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Words that Transform – God can speak to you through your library books

This is my monthly column for The Catholic Free Press and Catholicmom.com.

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Words have power. Through prayer, guidance and meditation, the Bible can change lives. While God speaks most directly through his Word, he can also speak to you through the books you have in your home or that you find at your local library. It’s all a matter of being aware of how and when he is speaking to you.

My mother's copy of Little Women

My mother’s copy of Little Women

I developed a passion for reading four years ago after my mother had died. She had been ill for many years and all I could remember about her was her suffering. Reading acted as a balm upon numbing grief; it was an unexpected gift of grace from God. While cleaning out the family home I came up on my mother’s collection of books by Louisa May Alcott, each volume marked with her personal name plate. As I thumbed through the pages and enjoyed the familiar stories, I imagined my mother as a girl reading them along with me. I found myself wrapped in warm and happy memories of the woman I had called my very best friend.

mr. emerson's wife by amy belding brownBooks soon became a means of spiritual growth. Reading exercised a lazy mind and challenged my heart to open and grow. A novel of historical fiction was my first “breakthrough” book, one that shone a glaring spotlight on my soul and moved me to repent and change. Titled Mr. Emerson’s Wife by Amy Belding Brown it told the story of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s wife Lidian. a highly intelligent and accomplished woman who, although married to an “enlightened man,” suffered the plight of all married women of her era. Just a scant one hundred and fifty years ago women were the property of their husbands; they had no legal rights. Women could not own land or a house, they could not vote and they had no lawful custody of their children. There were few options for gainful employment if a woman became widowed. Women in the nineteenth century were in essence invisible and powerless, unable to chart the course of their own lives.

While wholeheartedly agreeing that all people are equal despite gender and race, I have never embraced modern feminism. This, however, did not give me the right to judge others who did embrace it. My judgment was harsh, secretly leveled at dear friends whom I otherwise loved and respected. After reading Mr. Emerson’s Wife, my heart began to open for these women with whom I had disagreed as I came to an understanding of their passion and point of view. I prayed to God for forgiveness and asked him to stretch my small heart, replacing judgment with love. He wasted no time in showing me how to love better and to leave all judgment to him.

Other books challenged me spiritually. A series of novels by Chaim Potok explored the lives of people of great faith whose heritage clashed with their enormous gifts of intellect (The Chosen) and artistry (My Name is Asher Lev, The Gift of Asher Lev). Danny Saunders of The Chosen was a brilliant young man who was the rightful heir to his father, an Hasidic rebbe. Reb Isaac Saunders meant for his son to devote his vast intellect to study of the Torah while Danny hungered to be a scholar, feasting on the knowledge of the world outside of his Jewish community. Asher Lev was an artistic genius, compelled to create provocative paintings and drawings even if it put him at odds with his family and his own Hasidic community.

chaim potok books

Danny and Asher were young men of great courage who pursued their callings while remaining faithful to their Jewish faith. Their stories challenged me to dig deeper to find my own calling while at the same time, reminding me that such digging must be done in complete partnership with God, allowing him to lead me to self-knowledge.

Think about the book you are reading now: how does it speak to you? Can you read between the lines and sense God touching your heart, moving you to change? Does your mind open up to seeing the world around you in a different way? Do you derive comfort from the book? Or does it challenge you and motivate you to repent of some sin? Does it inspire you to step out into the world and serve God’s people?

Consider these possibilities the next time you visit the library. The next book you read could transform your life.

 
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Autumn at Rocky Pond in central Massachusetts

80 degrees. No wind. A few wispy clouds. Colors popping out all over.

Perfect conditions for perhaps the final kayak trip of the season.

Enjoy the views.

Entrance to Rocky Pond in Boylston, MA

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3-640 rocky pond autumn leaves

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4-640 red tree at rocky pond

5-640 floating red leaf

6-640 red leaves and blueberries640 rock rocky pond

7-640 red leaves and blueberries2

8-640 rocky pond vertical autumn

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A glimpse of heaven.

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Free online writing retreat being offered by Loyola Press author Vinita Hampton Wright

Whether you are a published author, an aspiring author or someone who just loves writing in your diary or journal, I highly recommend this free week-long writing retreat offered by Vinita Hampton Wright of Loyola Press.

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You can subscribe to receive the posts in your email by clicking here. Each day you will receive writing exercises and teaching from Vinita; you can choose when and where you “attend” this retreat thanks to the flexibility of the online experience.

This year’s theme is “Writing for the Soul.” Vinita offers details here:

WritingRetreat book_Soul Tells a StoryI also highly recommend Vinita’s book, The Soul Tells a Story: Engaging Creativity with Spirituality in the Writing Life; this book changed my life. This book is not just for writers but for anyone engaged in creativity. Vinita shares her own experiences along with sage advice, leading you on a journey within that will reveal an unexpected treasure trove within yourself.

Besides adding a tremendous dimension to my writing, I found myself coming to understand the creative within me and how to deal with it. This is a gritty read; the exploration and authentic living of the creative life is necessarily risky. It also is a life brimming over with exhilaration and joy, opening your eyes and your heart to a whole new world.

Check out this wonderful, and FREE, week-long writing retreat!

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September 18 Gospel reflection: how lavishly do we love?

September 18 – Luke 7:36-50

mary-washes-jesus-feetHow much she loved Jesus!

She might have seen him preaching on the mount when He told the crowd that the poor in spirit were blessed. Blessed. No one had ever said that to her before.This vibrant preacher drew her to Him like a magnet. His words shone a bright spotlight on her soul where she saw the reality of her life for the first time. She knew she was poor. Somehow she must meet this prophet and find out how she could be blessed.

She would do anything to get near Him. She could not get Him out of her mind after seeing Him that day on the mount.

Several days later she saw Him entering a house nearby her own. She burst into the house uninvited, paying no mind to the other men in the room who were whispering about her: “Sinner!” “Prostitute!” She ignored their murmurs and their stares. She only saw Jesus.

She had one thing on her mind: “I love Him.” She cried copious tears at the sight of the object of her desire but this time her intentions were pure. She lavished her love upon Him, covering His feet with kisses, washing them with her tears, and drying them with her hair.

His eyes met hers and in that moment she knew she was blessed. Her unbridled love for the Son of Man saved her that day.

Ponder

How can I show my love for Jesus? Whom can I lavish my love upon?

Prayer

I love you Lord but sometimes my love is reserved. How I wish I could see you face to face but I cannot until the day I die. Oh Lord, send me those people that You wish me to love just as that woman loved You. Amen.

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How does she do it?? Barbra Streisand at 72 with Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show

There has never been a doubt in my mind that Barbra Streisand is the greatest singer of our time. Now 72, she no longer has that incredible power in her voice but all the control and subtlety remains. Plus the heart. This woman never fails to tell a story when she sings.

She has been known to dominate her duet partners but I think Jimmy Fallon, imitating some of the great singers that she duets with on her latest album, Partners (including the King himself, Elvis!) holds up quite well. Check out this video:

Babs still reigns supreme (and looks terrific to boot!).

barbra-streisand-partners

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The reviews are in! Update on the success of The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One

Thanks to all of you who have ordered The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One – so far we’ve raised over $900 for the Purrfect Pals no-kill cat shelter (exact figures – 102 books sold, $910.68 USD; £17.20 GBP; €17.28 EUR).

Here are reviews from Amazon, :

5 star graphic
I just wanted to let you know that I received my book today. All I can say is….. MARVELOUS!!! This book is a wonderful reminder of all the work and effort John puts into all his fosters. I laughed, I cried. I remembered. The only John left out in his interview is how Dorian flirts with each Momcat. LOL This is great fundraiser for Purrfect Pals. I can’t wait for the next volume. Well done to everyone who was a big part of the creation of this book.
A lovely book! Perfect for any fan of The Critter Room or, really, anyone who loves cats and kittens. Looking forward to Volume 2!
Received my book yesterday and had to look it over on the spot. In a word: PAWSOME! Even if you are not a follower of The Critter Room, the stories about these kitty families, coupled with the tireless efforts Foster Dad John and Purrfect Pals, is absolutely heart warming. I love the fact that you have their early days chronicled in front of you and can the follow them on Facebook to see where they are today. Can’t wait for Volume 2!
What a wonderful book. Foster Dad John and Purrfect Pals will touch your heart.

Double the Donation!

How about buying two or three extra books to send directly to Purrfect Pals so they can sell them in the store?  That doubles the donation and exposes more people to the book. Contact Connie Gabelein on the Purrfect Pals website to let her know of your intention and to find out the shelter’s address.

What inspired me to make the book

1. Two kittens – Ray and Arthur (now Ace) – I wanted high quality prints of these two adorable guys:

ray and arthur

2. All the wonder fan art:

L- Honey welcome Peter by Cazul R; R - Sheba reads to Honey and Peter by Sandra Sarah Bjødstrup Andreasen

L- Honey welcome Peter by Cazul R; R – Sheba reads to Honey and Peter by Sandra Sarah Bjødstrup Andreasen

 3. The fan fiction by Jill Pickford and Annie Staats which includes “Over the Bridge” and Ray’s letter to Trillian.

Now I have my scrapbook of memories and many of you do as well. Grab your copy of The Critter Room Memory Book Volume One if you don’t have one yet, donate copies to Purrfect Pals or give some as gifts – Christmas is coming … :-)

Thanks for all your support of Purrfect Pals!

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Prayer for persecuted Christians

My thanks to Father Steven Labaire from Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA  for passing along this prayer for our brothers and sisters around the world facing persecution. Please join us in praying for them daily.

mary and jesus facesFather in Heaven, you make your sun shine on the good and bad alike. Your Son Jesus Christ died for us all and in his glorious resurrection he still retains the five wounds of his Passion. With his divine power he now sustains all those facing persecution and martydom for the sake of their fidelity to the faith of the Church. Merciful and mighty Father, do not allow Cain to return again to murder helpless Abel, innocent Abel. May persecuted Christians around the world remain, like Mary, their Mother, together at the foot of Christ the Martyr. Comfort those menaced by violence and those oppressed by uncertainty. May your Holy Spirit of love make fruitful the witness and blood of those who die forgiving.

Amen.

persecuted christian watch list

 

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It’s here! A scrapbook of your favorite kitten cam memories

box artI am pleased to present The Critter Room Memory Book  Volume One packed with all kinds of goodies! Within its 68 full color pages you will find:

  • tons of color photos from Foster Dad John, “Mr  Ripley” (James Petts) and Tam Woods  including closeups of your favorite kittens and mama cats. Lots of Facebook screen shots.
  • an interview with Foster Dad John by Connie of “Tails of Foster Kittens”
  • fan art by Cazul R, “Thorn” and Sandra Andreasen
  • kitten collages by Nicoya Grobman
  • fan fiction by Jill Pickford and Annie Staats
  • remembrances of Peter and Honey

This volume includes the following litters:

  • Hitchhiker Fosters
  • Ghostbuster Kittens
  • Pixar Fosters
  • AI Fosters

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There is something here for everyone, including Purrfect Pals.

purrfect palsPurrfect Pals, located in Arlington, WA is the no-kill cat shelter that sponsors The Critter Room. Your purchases will help Purrfect Pals find homes for deserving cats and kittens, including cats with medical conditions. Foster Dad John volunteers for the shelter; they provide him with the food, litter and veterinary care needed for each of his litters.

Purrfect Pals receives the entire royalty;
for every book sold, they receive $10.25.

With that in mind, consider what would happen if we were able to sell 1000 books. Think about that for a moment …

Purchase your copy here.

Meanwhile …

Just what is The Critter Room?

Are you a cat lover but have never heard of The Critter Room or Foster Dad John? Check out the live kitten cam on Livestream – I dare you to tear yourself away. Then check out The Critter Room Facebook page for more information on all the good work being done by Foster Dad John (John Barlett).

Then rush right back here and place your order!

People are benefiting from The Critter Room as much as cats and kittens.
Here are some examples:

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Take up the challenge!

Let’s look at the numbers …

With over 37,00 followers on Facebook and over 42,000 followers on Livestream, we should easily be able to sell 1000 books by October 1st, giving Purrfect Pals a donation of $10,350.

We depend upon you to spread the word.

Issuing the 1K / 10K Challenge

1000 books sold = $10,000 for Purrfect Pals. Let’s sell 1000 copies by October 1!
You can purchase your copy here.

If you prefer to purchase through Amazon and would like to donate extra to Purrfect Pals to make up the difference, here are the royalty payments from Amazon:

  • Amazon.com $6.36
  • Amazon Europe – For books printed in Great Britain £3.44
  • Amazon Europe – For books printed in continental Europe €4.32

Purrfect Pals accepts donations at bookkeeper@purrfectpals.org

My thanks to John Bartlett, the photographers, screen shot shooters, artists, writers, my proofreader and Connie Gabelein, Executive Director of Purrfect Pals for making this book possible and for making it a joy to put together. I have personally wanted a book I could pull out with my favorite kittens inside and now it is here!

Enjoy!

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October 18 Gospel reflection: receiving our marching orders

Previously published on Catholicmom.com

October 18 – Luke 10:1-9

Jesus gives explicit instructions to the apostles as they go forth as evangelists for the first time:

  • sent with nothingCarry nothing with you and greet no one along the way
    (in other words, remain unattached to people and possessions and do not be distracted; remain focused on the task at hand)
  • Grant peace to the household where you choose to stay; if your greeting is accepted, peace will remain and if not, it will return to you
    (in other words, show graciousness to your host and bring your best self into their dwelling)
  • Stay in the same house and eat and drink whatever they give you for the laborer deserves his wages
    (in other words, accept whatever hospitality the household offers even if the food isn’t necessarily what you want; accept the payment that is given without complaint)
  • Do not move from house to house
    (in other words, plant yourself in the community)
  • To the towns that welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure in the sick and say to them that the Kingdom of God is at hand
    (in other words, accept their hospitality without question and offer healing in body, heart and mind to everyone you meet)

Sounds like we have our marching orders. Ready to go?

Ponder

How do you approach sharing the Good News? What special directions is the Lord giving you?

Prayer

Lord, clear my mind and heart of my own ideas and fill them with your own. Help me to be loving and gracious to everyone I meet, letting your love shine through me, accompanied by a few choice words. Amen.

 

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