing. I could smell the soup cooking in the kitchen. Each time the door opened, another one of our CRHP sisters entered and made her rounds to greet everyone with smiles and hugs… 

Part V: Rejoice and Be Glad “At times life is pure joy!” is what’s written on one of the mugs at my mom’s house with a drawing of Snoopy and Woodstock dancing on the front. When I was a baby, my Godmother Marcy decided I looked a bit like... 

Part VI: Give the Gift of Quality Time I have found the gift I treasure most is that of quality time with loved ones. Add some yummy food, and the experience is downright delightful regardless of... 

Part VII: Wait Patiently Around the holidays, we are often made to wait. We wait in long lines to take advantage of a slew of sales, mail packages, purchase Christmas gifts, visit Santa, buy ingredients for holiday meals, and baking festive goodies...

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Easter Sunday Festivities

My mom had us over for a family feast at her place.  Kevin and I arrived first and helped my mom polish off some of the hors d’oeuvres she’d prepared.  My youngest sister, her husband, and their 16-month-old little boy arrived soon after we sat down at the dining room table.  We had organic ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, and broccoli along with our traditional Pillsbury Crescent Rolls. We ended up with plenty of leftovers to take home, plus we got dessert to go: slices of key lime pie my mom got from Wegman’s bakery.

My sister “hid” some Easter eggs in the yard behind my mom’s apartment for my brother-in-law and youngest nephew to find and put in their baskets.  She made the egg hunt even more festive by putting music on and blowing bubbles with a wand.  The little man collected some eggs without much fanfare, but his eyes got big when he saw that inside the brightly colored eggs were blueberries and some of his other favorite snacks.  The slightly larger eggs held little toys for him to play with.  In one, there was a little train and, in another, a frog that squirts water.

When Kevin and I got home, we finished watching Part IV of the Jesus of Nazareth TV miniseries we had started watching earlier in the week.  We both thought they did a really good job of portraying much of Jesus’s life and ministry.  

We went to sleep that night feeling that we’d had a very full and meaningful Easter weekend.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Holy Week, Easter Triduum, Some Firsts, and a 23rd Anniversary

The altar at our home parish on April 8, 2023.

Holy Week is very special to Kevin and me for several reasons.  Twenty-three years ago (in April 2000), Kevin drove over 600 miles in his black Chevrolet Monte Carlo to come visit me at Hollins University during my Freshman year.  It was Holy Week, but he was determined to come see me anyway.  He came knowing full-well that I would be spending the bulk of the time I wasn't in classes in church.  The effects of the decisions he/we made during that brief visit changed the trajectory of our relationship and the rest of our lives. It's also when the parish priest assigned to our Catholic Campus Ministry named him: "The Patron Saint of Boyfriends."

Holy Thursday

I was the sole person from my family who made it to church that day.  Kevin had planned on joining me, but he had too bad a headache to go out.  Two of the five silly sisters came to the Holy Thursday Mass with their mom.  We all sat together for the beginning of the Easter Triduum.  It made my heart happy to hear the girls singing along with each of the songs.  

My Goddaughter came up with me for the foot-washing.  Someone from the congregation washed her feet, then she carefully washed mine and dried them with a clean towel from the pile.  It made me think of years past when I'd gone up with the oldest of the silly sisters for the foot washing or when a dear friend of mine whom I've known since 5th grade and I washed each other’s feet.  

At the end of the Mass, we sing the "Pange Lingua Gloriosi" while processing from the main church into the Day Chapel.  That is where the Blessed Sacrament remains exposed for Adoration until midnight.  The four of us waited until it cleared out a bit before we went in to pay our respects.  We knelt on the ground and prayed in silence for a few minutes.

Once we'd parted ways, I went back in and stayed for another hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  I sat on the floor along the back wall of the chapel near another woman deep in prayer (who I would later find out was about to be Baptized at the Easter Vigil).  Our pastor and several members of the office staff wandered in one at a time to pray on one of the kneelers set out closest to the altar.  I prayed for each one of them, thankful for the many ways they serve our congregation.

Good Friday

I picked up one silly sister who was interested in going to Stations of the Cross with me.  There were lots of people there both walking the Stations (which are placed around the inside wall of our worship space which is built in the round) and those who remained in their seats to participate in the powerful meditation.  We got there early enough we each got a worship aid, but we gave one of ours away when the crowd grew, and we were asked to share.  

The leader would start each Station with: "We adore You, O Christ, and we bless You."  The two of us and several others responded by genuflecting as we said: "Because by Your Holy Cross You have redeemed the world."  

I've done this particular set of Stations of the Cross many times over the years.  On every occasion, I am deeply moved by the experience though the Gospel readings, songs, meditations, and prayers remain the same. 

On the way back to her house, I told my partner in prayer about the year when I had attended Stations with her grandma and her uncle John, who is one of our best friends.  After Stations of the Cross that day, John and I went to the grotto and prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the Rosary, and talked until the three o'clock hour when Jesus died.  It was a very meaningful, prayerful way of observing the day. 

This past Friday evening, Kevin, two of the silly sisters, their dad, my mom, and I sat together for the somber service.  We sang some solemn, haunting hymns as everyone from the congregation went up in groups to venerate the cross.  Two men and a woman processed in with the big wooden cross.  The next night all three of them received at least one Sacrament of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.  

One year, when John and another gentleman from our diocese were still in seminary, the head of our liturgical ministry asked me if I would like to help them carry in the cross during the Good Friday service.  I gratefully agreed. Kevin and I have been an integral part in John's vocational discernment, so it was an honor to assist the two seminarians in carrying their cross (figuratively and literally).

Easter Saturday

We eagerly anticipated the culmination of the Triduum.  I observed the morning in quiet prayer and meditation, doing the daily Mass Scripture readings, and other spiritual reflections.  I've been reading and reflecting using two books during Lent.  In addition to the daily Mass readings, Jesus, Companion in My Suffering by Joyce Rupp and Restore: A Guided Prayer Journal for Reflection and Meditation by Sr. Miriam James Heidland, SOLT were the most helpful prayer aids I used. 

The three musketeers circa 2013.
Kevin and I spent the afternoon with our best friend and dear brother in Christ, John.  It was wonderful to catch up with him in person, share a meal, and reminisce.  He's one of the few people Kevin and I can and have talked with about anything and everything.  The three of us used to spend a lot of time together when John still lived in town.  It was so good to be reunited!   

Easter Vigil

Two of the silly sisters decided they wanted to accompany us to the vigil.  They'd been given fair warning it would be extra-long, but they still wanted to come.  We're so grateful they did!  There's nothing like attending the Easter Triduum in its entirety!  This is a reality I can’t impress enough upon people.  So many who consider themselves hardcore Catholics miss out on this great opportunity.  I’m forever grateful Kevin agreed to come with me twenty-three years ago.  That was his first Easter Vigil.  This was the first Easter Vigil the twins had ever attended. We were extra excited for them!  

We arrived early so we could secure the seats we usually sit in for Mass on Sundays.  The girls were very chatty when we arrived, especially once they discovered they'd each get to hold a lit candle during the service.  There were people sitting directly in front of us when we started, but they soon moved further down the row. I can't help but think it had something to do with overhearing the girls talking about inadvertently setting things like themselves and the church on fire.  Fortunately, they calmed down a bit before the greatest liturgy of the year began.  The three of us joined most of the congregation outside for the lighting of the new Easter candle.  Kevin was patiently waiting for us when we returned.

The girls had to leave a few times during the liturgy, but they were real troopers.  I think the beautiful music, RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) Baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, along with the liturgical dance, and the opportunity to sign someone with the holy water mid-Mass helped them stay engaged during the two and a half plus hours we were there.

My Goddaughter seemed particularly tired, so she rested her head on my shoulder for some of the time.  At one point, one of the twins was leaning on her sister who was in turn leaning on me. I put my arm around both of them and enjoyed the opportunity to share God's love in a tangible way.  

Both girls sang along with all of the songs.  In addition to a main cantor, a pianist, bassist, and drummer, we had a huge choir and impressive strings and horns/woodwinds sections.  The music ministry at our church is really quite amazing!     

We all held hands for the Our Father, and I got a hug from each of them in addition to my kiss from Kevin at the Gesture of Peace.  When we dropped them off at home that evening, I peaked my head in really quick to wish their parents a Happy Easter.  The other three silly sisters were sleeping soundly in their beds.


Sunday, April 3, 2022

It's Never Too Late to Apologize

I guess I should begin with an apology.  I'm sorry I've been away from blogging for so long.  I know that I have a few faithful followers who have wondered where I've been.  

I feel it's appropriate that the Sunday before this one we heard the story of the Prodigal Son.  I can relate.  I have not gone off to a faraway land to squander my inheritance.  Neither have I turned my back on God, but I have been away from something the Lord called me to a while ago: writing.  

The message that it's never too late to apologize came across loud and clear through the story of the Prodigal Son when the forgiving father welcomed him home with open arms.  I've been away from blogging for some time.  Truth be told, lately, I haven't even been reading as voraciously as I used to, but I've been reminded that doesn't mean I can't return to such callings and passions of mine.

I was rereading a few of my older blog entries, and it struck me anew that one of my vocations is still to write.  In recent months, I've written more personal cards, letters, and journal entries than anything else. 

A dear friend nudged me to get back to blogging.  She said she misses reading my posts.  If one person is encouraged by what they read here, then I figure on some level that I am serving God through my vocation of writing.  

Thanks for the nudge my dear glory bee friend.   

Friday, April 17, 2020

Jesus, Friend of My Soul by Joyce Rupp

I was excited the moment I saw that Joyce Rupp had come out with another book.  I've enjoyed everything I've read by her.  Jesus, Friend of My Soul was no exception.  In addition to doing morning prayer and the daily Mass readings using the Magnificat, I kept up with these "reflections for the Lenten journey."

The purpose of this book is to examine, meditate on, and try to live out the qualities Jesus showed during His life.  Each day there is a brief Scripture passage, a short reflection, a personal prayer, and an affirmation that relates to one of Christ's attributes.  For example, over the first four days, we are looking to the "One Who..." invites, is disciplined, who prays, and who sees good in others.

For the second day of Lent, the title of the day's reflection is "One Who Is Disciplined."  The following is the prayer included:

"Bearer of the Cross,
no one wants to have burdens and afflictions,
yet they come into our lives and weigh us down.
I can learn from you how to shoulder my troubles
and find my greatest source of strength in you. 
Help me to deny myself when it is required."

Then the affirmation for the day is: "I choose to accept the cross of my difficulties."

I highly recommend Jesus, Friend of My Soul.  Using it as a Lenten companion was a bit like having a cup of coffee with a Christian friend each day.  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  For more info or to order your own copy, click here.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Pray Fully: Simple Steps for Becoming a Woman of Prayer by Michele Faehnle and Emily Jaminet

Walk with the saints and be accompanied by two strong women of faith to bring your prayer life to the next level.  Pray Fully is the first book I've read by either of these two authors, but it won't be the last.

Each of these women shares wisdom about how to become a stronger follower of Christ through prayer.  Michele and Emily are both busy working married mothers who can identify and have struggled with many different obstacles to prayer. 

One aspect of this book that I enjoyed is that it encourages writing in a prayer journal, something I used to do on a regular basis.  I'd gotten out of the habit, but this inspired me to get back into it.  There are several self-reflection questions throughout that would also be wonderful for group sharing if you were so inclined.

In most chapters, there is the brief bio of a saint included along with some simple tips to deeper prayer which that person lived out.  In Pray Fully the authors explain how some basic prayer practices of the Catholic faith done regularly can make a tremendous difference in your spiritual life.  These include the daily Examen, doing Lectio Divina, praying the Our Father, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament as well as praying the Rosary and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

To be honest, there wasn't a prayer type in here that I have not encountered somewhere else, but being reminded of the power of getting back to basics is something I for one could certainly stand to benefit from.

I highly recommend this book.  For more info about Pray Fully or to obtain your own copy, click here.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Undone by Carrie Schuchts Daunt

I love the many titles for the Blessed Mother, but one of the lesser-known ones I have an affinity for is Our Lady Undoer of Knots.  Daunt has written a book that speaks to the ability of Mary to untie the complicated knots of fear and shame in our lives. 

In Undone, she includes personal stories from fifteen women that deal with the different roles we play in life: daughter, sister, bride, and mother. With each story there's a related verse from Scripture you're invited to read reflectively three times, thus doing a form of Lectio Divina.  Then you're asked a series of questions that you're encouraged to answer in a journal.

This book pleasantly reminded me of a women's retreat I attended that focused on Mary, Undoer of Knots.  As one activity on the weekend, we tied a knot and said a prayer for each major difficulty in our lives.  In the days and weeks to come, we took someone else's string and untied their knots while lifting them up in prayer.  It was a great way to visualize Mary working on our knots.

The stories are powerful and address quite a range of tough topics. The message of hope is one we all need to hear.  The shorter length of the stories makes this an easy book to read.  The Lectio Divina and journaling help the reader meditate on Scripture and contemplate how God's been at work in our own lives.

I recommend Undone for all women--not just for those who are married with children.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ella's Promise Great Love-Great War Series Book 3 by Ellen Gable

 Julia’s Gifts and Charlotte’s Honor are the first two books in Ellen Gable’s Great War-Great Love series.  Like the other novels, this one is set in France during WWI and the main character is a young woman who has volunteered to serve the victims of war needing medical attention. 

With more medical training and experience than Julia or Charlotte, Ella is able to do more to help the soldiers in need of treatment for injury or illness than either of her friends could.  Ella’s fluency in German also makes her the perfect candidate for a couple of reconnaissance missions in the field. 

I liked that poetry and letters from the family are included in the text.  They add flavor and another perspective to the prose.  After recently reading an anthology of popular short stories published in the last twenty years, it’s refreshing to read about characters who have morals by which they attempt to live.
A few of the coincidences in the book walk the line between being believable versus a little too trite and predictable.  That being said, Ellen Gable is one of the very few authors whose romance novels I’m willing to read.  There’s a lot of smut out there which I can’t and won’t pick up.  Someone's written a series of historical fiction love stories without severe moral depravity? Sure, sign me up.

I have enjoyed a number of Ellen Gable’s other historical fiction novels.  Among my favorites are: In Name Only and the sequel A Subtle Grace.

I read and reviewed Ella's Promise as part of a virtual blog tour. 

Ellen Gable is an award-winning author of ten books, editor, self-publishing book coach, speaker, publisher, NFP teacher, book reviewer, transcriptionist, and instructor in the Theology of the Body for Teens. Her books have been collectively downloaded 750,000 times on Kindle. Some of her books have been translated into Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, and French. The mother of five adult sons and grandmother to one cherished grandson, Ellen (originally from New Jersey) now lives with her husband of 37 years, James Hrkach, in Pakenham, Ontario, Canada. For more information about the author, click here. 

To purchase your own copy of Ella's Promise, click here.

Virtual Book Tour Stops/Links
November 3  Carolyn Astfalk My Scribbler’s Heart Blog
November 4  Steven McEvoy Book Reviews and More
November 5  Theresa Linden
November 6  Therese Heckenkamp
November 7 Patrice MacArthur
November 8  Amanda Lauer
November 9  Sarah Reinhard
November 10 Jean Egolf 
November 11  Lisa Mladinich
November 12 Leslea Wahl
November 13  Trisha Potter
November 15 Michael Seagriff

Friday, October 11, 2019

Laughter of Angel's by Sherry Boas

It's hard not to fall in love with the main characters in Sherry Boas' books, so don't bother trying. The flow of her prose, the detail of her descriptions, and her lovable leading ladies are among the reasons I enjoy her novels so much.

In Laughter of Angels, Verdi travels to Shanghai to meet the woman who saved her life when she was a baby. She discovers a great deal about herself and her relationships through Sun Yong and those individuals the elderly woman introduces to her during their visits.

Boas explores a number of prolife issues in depth. Of course, the one child policy in China is discussed, but there's a significantly more to the all lives matter (from womb to tomb) debate in her stories.

What counts as love? Who is worthy of love? Can people determine the worth of other people? These and several more questions are taken into consideration.

The story is compelling and interesting. I guessed parts of the ending before reading it, but that didn't bother me.

I highly recommend Laughter of Angels and the Lily series of novels by Sherry Boas.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

The Grace of Enough Pursuing Less and Living More in a Throwaway Culture by Haley Stewart

The Grace of Enough: Pursuing Less and Living Morein a Throwaway Culture is a great book about getting back to basics—nature, family, community, shared meals, local farms, Natural Family Planning, moral values, neighborliness, and faith. 

What wholesome elements are missing from your life?  This book will help you not only identify what those areas are, but also gives practical suggestions of what you can do to get back to a lifestyle that is more family/relationship oriented. 

Much of Haley’s inspiration comes from Scripture and the encyclical exhortation On Care for Our Common Home: Laudato Si by Pope Francis.  Her many quotes from Laudato Si make me want to go back and reread my copy of it. 

A year-long stint on a farm really opened up Haley, her husband Daniel, and their young children to what’s important in life.  They lived in close quarters with family, were immersed in nature, and found themselves knee-deep in community living.  Their family thrived and together learned many lessons in love, kindness, compassion, how to be a tighter family as well as better stewards of the earth and its resources.

I highly recommend The Grace of Enough for anyone who wants a closer family, better relationships in general, a closer connection to nature, and/or a deeper sense of community.  
To connect with Haley Stewart, check her out on Facebook at Carrots for Michaelmas or follow her on Instagram @HaleyCarrots

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

One Beautiful Dream by Jennifer Fulwiler

One Beautiful Dream is in the style and includes the great humor I came to expect of Jennifer Fulwiler when reading her blog Conversion Diary.  Among other things, Jen is a great storyteller.  I have always enjoyed her wacky anecdotes about raising little ones, grappling with faith, pursuing her writing, and dealing with one crisis after another.  This book addresses the very real struggle many women face when they attempt to raise children while also pursuing their dreams and passions in life.

In Jennifer’s first book, Something Other Than God, she details her conversion from atheism to Catholicism.  It’s a very good read, but much more serious than I thought it would be after following her journey on Conversion Diary.  Click here to read my review. 

I was laughing out loud at some of the situations Jen found herself in while pursuing her “one beautiful dream.”  Some stories brought back fond and others not-so-great memories of being a nanny for young children.  The chapters entitled: “Poopocalypse,” “Beer Bong Playdate,” “Advent Rock,” and “Decibel” all elicited memorable incidents I’ve had with little ones. 

During a retreat, Jen got some great advice from a priest named Fr. George.  He suggested that she “[do] the work that God is calling you to do, but do it as one part of something bigger—your family” (p. 129).  From then on she looked at her “blue flame” (what brings her joy) of writing as something that she could include her family in as she did it.  This change in perspective helped her stop thinking as an individual and unite her passions to the overall mission God has for her family as a whole. 

As writer, Sirius XM Radio Host, and budding comedian, Jen Fulwiler concludes in her book and her daily life that you can have it all—family and dreams—if you’re willing to rethink exactly what that looks like and when everything will come to pass. 

I recommend this book for anyone who has or works with children, is a Christian, and/or needs a good laugh.

See the latest updates on the Fulwiler family at

You can connect with this author/mom/radio show host/comedian on Instagram @JenniferFulwiler. 

Monday, May 20, 2019

Blessings Abound: Confirmation, Ordination, and First Communion

Vivi receiving her First Communion from
Fr. John Baab, her uncle and Godfather.

In the past two weeks I’ve witnessed a number of joyful occasions filled with blessings.  On Wednesday, I was inspired to go to daily Mass at St. Mary’s Church at 9am. I was delighted when I got there and found out it was a school Mass.  I attended St. Mary's School during 5th, 6th, and half of 7th grade before we moved again.  The new principal and his wife and three children were there to witness him coming into the Catholic Church.  He received his Confirmation and First Communion at the Mass.  What a beautiful thing to witness as a church and school community!

Thursday evening, Bishop Knestout came to St. Michael the Archangel Church to confirm 93 of our youth.  In the fall, I’d taken a slip of paper with the name of a Confirmand and a prayer on it.  I promised to pray for the person during the months leading up to his or her Confirmation.  For the first time ever that evening, I got to meet the gentleman for whom I’d been praying.  I next to the youth minister who I served with at Church of the Epiphany years ago soon after Kevin and I were married there.  She remembered my youngest sister Theresa's Confirmation and that I had been her sponsor.

Deacon Anthony Ferguson and Bishop Knestout after
the Ordination to the Diaconate Mass.
Saturday morning, my mom and I went to the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart  to celebrate the ordination to the diaconate of Anthony Ferguson.  The Mass was again quite beautiful and filled with graces.  Sunday morning, I returned to St. Mary’s with my mom for Deacon Ferguson’s first Mass.  He gave an amazing homily, really knocked it out of the park.

Sunday evening, I was back at St. Michael for Vivi’s First Communion.  She’s the oldest of the silly sisters for whom I nannied for several years.  Her uncle/Godfather Fr. John Baab presided at the Mass and had the privilege of serving Vivi her First Communion.  A number of family members and friends in the area were there to support her.  We all enjoyed a meal at our favorite Mexican restaurant afterwards.

Lord, thank you for the many opportunities you’ve given me this week to celebrate and rejoice in the Sacraments.  Please bless all who have come into the Church, received their First Communion, and been Confirmed with a deeper sense of Your unconditional love and limitless mercy.  Amen.
St. Mary's Church on Wednesday morning May 15, 2019.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Heart of Perfection by Colleen Carroll Campbell

The Heart of Perfection: How the Saints Taught Me toTrade My Dream of Perfect for God’s is an amazing book.  Colleen’s prose have a literary quality often missing from other Christian nonfiction books I’ve read and reviewed over the years.  I can identify very well with her sentiments as a recovering perfectionist.  I’m sure the only way she has managed to balance a successful career with being a homeschooling mother of four has been through the grace of God.

This look into the lives of certain saints comes through the lens of a working mother, recovering perfectionist, and an honest sinner who’s sharing the wisdom she’s gleaned through living and struggling.  I love how she weaves Scripture and the biographies of several key saints into this in-depth study of why and how we should “trade [our] own dreams of perfect for God’s.”

Colleen treats the saints as imperfect friends and mentors rather than holding them up as flawless models of humanity.  She shows how they needed God’s grace in order to seek and do His will every bit as much as we need it. 

Though very well-researched, this book has a welcoming vibe rather than a stilted academic feel.  Colleen goes deep into the lives of saints, sinks her heart into Scripture, and willingly examines her own life in light of perfectionist tendencies and human failings.

She has an acute awareness of how much our attitudes towards God, ourselves, and others have a profound effect on our relationships.  If we’re spending most of our mental energy critiquing our every fault and flaw, then were likely to pass that dissatisfaction on to others.  If we accept God’s grace as a necessity, then it’s easier to deal in a gentler way with our loved ones, friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. 

Colleen illustrates how growing spiritually requires heaping helpings of grace.  We can’t make progress in the faith life without first acknowledging our desperate need for God’s love and mercy.  Once we accept those two freely given gifts, we have the foundation we need to grow closer to Him, and, thereby, help others do the same.  “There’s something about God’s love that simply can’t breathe unless we share it with others.  And the more we share it the more His joy floods our hearts.” (p. 76) 

One of the chapter titles really caught my attention: Stalking Joy.  This concept of actively seeking joy appeals to me a great deal since I easily forget how much God wants us to be joyful.  We are much more attractive as Christians when “the joy of the Lord is [our] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).  Colleen writes that “We need to pursue and protect joy, to recognize it as a source of supernatural strength without which we can’t hope to love others or God.” (p. 74).

We need the communion of saints and the people around us in order to grow.  “Admitting you need the companionship of other Christians striving for holiness isn’t elitism; it’s a mark of humility and spiritual maturity.” (p. 61)

This book brings up the topic of holiness and through comparisons and stories reminds us that we are called to be saints.  It made me think of a beautiful song by a music missionary I love named Danielle Rose.  “The Saint That Is Just Me” is written about how aspirations to be holy need to be in line with our own call and sanctification, which won’t look exactly like anyone else’s.

I highly recommend The Heart of Perfection for any Christian who struggles with perfectionism.  Colleen Carroll Campbell’s other book My Sisters the Saints is one I read, reviewed, and loved as well.  Click here to read that review. 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Courageously Uncomfortable by Lisa J. Goins

There’s a pattern in what I’ve been reading, watching, and listening to lately: they all include aspects of courage and vulnerability.  

In the past, I’ve written about Living the Lie that Everything’s Fine.  I’m familiar with the concept and how it can easily play out in my own life.
It’s true. God often calls us to step out and step up in ways that are outside of our comfort zones—at times way outside of them.  By examining the stories of certain women in the Bible, Lisa J. Goins illustrates how we can get beyond our sinful, sordid pasts to do something great for God, which He has always intended to accomplish in, for, and through us. 

The four questions at the end of each chapter are thought-provoking, and, at least in my case, would take a page or more of journaling to answer in earnest.  I didn’t write in this book because when something inspires me, I like to pass it on.  These questions made me uncomfortable, which tells me I’ve got lots more work to do in this area of my life. 

Lisa uses personal examples as well as from those in her “squad,” but I would have liked to see a few more in-depth stories from her own life, particularly regarding what she’s overcome in the past with the help and forgiveness of the Lord.  She alludes to an array of challenges, but she doesn’t go as deep as she could about any one. 

I appreciate the author’s sense of humor incorporated into the book, specifically when she is telling her own tales of woe and woah.  I admire Lisa for putting herself out there through writing, publishing, and promoting her book.  All of those steps require courage and mean overcoming a certain level of being uncomfortable. 

I recommend reading Courageously Uncomfortable if you happen to be a Christian woman who struggles to feel worthy, lovable, capable, and/or useful to God. 

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams

A Christian woman of faith who devours books like I do recommended that I read The Book of Joy.  I'm so glad that she did.  It's a wonderful look at what brings true joy into our lives by two spiritual prayer warriors of our time.

For Christmas, my mom gave me Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness by Ingrid Fetell Lee.  I read and loved the practical suggestions and explanations for what brings us joy.  I figured I'd keep on reading on the same theme only from a spiritual perspective.

The Book of Joy includes some wonderful exchanges from two very well-known spiritual leaders of different faith traditions.  They are dear friends who have a deep respect for one another and a profound reverence for God. 

They share their own spiritual practices, how they have overcome significant oppression and hardships, and the ways that they maintain a joyful existence regardless of outside circumstances.

I highly recommend reading this book.  It's a beautiful account of a long-term friendship between two elderly men from whose wisdom we can all learn.   
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