Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger

“The United States is so powerful that the only country capable of destroying her might be the United States herself, which means that the ultimate terrorist strategy would be just to leave the country alone. That way, America’s ugliest partisan tendencies could emerge unimpeded by the unifying effects of war.”

Polarization, random violence, and racial injustice disturb the domestic tranquility. Sebastian Junger, the author of A Perfect Storm, points to root causes and possible solutions to a growing national fratricide. As a war correspondent, Junger regularly observes the formation of “tribes”— fiercely loyal, egalitarian, classless, aggregations of humans that align their attitudes and values for the survival of every member.

He recounts examples of how humans meet disaster with amazing courage, composure, and unity. During World War II, the London Blitz and the Allied bombings of German cities brought local civilians together in air-raid shelters, forming them into classless communities that not only survive but thrive. The rate of suicides drops below peacetime levels, and industrial production increases as the bombing continues. He notes that persons of different social classes and background forget their differences and unite for national survival.

Because of war and other traumas, local ad-hoc groups exhibit the collective effort typical of the tribes that flourished in North America before the European invasion. After the war, the denizens of bomb shelters often go back to their individual lives and the tribal connections fade. Although they hate the war, some miss the closeness they experienced in the shelters.

The traditional Indian grouping is the band or clan of about fifty individuals. Its members work to preserve tribal unity because, without it, they could not survive. Migratory bands limit their personal property to what they could carry from campsite to campsite, reducing their ability to develop class distinctions based on wealth. After the hunt, every band member receives an equal share of the quarry ensuring that all survive, but none accumulates more than the others. Hoarding or selfishness by a few individuals endangers the rest of the group, so it is not tolerated. Neither are slacking or bullying.

One of the modern equivalents of the tribe is the military platoon. Soldiers live together, fight the same enemy, and, at night, sleep under the same roof. They share everything in common and build an intense bond that despite the external dangers and privation gives the band of brothers and sisters a feeling of belonging. They share a common cause, the safety of their platoon and their country.

Unfortunately, when veterans return to their homes and families, they not only miss the comradery of their platoon, but some are made to feel unnecessary. They notice that civilians seem more intent on serving themselves than the society as a whole.

Junger relates the typical veteran’s homecoming experiences to PTSD, disaffection, and violence. He suggests several practical responses to the needs of returning veterans and more generalized recommendations that urge society to embrace stone-age tribal values as a solution to many of our information-age problems.

Although Junger does not mention it, the characteristics and harmony of stone-age tribal life continue to exist in both monasteries and the persecuted church—“See how they love one another.”

 

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Is God Good All The Time? Or Only When We Feel Blessed?

Our home flooding in Hurricane Isaac

Our home flooding in Hurricane Isaac

Forty thousand Louisiana families lost their homes last week to what is being called the “Great Flood,” and the devastation these families are facing will take years to recover from. Meanwhile, I’m reading posts on Facebook that are saying things like: “God is so good! He spared our home. We are so blessed.” And I’m asking very seriously: Really?

So if your home had flooded, would God be less good? And where does that leave the forty thousand now-homeless families in our state? Are they cursed instead of blessed? Or maybe just less blessed than those whose homes were spared?

One of my pet peeves in life is how often we Christians equate “the blessing” with our own physical and material prosperity, and God’s goodness with how well our lives are going on any given day. Without being cognizant of it, we have somehow bought lock, stock and barrel into the “prosperity gospel,” which purports to guarantee blessing in the lives of those who are favored by God—those who pray hard enough, have potent enough “prayer warriors” in their camps, and do this thing called Christianity just right.

This convoluted approach to the Christian faith has seeped deep into our collective Christian psyches, and it seems to reverberate everywhere we turn. It’s also a message that I personally experienced as a despair-provoking battering ram in the midst of multiple life calamities; during the long, painful years I spent with clenched fists asking God: “What does it take to get the flippin’ blessing?”

After many years and much suffering, I finally came to the conclusion that I was asking the wrong question completely. It was then that I began to ask instead: Lord, what IS the blessing?

So what does Jesus actually have to say about “the blessing”? There’s only one place in the Gospels that Jesus repeatedly invokes the word “blessed,” and that is in the Beatitudes. In Luke 6, Jesus uses the word “blessed” four times in a row (nine times in a row in Chapter 5 of Matthew’s account). In every case in Luke’s Gospel, the word is followed by an adjective that describes people that most of us would consider anything but blessed: the poor, the hungry, the weeping, the hated, the excluded, and the insulted—those we would probably quickly deem “cursed” today.

I’ve pondered much about Mary—the most blessed woman that ever lived—and how her life would be judged were she alive right now. She was apparently widowed and then lost her only son to a brutal, violent death upon a cross between two notorious criminals. And that was only after her beloved son was publicly accused of being a blasphemer, a lunatic, and possessed. In spite of this, we find the word “blessed” used repeatedly in regard to Mary; starting when Elizabeth proclaims to her in a loud voice: “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Luke 1:42-45). We hear those words again in reference to Mary when “a woman from the crowd” cries out to Jesus saying, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed” (Luke 11:27-28). Jesus’ response—“Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it”—is an implicit reference to his mother’s unwavering faith in God that echoes the words spoken by Elizabeth.

Mary’s life gives us a glimpse of what the blessing looks like, and it is not based on the fact that her life went “well”—at least as the world defines “well.” Instead, her beatitude was found in her steadfast trust in God no matter what trials life brought, in her continuous “yes” to him in the face of great adversity, and in her constant cooperation with his salvific plan, no matter how much it suffering it involved.

This is the blessed state of being to which we are all invited to participate as Christians—a way that defies this world’s way of thinking. It is a way of living in peace and hope that comes only through faith, trust and surrendered abandonment to a God we believe is always good, no matter what happens.

This article previously appeared at Aleteia and is reprinted here with permission.

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: August 21, 2016

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

Isaiah 66:18-21

I am coming to gather every nation and every language. They will come to witness my glory. I shall give them a sign and send some of their survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Tubal and Javan, to the distant coasts and islands that have never heard of me or seen my glory. They will proclaim my glory to the nations, and from all the nations they will bring all your brothers as an offering to Yahweh, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules and on camels, to my holy mountain, Jerusalem, Yahweh says, like Israelites bringing offerings in clean vessels to Yahweh’s house. And some of them I shall make into priests and Levites, Yahweh says.


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


AUGUST INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER FOR ALL NEEDS
We beg you, Lord,
to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed.
Pity the insignificant.
Raise the fallen.
Show yourself to the needy.
Heal the sick.
Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.
Feed the hungry.
Lift up the weak.
Take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know
that you alone are God,
that Jesus is your Child,
that we are your people,
the sheep that you pasture.
Amen.
-Clement of Rome

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.

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The Rhymes of Summer- Poetry Sunday

One great poem with a nature emphasis for summer is “Summer in the South” by Paul Laurence Dunbar:

 The oriole sings in the greening grove
     As if he were half-way waiting,                                                   IMG_0041
     The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
     Timid, and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
   And the nights smell warm and pinety,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
   Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
   Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
   And the woods run mad with riot.                                                                                Photo Courtesy:  Kathryn Cunningham

 
 

……as a Chicago Fan, I print this with trepidation.  BUT, it

IS a poetry/summer classic!   kc

 Another poem, a more cultural one that is classic Americana, is “Casey at the Bat” by E. L. Thayer:

A Ballad of the Republic, Sung in the Year 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;

The score stood four to two with but one inning more to play.

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest

Clung to that hope which springs eternal in the human breast;

They thought if only Casey could but get a whack at that—

We’d put up even money now with Casey at the bat.

 Backyard Baseball, Baseball Cards

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,

And the former was a lulu and the latter was a cake;

So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,

For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,Backyard Baseball, Baseball Cards

And Blake, the much despised, tore the cover off the ball;

And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,

There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from 5,000 throats and more there rose a lusty yell;

It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,

Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore.

“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted some one on the stand;

And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;

He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;

He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;

But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, “Strike two.”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered fraud;

But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.

They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,

And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clinched in hate;

He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,

And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,Backyard Baseball, Baseball Cards
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

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The Romance of Prayer

Bride, Groom, Marriage, Couple, LoveIf any part of your life has been devoted to working on growing your spiritual walk, you should have some familiarity with the bible and its living wisdom.  For Christians in general and Catholics in particular, it is simply pivotal to your faith.  You might have chosen to be unfamiliar with this book, and if that is the case, you are multiplying your ignorance and decreasing your ability to be the best Catholic you can be. It’s kind of like claiming that you are a carpenter by trade but you don’t own a saw!

The bible teaches life habits and fills us with clues about how to get to know God and have an “abundant life”.  It is more than just a good thing to be able to tell people you have read at cocktail parties.  The information it provides comes to shape the way we think – which spills over into how we live, as well as the kind of witness we are in the world.  The secrets of life are there in plain sight in the scriptures.   God has the generous ability to give us the information that we long for in a million different ways.  We must become spiritually skilled at recognizing this “pipeline” when it comes near us.  You might have noticed that the scriptures constantly admonish us to pray. Prayer is the “it”, the primary tool that the Lord has given us.  Prayer is dialog and a learned skill that will give us access to the way God thinks.  But, how do you develop better hearing?

The first person one should be checking with regarding a prayer dilemma is one’s prayer partner or spiritual director. The Lord will give them plenty of opinions, questions and clues that will help you figure it out.  They know your prayer habits and can be helpful if you’re really seeking to clarify the journey. As I mentioned, God’s info can also arrive from crazy places like a person  who doesn’t even know you’re praying about a certain item or in something that you hear in  the media.

This is a phenomenon that the “charismatic culture” calls: “confirmation”.  In short this happens when we are pondering or praying over a question, and we really want an answer that doesn’t leave us wondering if that was the answer.  It can happen in a variety of ways but it usually occurs when we either hear, see or notice the exact same quote, teaching, information turn up in two or more completely different situations that don’t even know each other.  Maybe one of those occurrences is even a situation that has nothing to do with religion or prayer, such as a TV ad, quote from a non-believing friend or a word from a complete stranger. Maybe even a piece of information that is exactly the same which you hear from unrelated sources that do not even know each other.  Your head says “yikes I’ve heard that before”.  Most likely that’s the Lord saying “Yoo-hoo, trying to get your attention”.   I’ve had this gift from the Lord scores of times over the years and I know it to be genuine.  Learning how to spot it is another thing. Paying heed to that stuff becomes habit after a while especially if you have a daily prayer discipline going-on.

Next, there’s the art of “nothing”.  This passage:  “Peace* I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” (Jn 14:27), is a pivotal tool for those pursuing a prayer discipline.  It’s kind of the final piece that comes into focus after you have been at it for a while.  The “Peace of the Lord” can be a really accurate discernment tool.  You have to learn to recognize it, though.  It can manifest after you have been working on something for a while.  One day you wake up and that niggling worry you had about an issue is completely gone.  Or you really pray about something, and a few days later you realize that you have forgotten about it and you’re good with that.  Or an item that has given you a lot of stress doesn’t bother you at all any more.  These are all occasions of the “Lord’s peace.”  You didn’t get the answer you expected but your spirit “knows” that the Lord’s got it and that’s a good thing.  He’s smarter than we are and we have to be a little brave and exercise that trust.

So, prayer is kind of like romance.  Between you and God, it takes a while to learn all of the smallest and most loving details. The Bible is the set of instructions. Listening is key, practice makes perfect and sometimes the dialog is the tiniest whisper.  Once learned, though, the skills will change your life in ways you never imagined and fill your spirit with the blessed assurance that God has “got you” every minute of every day and every night.

Copyright© 2016, Kathryn M. Cunningham

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: August 14, 2016

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

Hebrews 12:1-4

With so many witnesses in a great cloud all around us, we too, then, should throw off everything that weighs us down and the sin that clings so closely, and with perseverance keep running in the race which lies ahead of us. Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection: for the sake of the joy which lay ahead of him, he endured the cross, disregarding the shame of it, and has taken his seat at the right of God’s throne. Think of the way he persevered against such opposition from sinners and then you will not lose heart and come to grief. In the fight against sin, you have not yet had to keep fighting to the point of bloodshed.

 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


AUGUST INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER FOR ALL NEEDS
We beg you, Lord,
to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed.
Pity the insignificant.
Raise the fallen.
Show yourself to the needy.
Heal the sick.
Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.
Feed the hungry.
Lift up the weak.
Take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know
that you alone are God,
that Jesus is your Child,
that we are your people,
the sheep that you pasture.
Amen.
-Clement of Rome

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.

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Humility: Jesus, Grant Me The Grace To Desire It

Cross, Sunset, Humility, Devotion

Some years ago, at my morning prayer group, my cherished friend Deacon Larry brought copies of the Litany of Humility. I never had heard of that prayer until that day. The men in my group trust Larry implicitly, so we dove right into reciting the prayer. We read the first line together: “O Jesus!, meek and humble of heart, hear me.” Then each of us took turns delivering the first half of each line, with the rest of us in unison voicing the second half.

“From the desire of being esteemed … deliver me, Jesus.”

“From the desire of being loved …”

“Hold on”, I thought to myself, “does humility mean I’m not supposed to want to be loved?” I can’t want that. How could anyone want that? Why would anyone want that? If that’s necessary for humility, I’m not sure if humility is for me. I continued with our group’s recitation, but the more I prayed that morning, the more convinced I felt that the writer of the prayer clearly took humility way too far. “From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others …”

I have admired writers ever since, as a precocious seven-year-old baseball fan, I read an adult-level biography of major-league baseball pitcher Bob Gibson written by a New York sportswriter. From that moment, I devoured every written word I could squeeze into my days. The affection included magazine features, newspaper stories and books about baseball, but I couldn’t get enough of biographies about historical figures, truly classic novels and the Bible as well. My heart and soul filled with dreams of the life of a writer.

Writers might declare that they write for themselves first and foremost, but as a writer, I craved readers, an audience that admired me just as I had admired all those writers in my formative years. I wanted people to enjoy my efforts, and I enjoyed their approval and praise. As I moved into adulthood, new passions joined my desire to be an honored writer, as I became a fiercely devoted husband, dad and Catholic Christian. I felt loved and approved; I couldn’t get enough.

That personality didn’t find the Litany of Humility to be a good fit for my prayer life. “From the fear of being humiliated, from the fear of being despised, from the fear of being calumniated, from the fear of being forgotten.”  Something about the Litany repelled me.  It was like the first time I tasted brussels sprouts as a kid  Yet the prayer attracted me because of the nutrition it provided my soul. In prayer and reading, humility clearly belonged among the basic spiritual food groups for anyone desiring sainthood. So as an act of love for my God, I vowed to privately recite the Litany of Humility every evening.

“That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … ” As time passed, the prayer embedded itself into my inclinations. I hungered for humility. “That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything … ”

The publisher with a well-established Catholic company contacted me several months ago. He and his staff had liked one of my book ideas. They wanted to see a sample chapter and outline. About that same time, an editor requested samples of my writing and examples of topics I might pursue if they named me columnist in her monthly magazine, and yet another magazine asked for the same about the same time. In each instance, I assumed the movements of the Holy Spirit; I presumed success. Since seeking my first job 40 years ago, at the age of 15, I never had interviewed for a job that I didn’t land. As recently as the first half of 2015, four different Catholic websites regularly accepted my work.

“That others may be chosen and I set aside … ” During the last several weeks, the publisher informed me his staff didn’t think I had adequately developed my book idea, that I didn’t have a name recognizable enough in Catholic circles to sell a book. The time isn’t right, he said. One magazine editor said she had filled all available blogging spots with other writers; the other editor said her people weren’t ready to make a decision. In the midst of all that, I had offered friendship to someone facing great turmoil in life; that person rejected my offer.

I might have felt shattered. My already inflamed depression could have dragged me even deeper into the sadness. Instead, I thanked God for His wisdom and grace. I prayed for the people who had been chosen over me. “That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”

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Gary Zimak talks about Find a Real Friend in Jesus

FindRealFriendJesusBookWhile interviewing Gary Zimak about his new book, Find a Real Friend in Jesus: Ten Amazingly Easy Steps, I found a fascinating backstory of how a conversion experience propelled him into a career as a full-time Catholic evangelist.

Nancy: How did God guide you into a career as a Catholic evangelist rather than another career?

Gary: As you know I speak a lot about overcoming anxiety. One of the things about me is that I’m not the bravest person in the world. I’ve never been someone who wanted to be in business for myself. I always wanted the bi-weekly paycheck. These are not the qualities that a full-time evangelist would typically have.

After my conversion took place in 2004, I started wanting to get more involved in my parish. As I learned more about the Lord, I said, “I’ve got to share this with other people.” I got involved with my parish by teaching catechism classes.

Then I felt moved to create my website, www.followingthetruth.com. As this went on, as I got to know Christ more and share him on a limited level with people, I wanted to share him on a greater level. I got this crazy idea that I wanted to do this full time. I wondered, “Where is this coming from?”

My wife and I talked this over, and I said, “You know honey, if I just quit my job, that’s crazy! What if I’m wrong?“ I felt the Lord calling me. (I wrote a lot about going through this journey in my book Faith, Hope and Clarity.) I prayed, “Lord, let me work for you full time.” My wife prayed. I thought it was going to be through a Church, a diocese or something like that but nothing was coming about.

EWTN saw my website and invited me to do some Catholic radio part time. I was still working my full- time secular job until January of 2012 when I got laid off for the first and only time in my life.

My wife, God bless her, said, “Gary, I don’t know if you will ever get this chance again. Why don’t you give it a shot and see what happens?”

That was without any speaking engagements on the books or any way to make any income. I went from six figures to no guaranteed income. It was a process, but little by little the Lord led me along. I tried some things; some things started working, but it was challenging. What happened? The Lord really kicked me out of the boat, and I needed that.

Nancy: Tell me about your conversion and that defining moment when you realized God loved you personally, and you gave him your life?

Gary: Tough question but I know when it happened. As a cradle Catholic, I went to Mass every Sunday but for most of my life, I went through the motions. I thought “All I’m supposed to do is go to Church,” and my life was about pleasing me.

My big conversion experience began in 2004 when I suffered medical symptoms. I was always worried about my health, yet the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. One test led to another, and they thought I might have some sort of lymphoma. They saw some enlarged lymph nodes in my abdomen — and that’s cancer! I panicked and really made it a point to find Jesus because I thought I was dying.

I originally wanted to get to know him and get to know the teachings of the Church because I didn’t want to have to face him and be judged, knowing that I’m a lousy Catholic. But what happened in the next several months is that I got to know Jesus on a personal level. And he and I became friends. Our friendship shifted from me wanting him to serve me and help me, to him bringing peace to me and my wanting to serve him.

Several months later my symptoms vanished! The lymph nodes went down in size. The doctors never knew what was wrong with me.

Nancy: Did you go through a period of discernment, counseling or some particular devotion?

Gary: Just prior to the layoff, I consecrated my life to Jesus through Mary. That total consecration was a big step for me. I expected the Blessed Mother to lead me somewhere; I just didn’t expect it to be through a job layoff!

It was amazing. When I got laid off, as I said, I was torn between getting another traditional job and somehow working for the Lord. I was collecting unemployment, putting some resumes out there, while trying to become a paid speaker. My spiritual director said, “Gary, you’re doing the right thing. Of course, you have to support your family.”

As time went on, I saw through circumstances how the Lord was sending me people who encouraged me and sent me work as an evangelist. I prayed throughout the day, went to daily Mass. The Lord has been leading me ever since then.

I think a lot of times the Lord does speak through circumstances. If he wants me to be a full-time speaker then eventually he’s going to send me some speaking engagements. That’s what was happening on a gradual basis.

Nancy: How did your spiritual life change?

Gary: I started going to daily Mass, and that has been such a tremendous help to me. If you want to get to know Jesus, one of the best things you can do is go to daily Mass. Once I started doing that my life changed.

I’ve been at this, as a full-time Catholic speaker and author, for four and one-half years. I look back on my books, and I wouldn’t change anything I wrote. Even though I was writing what I think the Holy Spirit wanted me to say, I don’t know if I was necessarily living it as much as I am now. I feel this call to become a better person. That’s the one thing that is really hitting me.

As I go out and I speak about Jesus, I don’t want to live a different life than what I teach. I’m called to be more patient, more charitable, and to do things I don’t necessarily want to do. That‘s the fruit of my ministry. It’s causing me to seek perfection. I have a long way to go but I’m trying to be better and it’s affecting my whole family as well.

Nancy: It seems you were writing and speaking prophetically, not just what you wanted for others but what you aspire to do and struggle to become. Is that how you see it?

Gary: You can struggle with writing or speaking and realize you’re not feeling or living this as much as you should. If you have a good prayer life, a good relationship with the Lord, you realize there are changes you have to make in your own life. Sometimes I feel my writing and my speaking are addressed to me. I hear the Holy Spirit speaking, and I say, “Yeah, I need to do this!“ The Holy Spirit teaches us through our writing. That’s one of the beautiful things about what we do. It’s a spiritual journey. It’s not just being a writer or a speaker; it’s this relationship journey we are on with the Lord, as we grow through our ministry.

Nancy: Many people want to work full time for the Lord, but few can do that. It must take a tremendous act of faith every day to go out there and not know if your income will be enough.

Gary: Especially for someone who is prone to anxiety! I’m starting to get how this works. I’ve been at the edge of the cliff so many times. I have sat in Adoration and said, “Lord, I don’t want to do this if you don’t want me to. Please let it fall apart if it’s not your will.” He never lets it fall apart. I still struggle. We live month-to-month and homeschool as well, so I’m the breadwinner, but we’re getting by one month at a time. It’s a process but now I’m realizing how he works. Through all this, my family and I are learning to trust more in God’s providence, so it’s bearing fruit in so many different ways.

Nancy: What prompted you to write Find A Real Friend In Jesus?

Gary: I always feel like the Holy Spirit prompts me to write these books. I knew Jesus, but I didn’t know him as well as I wanted to. I recognized that so many Catholics have a problem with their personal relationship with Jesus. For whatever reason, it is not something that comes naturally, especially to cradle Catholics. We think it’s a Protestant thing; we don’t ask, “How do I get to know Jesus?” I took it to the Lord, spent some time in Adoration, and prayed, “Lord, I want to get to know you better. I feel like writing this book would help.”

Then I wanted to share the message. I was able to get a contract for the book. Through writing it, I grew much closer to Christ. It was a great spiritual experience for me.

Nancy: One of the features in Find a Real Friend in Jesus is the promise we can all have a real friendship with Jesus through encounters with him. Then you put the readers into the lives of biblical characters who had brief encounters with him. What responses do you get from this exercise?

Gary: I’m a big fan of the Bible, and I read it every day. I like to look at these encounters, especially in my own life. When I look at what happens with people, Jesus and me, I just get more excited to really get to know him on a deeper personal level.

The response has been good. It’s a technique I like to use in my life and when I speak as well. I want the listeners or readers to be aware that if you have a personal encounter with Christ, your life is not going to be the same.

When I go out — and especially when I speak about anxiety — I’m totally confident that if whoever is listening to me speak or reading my books starts talking to Jesus, I know that the Lord is going to come through. Changes will happen in their life, even if I don’t know them personally, I know Jesus personally and I know what’s going to happen.

Nancy: How did the sacraments influence your choice of the Ten Amazingly Easy Steps that are the framework of the book?

Gary: The sacraments are huge because I realize that I need grace. I have a tendency to try to control things. That doesn’t work in our lives. It’s not going to help get us to heaven. We can’t force ourselves not to worry or to be peaceful. As you know, I’ve seen daily Mass have an incredible effect in my life. I try to let people know the power of receiving Holy Communion every day whenever possible. It’s an incredible opportunity for us to grow in virtue. I can’t do it alone, but with the Lord and the grace he sends through the sacraments, great things can happen.

Also, the Sacrament of Confession helps me tremendously, especially in overcoming the sins I commit over and over. I commit them less frequently now, I still have a lot of work to do, but the grace I received in Confession is incredibly powerful.

I want to use all the graces of the sacraments. I use the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage with my wife and children every day in the challenges we face. So I’m a big believer in grace.

I realize that when I was baptized and confirmed I received the Holy Spirit, and I have the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. I’m at a point now that I want to get to know the Holy Spirit better. I see a book coming, because the Holy Spirit is a mystery to so many people.

I have these graces, and I’m not using them. I know the Holy Spirit can do much better work in my life, and I am now focused on that. I’ve tried to force writing a book, with no success. I don’t consider myself a natural writer. I depend on the Lord and the Holy Spirit to inspire me.

Nancy: Where does the Body of Christ fit into our relationship with Jesus?

Gary: Jesus wants us to have a personal relationship with him, but he doesn’t want us to do it alone. He wants us to do it in community as part of the Body of Christ. I wanted to emphasize in the book that we are not meant to have a “me and Jesus” relationship exclusively. It’s more than that. Christ founded a Church, and he’s active in his Church, speaks through his Church, and wants us to be a part of his Church. If I take the me-and-Jesus mentality too far, I can start to believe things that conflict with his Church. When that happens, we create our own version of Jesus. If you want to get close to Christ, you need to do it through his Church.

Nancy: What’s the main principle you want your readers to take away from Find a Real Friend in Jesus?

Gary: That Jesus wants to be our friend. That if I don’t accept his offer of friendship, he’ll be sad because he has a human heart. He can feel emotions. If everyone else in the world accepts his offer of friendship and I don’t, that’s going to hurt him. He really loves me so much that he’ll feel sad if I don’t become his friend. That makes me feel loved. It makes me want to respond. That’s the real message.

A side message is that it is possible to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Many people sitting next to us in church don’t know that’s possible. They have such anxiety, and yet walking with him every day can alleviate so much of that.

When we have a relationship with Christ, we have a desire to bring souls to Christ. Once I had that personal encounter with Jesus Christ, I wanted to share him with others. And that’s been the quest for 12 years now. It’s been trying to get to know Christ as good as I possibly can and share him with others. That desire in me just grows and grows. I just can’t quit doing what I’m doing.

Gary-ZimakGary Zimak is the author of several books, including Find A Real Friend In Jesus: Ten Amazing Steps. He is a frequent speaker at parishes and conferences and is recognized as the leading Catholic speaker on overcoming anxiety. In addition to hosting his daily radio show on BlogTalkRadio, Gary is a regular guest on EWTN television and radio. His website is www.followingthetruth.com.

Posted in Book Review, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Inspirational, Interviews, non-fiction | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

CWG Prayer Chain Post: August 7, 2016

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

Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-12

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen. It is for their faith that our ancestors are acknowledged. It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going. By faith he sojourned in the Promised Land as though it were not his, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. He looked forward to the well-founded city, designed and built by God. It was equally by faith that Sarah, in spite of being past the age, was made able to conceive, because she believed that he who had made the promise was faithful to it. Because of this, there came from one man, and one who already had the mark of death on him, descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore which cannot be counted.

 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


AUGUST INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER FOR ALL NEEDS
We beg you, Lord,
to help and defend us.
Deliver the oppressed.
Pity the insignificant.
Raise the fallen.
Show yourself to the needy.
Heal the sick.
Bring back those of your people who have gone astray.
Feed the hungry.
Lift up the weak.
Take off the prisoners’ chains.
May every nation come to know
that you alone are God,
that Jesus is your Child,
that we are your people,
the sheep that you pasture.
Amen.
-Clement of Rome

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

Momentum from CWCLive

2016-07-28 CWCL CMom breakfast

Photo copyright 2016 Nancy Ward. All rights reserved.

As I happily recover from all the excitement of the Catholic Writers Conference Live, I think about those three days and all the hard work that the committees put in to make it such a glorious time for everyone who attended. And what fun we had! A big shout-out to Ann Lewis and Ellen Gable Hrkach who managed all the changes, logistic and people problems, and speakers so gracefully so that we could all enjoy the conference.

The exhilaration continues with news from our committee chairs:

Blog: Kathryn Cunningham and Dennis McGeehanWe still have a few spots open for guest bloggers. By the way, the blog of the day is featured on the home page of our new website, making it even easier to find these excellent posts. If you are a regular blogger, please let Kathryn, Dennis and your editor know when you need to delay your post. Editors need a couple of days to review your post before it goes live.

Book News: Dawn Witzke – Featured in July two religious fiction books. I am Margaret for Young Adults by Corinna Turner and Sisters of the Last Straw Series, three mysteries for children by Karen Kelly Boyce.

CALA (Catholic Arts and Letters Award): Carol Ann Chybowski – It is with great excitement that the Catholic Writers Guild congratulates our finalists for the 2016 Catholic Arts and Letters Award for Fiction! We want to thank all of you who entered the contest. Our judges had many terrific things to say about all the entries this year. The quality was remarkable, and we truly appreciate your dedication to Catholic fiction.

Our finalists in the category of Adult Fiction are:
The Lion’s Heart by Dena Hunt – WINNER!
Catholic Philosopher Chick #2 by Rebecca Weiss and Regina Doman
The Watson Chronicles by Ann Margaret Lewis

Our finalists in the category of YA/Children are:
A World Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer- WINNER!
The Tree of Healing by Diana Tabba
I Am Margaret by Corinna Turner

The winners of the CALA, Dena Hunt and Amanda Lauer, were announced July 28th at the Thursday morning breakfast sponsored by CMN at the CMN Trade Show in Schaumburg, Illinois. It was wild!

Facebook: Karina FabianThis private Facebook group is where all the interaction takes place almost hourly. Karina keeps it interesting with theme days. Lots of prayer requests here, but keep it down on the shameless self-promoting.

FB Volunteers Group: Dawn Witzke is the admin for this group. This is a group for CWG members to offer help, give help, get help, find where help is needed. We are a guild, so we give our time and talents for our mission, to promote and educate Catholic writers and Catholic writing. If you are curious and want to know more about how the committees work and what’s available that you are interested in doing, check out this new private group and request to join.

It’s that simple. It’s a great way to network and get to know the committee teams. For example, if you can read one book once a quarter, please consider becoming a SoA evaluator so that more authors can get the Seal of Approval that indicates quality and Catholic values.

Newsletter: Cesar Chacon – We welcome Cesar as our new Newsletter Committee Chair. Cesar, whose pen name is Christopher Roman, will have the first issue of Quill and Cross in a new format coming later this month. Welcome, Cesar!

Zenit: Dennis McGeehan – Two essays and one book review were submitted to Zenit.com for consideration:

Shelter by Kathryn Cunningham
Saved by the Mercy of a Stranger by Judy Klein
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, reviewed by Don Mulcare.

All three of these are outstanding reads by inspiring CWG writers.
Winners will be announced on our CWG private Facebook page.

SoA: Ellen Gable Hrkach, Interim Chair  – The Seal of Approval evaluators are busy reading and evaluating 13 books. Because we need more readers to evaluate the books, the submission period is usually only one day, in fact, we reach our limit in only a few hours. We continue to look for more evaluators, especially now that we have an online training module.

Also, we have moved up the deadline for evaluators to finish reading books; the deadline is now August 5, so that letters can go out in late August. That way, we have one quarter finished before the next quarter opens. (Previously, we were still finishing the July books when we begin another quarter in September).

One other thing has changed. SoA evaluators will only be reading ebooks from now on. Anonymity is crucial. It is too expensive and challenging to send hard copies without the authors knowing who is evaluating their books.

Speakers Bureau/Education Committee: Dennis McGeehan  – If you are new to CWG, we want you to know that we have a database of members who are available to give talks on a variety of topics. The link for the Speakers Bureau is under the Showcase tab on the new website.

For a complete list of CWG committees and how to contact the chairs, check out What’s Your Talent. You can contact me at coordinator@catholicwritersguild.com.

Posted in Catholic Writers Conference Live, Catholic Writing and Publishing, Committees, CWG Needs Volunteers | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment