Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A New Year Prayer

This prayer was in my parish bulletin this week. I wish you all a very Happy and Blessed 2009!

Dear Lord,

We pray that this New Year will bring us closer to You.
May we take the time to get to know You.
Help us to truly appreciate the gifts You have graciously given us
and use them to serve You and spread Your word.

May we also see and love you in all the people we meet,
so that in turn, they can see You in us.

We know that all human relations take time if they are to grow and deepen. This is also true of our relations with You, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which must grow over the course of our lives. In this New Year, let us realize that every action of ours no matter how great or small enables us to be in touch with you.

Let us accept You in our lives, in the way it pleases You,

as Truth, to be spoken,
as Life, to be lived,
as Light, to be lighted,
as Love, to be followed,
as Joy, to be given,
as Peace, to be spread about,
as Sacrifice, to be offered among our relatives, friends, neighbors and all people.

Amen.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Trusting in God in the New Year

I always enjoy starting a new calendar. As the old year winds down, I go through the process of going over the old calendar and transferring any dates and appointments I need to remember such as birthdays, anniversaries, when to get the car inspected, etc. The new calendar with its fresh unblemished pages always represents hope to me. While the old calendar has something written on almost every day, the new calendar is relatively empty and full of potential. What will fill those days? That is the mystery yet to be discovered. I admit, I don't necessarily approach the new year with the same unbridled enthusiasm as I had as I child, or that my children now possess. I know that the new year will bring sadness as well as joy, but I do hope that there will be more of one than the other.

I try not to make New Year's resolutions. It's not that I think that they are bad. Obviously, we should all work to improve ourselves. Honestly, it is just that I know that I won't keep them. Against my better judgment, last January I had made one goal (just one!) for the past year. I couldn't make it happen despite my best efforts which only leaves me feeling disappointed. Apparently, it just wasn't meant to be. Yet, there were many, many good things that happened during the year, things that I couldn't have predicted looking at the blank calendar in the beginning of January. Every year unfolds in ways I can't imagine. With each year, I'm getting a little better at letting go of any plans I might have and letting God lead my days.

I was flipping through a women's magazine today that was full of ways to make the most of our lives in the new year. There was advice on dieting and health and making better use of our time. These are all good things. Yet, it seems that the most important advice was missing: the importance of trusting in God in the new year. Without God, all our best laid plans, whether they come to fruition or not, are not worth much. It is God who gives meaning to our days. It is only through prayer that we can come to know the will of God for our lives. It is only through spending quality time with God and offering our days to him that we can walk in his paths.

In Mother Teresa's Secret Fire: The Encounter That Changed Her Life and It Can Transform Your Own, Fr. Joseph Langford writes how “prayer was the flame that rekindled the secret fire she carried within. . . She knew that everything stands or falls depending on the depth of one's prayer.” It is only through prayer that our lives can be transformed and we become instruments of God's will. Hand in hand with prayer goes faith. “Faith is a compass that infallibly points to true north, illuminating the presence, and the personality of God – even in the darkest night.” Mother Teresa held firm to her faith even in the midst of incredible poverty and hardship. She truly believed that God loved her and all of his creatures and that He wants only the best for us. God can bring good out of the worst calamity. God is always there with us. In this new year, we can follow Mother Teresa's advice. We can pray and have faith in God in both the good and the bad moments that may come our way. We, too, can know that God loves us and has our best interests at heart. We can choose to walk in his will for the coming year. Then, when this year's calendar has been all filled up, we will know that we spent the gift of time the way we were meant to.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Book Review: Where Do I Go

Where Do I Go?: A Yada Yada House of Hope Novel

by Neta Jackson
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008

To the outside world, Gabby Fairbanks would seem to have it all – a wealthy, successful husband, a pernthouse apartment, and two sons she loves, but appearances are not everything. She has just been uprooted to Chicago for her husband's new business venture, is having marital difficulties, and her children are hundreds of miles away at boarding school. She is lonely and lost. When she trips over Lucy, a homeless woman, at the beach, she is introduced to Manna House, a local homeless shelter for woman. She soon begins to spend more and more time there, to her husband's chagrin. The staff and residents there offer her acceptance and an outlet for her God-given talents. She also begins rediscovering a relationship with God. She is attempting to trust in God and do what God wants, but it isn't helping things go any smoother. Her marriage is even more on the rocks, her mother needs care, and her relationship with her sons is rocky at best. Gabby is a likable character and readers will truly care about what happens to her. It is a very enjoyable read. The only caveat in reading this book is that there is no definite resolution. As part of a series, readers will need to wait another year to find out what happens to Gabby. I'm looking forward to the next installment.

St. John the Caregiver

Tomorrow (Dec. 27) is the feast day of St. John the Apostle, which makes it a good time to talk about the wonderful work done by the group, Friends of St. John the Caregiver. Founded by well-known Catholic writers Bill and Monica Dodds, the organization exists to help provide support to those who find themselves in a caregiving role. Their stated purpose is as follows:

Promoting Care for the Caregiver!

The Friends of St. John the Caregiver is an international Catholic organization addressing the growing needs of family caregivers by providing:

--Spirituality, information and resources to individual caregivers
www.YourAgingParent.com

--Training and educational material to dioceses and parishes
www.CatholicCaregivers.com

--A membership association offering spiritual support for:
-those who need care
-those who give care
-those who assist others giving care
www.FSJC.org/members' roles

St. John was given the role of caregiver at the foot of the cross when Jesus asked him to take care of his mother.

Prayer to St. John, Patron of Caregivers

Beloved St. John, from the cross, Jesus entrusted to you the care of His Blessed Mother. Help me and all those taking care of a loved one who is sick, elderly, disabled, or frail. Pray for us, that as we go about our many caregiving duties, we may never lose sight of that truth which Christ revealed to His disciples: 'Whatever you did for one of these, you did for Me.' Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Reason for the Season

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment,
when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth
to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there,
the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son.
She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,
because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields
and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them,
“Do not be afraid;
for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David
a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes
and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel,
praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Lk 2:1-14

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Baby Changes Everything


In the quiet of night, a young mother holds her baby to her, admiring his fingers and toes, exploring the features of his face. Her son is new to this world, a gift from God. She is like every other new mother, filled with wonder and exhaustion and, perhaps, fear. She is very young. Is she up to this awesome task that God has seen fit to entrust to her? After all, this is no ordinary child. His birth was foretold by the prophets. An angel came to tell her he was coming! She replays the vision in her memory. It was just an ordinary day when the angel came with his divine message. Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son . . . He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:30-32) Fear not? A child? It had been a lot to take in, but she believed, she trusted, she said “yes.” From that moment, nothing would ever be ordinary again.

She had gone to her cousin Elizabeth to help her with her own miraculous birth. She had returned home to begin her life with her husband, Joseph. Then, heavy with child, she had to travel to Bethlehem. Now, she had just given birth among the animals, far from her family and friends. This really wasn't what she had in mind. Yet, she is thankful. The innkeeper was kind to let them stay here. They are safe, they are warm, and all went well with the birth. She smiles at her child. He is perfect, so perfect. If only her mother could be here to see him. He is the One her people have waiting for: The Savior, the Messiah, the Promised One. These are such big names for such a tiny baby, her baby who sleeps so peacefully in her arms. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. (Luke 1:46-47).

Who are these strangers who have come to visit? Joseph is talking to them, inviting them in. He whispers to her, “The angels told them.” She nods. This baby is special. The secret that few had known is secret no more. She resists the urge to hold him tighter, keep him to herself. He is not just her baby. He belongs to the world. She lays him in the manger so that they can take a closer look. They tell her about the angels, too. The light was so bright!There were so many! The whole of heaven was rejoicing!Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. (Luke 2:14) The shepherds stay for a little while, and then they return to their fields. She can hear them praising God as they leave. Joseph looks kindly at her, then lays down to get some rest. She should rest, too. It has been quite a day! But, her mind will not quiet down. There is so much to think about.

She checks on the baby again, makes sure that he is warm and dry. She remembers the shepherds looking at him. They had such reverence in their eyes. They knew that they were beholding a miracle. Yes, a miracle, a miracle entrusted to her care. She thought of the future, of all the things that he would need to learn. Yes, there was so much to think about. That young girl who had been living a quiet life before the angel came no longer existed. She was a mother now, the mother of the Savior. All ages will call me blessed. (Luke 1:48) Why did God choose her, out of all the girls in all the world during all the ages? Why her, a simple, poor girl? Why did the savior come as a baby? He could have just appeared in glory. Why come in such impoverished conditions? It didn't make much sense to her, but she knew that God must have his reasons. She would continue to trust, to hope, to believe. She would continue to say “Yes” wherever the road would lead. This baby would not only change her life. He would change the world. She is tired. She closes her eyes and dreams of the future. Yes, this baby would change everything.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Book Review: Mother Teresa's Secret Fire


Mother Teresa's Secret Fire:
The Encounter that Changed Her Life, and How it Can Transform Your Own

by Joseph Langford
Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2008

What was the secret fire that fueled Mother Teresa? That is the question that Father Joseph Langford who co-founded the Missionaries of Charity Fathers with Mother Teresa, attempts to answer in Mother Teresa's Secret Fire: The Encounter That Changed Her Life and It Can Transform Your Own.
The first section, “Fire in the Night,” tells of Mother Teresa's Inspiration Day – September 10, 1946 in which she received her call within a call - “a divine mandate to leave the convent and go out to serve the poor in the slums.” More importantly, “she had been graced with an overwhelming experience with God,” an experience which she largely kept secret for many years.

The second section, “Illumination” explores the light that emanated from Mother Teresa. People “could feel the presence of God in Mother Teresa; they intuited her holiness, and were drawn to it.” Being “light would become the focus of Mother Teresa's entire vocation.” She experienced great darkness in her own spiritual life, but that darkness enabled her to share in the pain of the people that she ministered to. She was sent to shown them God's love, to bring them light. She wanted to show all of us how to do the same in whatever place we find ourselves in this world.

The final section, “Transformation,” illustrates how the “consuming fire” within the young Sister Teresa turned her into Mother Teresa “and how it can transform us as well.” The initial moment of inspiration was just the beginning. What fueled Mother Teresa throughout her life was her ongoing prayer with God. “Prayer was the flame that rekindled the secret fire she carried within.” Prayer is available to each and every one of us. “The gift of God's love is the fruit of a free and personal decision; one that cannot be coerced and manipulated, but only requested, yearned for, and waited on in prayer.” God will always respond.

Mother Teresa's central message, the secret that she received on the train that September day in 1946, was the thirst of Jesus. Jesus wants each of us. God always loves us. He yearns for our love in return. We are all born with the desire for God. “Only God can satisfy us.” In “Mother Teresa's Secret Fire,” Father Langford does a remarkable job of promoting Mother Teresa's message and sharing it with the world.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

God Doesn't Make Mistakes

The little girl featured on the cover of this CD is named Anna and she and her family are part of the homeschool group we belong to. Her father wrote this song for her and for all the parents of children with Down Syndrome.

Lying in the dark, staring at the ultrasound.
The doctor shakes his head, says "I'm sorry but this baby has Down syndrome
And I know it's hard to decide,
But she's so fragile that she'll probably die,
And it might be a blessing if she did"
Little did he know we're all the more blessed 'cause she lived.

(Chorus)
And no, she's never gonna look like the other kids
And she may not learn to talk like the other ones did
And I guess she's always gonna walk just a little behind
But I don't mind.

'Cause she lives her whole life without one trace of guile
And she lights up the world with that crooked little smile
And she loves you with a love so pure it just makes your heart break.
And I'd like to tell that doctor,
God Doesn't Make Mistakes

Sittin' in the park, watchin' all the children play.
My daughter walks up, they get quiet and a little afraid.
But pretty soon the smiles come over their face
And they slow their game down just a pace
And I watch as a spirit of kindness abounds
And thank God for that girl who showed me what life's really about.

(Chorus)
And she helped me to discover
God Doesn't Make Mistakes

They said something went wrong
But I think something went right
And I'll fight for my baby with all of my might.
'Cause I love her with a love so pure it just makes my heart break
And I want to tell the world,
God Doesn't Make Mistakes


The song can be listened to and purchased at http://www.newfamilymusic.com/

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Stop the Bailout for Planned Parenthood

Abortion groups have submitted their 50 page proposal to the Obama-Biden transition team. At the top of the list? More taxpayer dollars for abortion organizations like Planned Parenthood. How much more? Over 1.5 billion dollars more!

The Abortion Bailout Package:

* $1 BILLION dollars in taxpayer funding for International Abortion Groups
* $700 million in taxpayer funding for “Title X” Health Clinics (aka your local Planned Parenthood affiliate)
* $65 million for the UNFPA, an international aid organization connected to coercive abortion as part of China’s coercive one-child policy
* Repeal the Hyde Amendment – Vastly expanding federal taxpayer funding for abortions
* Include Abortion coverage in any taxpayer-subsidized national health care program
* Expand taxpayer-funded abortions on military bases
* Expand taxpayer-funded abortions through the Peace Corps program
* Expand taxpayer-funded abortions for federal prisoners

Send a letter to your Senators today demanding that they keep your tax dollars out of the pockets of abortion providers.

Sign the Petition Here

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jesus: The Light of the World

Guest Post by Janet Cassidy

Yesterday we celebrated the beginning of the third week of Advent, which announces joy to the world. It is a welcome sign with all that is going on around us today. As Christians, we are called to stand in hope because of Christ, who brings light to the world, salvation for all.



The Good News that Christ brings should never become cliché. The language we use to talk about Jesus, such as “light to the world” should not make our eyes glaze over because of their familiarity. When we speak of Jesus as our light, it is helpful to think about the effects of light, for instance.



Light—like the sun on your window—has the ability to highlight the spots that were overlooked during your last cleaning. That same light can also lead you when the road is dark and you are not sure where you are going. We can think of our “cleaning” as an examination of conscience and we can think of that dark road as a particular trial we are facing or personal vice we are trying to work through. Jesus, our Light, brings hope for us as we strive for holiness.



May God fully bless you during this week of rejoicing, bringing you to experience the true joy that comes with knowing Jesus, the Light of the World.



God bless,

Janet



Please visit my website at www.janetcassidy.com for more news and commentary, including my blog!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Novel Update

For those of you who might be interested, I am still working on my novel, although I have to say, it is much harder this month. Now that the deadline has passed (and I missed it), it is harder to get myself motivated. Also, the more I write, the more I'm disappointed in the story. I refuse to go back and read anything of what I have written. I'm forcing my inner critic to stay "off" for this project. Still, I'm a pretty self-motivated person and I am bound and determined to get to 50,000 words even if it kills me (some days, I feel like it just might). Then, I will worry about reading it and deciding whether it deserves a second draft. I'm currently at 32,284 words.

It's a Wonderful, Imperfect, Life

“Mom, what is this movie about?” a child asked his mother as “It's a Wonderful Life” was just beginning.
“It's about a man who is in trouble through no fault of his own and he wishes that he had never been born. He thinks other people's lives would be better that way. But an angel comes and shows him how much worse the world would be if he had never been there.”
“Sometimes I wish I had never been born,” the child continued.
“Well, I would miss you very much,” the mother answered.
“But you wouldn't have known me.”
“I would know something was missing.”
“But when I have been bad, and done something I can't fix, or hurt someone, I feel bad and think it would be better if I wasn't around.”
“We all do wrong things like that sometimes, but if we tell God we are sorry and try to make up for the things we have done, that is all we can do. We have to keep moving forward.”
“I do tell God I'm sorry, but sometimes I still think it would be better if I wasn't around,” the child insisted.
“At times like that, you need to remember that God made you with a special purpose in mind. He loves you and He had a reason for putting you here. The world needs you. Ok?”
“Ok. Thanks, Mom.”
“I love you,” the mother replied.
“I love you, too.”

At one time or another in our lives, perhaps even when we were still rather young, we might have thought the world would be better off without us. Maybe one of you reading this was thinking that very thought today. Like the child, we need to be reminded of God's forgiveness and love. We all have regrets, things that we have done in our past that we really wish we could take back. There are times in our lives when we feel like a burden to others. A child might feel responsible for his parents fighting. A chronically sick adult may feel like she serves no real purpose in the world, that she has outlived her usefulness.

We suffer when we feel like others must suffer because of us, whether it is because of something we actually did or merely as a consequence of life circumstances. Our lives are far from perfect; but, no matter how bad we may perceive our lives to be, God is always there with open arms, ready to shower us with His love. There is no sin we have committed that God will not forgive, provided we are truly sorry. There is no burden that God is not willing to help us carry.

God loves each and every one of us. The words of Psalm 139 tell us of the loving care that God put into creating each one of us. “Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb. . .My soul also you knew full well; nor was my frame unknown to you when I was made in secret.” God indeed made each of us for a reason. The world needs each one of us. Each life touches so many other lives. We each have a role to play. Yes, we make mistakes, but without each of us, the world would be a little bit less than it should be. Even in the midst of our heartache and sorrow, life is an amazing gift. “I give you thanks that I am fearfully, wonderfully made; wonderful are your works.” May we give thanks today for our wonderful, imperfect, lives. May we treasure the gift we have been given.

Note: If you are suffering from depression, please contact your doctor. If you feel that you may be a danger to yourself or anyone else, please call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE or go to your nearest hospital.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

As I am the mother of two boys, I don't tend to give a lot of thought to what it means to be raising girls (Except to be thankful that I am not. I am a firm believer that God knew what He was doing when he sent David and Isaac my way, because seriously, I wouldn't have a clue.). In any event, Sarah Reinhard has written a beautiful article for CatholicMom on The World of Little Girls and Possibilities. It offers a good reminder for all of us who were once little girls as well as for those who are currently bringing them up.

Quilt for David



Here is this year's quilting project, ready as promised, for Christmas. Some of you may recall that last year, I made a quilt for my husband and I. This year was David's turn. Yes, the colors are rather unique, but the fabrics were picked out of the scrap bag by a (then) six-year old boy. I'm already making plans for Isaac's quilt which I will begin working on in January with a hoped for completion date of Christmas 2009.

I Will Give You Rest

This is today's entry from Living Faith. I thought it was particularly appropriate given the time of year.

Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

What a wonderful invitation! Jesus offers rest from our grueling burdens and arduous efforts. What surprises me is how easily I forget this generous invitation when I am overwhelmed with work or with troubles that inevitably arise. Instead of leaning on the heart of Christ, I give in to anxiety and worry. I work even harder and spend later hours in the office. I squirm and struggle, trying to get things to develop my way. Instead of turning to prayer and giving more attention to my divine resource, I lessen the time, believing it will help me to 'get more done.' What a crazy response to Christ's wonderful invitation.

Eventually I wake up and remember, "Oh, yes, I can find rest. I can receive an easing of what consumes me." This will happen if I deliberately slow down, become still, and turn my heart toward the One who urges, "Come to me."
- Sr. Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thanks to the Sonrise Morning Show

My thanks go out to the Sonrise Morning Show in Cincinnati, Ohio for having me on as a guest this morning to discuss the history and symbolism of the Advent wreath. It was a great pleasure.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Time to Get Ready

As presented in scripture, John the Baptist is quite the imposing character. He was not exactly the most “normal” of people, living in the desert as he did, dressed in camel skin and subsisting on locusts and wild honey, shouting at people to repent. Honestly, when one encounters someone equally non-conformist today, one is most likely to cautiously cross the street in order to avoid him. Yet, there must have been something about him and his message that made people stand up and pay attention. Not only did people not run from him, they followed him, eager to listen and eager to be baptized as a sign of their new life. Some even thought that he was the promised Messiah. He quickly set them straight, however, telling his followers that “after me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mk 1:7-8) You can almost see the frustrated John shaking his head at the people, thinking, “You fools, don't you see? Don't you understand? He's coming - the one you have been waiting for all your lives. Time is growing short. You have to get ready. You need to change your lives. Now!”

John still speaks to us today, and perhaps we are an even more stubborn audience than the one he faced 2000 years ago. After all, we have heard this message of John the Baptist year after year. We know that Jesus came and we celebrate it every year with all of our favorite Christmas traditions. We pray, we light the Advent wreath, we sing “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “Silent Night.” This is all well and good; but, do we change? Or do we breathe a sigh of relief when December 26th comes, thinking “Thank God that is over for another year!” and go back to our pre-advent ways?

It can be difficult to focus on the spiritual aspects of advent. Lent seems so much more conducive to prayer and fasting and sacrifice. The month of December requires much from most of us. There are celebrations to attend, children's pageants to get ready for, presents to buy, decorations to put up, and cards to send. The “things to do” list seems to take on epic proportions. The question of “are you ready?” prompts a mental overview of the tasks that still need to be done before Christmas arrives, rather than a reflection on our inner preparation.

Yes, John is shaking his head at us as well. “Don't you get it? He's coming. Time is growing short. You need to get ready. Now!” John doesn't care about the state of our Christmas decorations. I imagine Jesus doesn't care much, either. They don't care about our famous Christmas fudge or how many presents are under the tree. They do care, however, about the state of our souls. Most of us don't live in constant anticipation of the end of time, the way the first generation Christians did, but for each of us individually, the end is near. We never know when death may come to us. We may live one more day or eighty more years, but in either case, life is short. The time given to us is short. Each year, in this season of advent, John the Baptist comes back to remind us, his voice shouting out to us to get ready, to repent, to change our ways. Today.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Book Review: Heaven has Blue Carpet

What happens when you transplant a suburban housewife and put her into a working sheepfarm? It sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn't it? But in Heaven Has Blue Carpet: A Sheep Story by a Suburban Housewife
Sharon Niedzinski, a devoted Christian, shares the real-life lessons she learned from throwing herself into a new life tending sheep. She not only learned the practical aspects of sheeprearing from reading everything she could get her hands on that referred to sheep and from kind-hearted neighboring farmers, but she also obtained brand new insights into the Bible and our relationship with Christ from her time on the farm. It is these lessons that she is most eager to share and which make this book very worthwhile reading.

In Biblical times, sheepherding was a very common occupation. Therefore, the Biblical references to Jesus as a good shepherd and the many stories and psalms that featured sheep resonated with the listeners. In the modern era when most of us do not spend our lives tending sheep, the deeper meaning of many of these images have been lost. Niedzinski shares her real-life experience to make these Biblical passages come alive. For example, she had orphan sheep that had been rejected by their mothers which she gave special care to. These sheep got to know her and develop a special realtionship with her. On the other hand, the other sheep who didn't need her so much were rather indifferent to her presence, but she still cared for them and provided for them. “These sheep didn't have a close relationship with me like my orphans did, but if they continued to listen to my voice and follow after me, they could enter into their destiny. 'My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand' (John 10:27-28)”

Perhaps the best parts of the book are the little snippets of information highlighted under “Shearing Shed,” “Good Grain” and “Chew on This” in which Niedzinski provides a very succinct lesson worth remembering. One of the best is this offering found under “Good Grain”: “On your feet now – applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence. Know this: God is God, and God, God. He made us; we didn't make him. We're his people, his well-tended sheep. Enter with the password: 'Thank you!' Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him. For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever. (Psalm 100)

“Heaven has a Blue Carpet” both educates and entertains. Neidzinski has graciously shared her hard-learned lessons with the rest of us that we may profit from them.

Some other great quotes from this book:

"Man will also give up and die without hope. Hope is a gift of life given to mankind by God. With hope, man can anticipate, aspire, and believe in what he does not see. The Lord delights in those who can put their hope in him and his unfailing love."

"Are you hungry for God? Are you willing to let him do whatever it takes to get you to that place of broken, holy hunger? Are you willing to give the Shepherd total control over your life? If you do, don't be surprised if he starts messing with it. He might put you in a new pasture, in a different sheep pen, or even lock you up in a smelly stall for a while; whatever it takes. Don't hold on to any part of your life so tight that the Shepherd can't move it around or eliminate it! He alone knows your future. You have to believe that the plans he has for you are always for your good . . . even if they stink for a time."

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Please Pray

Please pray for the parents and family of a one-year old girl who died very suddenly due to a seizure. She was their only child and they had struggled with infertility for many years before conceiving her. They are donating her organs to others in the hopes of bringing some good out of this very sad time. I can't even begin to imagine the heartbreak. I'm sure that God has his reasons for calling that little girl back home but sometimes God's ways don't make much sense to us mere mortals.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Book Review: Reflections of God's Holy Land

Reflections of God's Holy Land: A Personal Journey through Israel
by Eva Marie Everson and Miriam Feinberg Vamosh
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008

The vast majority of us will never have the opportunity to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to walk where the patriarchs, prophets, Jesus, and the apostles traveled. Thanks to this amazing work by Eva Marie Everson and Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, however, we are all able to appreciate the beauty and history of this pivotal geographic area. In Reflections of God's Holy Land: A Personal Journey Through Israel, Everson, a Christian, and Vamosh, a Jew, combine their knowledge and appreciation of the Holy Land to create an incredibly beautiful, informative book.

The first thing one notices about this book is its sheer breathtaking beauty. Designed as a coffee table book, it is full of photos that counteract any preconceived notions of what the Holy Land looks like. Simply looking at the photos, one feels that one has stepped into a different world steeped in history and blessed by God.

The information is first-rate as well. Each location is introduced by a Biblical passage that references that locale. The “Did You Know” section provides historical background about the place and information about life in Biblical times. These sections are full of fascinating facts. The “Reflections” are perhaps the most touching part of the narratives, exploring the effect a place has on the heart and on one's faith. For example, in Nazareth, Everson writes of looking over a railing at “Mary's Spring,” a place which is thought to be the location of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel told Mary she was to conceive Jesus. “I would dip my hand into it, if only I could reach it. The water is clear and appears refreshing. Above it are more remembrances of Mary . . . of her life . . .of her gift. Living Water. Without him, Mary would have been just a girl. Just a virgin bride married to a Jewish carpenter. Just a mother like any other. Just like me. Without him, there was no 'her.' Like her, without him, there is no 'me.'” Another example comes from a visit to the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. “'We only have five loaves,' the disciples told Jesus. 'We only have two fish.' Isn't this the way of it? We think of what we 'only have' rather than what it might become in Jesus' hands. Not enough, we think, and so we hold back . . .With this, we think, we must feed ourselves only because we are hungry. . . I stretch my hand toward the lump of rugged stone beneath the altar. If only I could place what little I have to offer upon it, Jesus would feed others. Jesus would feed me.”

“Reflections of God's Holy Land: A Personal Journey through Israel” is a book to be savored and studied. It provides an armchair pilgrimage to the holiest of lands.