The Twelve Steps to being a Spiritual Writer

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Step Eight – Make a list of all the people we had harmed with our writing or in our writing career. All the people we had ignored, betrayed, belittled or just not loved as Christians are called to do in imitation of Christ.

We have learned to spend time in prayer. We have mentioned the need to spend time in prayer before we write. However, how often have we gone into prayer and asked God to show us the people we have sinned against? It is so easy for us to recall all the people who have hurt us. Yet it is so painful and surprising to recall all the people we have done harm to.

This is a special list. It is a list of people we have harmed with our writing. Let’s start with those closest to us, our family. It is important for us to set up a space for our writing. We need time and space to write and do God’s Will for us and to use our talents. However, have we ever deliberately used our writing as an excuse to not do something with our family that we just did not want to do? Did we avoid a visit with that mother-in-law who drives us crazy and use the ‘need to write’ as an excuse? Did we ever skip that family get-together, or reunion – happily waving good-bye to our children and spouse as we pretended a deadline we didn’t have? Have we sat at our desktop looking lost in thought as we avoided that volunteer night at the PTA? Pray now! How many times have you used your writing as an excuse to avoid unpleasant moments with your family?

Here’s another list. How many times have you used your family as a source of characters, humor or even used family history or secrets in your work? I tend to exaggerate and color family moments and foibles to create humor in my writing. There was a time (2 weeks long exactly) when no one in my immediate family was speaking to me because they read my book on surviving cancer and found their own stories embellished and full of hyperbole in the first few chapters. I was trying to take a serious subject and make it lighter with a little fun. However, while the readers may have laughed at my son getting his hand caught in a gumball machine, my son did not find my sharing humorous. My husband didn’t really care much for my take on his odd eating habits in the chapters on nutrition. And my daughter found my rendition of her allergic attack in my chapter on pesticides less than funny. The stories may have sold a lot of books and made a lot of cancer victims laugh but it did nothing for my family relations. This moment of family anger ended. However, there are more serious harms a writer can commit.

Have you ever based an evil character and their appearance on a real person you didn’t particularly care for? Did you secretly hope that they might recognize themselves? We writers can be passive aggressive with our work and even lie to ourselves about what we are doing. How about that particular religious group that wasn’t very friendly to you? Did you dish that group in your work? Or did you just exclude them? Are you a ‘conservative’ Catholic and just can’t wait to portray that liberal organization or priest as heretical? Or are you a ‘liberal’ Catholic who can’t wait to show the social suffering the decisions your old-fashioned parish priest causes? Do you even secretly hope that they recognize themselves and change their ways? What power the written word holds! How have you used the power of your gift? Believe it or not, this is all sin. I didn’t ask permission to use the funny family moments in my book. I didn’t consider family feelings. In one of my novels, I made the protagonist look very much like a friend who had recently hurt my feelings. I don’t think I even realized it at the time. I will always wonder if they recognized themselves and think how little love I used while creating such a character. We writers can live our lives on the fantasy level, and we need to be careful. Especially about our imagination which can easily trip us up.

And then there are the sins we commit in ‘real’ life. Have we talked against that writer whom we don’t like? Did we dish that publisher who turned our work down? Are we jealous of that award the other guy won? There are so many ways our ambition and need for recognition can lead us astray.

Then there are the sins of omission. Did we ever write that review we promised? (I can think of a few pending right now). Did we call our fellow writer and let them know about that opportunity, or did we just keep it to ourselves? Did we tell that publisher about that writer who has just what they are looking for? There are so many sins of omission, so many more sins of omission in our writing life that we ignore. I don’t want to be standing in front of Jesus and have to answer for those sins. Was I supposed to be a blessing for that other writer who is doing the work of God, and was I a block instead? Did I encourage that author with kind words and sage advice, or did I keep silent when God wanted me to be His voice? Is it possible that I even stole another writer’s idea, causing them to stumble on the path to God’s will? Did I plagiarize? Did I steal the spotlight? Did I get jealous? Did I help that new writer? Oh…so many things? I think I need to make a list!

Before you make that list (an actual list because you ARE a writer) pray and take your time. In two weeks, I will tell you about the next step. What to do with that list!

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

 

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: March 12, 2017

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

Second Timothy 1:8-10

So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to our Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but share in my hardships for the sake of the gospel, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy — not because of anything we ourselves had done but for his own purpose and by his own grace. This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time, but it has been revealed only by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus. He has abolished death, and he has brought to light immortality and life through the gospel. 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


MARCH INTENTION PRAYER

Ezekiel 34:11-13

For the Lord Yahweh says this: “Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness. I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the country.”

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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Racing the Devil, by Charles Todd

Racing the Devil is the nineteenth book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery Series and a tantalizing read. Like many previous Rutledge Mysteries, in Race with the Devil, the Inspector chases after a mass murderer who attacks anyone who obstructs his or her dark ambitions. Targets include Rutledge.

THE PLOT

Seven British Army officers pledge to meet in Paris, a year after the eventual conclusion of the Great War. The five who survive the trenches find that their battles continue after the Armistice. Someone, perhaps one of the five, tries to kill the others.

A year after the Paris reunion, a motorcar belonging to one of the five crashes in a Sussex village near the lime cliffs known as the Seven Sisters, killing the driver. The local constable calls “The Yard” for assistance. Enter, Inspector Rutledge.

The novel’s subtext speaks of the wreckage left in the wake of war—depopulation, especially among the best and brightest of the young men; grotesque physical and emotional wounds among the survivors, and the remains of their families; and the rusting remnant of the nation’s infrastructure. So many horses die in the war that unemployed blacksmiths turn their smithies into automobile repair shops—a salient detail in a story focused on cars and “accidents.”

Rutledge fans will notice a diminished role for Hamish Macleod. Hamish stars in his own, recent short story: The Piper, but his scarcity may say more about Rutledge’s long-term health than anything else.

THE SERIES

Charles Todd offers his readers, in addition to a tense, absorbing mystery, a travelogue of Southeast England, circa 1920, a prose rich in imagery, and period references. The reader would be wise to consult a detailed roadmap of the United Kingdom to follow the action. Online searches for images of the local landscape and geological features can add perspective.

Todd’s time machine douses readers with frequent rain, guides them through the tents and booths of market days, feeds them sandwiches, cakes, and pub fare, and nearly drowns them in tea, whiskey, port, and the ever-looming pint. Todd reanimates regional traditions and institutions such as the town constable. Rutledge encounters an assortment of local policemen and learns the value of those who have served long and well. They know everyone in and everything that happens on their patch. Then, there are the others who guard their turf and milk it for any benefit it may bring to themselves.

A master craftsman, Charles Todd can be counted on to ratchet up the level of suspense and conflict. He leads his readers on a merry chase by introducing squads of characters with means, motive, and opportunity. Just when the guilty individual seems to have been arrested, Todd saves another major wrinkle to unfold.

Race with the Devil is never boring. It’s the type of story where the readers may glance at the clock to realize that Todd has kept him or her up beyond the normal bedtime hour. The only regret is that fans must wait another year for volume twenty.

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The Other Side of Trust

knot-1110536__480[1]Shortly before beginning the process to adopt a little girl from China, I stumbled across this scripture  verse; “For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8: 15-17).  These encouraging words from the scriptures were significant on so many levels; touching on my concerns of becoming a family through adoption, to my anxiety of traveling half way around the world.  What I did not yet know would be how God would use my own adoption as his daughter, to help me bond with mine.

The entire adoption journey would test my trust in God like nothing I’d experienced before.  It was this verse however that I would turn to again and again throughout the two-plus year adoption journey. “Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it” (Psalm 34:3-5).   The desire of my heart was to adopt, and I was fully committed – as obstacles and issues arouse, all I could do is trust that God would bring us through.

SUFFERING THROUGH REJECTION

The first weeks with my daughter, Faith, was more difficult than I ever imagined because she completely rejected me. She and I could not even be left alone without her crying herself into a frenzy and become physically ill. I was heartbroken, especially after nearly two years of waiting, including six agonizing months of having her adorable picture, knowing she was joining our family but not being able to get clearance from China to travel there and bring her home. Here I was finally able to be with her and start to build the mother/daughter bond I’d been dreaming about, but she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. Exasperated, I turned to Our Blessed Mother, in earnest prayer for consolation and guidance.

THE TRUST CYCLE

As an early educator for over 15 years, I knew that trust bonds were built by recognizing a child’s need, meeting it quickly and efficiently, and repeating that cycle – again and again until trust was established. Determined to win my daughter over, I told my husband that for the remainder of our time in China, I would be in charge of every possible need Faith might have.  These acts of love were even more important for building a relationship with my daughter, because she is deaf, and had not yet acquired any communication skills. So for nearly two weeks every bath, potty break, tooth brushing and morsel of food came exclusively from me. The doctor on the trip assured us the rejection of one of the two parents was completely normal (and actually expected); to be persistent and she’d come around.

SEEING THE OTHER SIDE

One particularly difficult morning, as I literally cried out to God in my distress, He gently reminded me of how distant I had been from him for so any years. How I, like my daughter, had completely spurned him. Yet God had continued to watch over me and generously provided in my needs. My rejection of His tender mercy and love was really no different than from what I was experiencing with Faithy. Just as He had faithfully cared for me, showing me again and again his trustworthiness until I was ready to accept him in my life; I would do the same for her.

And I did dutifully and lovingly for over three heartbreaking weeks, until one day something stirred in  Faith’s heart.  She was sitting on my husband’s lap; she looked up at him and then at me; then she ran across the room and crawled up into my lap and cuddled up against my chest. How grateful I was that the Father had blessed me with a far shorter wait to have my loved returned than I had given Him!

BONDING WITH GOD

The trust cycle God created for bonding his children (man to woman; parent to child; friend to friend), also builds our bond with Him. Where can you see God providing for you or your family and not just in your basic needs but in delighting to give you the desires of your heart?  Anxiety and plans go awry have a way of testing our trust in God, especially when you feel you are following his will.  As ‘Abba, Father’, we may expect him to spoil us – providing all that we ask and protecting us from heartbreak.  Trusting is recognizing he does all that and more, but only insofar as it is in our best interest.  Do not be afraid, commit to his ways, and watch what he will do.

All Rights Reserved,  Allison Gingras 2017

 

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Alzheimer’s Keeps Reminding Me Why I Love being Catholic

I have written about my wife, Marty’s, Alzheimer’s Disease several times. This is another. It was unplanned and spontaneous, triggered by the unique world she and I have come to share together.

I was trying to write something but I was stuck in “neutral.” No pencil scratching, no pen sliding, no keyboard clicking. Then Marty came in and stood there just looking at me and not saying anything. I smiled at her and said, “What’s going on?”

She shakes her head and says, “I really do not feel like going to work tomorrow.” (She has not worked in almost ten years.)

I nonchalantly reply, “Okay, then don’t.”

“Larry, please don’t start with me. You know I have bills to pay.”

“Well then, I’ll call in for you. I’ll tell them you are not feeling good.”

She quickly throws a curve at me. I back away, surprised at the sudden diversion. Raising her voice, she says, “We had better get a few things straight. I have standards and I am not going to be living in sin. I cannot be living here if we are not married.”

I did not know what that had to do with her ‘job” but I mentally bobbed and weaved and circled around. Quickly I said, “We are married.”

She was stunned. She stared at me and I stared back. A moment passed and she said, “We are?”

“Yes, Marty, we have been married for ten years.”

“I suppose you know this for a fact? How can you be sure?”

“We have the papers to prove it.”

I quickly said an emergency “Hail Mary” asking for help. God knew I was in over my head and immediately sent one of His special people. Maybe it was St. Therese or St. Joseph or maybe St. Martha. I really did not care who it was but just like that I had a “thought.” (These folks do not fool around when sent on a mission.)

I had her sit down on the sofa and wait for me. I headed back to my “office” (some may call it a man-cave) and began rifling through the file cabinet in the corner. The top drawer is stuffed with all sorts of “important” papers and I knew that somewhere amongst the mass of disorganized stuff was our marriage license. I started scratching away, peeling papers apart.

I did not keep track of the time but when I looked at the mess of papers I had strewn about it must have been fifteen minutes. Then I hit pay dirt. I found our marriage license. I was sure this would prove to her once and for all that we were, in fact, married.

I hurried back to the sofa and to the woman who immediately asked if I had just gotten home. “Yes,” I shouted. “And look what I have.”

The Pinellas County Marriage License was too confusing for her to understand. The print was small and even though our names were legible and the paper was emblazoned with the words, “Marriage Record,” it did not convince her. I realized she needed “Catholic” proof. That was why she had used the words “living in sin.” Now we come to why I wrote this in the first place.

I slowly headed back to the file cabinet to put the marriage license away. But I had not noticed when pulling the marriage license out that behind it was the 8 X 11 marriage certificate that the church had given us. It was behind the license the whole time. I could not believe it.

It was not a legal document but it was a BEAUTIFUL CATHOLIC document. It had our names on it. On the left side was a Cross with connected wedding bands connected to it. The church’s name was there and it was signed by the deacon and the pastor. It was also perfect for framing.

I had an 11 x 14 frame that was unused. Ten minutes later I brought it out to her. I had her sit next to me on the sofa. “Are you ready?” I asked.

“For what?”

I held this framed certificate up in front of her. She stared and stared at it and then she looked at me and began to cry. She put her head on my shoulder and cried some more. We have used the Hail Mary and the Rosary to help us over some rough Alzheimer’s moments. This time the purely Catholic marriage document was the answer to the prayer. It now hangs in the Florida room and she can see it every day anytime she needs to. Damn—I love being Catholic.

Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson

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CWG Prayer Chain Post: March 5, 2017

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

Psalms 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17

For I am well aware of my offences, my sin is constantly in mind. Against you, you alone, I have sinned, I have done what you see to be wrong, that you may show your saving justice when you pass sentence, and your victory may appear when you give judgement, remember, I was born guilty, a sinner from the moment of conception. But you delight in sincerity of heart, and in secret you teach me wisdom. Give me back the joy of your salvation, sustain in me a generous spirit. I shall teach the wicked your paths, and sinners will return to you. Deliver me from bloodshed, God, God of my salvation, and my tongue will acclaim your saving justice. Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will speak out your praise. Sacrifice gives you no pleasure, burnt offering you do not desire. Sacrifice to God is a broken spirit, a broken, contrite heart you never scorn.

 


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


MARCH INTENTION PRAYER

Ezekiel 34:11-13

For the Lord Yahweh says this: “Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it. As a shepherd looks after his flock when he is with his scattered sheep, so shall I look after my sheep. I shall rescue them from wherever they have been scattered on the day of clouds and darkness. I shall bring them back from the peoples where they are; I shall gather them back from the countries and bring them back to their own land. I shall pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the inhabited parts of the country.”

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

What Was Intended for Harm

By Janice Lane Palko

Several years ago, my family and I were seated in lawn chairs in a shopping center parking lot that overlooked Pittsburgh’s skyline. As darkness descended, we gazed at the sky awaiting the city’s Fourth of July fireworks when my soon-to-be son-in-law bolted from his chair and made a beeline to a store.

“Where’s he going?” I asked my daughter, wondering why her fiancé suddenly had a need to go to the dollar store, which was about to close.

“Remember when he was in high school and he worked for that mean store owner? How that guy was always calling him an idiot and telling him that he would never amount to anything?” I nodded. “The guy in that dollar store is that mean owner. He’s going to go tell him that he was wrong, that he’d graduated with an engineering degree, and that he was now working for a defense contractor designing technology that would keep his miserable butt safe.”

My son-in-law is a quiet, gentle, hard-working person, and since this was now eight years after he had spent a summer unpacking boxes at this man’s dollar store, I knew that the store owner’s unfair and demoralizing criticism of my son-in-law must have really lodged in his psyche.

Each year when my daughter was in grade school, the school participated in a reading competition sponsored by Pizza Hut. Students were required to read a certain number of books to get a free pan pizza. When she was in fourth grade, she was required to read ten books. One of my favorite books as a young girl was Louisa Mae Alcott’s Little Women, and I couldn’t wait for her to be able to read it and discover what a delight it was. A good reader, she asked her teacher if instead of reading ten smaller books, could she read Little Women.

Her teacher vehemently refused to even consider it. “No. You cannot read it. That book is too advanced for a fourth-grader. You’ll never be able to read that large of a book by the deadline. Read Ramona or Babysitters Club books,” said the teacher. My daughter relayed that conversation to me, and then set her jaw. “I’ll show her,” she said. “I’ll read Little Women and the ten stupid Babysitters Club books!” And she did, much to her teacher’s dismay.

I’m sure you’ve had an experience like those of my daughter and son-in-law sometime in your life. I have. More than twenty years ago, I began writing, and after having had several articles published (for pay!) and writing a column for a local newspaper, I was encouraged to join a writing organization. This statewide organization billed itself as a group that encouraged writers and worked on their behalf. I had to submit proof that I was a professional writer to be considered for membership. Imagine my surprise when I received this message from the man in charge of recruiting members: “I congratulate you on your moderate success and welcome you to the organization. Moderate success? I had no illusions that I was Nora Roberts or James Patterson, but who purports to encourage by diminishing? I shook my head and laughed. I’ll fix you, I thought. I’ll keep on writing.

We all know the value of encouragement. It warms the soul to dish it out, and it is even more palatable to consume. Humanity seems to gravitate to the negative, and ironically, it’s often the “discouragers” that make an even greater impression on our hopes and dreams than the “encouragers.” When faced with this kind of slap in the face, you have two options: You can either let the discouragers crush you, or you can hitch your pants higher and get to work disproving them. Sometimes, I think God allows these negative Nancy’s into our lives because they are exceptionally powerful motivators.

How do you rise above your detractors whether in regard to your writing, your goals, or any other aspect of your life? Here are some things to keep in mind. First, know God. If God has put this dream on your heart or endowed you with a certain talent, remember, there is nothing that will stop His will. Only you can thwart it by using your own free will to resist it. Second, know yourself. Had I been wobbly in my confidence of my dream or my abilities, I would have been devastated by that backhanded compliment from that writing organization. Deep down, however, I knew writing was for me, and there was nothing he or anyone could have said to discourage me from pursuing it.

One of the most wonderful aspects of God is his power to transform the negative into a positive. We see it in the story of Joseph in the Old Testament. He takes a boy sold into slavery and transforms him into a leader who will come to rescue his people. We see a young carpenter nailed to a cross transform that suffering into salvation. Through grace, God gives us that power to transform bad into good too.

In conclusion, if you are in God’s will for you, whenever you come up against a discourager, keep in mind this: With God’s help, you have the power to change what was intended for harm into something for good.

Posted in Catholic Writing and Publishing | 3 Comments

CWG Prayer Chain Post: February 26, 2017

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

Matthew 6:24-34

‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or be attached to the first and despise the second. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money. ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and what you are to wear. Surely life is more than food, and the body more than clothing! Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they are? Can any of you, however much you worry, add one single cubit to your span of life?

And why worry about clothing? Think of the flowers growing in the fields; they never have to work or spin; yet I assure you that not even Solomon in all his royal robes was clothed like one of these. Now if that is how God clothes the wild flowers growing in the field which are there today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more look after you, you who have so little faith? So do not worry; do not say, “What are we to eat? What are we to drink? What are we to wear?” It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things. Your heavenly Father knows you need them all. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on God’s saving justice, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’


The power of prayer and the power of people praying.


FEBRUARY INTENTION PRAYER 

PRAYER TO LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL THINGS

God, my Father, may I love You in all things and above all things. May I reach the joy which You have prepared for me in Heaven. Nothing is good that is against Your Will, and all that is good comes from Your Hand. Place in my heart a desire to please You, and fill my mind with thoughts of Your Love, so that I may grow in Your Wisdom and enjoy Your Peace.

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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Moriarty Meets His Match: A Professor and Mrs. Moriarty Mystery (Book 1), by Anna Castle

When writers strain their brains for new ideas, they might consider revisiting an old idea. For instance, Gregory Maguire applied the rules of “alternative fiction,” in his retelling Frank Baum’s classic 1900 story the Wizard of Oz.  Forget Dorothy, Maguire wrote from the point of view of the Wicked Witch of the West. The result: the novel Wicked, which later appears on stage as a musical thanks to Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman, and still later as a movie of the same name.

Why not revisit Arthur Conan Doyle’s signature masterpiece and reveal Sherlock Holmes for the cad he is.

And who better than Anna Castle—with a keen eye for historical context and detail, and famous for her Francis Bacon Mystery series—to expose Holmes and rehabilitate the reputation of Professor James Moriarty.

In book one of her latest series, Moriarty Meets His Match; Castle tells a tale of fleecing wolves, not lambs.  It begins at the London International Exhibition of 1862. The plot then spins a web of lupine greed and arrogance.

“Society nobs (who) had plenty of twinkle with their unsalable family jewels, but very little crinkle—cash money—in their pocketbooks,” ensnare unwary investors in schemes that are designed to enrich the nobs and soak their stockholders.

To the rescue of the lambs, rides the “not entirely respectable,” Mrs. Angelina Gould, a member of a notorious family of confidence swindlers and actors. Call it love at first sight or her setting up a mark, Mrs. Gould crosses paths with and latches onto Professor James Moriarty, mustached, preacher’s son, mathematician, athletic, unassuming and vulnerable. He “radiate(s) integrity like a warm stove.”

With an axe of a nose, Holmes, consulting detective to Scotland Yard speaks in supercilious tones, ignores facts, and seems driven by his own prejudices “He longed for an opponent who could challenge him intellectually. Moriarty fit that bill. Therefore, Moriarty must be a suspect.” Holmes generates theories that fit the facts, although they lead to erroneous conclusions, placing Moriarty in jeopardy of swinging on the gallows for his enemy’s crime.

Anna Castle will please romance fans, those who love Victorian London, and most readers in search of an exciting mystery. She repeatedly places Moriarty and Mrs. Gould in horrible jeopardy from which few authors could extract them.

Anna Castle has recently launched the second book in the Professor and Mrs. Moriarty Mystery Series: Moriarty Takes His Medicine.

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Are We Seeking Magic or Miracles?

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Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, Suscipe

If you’d asked me six months ago if I believe in miracles, I would have responded with a resounding “Yes!” Especially since I was praying ardently for a miracle at the time—the healing of someone whom I love that suffers from the dreaded disease of addiction.

I’d prayed for the same “miracle” countless times before—pleading with God for an outcome I desperately wanted and believed I needed for all to be “well.” As months passed and my prayers went seemingly unanswered, I felt more and more desolate, finding myself engaged in old, worn-out mental gymnastics that kept me ruminating constantly in fear and regret about “what ifs” and “woulda, coulda, shouldas.”

Then came the day that changed things: the day I walked into my spiritual director’s office and began weeping before I sat down. At my wits end, I felt trapped by a gnawing sense of doom and despair from which I could not wrench myself.

“Maybe,” Fr. Robert gently suggested, “you’re hitting your own emotional bottom. Maybe this is active addiction is going to be the ‘new normal’ in your life. And maybe this is an invitation from God for you to learn to how to live in peace, no matter what happens with the circumstances.”

As usual, Fr. Robert had a way of nailing things quite precisely.

Later that day, I felt prompted to begin working on the next step of my Twelve Step Recovery Program, Step 3: “Made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him.” Step 3 was accompanied by a question that hit me like thunderbolt of grace: Am I willing to stop asking God for the addict to change?      

 Was I willing to cease and desist with my constant prayer for God to heal my addicted loved one, the first prayer that came to my mind every time I had a rush of anxiety about his wellbeing?   Was I willing to accept that “God’s will” and “my will” might not be exactly the same, given the fact that God alone could grasp the big picture of our life stories? And could it be that placing my loved one radically into God’s hands—earnestly praying only “thy will be done” for him and for his life—is the only “miracle” I really needed?

 As I pondered and prayed over these questions, I began to experience the difference between magic and miracle, between willfulness and willingness, between an interior attitude which insists that “my will be done” vs. a trusting stance of finally being willing to turn everyone and everything over to the will of God. Though I’d learned this lesson before, I’d regressed, and God was inviting me again to let go of how I think things ought to be and shift from a posture of demanding magic to receiving a miracle.

Miracle involves openness to mystery, the welcoming of surprise, the acceptance of those realities over which we have no control. Magic is the attempt to be in control, to manage everything—it is the claim to be, or have a special relationship with, some kind of ‘god.’ (Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketcham, The Spirituality of Imperfection, 118)

Though I’ve joked many times that “there is a God and it ain’t me,” there I’d gone, playing god again. I was praying for a miracle, but in reality, I’d been trying to exact magic.

That very day after meeting with my spiritual director, in a space of surrendered grace, I “made a decision to turn my will and my life over the care of God as I understood him” believing he could restore me to sanity.

At last, the miracle arrived. His will. His ways. Peace.

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

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