Don’t Wanna Hear It!

IMG_2112I suppose that it is easy enough to look at the spiritual journey and get caught up in all of the details of how to get from point “U”  (unworthy) to point “H” (Holy).  In one form or another everyone understands that as the end game of living the spiritual life.  Some of us may even have an understanding of this journey that is even more comprehensive like St. Augustine when he prayed: “Lord make me holy, but not yet.”  I find great wisdom in the teachings and writings of Bishop Robert Barron.  He can turn a theological point or concept and deliver a message that is crystal clear and unencumbered.  Such as this:

The law [of God] was always meant to bring humanity into line with divinity.  Bishop Robert Barron

That’s it in a nutshell, the whole of the spiritual life.  Now some may be thinking when they read this  they are viewing an impossibility.  Others may be of the opinion that this statement is silly because how can a human be divine?  If that is the case it’s time for you to re-think.  There are responsibilities in imitating Jesus that go far beyond simply striving to be a “good person”.   That, in itself, is only the beginning.  Once you have accepted the responsibility of becoming a follower of Jesus there is much more work to do.  Stepping up to the plate and accepting the reality of being Christian opens the door to what God wants for us, not what we want for ourselves.  The great commission is not optional!

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  (Mt 28: 18-20)

Is any of this easy to do? Of course not. Are we able to get to this state through willing it, through earnest practice? Of course not! That’s why love is referred to as a theological virtue. It is the sheerest participation in the divine life, and it can only come from God. (Bishop Robert Barron in his commentary on the Gospel 6/19/2017)

The ability to do this, though, is not a talent we automatically possess. Rather, it is something we have to work at,  the Divine Life.  It’s only when we constantly aim at emulating Jesus and the way he lived that we will gain the talent to do what the Lord wants from us.  We have no choice but to aim at divinity!  Copping a plea and stating or believing that we are not able to be that holy is a distraction, a lie, an impediment to what God wants for us.  You are expected to work at being divine.  It is a possibility for each of us humans.  Gone are the times when you could simply pretend that being holy was not something you could do.  Too bad.  As they say you can’t unhear the truth!  Point “H” in the view finder!

 

Copyright© 2017, Kathryn M. Cunningham

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: June 18, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

1 Corinthians 10:16-17

Brothers and sisters: The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


JUNE INTENTION PRAYER 

A Prayer For a Family

O dear Jesus,
I humbly implore You to grant Your special graces to our family.
May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor and faith.
I beg You, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us, absent and present, living
and dead.

O Mary,
loving Mother of Jesus,
and our Mother,
pray to Jesus for our family,
for all the families of the world,
to guard the cradle of the newborn,
the schools of the young and their vocations.

Blessed Saint Joseph,
holy guardian of Jesus and Mary,
assist us by your prayers
in all the necessities of life.
Ask of Jesus that special grace
which He granted to you,
to watch over our home
at the pillow of the sick and the dying,
so that with Mary and with you,
heaven may find our family unbroken
in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Amen.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 1 Comment

Poetry Sunday

Poetry guru Katie O’Neil is a Classic Girl wh0 Loves Classic poetry.  Ken Gaertner is a poet with an eye for beauty.  Enjoy both of these “previews” of summer and the lush time of our year!  Do you remember the innocent pursuits we had to even make a “big deal” out of celebrating the seasons and the months?  Some spots in Europe still follow these sweet and innocent traditions  Spring Blessings, KC

 

May is such a half summer, half cold windy month — this poem contains both moods.  of the big May poems is the  Tennyson’s ‘The May Queen’:

You must wake and call me early, call me early, mother dear; To-morrow âll be the happiest time of all the glad new-year, Of all the glad new-year, mother, the maddest, merriest day; For I âm to be Queen o the May, mother, I âm to be Queen o the May.

There âs many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine; There âs Margaret and Mary, there âs Kate and Caroline; But none so fair as little Alice in all the land, they say: So I âm to be Queen o the May, mother, I am to be Queen o the May.

I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake, If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break; But I must gather knots of flowers and buds, and garlands gay; For I âm to be Queen o the May, mother, I âm to be Queen o the May.

There âs many a black, black eye, they say, but none so bright as mine; There âs Margaret and Mary, there âs Kate and Caroline; But none so fair as little Alice in all the land, they say: So I âm to be Queen o the May, mother, I âm to be Queen o’ the May.

I sleep so sound all night, mother, that I shall never wake, If you do not call me loud when the day begins to break; But I must gather knots of flowers and buds, and garlands gay; For I âm to be Queen o the May, mother, I âm to be Queen o the May.

 

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LYRICAL

The bluejay startled me

landing so close

as I was reading Basho on the porch

my wife quickly turned my head

as suddenly she was before me dressed in green wool

that surrounded her beauty

as grass embraces the regality

of the sunrise.                                                                            Sassy Blue.................Jay!

How can the mystery

which you carry so gracefully

from day to day

escape the mundane

that afflicts so much of the world?

Chocolatie your exotic cat stares up at you

as if he too is hypnotized by your beauty.

You reach down

and stroke his head

and he turns away

sulking

because you are betraying him by leaving.

How indulgent your smile

which has lit up my soul

in my darkest moment.

With the grace of an elk

as it turns its neck gracefully100-XL[1]

to gaze at a sparkling pond

you slowly turn,

opening the door,

gazing for a moment,

and call “It’s beautiful out”

in a tone so lyrical

it seems as thoughIMG_6107-S[1]

the bluejay

with its song has returned.

While time now flows

at its languid pace

our house will rest and wait,

it’s silence the language

of longing.

Ken Gaertner

 

Posted in Beauty, Catholic Writing and Publishing, figures of speech, Hope, Inspirational, Love, Poetry, Resurrection | 2 Comments

CWG Book Blast: “In The Footsteps of St. Thérèse – How To Be Single But Not Alone,” by Teresita “Terri” Ong

This month, the Catholic Writers’ Guild is touring Guildie Teresita “Terri” Ong’s book, “In The Footsteps of St. Thérèse – How To Be Single But Not Alone,” It has the CWG Seal of Approval. Her book is about the “little way” of St. Thérèse, whose footsteps are presented as an answer to how one can find happiness and a vocation in the single state of life.

In the Footsteps of St. Therese

Summary:

In The Footsteps of St. Thérèse – How To Be Single But Not Alone” by Teresita “Terri” Ong, is a light conversational illustration of a contemporary journey, discerning a vocation and realizing through “the language of prayer” that one can be “a bridesmaid never a bride,” and “live happily ever after.” The uniqueness of this book is that it is not about how to “find dates” or how to get over a broken relationship. The inspiration in this book applies to all states of life, to those of any age or gender, and to all generations. And one does not even have to be Catholic to appreciate the “little way” of St. Thérèse.

Special Considerations:

Raising awareness that the single state of life is a vocation, just as the religious and married states of life.

Websites:

http://www.littleways.com
http://
www.facebook.com/Teresita.Terri.Ong/

Bio:

Terri brings to the literary world international experience with multi-cultural insights. Her career spanned over three decades in the travel industry. Reflecting on her journeys, she felt a very strong calling to extend her “travel ministry” to a “writing and speaking ministry.” Her first book entitled “In The Footsteps of St. Thérèse – How To Be Single But Not Alone” is a light conversational illustration of a contemporary journey, discerning a vocation and realizing through “the language of prayer” that one can be “a bridesmaid never a bride,” and “live happily ever after.” For more information, visit www.littleways.com and www.facebook.com/Teresita.Terri.Ong/

Buy Links:

Direct sales available at Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/dp/0998064203
Wholesale available at Ingram – ISBN 978-0-9980642-0-8

Tweet:

In The Footsteps of St. Thérèse – How To Be Single But Not Alone” by Teresita Ong. Find true meaning being single. http://a.co/d7TtLDh

Posted in Catholic book blast, Catholic Theme, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Faith, Family Life, Hope, Inspirational, Love, Mercy | Tagged | Leave a comment

Cruising Without Christ

wall-E

Wall-E © 2008 Pixar

 

JMJ

I recently stepped off of a cruise ship after seven days of sailing. We stopped frequently at touristy Alaskan towns replete with jewelry stores, souvenir shops, crab shacks and bars. If you didn’t stuff yourself with fresh seafood while on land, a frequent joke on the boat reminded you that a meal was only forty-five minutes away. Something that wasn’t discussed on the boat that I sadly didn’t realize until I attended Mass after the journey ended was that a relationship with Jesus is one thing not scheduled on a cruise ship. Meals, activities, shows, excursions, all occur like clockwork when you are at sea. Much to my chagrin, I knew I had not kept any schedule of spiritual discipline while on the beautiful boat. I felt shame, I felt weak, and I felt even anger at myself for being so easily led astray. Then I started thinking about why this happened and I stumbled across some thoughts that will help me in the future that you may find useful as well.

To no one’s surprise, master shipbuilders make cruise ships so travelers want for nothing and everyone forgets their sufferings. You can eat 24 hours a day. You can buy beverage packages to get an adult drinks at bars located every 50 feet with only your room key. You can see a show, participate in an activity, or visit a spa and be treated like royalty any time you want. They want you forget the troubles of the world, and I suppose most people go on vacation for that very reason. As a Christian, I realized that I don’t want to forget about the troubles of the world. Those troubles are my troubles. To live without suffering led me to live without my relationship with Jesus, and thereby my relationship to my neighbor. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the company of many of my fellow travelers, but I can’t pretend it was fellowship, merely shared revelry. This frightened me because while I made this realization, how many others would not.

What about our brothers and sisters who live their lives as if they had boarded a cruise ship and plan on never disembarking. I wish I could say I didn’t know anyone who follows this plan of life, but I know many and I surmise you may too. One of my favorite saints, St. Jose Maria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei, knew the power of the spiritual discipline of mortification. He would call on his spiritual children to often make small offerings of suffering for the church, the souls in purgatory and for ourselves. Simple things like not putting salt on some eggs or not drinking that second cup of coffee can be efficacious ways to join ourselves with Our Lord. If you told your friends about this way of living, how many would think you were completely normal? Our culture trains us to do what we want, when we want, and on a daily basis. All suffering is wrong, except when it makes your body look better, which puts the correct order of spirit before mind before body on its head.

What happens when a culture does this without check or question for too long? I point to an oft forgotten Pixar film called Wall-E. In the future, Earth has been turned into a wasteland of trash, humanity has left on spaceships, and a robot named Wall-E does his daily job of collecting rubbish and making a wall of garbage. I understand the main “save the planet” message, but the message I took from the movie that all of humanity became fat and sedentary while floating around space on huge cruise ships looking for another planet to colonize. People were taken from one distraction to another on moving platforms and pampered by tiny robots and other automation. Is it inconceivable that modern society is headed in that direction? What will stop this progress? As Christians, can we convince a disinterested society that suffering is essential to a healthy spiritual life and not only should we embrace it but we should look for it? I pray that the next time I go on a cruise I don’t forget the lessons the Lord taught me when I returned.

© 2017 Mark Andrews

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 4 Comments

Partners with God

Farm Harvest by Nato Pereira (Pixaby public domain)

Farm Harvest by Nato Pereira (Pixaby public domain)

For we are God’s co-workers, you are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor. 3:9)

We are called by God to take care of his creation, not just as stewards but as co-creators with God. His work continues with our help, in the fields of our lives.

In the spiritual realm, we are called as co-workers to evangelize those in the field of the world around us — our home base, neighborhood, workplace, and parish.

When we are partners with God, we can do anything! He provides everything we need:

  • Grace
  • Wisdom
  • Opportunity
  • Charisms
  • Appropriate words
  • Perfect timing
  • Generosity
  • Courage

Sometimes the God of all time seems to freeze the hands of the clock, waiting for me to say that word of encouragement to someone in my field who needs the consolation someone gave me in a similar situation.

Or answer an unexpected phone call and quietly listen for a few moments without glancing at my watch and fuming.

Or write a blog post or tweet encouraging others to share their gifts.

Community of believers

Even with God as our partner, do we always have to go it alone? We are not only partners with God but with his co-workers. In the verses before Paul tells us we are co-workers with God, he talks about the community of believers. With each doing their unique part, they work together. The result? God causes the body of Christ to grow.

“Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor” (1 Cor 3:7-8)

The mission of the seventy-two

Jesus commissioned twelve Apostles. He then appointed seventy-two disciples whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town he intended to visit. He said to them,

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. (Luke 10:2)

Yes, he sends us out to prepare for his coming into the lives of those around us. But not alone. He is nudging someone with a complementary gift toward the work he is equipping you to take up. Ask God and then look around and find that partner. We can join a ministry visiting shut-ins or teaching the faith. Or organize a team to carpool, clean and cook for a friend coming home from the hospital.

We have the confident assurance of Scripture that God is the one who causes the growth of all his laborers. As laborers, we are among those who grow.

What opportunities do you have to initiate something new or join co-workers in the fields ripe for an abundant harvest?

© 2017 Nancy HC Ward

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The Twelve Steps to Being a Spiritual Writer

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Step Twelve- Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we will carry this message to other writers and practice these principles in all our affairs.

 

What are the principles we learned as we traveled through the twelve steps to being a spiritual writer?  In step one, we learned honesty. We became honest with ourselves and others by admitting that we long and dream of worldly success and all the trappings that come with it. It is sometimes hard to be honest with others, but it is often harder to be honest with ourselves.

In step two, we learned hope. We became hopeful that God truly cared about us and our writing and that we were not alone. Even in our loneliest hours while we were struggling with rejection or writer’s block we had hope in the knowledge that He is with us.

In step three, we learned faith. We made the most important decision in our writing life by turning our writing and our writing career over to God. We came to depend on His guidance and plan for the gift He has given us – turning to Him each day and with every decision.

In step four, we learned courage. We had the courage to look at ourselves and admit our defects, both in our work and in our writing career. We had the courage to examine our underlining motives and desires. We admitted with bravery the truth about ourselves and our past actions.

In step five, we learned integrity. We had the integrity to be our true selves. We no longer had to pretend to be holy and perfect. We learned to be who God created us to be, both to ourselves and others.

In step six, we learned willingness. We became willing to let go of the sin patterns in our writing life. We became willing to turn our career and our work over to the guidance of God each morning.

In step seven, we learned humility. We let go of our need to be important, known and famous in our writing career. We came to understand that only God could change us. We now know that we haven’t got the ability to change ourselves by sheer will power. We need to turn all of ourselves, including our work and career, over to Him, trusting Him each day.

In step eight, we learned self-discipline. By looking at our past and making reparations to the other writers we may have harmed, we became less likely to harm others in word or deed.

In step nine, we learned love. We have learned to accept other writers, publishers and all those we have contact with in our career as they are. Not trying to change them into what we want them to be. We love them for who God made them to be. We accept them.

In step ten, we learned perseverance. We have learned that once we are aware of what God wants us to write and are inspired to do so, we work. We work at doing His Will and don’t worry about what the world says. Our success lies in doing His work and carrying His message. We also persevere in practicing the principles of being the kind of person and writer that we should be in relation to others.

In step eleven, we learned spiritual awareness. We became practiced in daily prayer and Scriptural meditation. We learned to never write until we prayed. We learned to listen to Him. We applied this principle to our relations in our family and to others in the writing world, always aware that He will guide us if we turn to Him daily.

Now, in step twelve, we learn service. It is not all about us! It is not all about our writing and our career! What can we do to help other writers? Do we do anything to help the Catholic Writer’s Guild? Do we offer our skills to our parish? Do we reach out to new writers? Have we ever made a phone call to encourage another writer? Have we let go of our need to control and manipulate others, allowing God to work through us to reach His other children in need?

In step twelve we come to know that we not only carry the message of peace and love to other writers. We are the message. We have become the message by the way we turn it all over to God and allow Him to guide us each day into doing His Will.

It is a new way of writing. It is a new way of life. I call it the Magnificent Obsession. That is not original to me. A minister once wrote a book, a romance about this way of life. For us it means that our own writing and our career’s success is no longer the obsession that guides us. It is this. Each morning we pray for guidance, turning our work and our day over to God. When we find ourselves obsessing or tempted to jealousy or depression over rejection or isolation from others, we change our past way of coping. We reach out to help those other writers and publishers both in word or deed.

Each night take the time to ask God what wrongs you did that day. It is a day by day practice and we grow deeper in our relationships daily. Then, I like to ask God who I can help the next day. I ask Him what I can do for the person or fellow writer He has shown me. Then I ask how I can do that anonymously. Sometimes I can’t but most of the time I can. It becomes an obsession! How can I make sure that the glory of this good goes only to God and not myself? It can be as simple as recommending the other writer’s work to a friend or posting their book or a book review online. It can be recommending their work to a publisher or calling with publishing news or encouragement that will help them. If you let God guide you, you will find a life of joy. This is a new way of life that spills over to the rest of your life. I go to sleep excited – planning how to follow God’s Will, smiling about how I can do it without the person knowing who did such a wonder.

This is the last post of “The Twelve Steps to Being a Spiritual Writer.” I hope that this series has been of benefit to you. I trust you will try to practice the principles of this new life. I have not done this alone. I want to thank God for the inspiration. I also want to thank Kathryn Cunningham for her guidance and editing. Her support and kindness has been greatly appreciated. I also want to thank Teresa Frailey for her editing and hard work. I will be taking a break from writing for the CWG blog. I have two unfinished novels and a new children’s series to work on. Thank you, my faithful readers, for your encouragement and input. Keep praying, writing and publishing!

Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: June 11, 2017

The CWG Prayer Chain Post is a weekly post for members to include their special intentions by adding a comment.

John 3:16-18

For this is how God loved the world: he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but so that through him the world might be saved. No one who believes in him will be judged; but whoever does not believe is judged already, because that person does not believe in the Name of God’s only Son.

 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


JUNE INTENTION PRAYER 

A Prayer For a Family

O dear Jesus,
I humbly implore You to grant Your special graces to our family.
May our home be the shrine of peace, purity, love, labor and faith.
I beg You, dear Jesus, to protect and bless all of us, absent and present, living
and dead.

O Mary,
loving Mother of Jesus,
and our Mother,
pray to Jesus for our family,
for all the families of the world,
to guard the cradle of the newborn,
the schools of the young and their vocations.

Blessed Saint Joseph,
holy guardian of Jesus and Mary,
assist us by your prayers
in all the necessities of life.
Ask of Jesus that special grace
which He granted to you,
to watch over our home
at the pillow of the sick and the dying,
so that with Mary and with you,
heaven may find our family unbroken
in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Amen.

Please leave a comment with your intention. If you have problems adding an intention, email it to Mike Hays at coachhays(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add it.  God bless.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | Leave a comment

Turning in Circles, by Michelle Buckman

Turning in Circles cover, MIchelle BuckmanWithin a sleepy farm community along the South Carolina coast, two families coexist. The Thaines and their neighbors enjoy hard work, hospitality, horseback riding, pie, ice tea, kittens, and each other. The Darlingtons favor extortion, white privilege, domination, abuse, dog fights, and freedom from the consequences of their nefarious activities.

Turning in Circles brings the Thaines and Darlingtons into conflict. A love story but not a romance, it describes how the sins of the parents—adultery and neglect—reemerge in the tragic delinquency of their children—youthful indiscretions that expose the Thaines to the dark desires of the Darlingtons.

The Thaine matriarch locks herself in her studio to focus on her artistic labors, while Daddy Thaine works the fields and pastures from sunup to sundown. He charges his daughters, Savannah and Charlie, with the responsibility of feeding and cleaning up after the horses and chickens. Savannah dutifully obeys, but Charlie evades dirty work, ignores her mother, and fears that her father has rejected her.

More than anyone else, Savannah Thaine loves her sister, Charlie. “Vannah” plans an idyllic life for the two of them, never leaving their rustic microcosm, much like the relationship between their mother and her sister, Myrtle. Charlie has a different idea, though. She craves love and validation from bad boy Dillon Smith—dark-eyed and “trouble on two feet from the day his mama left.” Dillon dominates and controls Charlie, as he drags her into his sinister world. Despite Savannah’s pleadings and warnings, Charlie drifts ever closer to disaster, compromising her family and dashing Savannah’s dreams.

Savannah realizes that Charlie is on a dangerous path, but cannot sway her from it. She is unwilling to expose her sister to parental censure, fearing she would lose Charlie’s love. Savannah views Charlie as a second self, spoiling her and shielding her from parental wrath. When Dillon captures Charlie’s affections, Savannah slips into codependency, enabling Charlie’s secret life. Throughout the narration, Savannah laments her cowardice. If only she had acted.

Sheriff Darlington ensures that his relatives, including Dillon Smith, escape the consequences of their frequent felonies and misdemeanors. Those outside the Sheriff’s clan, such as the Thaines, not only feel the full weight of the law but suffer blackmail and intimidation. Charlie’s delinquency provides the leverage the sheriff needs to destroy the tranquility in the Thaine family. Darlington demands that Daddy Thaine sell him Boudicca, a barely tame mare of spectacular beauty, if he doesn’t want Charlie to go to jail. Charlie senses her father’s resentment, which drives her deeper under Dillon’s control.

Savannah, the narrator, dominates the novel. She is aloof, inflexible, and naïve. She fails to reach most of her goals. The warnings she directs at her sister miss their mark, but change the lives of bystanders. Her dream to live like her mother and aunt is shattered, but she finds that after a horrible gloom there is a new dawn, as she grows into adulthood.

Analytical and inflexible to a fault, Savannah frequently dissects words and gestures, inferring deeper meanings and sinister plots. Despite her cerebral inclinations, her family and classmates describe her as naïve. In her search for deeper meanings, she often ignores the obvious. For instance, although she spends almost every free moment with Ellerbe, the boy next door, she dismisses him because he doesn’t fit into her plans for the future, and she thinks he’s incapable of understanding the implications of recent events. Ellerbe, less given to introspection, believes that a horseback ride is the solution to every problem in the world. Horses feature prominently in the story: Ellerbe loves his mare, Snow, as Daddy Thaine dotes on Boudicca. Woe to the Darlington who threatens the love between a man and his horse.

Although this is a young adult novel, its realism should alert parents to the possibility that their behavior could cost them their children’s loyalty. Parental examples, their obsession with their own concerns, their betrayals-especially adultery-can deeply scar their children, distorting their values and behavior.

Michelle Buckman’s tale opens during August’s heat and humidity—slow and sleepy—but climaxes with the impact of a diesel locomotive hitting an eighteen wheeler packed with dynamite. She bolsters her prose with sensory tones and often drifts into a poetic imagery that may lull her readers into complacency before the shocking climax.

Buckman succeeds in creating a gripping novel that burns its way into the reader’s memory. Turning in Circles begins on a tranquil beach, but ends on the shore of a different emotional galaxy.

Posted in Adventure, Book Review, Catholic Fiction, Faith, Family Life, Fiction, fiction, Love, Mercy, mystery, Novel, romance, suspense, Young Adult Novel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Perfect – Not!

By Janice Lane Palko

It was Father’s Day weekend thirty-one years ago. Married only a couple of years, my husband and I had moved into our first house that previous January. We’d spent that spring painting, wallpapering—the things you do to get a home into shape. On Saturday of that weekend, I’d cleaned the whole house while my husband had spent the day outside trimming hedges, weeding, and cutting grass in anticipation of a Father’s Day picnic for both sides of our family—the first event in our first home.

As we called it a day, I remember looking at our neatly manicured lawn and gleaming house and thinking, “Everything is perfect.”

Then the phone rang at 7:04 a.m. Who calls that early on a Sunday morning? I thought as my husband rolled over and answered it. When I saw the color drain from his face, I knew something was terribly wrong. He hung up and stared blankly at me, too stunned to show any emotion. “That was my mom. Tommy’s been killed in a motorcycle accident.” Tommy was his twenty-three-year-old little brother.

We’d anticipated a Father’s Day picnic filled with fun and laughter. Instead, we were now faced with death, identifying a body at the morgue, and making funeral arrangements.

So much for perfection.

Flash forward to June seven years later. I’m sitting in a counselor’s office after suffering for months with panic attacks. “From what I’ve observed,” the kind therapist said, “You are very hard on yourself. You need to allow yourself to be human. You think you have to be perfect.”

As you can see, my dance with perfection has been filled with missteps. From Tommy’s death, I learned that life is not perfect and never will be, and through my joust with anxiety, I learned that I am not perfect and never will be.

So, how does someone who’s had these types of reality checks with perfection square them with Jesus’s words in Matthew’s Gospel where He instructs us to “Be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

To a perfectionist, His words area a recipe for disaster. You may have heard the adage “Perfection is the enemy of the good.” Well, when we perfectionists get rolling, we tend to discount anything, however good, that does not meet our level of perfection. We get tangled up in being immaculate. I’ve worked hard not to be a perfectionist, so when I came across that bit of scripture again recently, I, once again, reacted to it with disregard and confusion—not a good way to react to scripture.

I know perfection is impossible and shouldn’t even be pursued lest I become paralyzed in my quest to be flawless. There is no perfection on this side of eternity. I know I cannot be perfect, I made myself sick trying. Why would Jesus impose such an impossible directive on those He loves?

Ah, but I’ve also come to learn that when Jesus commands us to do something, He always promises to provide us with the grace to achieve it. His words in John’s Gospel provide the key. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” Apart from Him, I cannot reach perfection. Apart from Him, the world wallows in sin and destruction. Perfection in the way Jesus means is a work of transformation and something for me not to achieve but to surrender to. Through Jesus and His act of redemption, we reach perfection. Paul in his letter to Philippians gives us this assurance: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

I’ve learned that Jesus is working on me, and that sounds absolutely perfect to me.

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