Thursday, August 29, 2013

Journey Home Episode

I really was blessed by my time speaking with Marcus Grodi on Journey Home. He is a very gracious man and has a very kind, welcoming, and hospitable group of people at the Coming Home Network. Please consider joining Marcus and I and feel free to email me any questions you may have about anything we talked about. I've been so touched by the kind emails I have received since the airing of the show.

Cheryl Dickow

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Bad Reviews are Good for the Soul

I vividly recall the first really negative review I received on a book. It was for a particular title in the All Things Girl series and the young person who wrote it was fairly scathing in what she said. She identified herself as one of three sisters who ranged in age from 10 to 15. She went on to post her review on all the books.
I will freely admit that her words brought tears to my eyes.

Two months later, BAM! Another terrible review.
I was reeling from it all. To make matters worse, scores of people were saying how helpful the two terrible reviews were. No one was coming to my defense. Words can’t explain how alone I felt—and utterly defeated in my attempt at serving God’s precious daughters.

And confused…I had prayed each and every time that I had worked on the books. Throughout long days and nights my prayers stormed heaven; I prayed to the Father that every young girl who read the books would be blessed by them; that these books would be instruments of God’s love for his young daughters. All Things Girl was, for me, a series of books for girls who had become so real to me that I loved them all without even knowing them; it was a series to which I had given years of my life.

So to say that these two reviews were important to me is quite an understatement. I took them very, very seriously—not only as a Catholic publisher, but as an adult woman seeking to grow in holiness and charity. I wanted to contribute to the kingdom, not detract from it! I wanted to follow God’s will for my life.

When we seek to grow in the ways of the Lord and to work for his kingdom, we aren’t always handed over to loving, kind or charitable people. We don’t often find ourselves at once surrounded by goodness and kindness. More often than not, when we make a purposeful effort to turn ourselves over to God we might immediately notice that things seem to get worse, not better!
Am I, right? What’s up with that anyhow?

I was working for God, wasn’t it all going to be wonderful and perfect and perfectly awesome?
Of course now I see it couldn’t be any other way. God had work to do with me and those reviews brought me to my knees in pain and hurt and rejection—and, as it turned out, it was a perfectly awesome place for God to start his holy work.

Years later, I love to go look at those reviews because I know they contributed to my own spiritual maturity. It wasn’t easy and I absolutely would have preferred growing in a less painful way; but I get it.
Reviews are important to my business and I think people should review books with honesty and integrity. Let’s face it, nothing is worse than reading a bunch of great reviews only to find a book is nice or okay but definitely not great. So reviews should be truthful. But in the long run, for authors and writers and publishers, reviews can prove to be an interesting instrument of sanctification.

I have come to understand that in my line of work, reviews have a two-fold purpose. Partly they help sell books but I know that the far more important aspect is that they have allowed me to embrace a new level of God’s grace. Each review—good or bad, nasty or nice—is an opportunity to turn to God and see how it can be used for my sanctification and for God’s kingdom.
I had to laugh when I recently read a review on another book we have called All Things Guy: A Guide to Becoming a Man that Matters. The reviewer wrote: “I thought this book was going to be a comedy style book, which it is not. This book is all about believing in the bible and a Higher Power and what not. You do not have to believe in a Higher Power to be a good person. Why some people believe in this crap is beyond me.”

Reading that review I realized that God is still working with me but I was also happy to recognize that He and I have journeyed far together—crap and all!
Cheryl Dickow

Thursday, August 8, 2013

YOGA: What's So Bad About Feeling Good?

I’ve always had some sort of exercise routine—even if it wasn’t much of a “routine,”per se.

Eating well and staying fit has been part of my life more out of necessity than desire. It rises from chronic illness rather than vanity. The catalyst for me “working out” has been my calling to live out my vocation as wife and mother and never how I look in a bathing suit.

In fact, I use the term “working out” rather loosely since the same chronic illness that requires me to monitor my bodily well-being hinders my ability to really drill down and push myself to any physical limits. It’s not that I haven’t tried. I have—but there are always severe consequences. So I’ve had to find that balance between “working out” and not killing myself in the process.

Enter yoga.

Or the idea of yoga.

The appeal of the gentle movements and stretching of yoga really drew me in as I searched for the perfect exercise routine that would tend to my body but wouldn’t break me, and so I began researching it. I am a fairly grounded Christian but it was easy for me to see—rather quickly—that as a Catholic, yoga was a practice that I couldn’t or wouldn’t engage in. But a lot of Catholics do practice yoga. Each side—those Catholics who practice yoga and those who don’t—can make its case rather successfully. However, I found some points against yoga for Catholics to be noteworthy and determining.

For instance, this is from the Hindu American Foundation:

“Yoga is a combination of both physical and spiritual exercises, entails mastery over the body, mind and emotional self, and transcendence of desire. The ultimate goal is moksha, the attainment of liberation from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth.”

As a Catholic the term “rebirth” in this excerpt should be very disconcerting. Catholics simply do not believe in rebirth. As Catholics we believe you are given one lifetime. You are baptized and will live your life as a believer in Christ as your Savior. You aren’t given multiple lives to work out your final destiny.

Additionally, Catholics “get” suffering. Maybe sometimes too much; but nonetheless, we don’t—as a group—run from suffering. We understand its redemptive value. While we may wish to be liberated from it and can certainly pursue that through Christ, we don’t see it as our “ultimate goal.” Our ultimate goal is to unite our lives with Christ, the Suffering Servant.

There is also this from the Hindu American Foundation:

“There is the concerning trend of disassociating Yoga from its Hindu roots. Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots.”

Many yoga-practicing Catholics say, “Yes, yoga may be of a different religion but I believe in Christ so I will be fine.” However, the above statement should quickly negate that false sense of security. In essence it indicates that even if the person practicing yoga sees it only as exercise, he or she is mistaken—and sadly misguided—since yoga cannot be completely separated from its Hindu roots. We—as Catholics—don’t even have to understand the implication of what that statement means (that it can’t be completely delinked from its Hindu roots) for it to have relevance in our lives as Catholics. The statement in and of itself ought to give us pause.

To reiterate the importance of the link between practicing yoga and its Hindu roots, here is another statement from the Hindu American Foundation: “One does not have to profess faith in Hinduism in order to practice Yoga…Yoga is an essential part of Hindu philosophy and the two cannot be delinked, despite efforts to do so.”

These are things that should matter to Catholics. To be very clear: This isn’t an indictment against those who practice the Hindu faith; rather it is a reminder that those who practice the Catholic faith ought to be aware that even their exercise program is a facet of their faith journey.

Cheryl Dickow

Note: For Catholics interested in health and wellness Catholic style, The Rosary Workout by fitness expert, author and speaker Peggy Bowes is an excellent resource.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Spirit Filled Life

At the request of Jesus, the Holy Spirit has been given to us. Do we really know what that means? What does a life lived in the spirit look like?

“But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.” ~John 16:7

The Holy Spirit is supposed to be so significant in our lives that it is better than if Jesus were to be here, right now!

A life lived in the spirit is radically different. It is imbued with wisdom, grace, and virtue. It longs to do God’s will and live in accordance with His edicts—and is able to do so because it is under control of the Holy Spirit and does not follow selfish desires.

“And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness and condemnation.” ~John 16:8

The Holy Spirit is a bit like electricity or gravity—you may not be able to understand or explain either of them but that doesn’t change their reality.

The truth is not subjective—it is objective. At the heart of the Holy Spirit’s work is this reality: God can be denied, ignored, and ridiculed; but come Judgment Day He cannot be avoided. The Holy Spirit calls us to live holy lives and provides the ability to do so and thus overcome the temptations of the world.

“The Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you.” ~John 14:17

The clamor of the world may deafen the spirit of truth within but cannot drown it out.

Today may very well be the day the Holy Spirit seeks to be heard. Are we willing to listen?

“I have much more to tell you, but you cannot hear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” ~John 16:12

Jesus had so much to teach but knew that in our frail human capacity, it would be too much. Imagine the treasures of Christ! When we are ready to explore those treasures, the Holy Spirit will be our guide. When we are ready to listen we will be overwhelmed by God’s love and the truths of His Son. This will all come from listening to the Holy Spirit who resides within—as promised.

“The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” ~John 14:26

The Holy Spirit is the greatest teacher of all! He teaches the things that will lead to salvation and eternal life if only He has a willing student.

Today commit to being a student of the Holy Spirit and be forever changed!

Cheryl Dickow

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Daily Examination of Conscience: What Is It Exactly?

A simple examination of conscience helps build the moral life of a Catholic. It guides a Catholic towards holiness and sainthood. Like taking vitamins or brushing your teeth, it should be done daily!

Find a set time where you will have anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes of quiet and solitude. If possible, also find a specific location. This may be 10 minutes of quiet on your couch or it might be 20 minutes in a prayer corner on a prie dieu. No matter what, when you see this as a sacred responsibility, finding those few minutes each day will be easy.
An Examination of Conscience is about reviewing your day and seeing it through the eyes of Christ. It is about offering it up for objective examination where the fruit will be your spiritual growth and maturity.
Have a number of questions to get yourself started but be willing to allow the Lord to speak to you and guide where the time goes. To create a list of questions, consider your daily life in a general sense and your vocation. For instance, a full-time mother may have a different set of questions than a woman who has no children. Ultimately your questions are about how you reacted in different circumstances. These aren’t meant to beat yourself up about, they are meant to help you grow as a disciple of Christ.
Begin with a short prayer. Try something like this:
"Father, I would like to spend a few minutes with you looking at my day. I want to live more fully in your light and love and ask that you help me do this so that my life is pleasing to you and serves you. I am grateful for the forgiveness you have given me in your son and desire to grow in holiness."
Here are some sample Examination of Conscience questions for a wife and mother of teenagers who works part-time outside of the home:

  • How did I see God today in my co-workers?
    • Did I respond to them as I should have?
    • If I didn’t, why not? (you can ask God to help you with this if it is something you find yourself doing a lot)
  • In what ways did I reflect that I am a beloved daughter of Christ today?
    • If I didn’t, why didn’t I? (does God need to help me accept his love and forgiveness?)
    • If I did, how did that deepen my own relationship with Christ?
  • Did I find time to pray today?
    • If not, what stopped me? Was my time well spent today?
    • If I did, how did I grow with God as a result of that prayer time?
  • Did I find time to read today’s Gospel?
    • If not, what stopped me? Was my time well spent today?
    • If I did, how did I grow with God as a result of that time in the Word?
  • Did I lovingly attend to the duties of my vocation?
    • If not…
    • If so…
  • How will I invite God into my day tomorrow?

A true Examination of Conscience is always objective. It doesn’t encourage you to determine truths based upon your own feelings, rather it asks you to see your day through the life and teachings of Christ so that you can grown into the sainthood to which we are all invited.
Cheryl Dickow