Thursday, July 30, 2009

Senior Moments: The Spiritual Side of Getting Older

Another good article in U.S. Catholic is "Senior Moments: The Spiritual Side of Getting Older." I'm just entering middle age, but I admit, I'm scared of getting older. I'm scared of what God might have in store for me both in terms of physical and mental decline. Fr. William Scanlon echoes that sentiment in this article: "God is the worst thief you will ever meet. He not only takes your money, he takes your eyes, your breath. The question is, 'How do we cooperate with that?' A nun once told him that the long process of decline 'is the only way God can get us to experience raw trust, like Jesus did on the cross.'"

Yet, age doesn't have to mean stagnation. It can mean a deepening of a spiritual life that has grown throughout the years. "You are forced to be a pray-er as you grow older," says Sister Suzanne Zuercher. "The alternative is increased anxiety and worries about ill health and death approach. As friends die and one's health declines, she says that the Christian concept of eternity becomes more concrete to older people."

I know I can't stop the aging process, but each day is an opportunity to trust that God knows what He is doing and that it will all work out well in the end.

On Having Two Rites in the Roman Catholic Church

I have been reading the August 2009 issue of U.S. Catholic. I enjoy reading that magazine. I don't always agree with everything it has to say but it always gives me food for thought. This month's cover article is about the renewed use of the Tridentine mass along with the current mass that has been in use since Vatican II. The article by Ted Rosean maintains that having two rites separates us rather than unites us. It serves to widen the chasm between those on one side and those on the other and those who live in the middle.

To offer full disclosure, I have never been to a Tridentine mass and I consider myself a "middle-of-the-road Catholic." I have several very conservative Catholic friends who love the Tridentine rite. These are good people who can certainly choose how they want to worship. I know the Pope has endorsed it, and I will concede that it does have more of an air of mystery about it than the modern Mass. It is all about worship. The modern Mass combines worship and fellowship.

I think that there was a reason that Vatican II sought to reform the liturgy and it wasn't just because of the Latin. Latin can be used to celebrate the new mass as well as it can the old. It is just another language, albeit one that few people understand. I agree with Ted Rosean that "The Second Vatican Council had some very good reasons to call for an end to the Tridentine Mass and to promulgate a new rite. More sophisticated research uncovered a fuller understanding of how liturgy was celebrated in the early church. Improved scripture scholarship developed into a new lectionary with a wider selection of readings. . . Perhaps most important for the average Catholic, the Mass was celebrated in the language of the people. . . In 1965 the church came to the seemingly obvious conclusion that people should understand what is being said in Mass."

I think that the new Mass is more in keeping with the spirit of the Last Supper, which was the first Mass. Jesus broke bread with his friends. They took it in their hands and ate. Those original Apostles were like us in many ways. They were sinners, yet Jesus saw fit to share a meal with them. Yes, worship is extremely important. We do need to be reverent at Mass. But there is room for friendship as well. Mass is a conversation, a sharing of prayer, and ultimately a meal. It's symbolism and history are profoundly rich.

As Rosean states, "the Mass that emerged from the reform of Vatican II is wonderful, divine, human, and sublime. It works. . . We do not need to celebrate an old rite. We need to get more people to celebrate the existing rite well."

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary

When I was growing up, my mother and I would say the rosary every day together. Before each decade, she would announce the mystery and the fruit, or virtue, associated with it. I have continued the practice of saying the rosary in my adult life. Indeed, it is one of my favorite devotions and can’t imagine life without it. I do remember all the mysteries of the original Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious sets of five decades. It took me a while, but I even managed to memorize the Luminous Mysteries established by Pope John Paul II. My memory had long since forgotten the fruits of the mysteries, however. In talking to some friends recently, we realized we were all in the same boat. No one knew the fruits of the mysteries of the rosary – only that there were some! To rectify that ignorance, here are the mysteries of the rosary and their corresponding fruits along with a brief reflection on each one. They offer yet one more good reason to say the rosary.


The Joyful Mysteries


1. The Annunciation – Humility
It is appropriate to begin the rosary with the virtue of humility. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. ‘Man is a beggar before God.’ “ (CCC 2559)

2. The Visitation – Love of Neighbor
Mary hastened to her cousin’s Elizabeth’s house to help her in her time of need. In what ways can we be of service to our own neighbor’s today, whether we find that neighbor in our own home, in our community, at work, or on the internet?

3. The Nativity of the Lord – Poverty of Spirit, Detachment from the Things of the World
We live in a very consumerist culture. This mystery invites us to detach ourselves from our many possessions. What do we truly need and what is excess? What can we share with others?

4. Presentation – Obedience
Mary and Joseph humbly brought Jesus to the temple in accord with Jewish law. Obedience to God and to others can be very difficult, but offers us the opportunity to subjugate our own will to that of our heavenly Father. Not my will, but God’s will be done.

5. Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple – Piety
Piety is dedication to the Church’s sacramental life and devotions. Mary and Joseph were surprised to find Jesus in the temple. We, too, should be dedicated to our Church and the sacraments.

The Luminous Mysteries

1. The Baptism of Jesus – Openness to the Holy Spirit
We each receive the Holy Spirit in a special way in Baptism and again at Confirmation. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We need only ask the Holy Spirit for help and help will be provided.

2. The Miracle at Cana – To Jesus through Mary
Mary encouraged her Son to perform his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana. She simply told the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” She helps us in a similar way – always pointing us to her Son and interceding on our behalf. We need only to turn to her and ask for help.

3. Proclamation of the Kingdom of God – Repentance, Trust in God
Jesus spent the active years of his ministry preaching and performing miracles to proclaim the Kingdom of God. He asks us to express sorrow from our sin, turn away from sin, and trust in God.

4. Transfiguration – Desire for Holiness
Jesus gave three of his closest friends a glimpse of His glory at the Transfiguration. We, too, are called to holiness, and to ultimately live in glory in heaven. But, we need to want it and we need to want it more than what the world and the devil attempts to offer us.

5. Institution of the Eucharist – Eucharistic Adoration, Active Participation at Mass
Jesus gave us the greatest gift in the Eucharist. He gave us His very self. This mystery invites us to appreciate that gift fully and to participate at Mass often

Sorrowful Mysteries


1. Agony in the Garden – Contrition, Conformity to the Will of God
Jesus, both fully human and fully divine, suffered immensely in the garden. He knew what was coming and he was terrified. He begged His Father to spare him, but submitted Himself fully to His will. We, too, are called to do this.

2. Scourging at the Pillar – Purity, Mortification
Mortification isn’t popular these days, but making small sacrifices and offering them up can be a great help to one’s spiritual life. There is an opportunity every day to sacrifice and to suffer in some small way.

3. Crowning with Thorns – Moral Courage
Jesus remained resolute even as he was being made fun of. Do we have the courage to stand up for our convictions even when we are being laughed at? Whose opinion matters more – God’s or those who surround us?

4. Carrying of the Cross – Patience
Patience is something we all seem to have difficulty with. Jesus patiently carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to his Crucifixion. We can look to him for help when we are tempted to lose our patience.

5. Crucifixion – Salvation, Self-Denial
Jesus gave up everything for us on the cross. His took on the sins of the world, past, present, and future, and died for our salvation. We need to be so thankful for that gift. At the same time, when we are asked to die to ourselves and put others first, we can look to the cross for the example of total self-giving.


Glorious Mysteries


1. The Resurrection – Faith
It takes great faith to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that we, too, shall rise. As Jesus told his apostles, “Blessed are that who have not seen, and yet believe.” This mystery offers us help in maintaining that faith. “Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief!”

2. The Ascension – Hope, Desire for Heaven
We hope for a world that is better than this one. We desire to live forever with Jesus in heaven. May that hope help shape our lives here on Earth.

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Love of God
The disciples were scared. They huddled together in that upper room not sure of what to do. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and they were ready to go out and give their very lives in service to God. May the Holy Spirit also grant us that wisdom and love of God.

4. The Assumption of Mary – Devotion to Mary
We believe that Mary was brought up to heaven body and soul. We are devoted to her because of her relationship to her Son and because God saw fit to raise her up. “Blessed are you among women and Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Eternal Happiness
We believe that Mary is the Queen of Heaven, enjoying forever her rightful place next to her Son. May we one day share in her happiness.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Doing All We Can

But the seed sown on rich soil is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Matthew 13:23

These words are consoling to me, because the results of my life often fall short of a hundredfold. After I've done my best, my yield sometimes falls within the sixty or thirtyfold range. If I have truly done my best, that is OK, because then I will have used my gifts to the best of my ability.

We have a gracious God who accepts us as we are. God knows our limitations. If we do the best with what we have been given, then we will become the people God created us to be.

Fr. Kenneth E. Grabner, C.S.C from today's Living Faith

Harry Potter controversy once again

Every time a new Harry Potter movie comes out, it seems that the debate rages again. Is "Harry Potter" a force for good or evil? Catholic Exchange is running a good article today on Harry Potter and the terrifying order to obey which discusses the role of obedience in Harry Potter - how Harry has to obey no matter what, something that we have to do in relation to God. If you read the comments, you will see that the naysayers are in force once again, condemning Harry Potter and condemning CE for running the article.

I think that most of these people haven't read the books, because if they did, they would know that the overriding theme of Harry Potter is that self-sacrifice and love are what ultimately conquers evil, a very Christian concept. People obviously have a choice of what to read and what to allow their children to read, but I think it is sad that people feel compelled to condemn something that haven't read based on what they think that they know. I was a bit wary when my children wanted to read this series as well based on what I heard, but I read it with them and loved the story and the message. At heart, it is a good vs. evil classic, with good being ultimately triumphant.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Saint Francis of Assisi's Prayer before the Crucifix

Most high, glorious God, enlighten the darkness of my heart. Give me true faith, certain hope, and perfect charity, sense and knowledge, Lord, that I may carry out Your holy and true command. Amen.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mary and Angels

I loved this article by Sarah Reinhard on Mary and Angels. As someone who is quite fond of and thankful for her guardian angel, this was something I could relate to!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Value of a Story

It is no secret that Jesus spoke in parables, stories that were meant to teach a lesson. Parables such as that of the prodigal son, the man who sought the pearl of great price, and the parable of the sower continue to speak to us through the ages. In Matthew 13:10-17, the disciples ask Jesus, “Why do you talk to them in parables?” He answers them, “Because to you is granted to understand the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not granted. . . The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding.” Yes, like any good teacher, Jesus knew that he had to take a different approach to reach this particular audience. Stories where the listeners could see themselves in the protagonist were the way to go.

Stories can sometimes speak to people in a way that a more direct approach cannot. For example, pointing out the folly or sinfulness of someone’s current path is likely to be met with a cold response and a defensive attitude. Sharing a story of one’s own similar mistake and the eventual bad outcome might be much more successful. By the same token, fictional stories can often serve as modern day parables, instructing as they entertain. Think of the perennial Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” Who can read or see a movie version of that story and not get the message that changing one’s life and being generous is important?

Catholic and Christian fiction writers today continue to attempt to share the Christian message at the same time that they weave a compelling tale. No less a person than Pope John Paul II turned to expressing great truths in fiction in his youth. He used his play “The Jeweler’s Shop” to speak about love, a topic he would preach about frequently during his pontificate. In his “Letter to Artists” in 1999, Pope John Paul II wrote, “In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art. Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable.” Yes, artists of all types, including writers, have been entrusted with both a great gift and a great responsibility to use it wisely.

Many bemoan the lack of “Catholic” literature today. Readers complain that there is nothing good to read while writers complain that there are very few people willing to buy their books. Loyola Classics (www.loyolaclassics.com) is reprinting several standards of Catholic literature. Sophia Institute Press (www.sophiainstitute.com) is also working to bring out contemporary Catholic fiction. On the writers’ side, The Catholic Writer’s Guild will be holding a live writers’ conference August 5th through the 9th (www.catholicwritersconference.com). There are good things happening in Catholic literature today. We simply need to get the word out about them. Jesus knew that stories are important. We need to continue to value them today.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review: Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents

Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents

by Richard Wetzel, M.D.
Huntington Beach, CA: Sex Education for Advanced Beginners, 2009

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Note: This review contains adult material.

“Sexual Wisdom for Catholic Adolescents” was written to fill a need in the realm of Catholic Sex Education. It is designed for older adolescents and covers a wide range of topics relating to sexuality. It is intended to be used in the home, either with parent and child together or having the child read it on their own.

Dr. Wetzel begins with a good introduction to the biology of human sexuality. He then moves on to discuss sex without love, premarital sex, sexually transmitted diseases, pornography, artificial contraception and sterilization, natural family planning, infertility, and sexual deviations. He handles these topics in a straightforward, pull-no-punches manner. There are many things that adults will learn from reading this book.

One particularly insightful chapter is on “Good Sex.” In it, Dr. Wetzel divides sexual activity into five levels with Level 1 being “Perfect Sex: God’s ideal toward which we strive but can never achieve.” Level 7 is “Most severe sexual problems.” It is a useful chart because it clearly delineates different sexual behaviors. One can find where one is on the chart and know what he or she needs to work on to move closer to Level 2, the level which is as high level as we can achieve. It was comforting to know that everyone does struggle with sexual sin at some point. No one is perfect in this area.

One concern is that this book is recommended for older adolescents. Dr. Wetzel acknowledges that some will want to discuss topics with their children at a younger age. Many of these topics are only appropriate for those approaching adulthood. One would certainly not recommend going into detail with young children about the variety of sexual behavior or sexual codependency. However, children in today’s world are exposed to sex and are often offered sex at much younger ages. It is sad but true. Waiting until a child is sixteen to inform them about sex can be much too late. Eleven and twelve year olds are engaging in sexual activity. They need to be informed about the moral issues and physical concerns relating to this and they need to hear it from their parents. While one would not want to allow their eleven year old to read this book, it can offer a good starting point for parents to read and then choose what to discuss.

Dr. Richard Wetzel and the Sex Education for Advanced Beginners, Inc., the publishers of this book, are offering to supply as many boxes of these books that are needed for distribution at any high school, diocese, parish or other organization that will distribute these books to 11th graders at the cost of $2/book. Details are available at www.sexual-wisdom.com.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NFP Awareness Week

July 19 - 25 is NFP awareness week. In honor of it, check out the Natural Family Planning blog. And, if you have any general questions about Natural Family Planning, please post a comment and I will be happy to answer them or to direct you to a place where you can find the answer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Brown Scapular

July 16th is the feast day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. This is in remembrance of the day in 1251 when Mary appeared to St. Simon Stock, a monastic who was living in England. She appeared with the Brown Scapular in hand and uttered these words: "Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant."

A “scapular” was originally a type of clothing worn by monks when working. It fit over the shoulders and covered the front and back. The Carmelites were one such group that wore this vestment. Over time, and in light of the apparition of Mary, the scapular became a sign of trust in Mary as well as commitment to Christ. During the middle ages, groups of lay people began to become affiliated with the monastic orders. The orders in turn wanted to give these lay people an outward sign of that affiliation. For the Carmelites, a smaller version of the scapular was developed and worn.

There is much misunderstanding that surrounds the scapular, both in and out of Catholic circles. Some view it as superstitious. Others see it as a good luck charm – if I wear my scapular, I am guaranteed salvation regardless of how I live my life. This is not the case at all. Ewtn.com emphasizes that the scapular “must not be understood superstitiously or magically, but in light of Catholic teaching that perseverance in faith, hope and love are required for salvation. The scapular is a powerful reminder of this Christian obligation and of Mary's promise to help those consecrated to her obtain the grace of final perseverance.”
According to Carmelnet.org, the scapular represents the following spiritual meanings:

• It stands for a commitment to follow Jesus, like Mary, the perfect model of all the disciples of Christ. This commitment finds its origin in baptism by which we become children of God.

• It leads us into the community of Carmel, a community of religious men and women, which has existed in the Church for over eight centuries.

• It reminds us of the example of the saints of Carmel, with whom we establish a close bond as brothers and sisters to one another.

• It is an expression of our belief that we will meet God in eternal life, aided by the intercession and prayers of Mary.

Investment with the scapular requires a priest or deacon to place a blessed scapular over a person’s head while reciting a prayer to Mary such as the Hail Mary, Hail Holy Queen, or Memorare. Investment must be done with a cloth scapular, although after that time, the wearer may choose to wear a blessed metal scapular instead.



Prayer to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel


O Most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, Blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. O Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein You are my Mother.
O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech You from the bottom of my heart to succor me in this necessity. There are none that can withstand Your power.

O show me herein You are my Mother. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to Thee. (repeat 3 times)

Sweet Mother, I place this cause in Your hands. (repeat 3 times)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Redefining the source of our self-worth

In the July 2009 issue of St. Anthony's Messenger Barbara Hosbach writes of her experience of having MS and what it has taught her. It is a powerful article with lessons for us all. I especially liked her last two paragraphs:

My self-worth depends not on how much I do, but on accepting who I am: a child of God with strengths and weaknesses like everybody else. This being so, I can stop the mental contest of comparing myself with others.

It's safe to relate to others more honestly. When I'm not running on empty, I naturally have more to give. As a child of God, I'm known and cared for by the one who works for good in all circumstances. If I look for the good, I'll find it. That truly is good news!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

St. Francis de Sales on love

God desires that we love each other as we have been loved. We don't have two hearts, one that loves God and one that loves others. We have only one heart that loves in varying ways. - St. Francis de Sales

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Sometimes you just have to muddle through homeschooling

One of my favorite homeschooling magazines is Home Education Magazine. It was the first home schooling magazine I ever read and what started me on my journey to learn more about, and eventually to embrace, homeschooling. Sometimes, though, when reading about homeschooling you get the one-sided picture - how wonderful it all is! How natural! How much your child will love to learn! All of which is true - some of the time. And then there are the other times . . .

Karen Vogel wrote an article on "Mom-Friendly Curriculum" for the May-June 2009 edition of the magazine. This is the time of year when homeschoolers are selecting their curriculum for next year if they haven't already done so. There is always the search for the perfect curriculum - the idea being that if the curriculum is just right, your child will automatically start loving math and spelling. I love this paragraph she wrote:

Listen closely - It doesn't really matter which curriculum, or math series, or grammar instructions you use. Yes, you should take into account your kids' temperament and ease with topic - up to a point. Beyond that, they really just have to suck it up and do the work. After a certain point, there are no shortcuts. Believe me, they have to learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, even if they never like it.

Yup. Even in homeschooling, sometimes you just have to suck it up. (And that goes for the moms, too!)

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New Encyclical and Oldest Christian Bible Now on the Web

All the Catholic world is abuzz today with the publication of Benedict XVI's new encyclical. I applaud all of those who had the time today to read it and report on its contents. Honestly, I haven't gotten there yet. For anyone who is interested in reading it, here is the link:

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20090629_caritas-in-veritate_en.html

Also, the oldest Christian Bible is now on the web. Check it out here: http://www.codexsinaiticus.org/en/

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Thorn and the Hemorrhage

As I was reviewing this week’s scripture readings I came across quite a juxtaposition between the reading from the second letter to the Corinthians on Sunday (2 Corinthians 12:7-10) in which St. Paul speaks of a “thorn in the flesh” and the Gospel of Matthew on Monday (Matthew 9:18-26) in which a woman who has suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years reaches out to Jesus for healing.

In the first instance, St. Paul refers to an on-going trial in his life. He has begged the Lord “three times . . . that it might leave [him], but he has answered . . .‘My grace is enough for you.’” Basically, St. Paul has asked the Lord for help and the Lord has said, “No, this is something that you need to deal with. The suffering has a purpose. I am with you, but you need to endure and continue to be faithful.

In the second instance, the woman has suffered for twelve years. Not only has she suffered physically, but spiritually as well, for in the Jewish tradition she was ritually unclean. Yet, she summons every ounce of her courage and reaches out to Jesus, believing that if she just touches his cloak that she will be healed. What faith she demonstrates! And she is rewarded for that faith. “Jesus turned round and saw her; and he said to her, ‘Courage, my daughter, your faith has saved you.’”

Both St. Paul and the woman have faith. Both have problems that are causing them great pain and suffering. Yet, one is healed and one is told to keep on bearing the burden. What is the lesson for us in these two scripture readings? The first lesson is that we need to ask the Lord for help. What are the thorns in our own lives? We all have some – the nagging problems that won’t seem to go away no matter what we do. These problems may be physical difficulties, mental or emotional struggles, or a struggle with temptation and sin. These problems may even be issues we have with another person in our lives. Whatever the particular thorn might be, we need to bring it to the Lord in prayer. We need to humble ourselves and, emulating the woman’s courage and faith, believe that God will heal us.

But, what if He doesn’t? What if like St. Paul, He looks at our pain and difficulties, and tells us, “I’m sorry. My grace is with you, but this suffering is something that you need to go through. There is a lesson here for you, and you need to learn it.” What do we do then? I believe that the answer is that we keep praying. We can accept the answer and accept the suffering while continuing to bring it to God in prayer, asking for help and healing. I found it interesting that St. Paul had asked the Lord for help three times. I understand that St. Paul had a much closer communication channel with the Lord than I do, but I have found in my life that there are times when I have had to pray to God for years to finally get peace and resolution to an issue. Yes, God had a lesson for me to learn, and in hindsight, I can appreciate the need for the suffering. I believe that the continued prayer helped me have the grace to endure the suffering, helped me learn the lesson that I needed to learn, and helped the resolution finally occur, often in better ways than I could ever imagine. God knows what is best for us. We simply need to have courage and always ask for help.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Celebrating Freedom

This is a quote from today's entry in Living Faith:

As believers we are also called to celebrate our freedom in Christ - not just on July 4, but every day. . . Our freedom in Christ is a gift, and our obedience springs from love and a desire to please God. . . When we live according to God's wishes, we are free from the weight of sin and sadness and the consequences of our wandering. Remember, it was for freedom that Christ set us free. Let our lives be fireworks displays announcing the goodness of God." - Kristin Armstrong

Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Book Review; "It's a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life"

It's A Wonderful Imperfect Life: Daily Encouragement for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right
By Joan C. Webb
Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009




If I had the money, I would buy a copy of “It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life: Devotional Readings for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right” by Joan C. Webb for every woman that I know. We all try so hard to do it all and get so down on ourselves when we discover that simply isn’t possible. Webb offers reassuring words based on scripture and rooted in her own experience to tell us that it is all OK. It is alright to let go of some of the pressure that we put on ourselves.

The 163 one-page devotions are divided into sections focusing on relationships, emotions, bodies, life-work, service, churches, culture, dreams and spirituality. If one particular area is troubling you, you can focus on just that section, or you can read it cover to cover as I did. Each page has something worthwhile to offer. For example, Devotion #1, “Smiling Here,” Webb invites us to recall a time we made a blunder and to laugh about it! As she reminds us, “I goofed. No big deal! It doesn’t make me less valuable.” In Devotion #30, “You Mad at Me?” Webb challenges us to stop taking on other’s moods. Women tend to feel that we are the reason someone else is upset or to feel that we must cure it. “The next time a loved one is in a bad mood and you feel the urge to ‘take it on,’ step back emotionally and ask God for wisdom.” Devotion #151, “Management Contract with God,” reminds us to turn over control of our lives to God. “Working for our ultimate good, He counsels us how to heal past damage, overcome self-defeating habits and experience contentment as we trust him for the future.”

“It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life” has much to offer for any Christian woman trying to do it all. I think it would take a lifetime to learn all these lessons, and even Webb admits she is still working on them, but the ability to pick up this book, take a deep breath, and stop and reflect and let go for a little bit is a great gift!