Sunday, January 06, 2019

The Next Person You Meet in Heaven

Mitch Albom wrote the hugely popular The Five People You Meet in Heaven 15 years ago. That story told of Eddie, the maintenance worker who died saving a little girl and the five people he met  in heaven who told him of how his life had impacted theirs.

The sequel, The Next Person You Meet in Heaven, focuses on Annie, the little girl that Eddie saved. Annie's now a nurse and is marrying Paulo, but tragedy will strike and both Annie and Paulo will be  injured in a hot balloon accident shortly after their wedding.

Annie, in turn, meets her own five people on the other side of the dividing line between life in this world and life in the next. Dog-lovers will appreciate that one of the "people" she meets is her dog, who at first appears to her as a person. I do believe dogs go to heaven (why wouldn't there be animals in the heavenly city?). I'm not sure they can take human form, but as Scripture says, with God all things are possible. 

Like the first book, this story shows the interconnectedness of life. Our lives touch so many others in ways we can't even begin to imagine and things we believe to be true from our perspective may not be true at all. It seems like a lesson our world desperately needs. This book brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. If you enjoyed The Five People You Meet in Heaven, you will definitely want to read The Next Person You Meet in Heaven.




Thursday, January 03, 2019

An Opportunity to Revisit Green Gables - Marilla of Green Gables


I have been a fan of Anne of Green Gables since I was 10 years old. I watched the original airing of the classic 1985 miniseries when it was shown on PBS one hour at a time and eagerly awaited the 1987 sequel (I’ve watched some of the more recent versions, but they just haven’t compared!). I’ve seen them many times since and recently introduced my eight year old daughter to the magic that is Anne (thankfully she loved the shows). I’ve read every book in the series. I’ve even visited Prince Edward Island and soaked up all things Anne and Lucy Maud Montgomery. As a result, when I saw the new book, Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, I knew this was one I had to read.

I so wanted to love this book, and in many ways it was like visiting old friends. It focuses on brother and sister Marilla and Matthew (who would adopt Anne as adults) when they were young. It focuses on Marilla’s friendship with Rachel White (later to be Rachel Lynde) as well as her failed relationship with John Blythe. 

It is always a challenge to take on a classic and McCoy gives a valiant effort. She admits she is not Lucy Maud Montgomery and that she writes “from a place of grateful reverence to a fictional landscape that has given me much scope for imagination.” 

As I read the story, I couldn’t help but read Marilla’s words in Colleen Dewhurst’s voice, Matthew’s in Richard Farnsworth’s, and Rachel’s in Patricia Hamilton’s (the actor and actresses from the 1985 and 1987 versions). Rachel’s character was particularly well done! You can really see the roots of the opinionated busy-body older lady she would become. 

And yet, Marilla and John Blythe’s teenage relationship left me disappointed. While I realize teenagers and their longings haven’t changed much over the years, it seems a stretch to imagine prim and proper Marilla sneaking off to share passionate kisses with John. In addition, shy Matthew is shown having loved and lost despite his telling Anne later on that he never went courting. 

Despite these criticisms, it is clear McCoy loves these characters and there was much to enjoy about Marilla of Green Gables. I was thankful for the opportunity to revisit a fictional world that has meant so much to me in my life.

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Live a Year full of Holy Moments!


Each Christmas, my parish generously gives each member the gift of spiritual reading. This year’s offering was The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity by Matthew Kelly.


I’ve read a number of Kelly’s books. Even though many of them touch on the same themes, I find them encouraging and practical, offering a jolt of much-needed spiritual motivation. Kelly wants every Catholic to live their faith fully, to be all that God wants them to be.


As far as Kelly is concerned, the biggest lie in the history of Christianity is that holiness isn’t possible. Somehow we have accepted the idea that holiness is only for a select few, when in reality God calls all of us to be holy. “This is the will of God, that you be holy.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3) In fact, living a life of holiness is the only sure path to happiness.


The thought of living a holy life can seem overwhelming, just as the thought of doing anything for a lifetime can seem too much to manage. Holiness, like life itself, is best lived one moment at a time. Kelly encourages us to create “holy moments.” We may not be able to comprehend living a holy life, but we can all manage to create a holy moment.


What is a holy moment? “A Holy Moment is a moment when you open yourself to God. You make yourself available to him . . . you simply do what you prayerfully believe God is calling you to do in that moment.”


Of course, then the question remains, “How do I know what God wants me to do in that moment?” Kelly offers some guidelines. We can ask ourselves if this action will help us to grow in character and virtue. Does what we are going to do contradict Jesus’ teachings in any way? Will this action bring harm to another person? In addition, prayer plays a major role in this discernment process. We should ask God, “What is it that you want from me in this moment?”


Each holy moment has the power to change the world for the better. Kelly challenges each of us to live a life full of holy moments and to encourage three other people to do the same. Consider this your invitation. Will you be one of my three people?


This is how the early Christians transformed the world. They lived differently because of their faith in Jesus Christ and encouraged others to do the same. As Kelly reminds us in The Biggest Lie in the History of Christianity, we have the power to have the same impact in our modern world.


Wednesday, December 26, 2018

A Birthday Prayer

This prayer was sent to me by the Priests of the Sacred Heart

Today is my birthday, Lord,
and I offer this day to You.
You breathed life into my soul,
and You chose me to live!
On this journey called life,
You are always there with me.
I feel Your presence in joy and laughter,
during difficult days, even sorrow.

Of all the gifts I've received
I hold the gift of Your Love
closest to my heart.
Of all the friends I've known,
I cherish, above all, Your companionship.
I ask only that you walk with me,
and guide me to follow your faithful way.
Forgive me when I fail You, Lord,
and help me to forgive others.

Grant me strength in mind, body, and spirit.
And when it's time, lead me home
to the everlasting life prepared by You.
Today is my birthday, Lord,
and I thank You for every blessing.

Amen

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Children's Little Advent Book


Are you looking for a book to help your children prepare for Christmas? The Children’s Little Advent Book by T.J. Burdick is a great resource to use for family prayer time. Each day of Advent features a Scripture passage, reflection, prayer, and a coloring page. 

While the book is advertised as being for children ages 4 – 7, I would recommend it more for those age 6 – 10. Many of the reflections and prayers are great for teens and adults as well which makes it ideal for using in a family with children of varying ages. Younger children could color in the pictures during prayer time. It could be used for morning prayer during Advent or whenever the family might light an Advent wreath during their day. 

Regardless of when or how it is used, this book will help your family focus on the true meaning of the Advent season – getting ready to welcome Jesus into our world and our lives. 

At the Gracewatch Media website, you can view a preview of this book, download a .pdf version, or order .pdfs of the coloring pages (this last option is great if you have more than one child who would want to color the pictures). The book can also be purchased on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2QtjoaQ

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are You Addicted to Your Smartphone?


Are you addicted to your smartphone? Are you willing to admit it? According to recent statistics, the average adult spends almost three hours a day on their cell phone (the equivalent of a 20 hr/week part-time job). T. J. Burdick realized he had a problem when he was using his cell phone while his wife was in active labor with their third child. He soon began to notice that everywhere he went he saw people with their heads buried in their phones. Burdick is quick to admit that technology in itself is not bad. It is the over-attachment to it that causes problems. 

In Detached: Put Your Phone in Its Place, Burdick offers a three week retreat to help smartphone addicts regain a right relationship with technology. He also offers additional resources at detachedlife.com

In the course of these twenty-one days, Burdick invites readers to take an honest look at their smart phone usage. While he acknowledges that in our modern world, we can’t put it away entirely, he encourages us to use our phones productively, rather than use them to literally waste time and feed our particular vices.

The devil seeks to keep us from God and a phone is a “Pandora’s box of limitless temptations.” Our phones are often keeping us from what we are meant to be. Burdick suggests ways to keep our priorities in order, putting God (the source of all true happiness) at the top of our lists. We need to be mindful of how we spend our time. We need to pay attention to the triggers that encourage us to pick up our phones. We need to replace tech time with higher pursuits. We can even learn to embrace those moments of boredom that occur in our lives as a gift, rather than as an opportunity to mindlessly scroll through social media. 

Detached is an important book in our modern, tech-driven world. Burdick has much sound advice to offer. If you feel like your phone is taking up too much of your life (or if others are telling you that you spend too much time on your phone), I encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and get yourself on the path to a more balanced, God-centered life.

Christmas Novena starts November 30th

It is time once again for the Christmas Novena which begins on the Feast of St. Andrew (November 30th) and goes through Christmas Eve. Some say to pray the following prayer 15 times a day each day; others have it once a day. However you decide to pray, humbly ask God for whatever your heart desires most this Christmas.


The Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment
At which the Son of God was born
Of a most pure Virgin
At a stable in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold.
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech thee,
To hear my prayers and grant my desires.
Through Jesus Christ and his most Blessed Mother. Amen.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

An Inspirational Football Story about a Female Coach in WWII


This weekend’s leisure reading was When the Men Were Gone by Marjorie Herrera Lewis. Lately, there has been a great increase in the number of works about little-known women who changed history in both big and small ways. I enjoy reading about these historical figures and learning their stories. 

This tremendous story of courage and perseverance features Tylene Wilson who became a high school football coach during World War II. She learned the game of football from her father when she was a little girl and had a lifelong love of the sport. In 1944, she was Assistant Principal of a high school in Brownwood, Texas. When the coach leaves to fight in the war, there is no one left to lead the team. Tylene tries to find a male, any male, to coach but none are willing. 

The general feeling is that the season should be cancelled, but Tylene knows that football is the only thing standing between the seniors and signing up early for the fight. She knows that they will most likely need to go to war, but she wants to give them one last year before they have to face that battle. Desperate, she takes it upon herself to coach, facing a great deal of opposition in the process. 

The author, who was deeply inspired by Tylene’s story, has been a beat writer for the Dallas Cowboys as well as a member of the Texas Wesleyan University football coaching staff. 

This is a short book, perfect for enjoying in a weekend (I love those kinds of books!). If you enjoy football or inspirational stories of courageous women, you’ll enjoy When the Men Were Gone.

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