Archive for November, 2011

I read an article this morning that fits with something I’ve been learning. This paragraph especially stood out for me:

To look at the faces of the poverty-stricken people of Juarez — who have no electricity, running water, or sanitary facilities — is to see wide smiles and bright faces filled with a nearly inexplicable happiness. There is no billionaire with their radiance. Doesn’t that say it all? They praise God. They take two hours to go through the Mass. And they are not just reciting prayers. They are living those prayers and the Living God responds to it.

Isn’t that wonderful? When I was traveling through my dark night, I learned that turning out of “self” and trying to help others, helped me and blessed me.

I learned that taking time to consciously thank God cultivated more gratitude in my heart and peace in my soul.

I learned that making an effort to see and notice the blessings around me seems to multiply them – and I am filled again with gratitude.

I learned that as I approach God in prayer, it’s wise to approach Him with praise and thanksgiving. He is not Santa Clause that I should bring my list of demands and desires; He is holy and mighty and wonderful!

I have every reason to feel deep gratitude to God and I pray that I never become blind to the beauty and the blessings that are all around us, in creation and in each other through Him. Lord, help me each day to see the countless blessings large and small that you pour out abundantly!

Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. (Psalm 100:4 )


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I am an avid reader and love seeing the books that other people recommend. Here is my list. It’s fun to reflect on “why” each book has a place on my list; each has its own focus and God’s timing … as always … is amazing as He led me to each book j-u-s-t when I needed it most!

In the Grip of Grace
by Max Lucado
Max Lucado has a gift for revealing the tenderness and great love God has for us all.  All of his books are amazing and I’ve given away too many to count, especially In the Grip of Grace and He Still Moves Stones. If you know anyone (maybe yourself?) who is just learning about Jesus, who struggles, who is hurting, who needs healing or forgiveness, who is trying to find his way back to faith, or who needs to know that she is precious to God … Lucado’s books are an excellent choice. Lucado’s writing style is engaging and easy to read.

Sacred Marriage
by Gary Thomas
This book is not an easy read though it is not difficult either … but you won’t want to scan it. You will want to set aside time to consider what is written. The tagline for this book is, “What If God Designed Marriage to Make Us Holy More Than to Make Us Happy?” and therein lies the focus of this book. I found profound truths in these pages, helping me to see how trials and blessings both work hand-in-hand for our good. Gary Thomas wrote a similar book titled Authentic Faith and it’s a toss-up which I would recommend to you; if you can read both please do so! If you need to choose one, I guess I’d look at whether your marriage is a source of struggle at the moment or not … if it is, choose Sacred Marriage. If it isn’t particularly, choose Authentic Faith. You will be blessed!

Secrets of a Prayer Warrior
by Derek Prince
I never (ever!) write in books, or use a highlighter. This book is the exception … it’s highlighted throughout! I found it to be an amazing guide that deepened my prayer life. The first few chapters were a little slow for me, but after that I was highlighting away various prayers and insights from the author. It was an easy read and is a great resource I will read again. I’ve already given away several copies and one friend called to tell me she hasn’t been able to read it yet because her husband snagged it and can’t put it down.

Heaven is For Real
by Todd Burpo
This book is easy to read and written from the point of view of a child, so it is very sweet. For Christians it is an awesome reminder in a difficult world of what we hope for … the wonder that is yet to come. But it is also a wonderful book to give as a gift. It would be great for someone who is hurting … perhaps they recently lost a loved one. I loaned it to a young gal who is busy with school and life and hasn’t given her faith much thought in quite some time, and she told me it really sparked a lot of thought and introspection. I’ve considered giving a copy to each of my nieces and nephews, although I see that some of them have already read it! It is easily read in a sitting or two, isn’t too deep or heavy, and I really did enjoy it.

A Scandalous Freedom
by Steve Brown
I’ll always consider this “Kristi’s book.” I gave her a copy years ago and she still writes to thank me for it and tells me every time she re-reads it. If you know someone who struggles with legalism, with the “thou shalt nots,” who finds God to be burdensome, who doesn’t see much joy in following God, or who thinks “religion” is about judging other people … or if this is your own struggle … you will be set free with this book. Steve Brown’s style is humorous and easy to read and he pops you with his points in a clear and easy-to-understand way. As much as I honestly enjoyed this book myself, I think for some people who were raised with a super-strict view of God, this book is life-changing.

Just Enough Light for the Step I’m On
by Stormie Omartian
This book is very easy to read … each chapter is only two or three pages. But if you are in the midst of a trial, it can be a lifeline. When a friend of mine was diagnosed with cancer, a group of us read this book together and shared our thoughts online. We did it for her because of the enormous trial before her, but I think every one of us came away with valuable lessons on walking with God through dark valleys; holding His handing and focusing on the moment and “today” instead of trying to look too far ahead. I’ve since given it to other people who are struggling with large trials and have heard good comments about lessons learned.

The Ordinary Path to Holiness
by R. Thomas Richard PhD
This is the last book on my list today, and it isn’t for everybody. It’s very Catholic-y (the only one on my list that is) and it isn’t particularly easy to read – the writing style is a little clunky and it’s a pretty deep book so it takes time to process and ponder as you go. But it’s really been fantastic for me; I’ve had many “aha!” moments, and “why didn’t anyone ever tell me that before?!!” I’ve loved learning more about the stages of spiritual growth and I love, love, love the view of Jesus’ parable about the seed that falls on different soils. It is amazing to feel like I am learning directly from some of history’s most faithful Christians.

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I have been reading Lamentations and wow, the first two chapters are brutal. They describe utter destruction and abandonment for the people of Israel. They are terrifying images to consider.

I think about “the end times.” I know there are a lot of ideas and theories out there about when they will happen, what will occur, and how much people will suffer. I’ve read prophesies that are frightening, and I wonder if they will be far worse than those first chapters in Lamentations.

It’s hard not to be fearful sometimes looking ahead to the unknown; worrying about the people we love; desiring them to be safe and to know the love of our Father.

Chapter 3 of Lamentations goes on to describe something I know well … it sounds to me as if it is describing a deep depression …

He has made my life nothing but pain, he has given me the bitter root in full measure.
By him my teeth have been broken with crushed stones, and I am bent low in the dust.
My soul is sent far away from peace, I have no more memory of good.
And I said, My strength is cut off, and my hope from the Lord.
Keep in mind my trouble and my wandering, the bitter root and the poison.
My soul still keeps the memory of them; and is bent down in me. (Lam 3:15-20)

And as soon as I read that passage, and remember how I felt very much the same way for a very long time, I see it followed by one of my favorite passages in the entire Bible. It is something I held onto for dear life and it is so, so beautiful:

But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope:the favors of the LORD are not exhausted, his mercies are not spent; they are renewed each morning, so great is his faithfulness. My portion is the LORD, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Good is the LORD to one, who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; it is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the LORD. (Lam  3:21-26)

Whatever fearful things the future holds, whatever fears I create in my own mind, I know I can come back to that verse. I can trust the Word of God and know it is Truth; I can find His comfort, His peace, and a reason to have Hope.



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Mark & I just returned from a really fantastic trip to St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Mark was awarded the trip by the company he works for and we – along with about 80 other people – enjoyed a get-away where no expense was spared. The resort was fabulous, the food was wonderful, the weather was warm and the scenery was beautiful. We enjoyed snorkeling, spas, sight-seeing and lots (and lots!) of fruity rum drinks.

Events like that always make me reflect. I know people who travel like that often; Mark and I only rarely; other people I know may never once get to take a trip like that.

My home is upper-middle class; we are both employed; we can afford to help our kids through college. We have friends who live in “mcmansions” and friends who can’t afford to own a home; so many people are unemployed, others have a really tough time making ends meet; still others really do have more money than they can ever use.

And all of us, being in the United States, live a more wealthy lifestyle than most people in history, or in today’s world.

It’s not always easy to make sense of that … “why” some are given so much more than others. It certainly isn’t a reflection of God’s great love … Solomon was given unimaginable wealth while Jesus was born into a humble manger and died on a cross.

I don’t have answers this morning, but I do have a heart of gratitude. The old me might wallow a little in … guilt? That isn’t quite the right word, but I think you know what I mean.

But I have learned that when a gift is given, “gratitude” is the right response. I love to give, and it is a gift to me to see others enjoy what I have given. I imagine it’s the same way for our Father … it brings Him joy to see His children enjoy the things He has provided for us whether those things are a humble meal or an opportunity to see a new sight within His magnificent creation.

I appreciate chapter 14 in the book of Sirach, appropriately titled “The Use of Wealth.”  Here are some excerpts but the entire chapter is worth taking time to read and can be found here! I love the contrast of misers in the first verses, to the admonition to enjoy what we are given in verses 11 through 16.

3 … to misers, what use is gold?

4 What they deny themselves they collect for someone else, and strangers will live sumptuously on their possessions.

5  To whom will they be generous that are stingy with themselves
and do not enjoy what is their own?

6 None are worse than those who are stingy with themselves; they punish their own avarice.

7 If ever they do good, it is by mistake; in the end they reveal their meanness.

8 Misers are evil people, they turn away and disregard others …

11 My son, if you have the means, treat yourself well, and enjoy life as best you can.

12 Remember that death does not delay, and you have not been told the grave’s appointed time.

13 Before you die, be good to your friends; give them a share in what you possess.

14 Do not deprive yourself of good things now or let a choice portion escape you.

15 Will you not leave your riches to others, and your earnings to be divided by lot?

16 Give and take, treat yourself well, for in Sheol there are no joys to seek.

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I don’t particularly look back and regret things in my past, nor wish they were different. I know it is all a part of the fabric of my life – good and bad – that makes up who I am today.

But I do know that if I “knew then what I know now,” I would have done many things differently. One of the bigger things I would change is what I taught my kids about God, about following Him and knowing Him; I wish we had made it a point to pray together as a family.

Those aren’t things I grew up with, really; my mom took us to church every week and we went to catechism classes. I did those same things for my kids, and we talked a lot about God. But I know couples who pray together every night; families who gather at least once a week to simply discuss their week and talk about how God worked in their every day lives. I love that and wish I had thought to do it.

Still, I know they are (and always were) in God’s hands. I did my best according to my understanding at the time, and I know from my own life that God brings many amazing people into our lives at “just the right moment” to help us along the way. I pray for that every day … that God protects them body, mind, and spirit, and that He brings Godly people into their lives.

I sometimes think of what I’d most like them to know or understand about faith and God. It changes from time-to-time. Recently it’s been that we are on this earth to live our lives, that is true. But while we focus on doing that to the best of our ability on one level, we also need to keep our eyes on the bigger picture – the next life. No matter how wonderful or how awful things are for us today, they are only temporary; we need to keep our eyes on the more important thing – God.

My Bible reading today fit that so perfectly; I guess it’s what made me take time to write today about some of the random things that have been rolling around in my head. I don’t know if it’s really a coherent or cohesive message; but ah, well. I know what I meant!

24 When therefore the multitude saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they took shipping, and came to Capharnaum, seeking for Jesus.    
25 And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him: Rabbi, when camest thou hither?    
26 Jesus answered them, and said: Amen, amen I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen miracles, but because you did eat of the loaves, and were filled.    
27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that which endureth unto life everlasting, which the Son of man will give you. For him hath God, the Father, sealed.    
28 They said therefore unto him: What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?    
29 Jesus answered, and said to them: This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he hath sent. (John 6)

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God is a good God … Though we don’t understand his actions, we can trust his heart ~ Max Lucado

Cappucinni sits on the passenger’s seat, trembling. She loves to go to doggie daycare … but she hates riding in the car.


I feel so sorry for her; I know that she has no reason to be afraid, but she doesn’t understand that. For her the fear is real – her heart is pounding and she can’t control her shaking body.

Still, part of me smiles at her innocence. I can smile because I see the bigger picture – I know that in a few minutes her fear will turn to joy as she arrives at Under One Woof and I hand her off to the great people who run it. She will spend the day running full-tilt. I know that the short drive of terror will give way to a long day of doggie fun, and it will have been worth it. By the time I pick her up in the evening, she’ll be too tired to tremble on our drive home.

It’s easy to see this as an analogy of our life on earth. Even if Cappuccini’s worst fears were about to come true … if she was going to the vet and would experience pain, for instance … her understanding would not see the event as anything “good” for her.  And obedience classes? I don’t think she found them to be “fun.”

But from my vantage point, everything I do is for her good! I never intend to harm her, even if it does make her uncomfortable or is sometimes painful.

I see the bigger picture … just as God sees the bigger picture for us. Our life is a journey home and we are being made holy along the way. That can sometimes be painful and confusing to us and we can wonder if God is near, or if He cares about what we are going through.

I don’t think God is at all uncaring about our suffering and pain. As Jesus approached Lazarus’ tomb, He knew what He was about to do and yet he wept … with and for … His friends, completely compassionate for their grieving and sorrow.

And that brings great comfort to me when I am suffering. It helps me to place my focus on the bigger picture. I may not see it completely or understand it, but I know with all my heart that God does. If the worst of my fears come true, I know to the depth of my soul that God knows, He cares, and He has a plan that is “to give you a future of hope.” (Jer 29:11)

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thess 5:16-18)

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I love, love, love the deuterocanonicals … the books that the Catholic Bible includes but Protestant Bibles do not.

I am aware of the arguments between Protestants and Catholics over whether or not they should be included, and I have no interest in quarreling with anyone over it. All I know is how deeply and how often I’ve been blessed by passages from these books, and how at times my beliefs have been brought into sharper focus through them.

The wonderful gift of our own free will is beautifully articulated in Sirach 15, verses 11-20 … along with a strong caution that we don’t blame God for our sin, or for evil.

The first morning I awoke after my dad died, the LORD took me to Sirach 18, verses 1-18 for comfort and a soul-felt embrace from God.

When I was struggling and frustrated, trying to understand a difficult doctrine, the LORD filled me with peace with Sirach 3, verses 17-23. It literally made me laugh out loud and helped to turn me around, let go of of what was beyond “my” strength to understand, and set about the business the LORD had entrusted to me. We all have our ministries, but we are not each gifted for “all” ministries.

Wisdom is also a beautiful book; I love how this spirit is always referred to in the feminine sense as “her” and “she.” Wisdom 12 assures us that God is exceedingly patient even with the most wicked, giving them “space for repentance” (verse 12:10). Wisdom 13 is very comforting to me, teaching that even those who never heard of God are able to discern Him from creation. And both of these chapters spoke to me when I was studying the idea of “universal salvation.”

Sirach 43 is truly breathtaking in its description of creation! And I loved reading Tobit with new eyes and wrote about some of what I saw in this post and this one.

I’d like to close with today’s daily mass reading from the book of Wisdom. Where else could you find a more perfect scripture for the feast of All Souls Day?

Wisdom 3:1-9
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.

Wisdom 3:7 - they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble


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