I’ve done it for years. Decades, really. I’ve made lists. You know the kind— where you write down all the tasks you need to accomplish as a wife, mom, employee, homemaker, all of the above? I actually got pretty good at it over time. I use a business system to help me track and organize my various to-do’s. I create weekly and monthly goals that connect to my daily planner. And once, in a highly creative but mercifully short-lived phase, I color-coded my list according to priority. Yep, that’s me: A list-maker supreme.
So it only came naturally to me when I reverted to the Catholic faith five years ago to approach my spiritual growth in the same structured manner. Soon I found myself making a list of books I wanted to read, jotting down virtues I wanted to explore and develop, and later, noting elements of the faith I wanted to re-learn (better this time). And I made prayer intention lists— lots of prayer intention lists. But more recently I began penning things I thought the Holy Spirit was nudging me to explore— in particular, ways I could maybe help build the kingdom using the talents and gifts He’s given me.
Sometimes the spiritual list-making worked. I checked off several important milestones in my faith life and I felt like I had accomplished some significant goals. But then…
Read the rest of my post over at CATHOLIC SISTAS here.
I am a certified bibliophile, especially when it comes to spiritual books. I spent much of Lent reading! (Note to self: the pile of unread books does not diminish if you keep adding new books to the pile…)
Here’s a list of books I am reading at the moment or finished during Lent. Let me know if you’ve read any, are currently reading these, or have comments on any of them!
- Into His Likeness by Edward Sri. Sri is one of my go-to authors so I couldn’t wait to dive in to this one, which covers one of my favorite topics–the call to discipleship. He did not disappoint! I learned much about the process of transformation that is required to really follow Jesus.
- Finding True Happiness by Ven. Fulton Sheen. A short collection of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s teachings on the culture’s fruitless search for happiness apart from God. So many quotable quotes! Some of my favorites: “If you do not worship God, you worship something, and nine times out of ten it will be yourself.” “It is one of the paradoxes of creation that you gain control by submission.” “It is God you are looking for. Your unhappiness is not due to your want of a fortune, or high position, or fame or sufficient vitamins; it is due not to a want of something outside you, but to a want of something inside you.”
- Kingdom of Happiness by Fr. Jeffrey Kirby, STD. To continue the “seeking happiness” theme, Kingdom uses the compass of the Beatitudes to point us toward Jesus and true happiness in our lives. I reviewed this book for Catholic Sistas–look for the official full review on their website soon!
- Thirsting for Prayer by Fr. Jacques Philippe. This book was handed to me by my spiritual director and I know why. Fr. Jacques’ insights are profound and practical, a difficult mix to accomplish, and led me to think of my prayer life in more simple terms. One highlighted sentence I took to heart: “It is not a question of thinking a lot, but of loving a lot…Praying is not first and foremost doing something for God, but primarily accepting his love, letting ourselves be loved by Him.” Whoa. That flips my task-driven, to-do-list mentality on its head!
- Reform Yourself! By Shaun McAfee. I’m working my way through this collection of stories of the saints who stood strong during the age of reformation. Saints Francis de Sales (my favorite!), Teresa of Avila, Philip Neri and others can teach us how to grow in virtue and grace for our own personal reform. Inspirational and useful.
- A Pope and a President by Paul Kengor. I heard about this book through an interview on Catholic radio and I was hooked. I was an intern in Washington, D.C. when Ronald Reagan was President and John Paul II was Pope. I greatly admired both men. This book takes an in-depth look at the paths they took to their leadership roles in the world and how their goal of taking down the communist threat became inextricably intertwined. I’m only one-third through this one and it’s so fascinating that I frequently look up from the pages and offer a “Hey, did you know..?” to anyone in the same room.
There are a few others on my Kindle, including a G.K. Chesterton gem, that I pull out on occasion and sample from too.
On deck are these enticing titles:
- Thrift Store Saints by Jane Knuth
- Leaping by Brian Doyle
- Strangers in a Strange Land by Archbishop Charles Chaput
- Fulfilled by Sonja Corbitt
- Saint Mary Magdalene by Fr. Sean Davidson
I will keep you “posted” on my progress!
Do you have any book recommendations for me?
It never fails.
Whenever I am in need, or can’t figure out something, or have to make an important decision, I try to first offer my question to God. It could be composed in my prayer journal. It could be in the form of a petition during Mass. Or it could be whispered in the dark of a sleepless night. But no matter what the question or quandary, I hear the same answer loud and clear from Him lately: “More of Me.”
That’s it. He wants me to draw nearer to Him, to pray more to Him, to ask Him to reign ever more completely over my life. That’s His answer to my problems big and small—More of Him. It’s not an easy answer to accept. I would rather He just go ahead and fix it, thank you very much—whatever “it” is: Just answer my question or solve this problem and we can all move on, God. But that’s not how He typically works. Instead, He wants us to lean on Him harder and lean into Him deeper whenever we are at a crossroads.
Read the rest of the post over at Catholic Sistas here.
I am a word nerd. Always have been. Growing up, I knew how to read before I started school. I wrote funny poems about and for my second-grade friends. And I often stayed in at recess just so I could get a jump on my new spelling words. When I first discovered the existence of a thesaurus, my nerdy word world was rocked! My Creator made me this way, so I choose to run with it. And because he made me this way I have learned that whenever he wants my attention, he likes to send a word for me to ponder. The ponder word can bubble up during my prayer journaling time, while I’m reading a book, while I’m saying the rosary or even while I’m spacing out in the car or the shower. I know the word when I see it and hear it because it usually compels me to pause. The word crackles my brain circuits for the tiniest moment and makes my heart sit up and take notice. I love this special way God and I have of communicating. It always draws me nearer to him. It teaches me something that’s relevant to the particular season of spiritual growth I happen to be in.
The most recent word that has been surfacing on a regular basis in my life is despite. Initially, I thought it was a negative word that implied a struggle, a difficulty, a challenge to overcome. But after stewing on it and wondering how God wants me to apply it in my life, I found it to be a positive, faith-filled word. A turning-point, change-of-perspective word. A word that I need to integrate into my daily life to keep me motivated and help me to become a stronger disciple of Jesus.
One example? Jesus commands us to Love One Another. That wouldn’t be so difficult if we weren’t humans, am I right? As EWTN’s Mother Angelica once said, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy!”
——->>>>>Read the rest at Catholic Sistas here
You already know this: It’s important to get quiet and be quiet—to set aside a silent, focused time to pray. We must get away from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives and go on a mini-retreat with God on a regular basis. Even Jesus had to get away! The Bible cites a number of times during Jesus’s ministry on earth when he left the crowds and went off to pray and talk with his Father. If Jesus Christ himself needed alone time with his Father, we mere mortals certainly need it even more! It’s crucial to our faith lives. But it’s not easy.
Jesus knows it isn’t easy. Often when he was by himself praying, his disciples would come looking for him or the crowds seeking more miracle healings would discover where he was and press in on him. You may not have crowds of people pressing in on you and begging for miracles, but I know you likely have a crowd of family members around who each want a piece of you. Plus, you have to get your day started. And let me guess—your mind is already racing before your eyes are even open in the morning. Thoughts of meetings, projects and deadlines at work can crowd in too. And then there’s the housework and the groceries and all the appointments. Yea, that can all add up and make it feel like the walls are closing in. Who has time to be still?
The answer, of course, is all of us. We all have time to be still and spend time with God. Our new friend St. Francis de Sales says it best: “Every one of us needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when we are busy—then we need an hour.” Nailed it once again, St. Francis!
The problem? Being still is not a practice that is honored in our culture. We are taught to worship the gods of technology and multi-tasking. We are told that being constantly busy equals being productive and successful. We are bombarded with noise from every angle, practically all day long. But if we continually find ourselves in the middle of all that chaos, we can easily be drawn further away from God and our faith. I know this; I used to be hooked on all that stimulation too. And it was definitely not conducive to a strong spiritual life.
When life is busy and messy and chaotic and loud (which can be most of the time), we need all the more to be still. That’s the ideal time for us to stop and pray. To get away. To be quiet. To be alone with God so we can learn to recognize when it’s his voice telling us what choices to make and which path to take. You can’t get to know someone’s voice or have a good conversation with them when there’s too much noise in the background.
(Excerpted from Praying with a Pen–A Girlfriends’ Guide to Stress-Free Prayer Journaling. Get the book here!)
“I’m going to rename him Velcro,” my husband proclaimed as he shook his head at my little pup, Sammy, who is never more than two feet away from me at all times. “He is constantly stuck to you.”
He’s right. He often has to compete with Sammy if he wants to sit next to me on the couch, or move in for a goodnight kiss in bed. Sammy is perpetually by my side, watching, waiting and trying to anticipate my next move. He follows me from room to room throughout the day, and lies in a dog bed next to my desk when I’m in the office. He’s always at my heels.
Sammy is a good example for me. Not when he barks for scraps at mealtime, or chases the cats, or chews up my socks, but when he sticks close to me.
It’s how I imagine I should be following Jesus. Not just following in a general sense, like I know he’s ahead of me somewhere and I think I can make him out in the distance if I squint hard enough. Or following somewhere along the fence line and only scurrying over to him when something spooks me. But following closely. All the time. Where I can see him and recognize his voice when he calls and can let him guide me down the path one step at a time. Where I can touch the hem of his garment when I need to.
This is how I imagine the saints felt— that every step they took in their spiritual journey was in sync with Jesus. Like they could just turn to the right and turn to the left and see and feel and hear the Lord next to them. They were always near to him, not bringing up the rear of the line in the back of the herd. They were the good sheep and he was their Good Shepherd. He wanted them close and they wanted to be close to him. Right at his heels.
And that’s how it is with us, too. He wants us close. Where we can feel his presence in every room, in every situation, in every challenging circumstance. Where we can feel his great love. And where we don’t have to go far to find his mercy and forgiveness.
I’m going to stick close to Jesus as best as I can. At his heels, even. Like Velcro.
[Sammy is so inspiring. I can’t wait to point this out to my husband.]