Showing posts with label Catholic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catholic. Show all posts

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Embracing Grief at the Holidays

I think most of us can remember a time we loved the holidays.  Santa Claus. Our grandparents giving us huge hugs -- and even bigger gifts.  The smells of the once a year treats from the oven, and laughter of cousins.  I think for many of us somewhere along the way the magic of Christmas has turned into dread or endurance.

My husband and I didn't put up a Christmas tree this year.  It has always been my favorite part of Christmas.  I love looking through the ornaments and remembered so many good times.  The doll my 2nd grade teacher made out of a pack of lifesavers and a styrofoam ball head.  Yes, I have a roll of 33 year old candy in my Christmas decorations.  I loved my teacher, and the fact she made something for me was so special.  (She made one for each of us in our class.)But then there are the other ornaments.  Childhood creations from people who won't speak to me any longer.  Ornaments bought on years the holidays wouldn't be considered "good".  The year a family member threw out all the gifts I gave him.  

Saturday, November 26, 2016

8 Ideas for Keeping Christ in Advent

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

At the church I attended when I was really little, there was little celebration in the way of holidays with the exception of the Christmas pageant and something mentioned in Sunday School.  I still remember my line from the pageant the year before I was in the angel choir.    I'll be a little light too, and quietly shine the way.  I'll do my part, with all my heart, to shine for Him each day.

I didn't realize until just a few years ago that Advent is NOT a celebration, but a longing.  A yearning for Christ to appear.  I have always loved the song "Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel".  The tune is so haunting, so mournful.  I always thought after I was a teenager the Christmas season began on the first Sunday of Advent and ended on Christmas Day, but Advent is the time of preparation for the Christ Child.

Advent and Lent have a lot of similarities.  When observed the way that has been done traditionally, there's a lot of focus on what is about to come.

But how in this busy world do we take time out from Christmas parties, shopping, and decorating to focus our hearts?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Book Review: Spiritual Sobriety by Elizabeth Esther

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.  I received a copy of this book for review purposes, but all opinions are my own.

When I was offered the opportunity to review Spiritual Sobriety:  Stumbling Bak to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad by Elizabeth Esther, I was excited.  I reviewed her book Girl at the Edge of the World when it was released, and I was looking forward to reading her second book.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Why I Don't Attend Church on Mother's Day.

Last year, a couple ladies I know asked me to go to church with them that next Sunday.  I said honestly, "I never go to church on Mother's Day."  Truth is, churches have turned me off to going to any service that entire weekend.

The last time I did attend one, I left in tears.  The priest kept repeating that being a mother is God's highest calling for women.  I have to disagree with that.  It is the highest calling IF you are to have children.  Do you think Mother Theresa missed God's highest calling because she wasn't a mother? I think God's highest calling for us is what He has called us to -- and that might not be motherhood.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Book Review: The Catholic Catalogue

I went through RCIA two years ago.  When I had an opportunity to receive The Catholic Catalogue by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating from the publisher in exchange for a review, I was excited about this new book.

At over 400 pages, this book looks intimidating, but it is anything but.  Like many reference books, this is not meant to be read straight through (although you COULD do that if you wanted).  This is a book to help guide you on the things that make you Catholic, and often that is creating family traditions.

Think to the month of December and the traditions that are there.  Christmas cards.  Often a family has a certain ritual for the Christmas tree.  TV shows that are on every year.  All these things weave together to create a cozy feeling.  But why should Christmas be the only holiday we have traditions?  And do you do things like celebrate St. Lucia's Day in December?  It takes little preparation but is something that can be enjoyed by everyone, because after all, who doesn't love a pastry for breakfast, especially when it's served in bed?

Just like many of us have things we do each year for the Christmas holiday, there are plenty of ways the Catholic faith can be celebrated with traditions the entire year through.  This book gives ideas as well as explanations as to why things are done the way they are.  Broken up into three sections, this book presents 82 short chapters about living a Catholic life.

There will be things you know in this book, but will give you a fresh perspective and ideas on them. There will be things that you have never heard of and will want to incorporate into your life.  This is an excellent book for gift giving at a wedding or confirmation.  I think all RCIA students should be given this because it's how the Catholic Faith is lived out, not just what is believed.  Both are very important.

Thank you to Image books for providing a free copy for review.  All opinions are my own.

Monday, March 14, 2016

3 Tips for Fast, Easy, and Fun Scripture Memorization

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

When I was in high school, I memorized the entire book of Matthew.  All 28 chapters.  Every verse. (There are 1,071 of them, by the way!)  Needless to say, I was the top Bible quizzer in my part of the state, and in the top half in our region of the country.  But it wasn't always easy for me to memorize Scripture.  I had to find the way that worked for me.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Tips for Familes to Focus on the True Meaning of Easter

FTC disclaimer:  This post contains affiliate links.

Easter is just around the corner, and it doesn't matter if you celebrate for one day, or for a whole season, with the egg hunts, plush bunnies, and chocolate filled baskets, it's sometimes too easy to get distracted about why we celebrate the holiday.

I have friends who do everything fun on the day before Easter.  They are Protestants, so they have no problem with that.  Personally I would not want to make Holy Saturday a "fun" day but would instead opt for Easter Monday to have the egg hunt, give fun gifts such as candy and bunnies. (And hey, if you want until the day after Easter, if you get up early enough you might be able to take advantage of half off sales!)  On Easter Sunday, they give their children gifts, but they are usually something like a Bible, spiritual DVD, or the like.  You could even give a milk chocolate cross on this day as well.  (Maybe if you stock a basket with treats that are good for the soul you wouldn't even have to have a second gift giving day.  There are plenty of candy with Bible verses on them.  Stickers are always loved by children as well!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Five Favorites: My Favorite Charities

FTC disclaimer:  This post may contain affiliate links.

It's Wednesday so that means it's time to link up with Ashley over at The Big White Farmhouse for another Five Favs!

When I was growing up, my dad was a huge volunteer.  He was a volunteer fireman for five decades.  When health problems prevented him from being able to fight fires, he did worked on fundraising and selling raffle tickets.  I grew up seeing him volunteer.  I, too, wish I had even more time than I do to volunteer, but here are my five favorite charities.  You will often find me donating to them through my eBay sales.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Judging -- When you don't know the whole story.

We go to a church in our closest city when we are able.  It's a little over two hours away and it gives us a lot of discussion time being in the car that long.  We often discuss what the homily or youth group was focused on.  Even though we are adults, we are welcome in the youth group as we have a good relationship not only with this church but many of the teens.

One of the many topics we discussed recently was how there are so many different ways of judging others.  There's the obvious "What you are doing is a sin" way of judging others, but sometimes we can be judging just because we don't know the whole story.

An example of this is some years back I had hundreds of McDonalds monopoly pieces that were winners for free food.  I had sent away for a lot of game pieces, and had way too many.  I gave a huge amount to a local church to give to those who might not be able to afford lunch otherwise.  If someone were to see a family each one with a meal that costs about $5 and you suspected they were on welfare, would your first thought be that they got it free or that they shouldn't be allowed to eat there because they should save their money.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our Slice of Eternity

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On my wedding day many, many thoughts went through my head.   One of my favorite moments of the day was when we asked all our guests to join us for a group photo by the crosses at the church we got married in. This isthe church I grew up in, and looking at the charter membership, I think there are more charter members who have passed on than are still on this earth.   My memories from this church are dear.  I remember a lady named Dean stringing Christmas lights around her feet, plugging them in, and asking, "What hymn am I?"  (Answer:  Let the Lower Lights be Burning.)  I remember her husband, Bob, one time saying we needed to sing a new to us hymn and somehow picking something more suited to a toddler Sunday School class.  I never laughed so hard in church in my life.  Dean and I could't even sit up straight we were laughing so hard.  Then there was our precious Gayle.  She invited me to church in 1986, and passed away a few years later.  Who knew that when she invited me to that church, I would someday get married in it?  When I learned she passed away, I was helping with VBS that week (Anyone remember JoyTrek space themed VBS?)  It was the closing program, and my friend Shelly got up and sand "Friends" by Michael W. Smith and said Gayle had passed away.  I can remember feeling responsible for my 5th and 6th graders but just wanting to run out and scream "Why God?"  I remember the care in picking out a sympathy card for her family.  It was the first time I ever had to send a sympathy card to a friend's family.

In addition to friends and family from that church, from where we had the group photo I could see my parents' grave.  

Something about that moment gave me chills.   We are here.   Yet we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside
 every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with 
patience the race that is set before us  Hebrews 12:1 KJV

My mother had a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven: 101 Miraculous Stories of Signs from Beyond, Amazing Connections, and Love that Doesn't Die.  In her story she talked about how she made a bit of the journey to the afterlife with her uncle.  I'm not one for what I call "Heaven Tourism" stories, but I remembered what she said about seeing people she knew who had gone before and seeing those she knew would come after her.  I thought of this.

Somehow the cloud of witnesses almost felt tangible on that day.  We are just one small slice of enternity.   The Bible says the average person lives 70 years.  That's a drop in the bucket of time.  No matter how long we live on this earth, it's never long enough.  My husband's grandfather passed away at age 99, yet it still didn't feel long enough as his goal was to live to 100.

We have a small slice of eternity to make a difference.   Let's use it wisely, and remember those who came before us.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Book Review: Angels and Saints by Dr. Scott Hahn

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All Opinions are my own.  This post does contain affiliate links.

Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones by Scott Hahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I went through RCIA, the one topic that we didn’t get to cover well was saints.  I was excited to find out that Scott Hahn has a book called Angels and Saints, A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God’s Holy Ones.

I am a big fan of Scott Hahn, and I highly recommend his books and this one is no exception.  As someone who grew up Protestant, this was one of the more difficult teachings in Catholicism for me.   As is true of all of Dr. Hahn’s work, he explains so well the teachings of the Church that you either agree with him or at least understand where the Church is coming from and why they do the things they do.

One thing I really liked about this book is how Dr. Hahn talked about how we honor our loved ones who have passed away and then relates it to how we view saints.  Too many people I have cared about have passed away this year.  When I visited my mother’s freshly covered grave, I talked to her as if she was right there and could hear me.  Therapeutic?  Yes, but also who is to say she isn’t able to listen.  If we reverence the place where our parents are buried, shouldn’t we also reverence relics of the saints as they have faith we can only pray to have.

Dr. Hahn also discusses angels and their place in the world.  So many people in my life have passed away this year and with every person I have heard “Heaven gained another angel”, yet that isn’t scriptural although it may be a good thought.  People don’t become angels when they die.  In this book, angels are discussed and their role in the heavenly realm.

I feel like I lost so many people this year, but at the end of this book Dr. Hahn discusses when he met his (then) soon to be wife’s extended family and realized they would become his family as well.  He compares that to the saints.  We are part of the family of God, and St. Francis is part of our family of God just the same as our brother in law is part of our earthly family.  By realizing the richness of those who have gone before us, it can encourage us to live our lives in the way that we should.

I really enjoyed this book.  As I always say with Dr. Hahn’s books, it took me a while to get through because there was so much I wanted to consider and ponder.  I recommend this book for any Catholic, as well as anyone who wants to understand why Catholics believe as they do.

You can purchase this book here:

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Observing Advent -- for the first time

In the non-denominational church I grew up in, Advent was never mentioned.  When I started going to a Nazarene Church, the Advent candles were lit by people who attended the church.

But I never realized it was a time of longing for hope.

Yet O Come, O Come Emmanuel is my favorite Christmas Carol.  Or is it?  It's an Advent song.

I haven't been able to put up a Christmas tree this year.  There is come remodeling being done on the house.  So it's been a forced waiting on Christmas.  Advent.  Waiting.

O come, Thou Day-Spring from on high
And cheer us by thy drawing nigh
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice!  Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel.

Death.   We often don't think of it in relation to Christmas.  Yet, that's what I associate with all of this year.  My mother passed away, my grandfather-in-law passed away, 3 church leaders of mine from the past, two neighbors, and yesterday I lost another friend, making it three people I went to school with who passed away this year.

Everyone who is born will die.  Including Jesus.  In this season we are waiting for our Redemption and our Hope to arrive, because as our Hope, we had to suffer for us.

Right now I'm waiting.  For Hope.  Maybe for the first time this year, Easter will be the time I recognize that hope.  My grandmother passed away on Easter 1995.  Easter has always been wrapped up in death for me.  Maybe I can turn that focus to Christmas.  It's more appropriate with the Slaughter of the Innocents.  

Waiting on hope.   And waiting.  And waiting.  Come, Lord Jesus.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I'm tired of saying my mother died.

I took RCIA this past year, and had every intention of joining the Church afterwards.  As some of you may remember, Feb 18, I had to leave RCIA class because I got the call asking if my mother was a DNR (do not resuscitate), she passed away before RCIA was finished that evening (I left, of course.)  I didn't feel quite confident I was ready emotionally to join the Church (theology was no problem), so I asked my priest if I could join in a few months.  He said that he would need permission from the Bishop, but that yes, I could.  I specifically asked if I had to go through RCIA again  (I completed the class although I didn't join).   I was told that once through RCIA was all I needed.

Now we have another priest.   I was ready to join the church a couple months ago, but he is telling me I have to go through RCIA again.   I'm trying to convince the powers that be the reason I didn't join was based on circumstances and not theology.

I'm so tired of saying "My mother died" or "I was at RCIA class when my mother passed away"

I see the Eucharist at Mass each week.  I can't receive.  This upsets me, and to think it could be Easter before I could receive just seems so far away.

I've been through so much this year, I've had so many losses, and the one thing I'm wanting is to receive the Eucharist.

I am hopeful that something can be done, but I'm also tired of talking about the loss that consumed my mind around Easter Vigil.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Review: Lord Have Mercy The Healing Power of Confession

Lord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of ConfessionLord, Have Mercy: The Healing Power of Confession by Scott Hahn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Scott Hahn does it again.  This time in a 177 page volume, he explains the origin, history, and necessity of Confession.   As someone who is joining the Catholic Church and has completed RCIA, I think this book adds a lot to what was not covered in our classes.  I think Dr. Hahn’s books should be utilized in RCIA — or at least they were not in my classes.  

Don’t think this is a book for just the non-Catholic, I truly believe Dr. Hahn’s books are fantastic for anyone.  My fiancĂ© is a cradle Catholic, and because of me learning about the Catholicism, he has been enriched as well.  Sometimes things become rote, and that’s not what our faith is about, it should be living and dynamic, and I think that reading Lord Have Mercy will give you a new appreciation for Confession.  I admit, I picked up this book because as a Catholic convert, I am nervous about this sacrament.  This book has put my fears at ease, and in fact, I’m looking forward to when I will be able to make my first Confession.  

As with many of Dr. Hahn’s books, this took me a long time to read.  They are so full of great information I want to ruminate on them.  One of my favorite parts was where he explained why our sin does not cease to exist once it is forgiven, we live with the consequences.  He picked apart the common Protestant teaching that God turned his back on Jesus while He was on the cross.  This is something I heard my whole life, and when I read why Dr. Hahn feels it is an incorrect teaching, it felt so freeing, and helped me understand my sin and its consequences all the more.  We can’t think “Oh, this is just a little sin” because it still separates us from God — and therefore we need confession.

I also learned why Dr. Hahn thinks regular confession is a good idea.  I know at one local church they didn’t even have a confessional until recent renovations.  Penitents had to go with the priest to a room off the kitchen.  Yet, in years past, there would be lines of people on Saturday evenings.  Maybe they knew something we have lost along the years?

This is a book I will be referring back to quite a bit in the future.  It’s an excellent work, and one I believe should be in every Catholic’s library.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.

You can purchase this book here:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: Hail, Holy Queen

Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of GodHail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God by Scott Hahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Scott Hahn has a way of making simple theological concepts.  As a former Protestant, Dr. Hahn has, in this book, tackled the one area of faith that has so often divided Protestants from Catholics — Mary.   Who is Mary?  Why is she so revered?  What does the Bible say about her?  What does the Church say about her?  These are just a few of the topics that are covered in this book.

As someone who grew up Protestant, I have appreciated the works by Dr. Hahn over the years.  They have taught me about the theology of our Catholic brothers and sisters and have made me realize we are Christians.  By his taking different concepts and breaking them down into book form, it has made me understand not only our differences, but our sameness.  I think anyone who is Protestant who reads this will understand why Catholics honor Mary.  (Catholics do not worship Mary, but instead honor her because she is Jesus’ mother.)

I often hear teachings when I was growing up about “types and shadows” meaning that teachings in the Old Testament were often fulfilled in the New.  In this book, there area examples of how Old Testament passages were actually referring to Mary.  This was an exciting discovery for me because I never realized this prior to this book.  By reading this book, I walked away with a much better grasp of who Mary is and why she is important to the Church and to faith.

As someone who recently went through the RCIA class, I felt the class left a lot to be desired in the instruction of the role of Mary in the Church as well as in history and the Bible.  I believe this book should be referenced (if not utilized as required reading) in every RCIA class as the doctrine of Mary is often the most difficult for converts to Catholicism to overcome, mainly because of the misrepresentation of others who are not Catholic.

This is a quick and easy read and one I highly recommend for all Christians.  Even if you are Protestant, understanding Catholic theology is never a waste of time.  I believe it only builds understanding between the two groups.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  The opinions are my own.

You can purchase this book here:

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter: The Story of Death (and of Life)

 This is my contribution to the Convergent books Synchroblog.

Easter. Resurrection? Right?  Happy memories of children hunting eggs, jelly beans, and a large family dinner.  Not always.  Did you ever stop to think that Easter is another day?  People are born (like my friend Dan from college was born on Easter Sunday.)  People also die.

April 16, 1995 was a beautiful warm day in West Virginia.  A friend of mine was offered extra credit in a college class to attend church, bringing a church bulletin in with him the next morning.  So finally, he offered to attend church with me.   My mother was working at the local nursing home, and he was also scheduled to work soon after church, so I fixed lunch for us.  As soon as he got to work, he knew something was wrong when Mom wasn't at her station, and he went running to my grandmother's room.   He declared, "I should have brought Jennifer with me."  Because it was shift change, I was called, told I would be picked up by someone I never met and I was, on the day we celebrate the Resurrection, I was going to be present at my grandmother's death.

It was the hardest thing I'd ever done up to that point in my life, which at twenty-two, wasn't that long of a life.  To be so joyful at a worship service that morning and then watch as life waned from my grandmother, her eyes studying me, knowing she wouldn't see me for a very long time.  Easter now has become synonymous to me with a last breath, making arrangements at the funeral home, and the feeling of emptiness that Mary, Mary Magdalene and the disciples felt on Good Friday.  Did you realize that Mary and Mary Magdalene did their first century equivalent of making funeral arrangements?   They were headed to the tomb, not understanding what happened.  They only knew the One whom they loved died a gruesome death reserved for the very dregs of society.  Their Son, their Friend.  Gone.  I'm sure if they even remembered the words of Jesus from John 10:17, they didn't grasp them.  (This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.)  Or the words from John 16:22 (So you also are now in anguish.  But I will see you again, and your hearts with rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.)

My mother, every year on Easter and on April 16 mourned the loss of my grandmother.  Mom always said it was like two anniversaries of death and told me "You never get over the loss of your mother."  I thought she was exaggerating because wouldn't you learn to live without someone?

February 18, 2014, my boyfriend dropped me off at RCIA.  I made the decision last year to become Catholic and needed to be at the class.  We had been running errands in a town an hour away, spending much of the afternoon in the DMV.  He was going to check on Mom, then return for the rest of class.  When the phone rang, my first thought was, "Why is he calling?   He knows I'm in class."  I stepped out of the room, and heard, "I had to call 911.  She's unresponsive."  When I returned to the class, I was asked if I needed to go.  I explained I had no car.  Soon a second phone call.   A paramedic questioning me about her medical conditions.  My boyfriend on the phone telling me I needed to get home.  As I gathered my things, and grabbed a friend out of the class to give me a ride 10 miles up the mountain, I heard the lesson.  The Eucharist.   "This do in remembrance of me."  It's how we, as Christians, remember the death of Jesus.

The next time I heard my priest's voice, he was standing by my mother who had passed away.  Because my mother was not Catholic, he could not do Last Rites, but did a prayer of committal of her spirit to God.  The Scriptures were comforting, at least as comforting as they could be at the moment when my mother was gone.  I had fully expected to see her later that evening.  Sobs racked my body, though.  My boyfriend on one side of me, the friend who brought me home from church on the other.

It is two months today since Mom died.  It's hard.  I had to have follow ups to a mammogram because something suspicious was found.  I wanted her there so badly.  (Thankfully all was clear.) I have waited for marriage until I found the right man.  Mom met him, but she said last summer that she had two last things she was living for, one was to publish a book she wrote, and the second was to see me married.  My heart aches at the thought of a wedding now that neither of my parents are alive.

When my dad passed away, I had recently taken a trip to Israel with a friend who was Episcopalian and her Jewish boyfriend.  He stepped up and did the best he could of sitting Shiva with me -- every evening he phoned me.  It was comforting to know that someone acknowledged my grief beyond the time my dad's body was placed in the ground.

I learned more about Jewish mourning rituals at that time.  There's a tradition called avelut where, if your parent has died, you should avoid celebrations, parties, and the like for a year.  My boyfriend's step-mother called recently wanting us to visit on Easter, or for them to visit.  We live five hours away and rarely see each other.  I don't feel ready for a celebration.  I'm not entering the Catholic Church at Easter as I planned but giving myself more time. (I will elaborate on this in an upcoming blog post).   My heart is still shattered.  Although Christians don't follow Jewish mourning rituals, I feel justified in knowing the celebration I looked forward to may not be appropriate for me just yet.

Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, but right now, I'm still living in Good Friday.  I'm feeling what the disciples felt after losing Him.   I'm sure someday I'll have more of an understanding of Resurrection, Eternal Life, and Heaven, but right now, I'm feeling grief.  Because of my Grandmother, even Easter Sunday has grief woven through it, but maybe, just maybe that's how it should be.  What if we didn't just celebrate the Resurrection on Easter, but remember how death hurts, leaves an ache that won't go away -- unless we see the Person again.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Book Review: Girl At the End of the World

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.  All opinions are my own.  This post does contain affiliate links.

Girl at the End of the World: My Escape from Fundamentalism in Search of Faith with a Future

Preaching to the crowds at nine years old was part of Elizabeth Esther's childhood.  As this book opens, that's where we find her, telling people they might die and face the judgment.  Added is the tip that if no one is paying attention shout the name of "The Lord Jesus Christ".  Already this book had me hooked.  After all, who wouldn't be curious about the life of a childhood street preacher?

The judgment may be at hand, so the church she grew up in made absolutely sure that everyone was ready for Revelation to be played out at any moment.  Setting up secret hiding places was normal.  As well as, in later years, learning how wearing a thong was a sin because God would see it.  After all, girls should be modest.  But hopefully by that time, the children would have had all the sin spanked out of them and they would be following what was taught.

Or not.  When Elizabeth Esther goes to high school, which is a public school after years in her church school, she discovers boys.  And defiles herself before marriage by doing the shameful act of kissing her secret boyfriend.  After all, dating isn't allowed, only courtship.  Even her clothes in sizes too big for modesty sake  doesn't keep the boys -- or friends -- away.  It is in high school she decides she wants to go to college -- to escape.  Of course, this idea doesn't fly with her dad, who as in most patriarchal systems, calls the shots for his household. 

She does escape, obviously, or she wouldn't have told the tale.  While I didn't grow up in a church this abusive, several things echoed true for me.   I remember thinking as a child I needed to find a hiding place to store a Bible because we were taught as small children at church that the Russians were coming and they were going to kill all Christians and destroy all Bibles, so that is why we needed to memorize Scripture.  (I didn't realize that if we were dead, it wouldn't have mattered how much we had memorized.)

This is an excellent book for those who have come out of any type of abusive church situation.  Learning to think for yourself after a situation like that is not just difficult, but frightening.  There's always the "What If They Are Right?" question stuck in the back of your brain wondering if you are the one who is wrong and not them.   It's also a fascinating read for anyone who wants to see what the insides of a cult are like.   It is a book that you can't put down.  It's a tale of survival, hope, and escape.  She learned to think for herself and no longer be brainwashed.

I loved Girl At The End of The World.

Connect with the author:

Read part of the book here:

Friday, February 7, 2014

Seven Quick Takes Friday -- RCIA Edition


For those who don't know, I'm going through the RCIA class though my local Catholic Church.  If  you who have never been through one, I encourage you to do so.  You don't need to join the Catholic church afterwards, but most do.   It's a great study of what Catholics believe and we have a few people in our class who have been Catholic their whole lives.  Granted, two of the three of them are sponsors for those joining the church.  Unlike in larger parishes, our priest teaches the classes himself, and I believe this adds a lot to our class.  The first few weeks we were all silent and said nothing, and now our priest can't get us to settle down.  I was talking to a friend this week and she asked who all was in my class (there's less than 10 of us).  When I told her, she commented, "That sounds like a really fun class!"  It is. . . That said,  on with Seven Quick Takes about RCIA this week.


We were discussing Commandments 2 & 8 -- Truth and Honesty.  I want to write a whole blog post about this but our priest mentioned hypocrisy and what it is and isn't.   It isn't being imperfect and fallible.   Everyone is going to make mistakes.  Yes, people will sometimes cuss, or do things they shouldn't.  That doesn't make someone a hypocrite, but what does make them a hypocrite is "Professing beliefs, feelings or virtues that one does not possess."  So an extreme example would be someone who professes in church to believe in God but is an atheist.    I always thought hypocrites were people who go to church and don't live up to a certain standard.


I'd never heard the words before but two things I thought I'd mention are "calumny" and "detraction".  Calumny is saying something about another person that is not true and harms his/her reputation.  Detraction is saying something which is true and harms another's reputation without good reason for doing so (such as in a court of law.)


Next we were told that anything overheard in Confession is never to be revealed.  Someone stated that at times years ago there would be little old ladies hanging out near the Confessional to eavesdrop.  Can you imagine?   This got us into a lively discussion about Confession.  Since our priest is our teacher for the class we were able to get a priest's perspective on it.

It was asked something about the most interesting Confession, and of course our priest couldn't say that, but he did say that he's heard about everything as he has done work in a prison.  He was talking about the confidentiality that surrounds the Sacrament of Reconcilliation and said that at times in a group setting it might be required to stop a prisoner from talking about what he did if he had not yet been to trial.  He said that most in a specific prison had murdered at least one person if not more.  The lady beside me piped up, "Have you ever said, "You've only murdered one person?  Good for you."   This got laughs from most of us, our priest sighed and tried to go on to his next point.  Someone commented on how if there wasn't face to face confession the priest would still recognize voices, and amazingly, he said that many times he can't unless someone has a very unique voice.  I thought that was interesting.


I said I had heard on a podcast I listen to that priests often have a special grace to forget what is said to them, and I asked if that was true.  He said it wasn't that so much with him as most people confess the same sins.   The girl across the table from me said something about Mouth in the Goonies giving confession (I never realized that was what he was doing since I grew up Protestant -- in fact when I went to see the movie it was my best friend's birthday and her father had been a Methodist minister and he nearly whisked us out of the movie theater over the statue scene! But I digress.  .  .)  The lady across the table asked, "Has anyone ever confessed they are a cannibal?"  The room exploded with laughter and she said it was a Silence of the Lambs reference, but we all started joking with her about it.  I commented "I'm never coming to your house for dinner."  She looked at me and stated she can't cook, let alone cook people.  Again there was another general round of laughter.


Once we got settled down, another thing that was stated about truth and honesty was we are not to tell others things they don't need to know about others.  I can't say how many times I've heard gossip spread as prayer requests.  Even the prayer requests where you say "I can't give you details but pray for _____" makes you think all sorts of things about that person, so don't make prayer requests an announcement.  (I once heard a pastor say never to make a prayer request about something you haven't spent a lot of time in prayer for yourself.  I think that's a great rule of thumb because I think it will make you more sensitive to how you ask others to pray about something!)


After class, we often visit and joke around a little.  One week I had mentioned that a guinea pig I know online had a lady across the hall who would get after him with Holy Water.   (I'm planning on writing a blog post just about that discussion, too, so stay tuned.)  I announced as we were filing out of the classroom, "Good news.  The lady across the hall from that guinea pig showed up to preform an exorcism on the guinea pig but instead baptized him with Holy Oil."  My priest questioned a baptism with holy oil forgetting that we were discussing a guinea pig, who of course cannot be baptized.   (I have wanted to take my guinea pig to a blessing of the animals service on the Feast of St. Francis.  I had one guinea pig in particular who would have loved it with the exception of dogs.  And speaking of dogs, the Episcopal priest in the next town once had to go to the hospital and get stitches after a dog bit him during a blessing of the animals service, but again I digress. . .)  As our priest was still contemplating baptism with holy oil,  someone asked about exorcism.  I mentioned I had read the book The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist and asked if that was real, and I was told it was.  The youngest member of the class said he had seen that movie.  I asked why when I mention a book everyone talks about a movie that is made from the book.  (And disclaimer -- neither I nor my priest have seen the movie, so I don't know how much it followed the book.) 

So there you have it, at RCIA this week we discussed truth, honesty, hypocrisy, cannibalism, a guinea pig, and exorcism.  A pretty jam packed hour and a half if I do say so myself!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Valuing Yourself

Have you ever had someone say directly to you, "I don't value you"?  Chances are you haven't.  I have.  I had been volunteering for a Christian ministry for a number of months.  I was told I wasn't valued and the work I had been doing was not valued.  In fact, I was told some of the reports I worked hours on were deleted because "they were too long".  I quit the moment I was told I was not valued and my work wasn't valued, but I can't help but wonder if I had been willing to continue if they would have let me because it was free labor.

Growing up and even into my early thirties I had believed that I should tolerate this kind of behavior by others.  After all, it's turning the other cheek, right?  It's the Christian thing to do, correct?  It lines up with those neon letters wore around my wrist in the mid-1990s "WWJD".

But think about it for a moment. . . Jesus invested in people who appreciated Him.  He had TWELVE disciples.  The inner circle was three men.  Some may think I'm stretching to make this point, but I don't believe I am.  Jesus knew the value of time, He only had 33 years on earth.  He wanted to spend it wisely.

So why should I be doing things for people who don't appreciate them?  I have given generously to others, sometimes without even a thank you in return for hundreds of dollars of items given.  I'm tired of doing and people just expecting it.  Being a Christian should not mean I'm a doormat, nor should I be made to feel guilty because I value myself and my work.

I have a friend who posts some beautiful photos on Facebook.  She sells them, too.  I've told her she needs to put a copyright across them because people have been downloading them from Facebook and having them printed, therefore not valuing her time and talents to reciprocate.  I had this happen to me with a photo I took of my guinea pigs.  I didn't put my guinea pigs' fan page in text on the photo, and it got shared on the Internet without giving me credit for it.

I saw a joke on Facebook recently that said, "Your camera takes great pictures.  Thanks.  I thought it everything it knows."  Good photography isn't something that comes automatically with a camera.  I took four college level photography classes.  Or in layman's terms, I spent almost $2,000 in photography training.  (Of course I had grants and scholarships, but still.)

Do you go to a doctor and decide what you are going to pay him?  No, he spent lots of time and money going through school and as the Bible says "the worker is worth his wages".  You (or your insurance) will pay  $200 for seeing him for fifteen minutes. 

Just because someone is a friend doesn't mean that you don't need to value their expertise.  I have a friend who is a doctor.  I don't even call him "Doctor".  I have, however, called him at times trying to determine if I should go to the emergency room or not.  I don't take this lightly.  Even though he makes a nice income, he is someone I'm really hoping to win something nice to give him at some point because he has been so generous to me with his knowledge and time, I want to be generous with what I have as well.  (I enter contests and sweepstakes as a hobby.)

Not only is the world better off when we value ourselves, we tend to value others as well.  Plus it makes others feel better about doing things and sharing with you in the future if you give as generously as they do.

I chose this photo to display on my blog today because that is an Olympic torch from the Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta.  Just like Olympians know the value of their hard work, it's important for all of us to know the value of our contributions to society!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Book Review: At the Heart of the Gospel

FTC disclaimer:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  All opinions are my own.  This post contains affiliate links.

At the Heart of the Gospel: Reclaiming the Body for the New Evangelization

In  At the Heart of the Gospel, author Christopher West takes deep theology and makes it accessible to those of us who aren’t scholars!  I appreciate his writing style as he explains things thoroughly without talking down to the readers.  He has dedicated himself to studying Pope John Paul II’s writing “Theology of The Body” and in this book, West explains how that work relates to the New Evangelization. 

I’ve heard in my own theology classes in college about the Gnostics who believed the body was bad and spiritual things were good.  One of the things that West points out in this book is if we believe that, then what is life without the body?  It is death.   This reminded me of the many times in college that I’d be in a “feminar” (a seminar for girls) and we’d be told beauty isn’t important, it’s only what is inside that counts.  I realize that not everyone is a model, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and ask most men, and they would tell you their wife is beautiful.   We can survive in a world without beauty, but that’s often what it is, survival and not thriving. 

One chapter I especially enjoyed was “The Narrow Gate Between Idolatry and Iconoclasm”.  We can make anything into an idol be it beauty, food, other things that relate to our physical bodies, or something more abstract such as a hobby, or even veneration of saints.  But do we need to go so far as to do away with things rather than keep them in check?  Most likely not.  If you have ever tried to lose a few pounds, to do it in a healthy manner, you still have to eat.  So to have a healthy relationship with anything, it must be in moderation. 

I also very much appreciated West tackling the tough topic of “The Great Analogy of Spousal Love”.  Have you ever read through the Song of Solomon?  That is an erotic book of the Bible!  The high school I graduated from decided they were going to read through the Bible, one chapter a day, and being super conservative, I wondered what they would do when they came to that book if they continued that plan!  Like Pope Benedict XVI said “The Prophets describe God’s passion for his people using boldly erotic images.”  (page 103)

I enjoyed this book, not as much as a previous book by the same author, but it’s still a good, solid book that makes Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body not only accessible but practical.   I highly recommend this book.

FTC disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  I only recommend books I enjoy.

You can purchase this book here: