Thursday, November 5, 2015

Catholic World Library

We received a wonderful email from Catholic World Library last week!
Here's what they said:
The December 2015 edition of Catholic Library World will highlight noteworthy works of Catholic fiction. 
Bezalel Books is one of seven (7) publishers that will be recognized.
To this we can add that Laura Pearl won 2 awards for Erin's Ring this year from Catholic Press Awards! 2nd place for books for Catholic teens and tweens and 3rd place for overall Catholic novels.
Then there's Fr. Driscoll, author of The Father Capranica Mysteries. Fr. Driscoll will be on Vocation Boom! radio this weekend to talk with Jerry Usher about The Capranica Mysteries.
Congratulations to two of our Bezalel Books authors!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

To Kindle or Not To Kindle, That is the Question

When Laura Pearl finished writing what would become a Catholic Press Award winning book, Erin's Ring, one of her first questions to me was, "Do we have to make it available for Kindle?"
That's an interesting question for an author to ask since, for the most part, authors desire to get their books into as many hands as possible. But for Laura Pearl, part of what she wanted to give her reader, along with a heart-warming, engaging story, was something to "hold." Laura wanted her young readers (and those who will read Erin's Ring who may just be young at heart), something more. That something more, for Laura, translates into the "feeling" that comes from holding a good-old fashioned book.
So the decision was made, "No, we don't have to make Erin's Ring available for Kindle."
As so we haven't. Honoring Laura's wishes to keep Erin's Ring as a paperback may not be the best business decision, but sometimes there are things that matter that are more than just business. And I trust that if you read Erin's Ring, and hold the beautiful book in your hands, you will agree!
Author Pearl is currently giving a copy away of Erin's Ring. Visit her blog to see how to enter.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Free Copy of Erin's Ring Being Given Away

She's giving away a free, signed copy of Erin's Ring, winner of two Catholic Press Awards!
You won't want to miss this one!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Rosary Workout...What It Is Really All About

An inspiring, eye-opening interview with Peggy Bowes, author of The Rosary Workout, on Catholic health and wellness. 

(What would you say is the most important benefit to exercise? The “Catholic” answer may surprise you!)

 1.      Give us a bit of background about yourself and your experience in the world of health and wellness.

First and foremost, I define myself as a devout Catholic wife and mother. My primary goal in life is to get to heaven and to help as many people as I can to do the same.
My career as a health and wellness specialist began while I was in the Air Force. I proudly served my country as an instructor pilot, but I became pregnant with my son and was no longer able to fly. I was reassigned to the Health and Wellness Center due to my experience as an aerobics instructor and personal trainer, and I truly enjoyed counseling Air Force members and their families and inspiring them to live a healthier lifestyle. I was blessed to be able to separate from the Air Force to stay home with my children. When they started school, I established a business administering metabolic and athletic performance (VO2) testing, with an emphasis on weight loss counseling and exercise program design.

I was inspired to combine my passion for exercise with my devotion to the Rosary by creating a unique exercise program called The Rosary Workout.Through this book and my other writings, I hope to lead more people to heaven and to help them enjoy a healthy lifestyle so as to best carry out their earthly vocations.

2.      Explain your own philosophy and approach to health and wellness.

I believe that the best way to live a healthy lifestyle is to incorporate healthy habits, one at a time, until they become second nature. Too often people make the mistake of trying to make dramatic changes and then become discouraged when they fail to meet unrealistic expectations. Instead, focus on creating one new habit every month or so. Here are a few ideas: If you don’t exercise, start with just 10 minutes, twice a week. Do you drink a lot of soda? Substitute water as often as possible. Are you trying to eat more fruits and vegetables? Make it a goal to add one more serving each day. If you’re always tired, set a timer to ensure you get to bed 15 minutes early each night. By making small changes, one at a time, you will set yourself up for success in the long run.

3.      What would you say is the most important aspect of health and wellness?

Definitely commitment.I have counseled so many people who want to live a healthier lifestyle but expect it to happen magically, without any effort on their part. You have to first decide that you are ready to make these changes, then you must set specific goals, create a plan to meet them, and take action. If you state your goal as “I want to get in shape and lose weight,” then you have not quantified your expectations, and it will be difficult to meet them. A better goal would be “I want to lose 10 pounds in 8 weeks by exercising 3 days a week for 20 minutes and keeping a journal to track my daily food intake.” This type of goal sets you up to succeed because you have a time frame, a concrete goal, and tools to meet it.

4.      What do you see as the most significant benefit of exercise?

It’s hard to choose just one benefit! Exercise is the closest thing we have to a “magic pill.” It builds and m healthy muscles, bones, and joints. It decreases anxiety and depression and improves psychological well-being. Regular exercise enhances work, recreation, and sport performance and improves the quality of sleep. It reduces triglyceride levels (fat in the blood) and increases HDL levels (good cholesterol). Exercise is powerful preventative medicine. It reduces the risks of and helps prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes to name a few.

That said, I think that the most significant benefit of exercise is that it helps a person to best carry out his or her vocation, whether it be wife and mother, priest or religious, business executive or custodian. If you take the time and effort to exercise, you will be rewarded with more energy and enthusiasm to meet the demands of your daily life.

5.      In your experience, what are some of the hurdles that people face when approaching their health and exercise pursuits?

I think the biggest complaint that I hear is not having enough time to exercise. Yet most people take time to watch TV, check Facebook, surf the web, shop and engage in other pursuits that could easily be limited or avoided, at least occasionally. Exercise does not have to be a long, drawn out process. Anyone can put on a comfortable pair of shoes and walk for 10-15 minutes without having to purchase special equipment, drive to a gym, or arrange for child care. If you have children, take them with you! Certainly most people can find 10-15 minutes for exercise just 3-4 days a week. Keep a journal of how you spend your time for a week, and I bet you will be able to find several places where you can convert unproductive time into time for exercise.

The same time crunch problem prevents most people from eating a healthy diet. It seems easier to grab a pizza or go through the drive-through, but those types of foods actually sap energy and contribute to weight gain. Instead, use some down time to research recipes that are easy to put together and use ingredients you can keep on hand. I call these recipes my “911 dinners” because they are simple and usually involve just a can opener or frozen vegetables, enabling me to cook a healthy meal in the same time it would take to wait for a pizza. Also, a crock pot or slow cooker and a few good recipes can ensure that you come home to a healthy meal at the end of a busy day. I find time on the weekend to plan a week’s worth of meals and shop for the ingredients. This ends up saving me time in the long run, and my family can look forward to spending our evenings eating a healthy meal and connecting at the end of a busy day.

6.      What have been some of your own obstacles in your personal goals towards health and wellness?

Oh, I do get lazy now and then and decide I’d rather sit on the couch and eat ice cream than go for a run. I definitely have a sweet tooth! I fall into the same traps as everyone else when it comes to finding time to exercise and eat healthy foods. What gets me back on track is that I truly miss exercising and find that my body just doesn’t feel right when I skip my workouts. My muscles ache, my energy level drops, and I don’t sleep as well. This motivates me to make the effort to fit exercise back in my schedule.

My husband and I joke about having a “veggie low light” that comes on when we have been indulging too much in unhealthy food choices. Even my children will complain if we’re on vacation and have been eating out too much. They once asked me, “Can we just go home so you can make some oatmeal and stir fry with lots of vegetables?” A lifelong commitment to a healthy lifestyle certainly involves a few detours, but you will find that you truly miss the benefits of your efforts and will take the time to re-establish your healthy habits.

7.      What have been some of your biggest personal achievements in your own exercise program?

I admit that I’m proud of my participation in triathlons, adventure races, circus performances, etc., as well as my sense of adventure in trying new sports and activities.Yet I receive the most satisfaction from the fact that my teenage son and daughter both exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet and understand the importance of a healthy lifestyle. I am glad that my husband and I took the time and effort to educate our children and to provide positive role models for healthy living.

8.      What sort of dreams do you have for the Catholic health and wellness arena?

I am really excited that more Catholics are writing about the combination of prayer and exercise. Dr. Kevin Vost is a dear friend and author of a great book on combining virtue and weight training called Fit For Eternal Life. In fact, Dr. Vost and I, along with Shane Kapler, wrote a unique devotional combining saint biographies and daily exercises to grow “fit in faith” in a book called Tending the Temple. Another informative book on this topic is Ten Commandments of Lifting Weights by Jared Zimmer.

I would love to see retreats and seminars focused on helping Catholics care for their “Temples of the Holy Spirit” through regular exercise in a way that emphasizes that our bodies are gifts from God that require an effort on our part to maintain. Taking time to care for the body God gave you is not selfish or vain unless taken to an extreme. Unfortunately, many Catholics avoid exercise because of the way it is sexualized and promoted in the media. Additionally, some Catholics seek out New Age exercises like yoga and Tai Chi, which focus on self and emptying the mind. My dream is for Catholics to learn to use the rhythm of exercise to help fill their minds with Truth by meditating on the Gospels. We can then be better equipped to carry out our vocations on earth with fit and healthy bodies.

9.      If there was one piece of advice you would give, what would it be?

Don’t be so hard on yourself! I have seen many otherwise confident and self-assured adults break down in tears over their perceived failures in maintaining an exercise routine or healthy diet. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say. Instead, focus on your success and keep a journal to discover what helps you to stay on track as well as what takes you off course. Don’t forget to harness the power of prayer. There are a number of athletic saints to serve as patrons and intercessors such as St. Gianna, St. Teresa of the Andes, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, and Pope Blessed John Paul II. Ask them to help and inspire you.

10. How can you be contacted for speaking events and presentations on Catholic health and wellness?

I can also be contacted through my email, I always enjoy meeting new people and inspiring others to share my passion for combining fitness and faith. The Rosary Workout is available in Kindle and in Paperback and really can be used as a personal exercise program or one to do with a few friends!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tween and Teen Fiction

Tween and Teen fiction readers deserve honest, compelling and engaging stories.

They don't want to be pandered to any more than discerning adult fiction readers.

Tween and Teen fiction readers are a particular breed of readers. They have just enough life experience to know realities of struggle or worry and yet ought to know that life really does offer hope and resolution.

The Green Coat: A Tale from the Dust Bowl Years by Rosemary McDunn is deservedly one of the most popular tween and teen fiction books in homes and classrooms. Available in paperback and kindle, The Green Coat offers a story of hardship and hope in the midst of one of the greatest struggles in American history: the dust bowl. The Green Coat's tale of perseverance is one that readers of all ages enjoy. 

Erin's Ring by Laura Pearl is a two-time winner in te 2015 Catholic Press Awards. A wonderful story of two girls who discover the rich history of their hometown and the way that God weaves himself throughout all circumstances. Another story enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Hiding the Stranger: The Trilogy by Joan L. Kelly happens to be a favorite among tween readers for its intriguing story of suspense. Kelly's work has been hailed as perfect for classroom libraries and has received the Catholic Writ'er s Guild Seal of Approval.

These books are sure to please--and reinforce the virtues and values all parents want instilled in their children. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Women's Study with all the Pieces

Looking for a woman's study for your small (or large) group but not sure where to start?

What I've learned over the years of conducting bible and women's studies has been gathered into the women's study Wrapped Up: God's Ten Gifts for Women. 

Whether you are new to women's studies or well-versed, you will enjoy the Servant Books publication of Wrapped Up: God's Ten Gifts for Women. It has all the pieces that make it an ideal choice.

There is the book itself which explores the ten gifts God gives every woman. These include such things as living a sacramental life, forgiveness and accepting God's love. Other important gifts that women are encouraged to explore include the gift of self and sisters in faith. Each chapter is explored from an Old Testament perspective and a New Testament perspective. (The book is also available on Kindle.)

The accompanying journal gives general instructions on running a study (small or large) and encourages every woman to explore the gifts in-depth.

What makes this a particularly enjoyable study is that there is also an audio component where you can hear each author (Teresa Tomeo and myself) read her chapter. A nice way to use this is play the audio for the group and then let the Spirit move the conversation that surely follows.

As August winds into September and you or your friends begin looking for the perfect woman's study, I am sure you will find Wrapped Up: God's Ten Gifts for Women to be the perfect answer.

God bless you on your journey.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Saving Souls

It is neither popular nor politically correct to say so, but one of the most important "jobs" Christians have is to save souls. Esmeralda Kiczek's book The Adoption Movement approaches the subject with love, dignity and grace.

Featured in a recent Catholic Digest article, The Adoption Movement addresses the issue of saving souls head on. There's a lot at stake and the business of saving souls--our own as well as others--is one that can't be ignored.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gender Issues

Congratulations to Jared Zimmerer for his Honorable Mention win in the Gender Issues category at the 2015 Catholic Press Awards! Jared's book Man Up! Becoming the New Renaissance Man is a gathering of twelve voices who speak to a variety of topics. 

They include:

 Fr. Dwight Longenecker: Foreword

Jared Zimmerer: Where Have All The Good Men Gone?

Jesse Romero: Do Not Be Afraid of the Culture of Death

Marlon De La Torre: Theological Manhood

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers: Biblical Manhood

Fr. Steve Grunow: Sacramental Manhood

Kevin Vost: Man Up Your Mind

Jared Zimmerer: Strength for the Kingdom

Shane Kapler: Greatness of Soul

Douglas Bushman: Manhood Fulfilled in Being Prolife

Kevin Lowry: Work and Finances

Jared Zimmerer: Heroism Survives Secularism

Gerard-Marie Anthony: The Theology of the Body Influences

Jim Burnham: Mary: World's Greatest Warrior, Intercessor, and Mother

Dave DiNuzzo Sr.: The Evils of Pornography

Man Up! Contributors: Those Who Came Before Us (Saints)

Dave DiNuzzo Sr.: A Higher Call

Jared Zimmerer: The Rise and Fall of Honor

Jared is also an avid weight lifter and sought-after conference speaker whose first book is the popular Ten Commandments of Lifting Weights

Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 Catholic Press Awards

The 2015 winners for the Catholic Press Awards were announced last week in Buffalo, NY. Congratulations to Bezalel Books author Laura Pearl for two wins for her charming YA novel Erin's Ring!

Erin's Ring won 2nd place in Books for Teens and Young Adults Erin's Ring also won 3rd place in Catholic Novels

Laura is also the author of Finding Grace and blogs at String of Pearls.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Time-Travelling Priest Now on Kindle and Nook!

The Father Capranica Mysteries: Stories of the Strange and Supernatural by Fr. Mike Driscoll is now available on Kindle and Nook. Driscoll's fiction book is an excellent accompaniment to his non-fiction book Demons, Deliverance and Discernment. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Time Travelling Priest

Who better to write about a time-travelling priest than a priest?

And who better to write about the strange and supernatural than a priest whose doctoral dissertation was entitled How Catholic exorcists distinguish between demon possession and mental disorders?

The Father Capranica Mysteries: Stories of the Strange andSupernatural by Father Mike Driscoll is the newest title at Bezalel Books—and one we are quite excited to offer! Always looking for a great fiction book that can also educate, Driscoll’s book hits the mark on all fronts. It engages, entertains and educates.

Even if you aren’t drawn to the strange and supernatural—but especially is you are—Driscoll deftly weaves these elements into 10 short stories that will draw you in to learn more, all the while resolving the strange and supernatural in a faith-based and satisfying way.

The Father Capranica Mysteries is a great read and we’re honored to offer it in paperback and e-book format. 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stories of the Strange and Supernatural

Fr. Mike Driscoll's new fiction book The Father Capranica Mysteries: Stories of the Strange and Supernatural is now available. Delving into his dissertation on Catholic exorcism, Driscoll's Father Capranica Mysteries is sure to please fans and those curious about the "strange and supernatural." 

Fr. Mike Driscoll is a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, IL.  He was ordained in 1992; has been pastor of several parishes; and is currently serving as chaplain of St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Ottawa, IL.  He has a B.A. in Economics from the University of Illinois, an M.A. in Moral Theology from Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, and a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision from Regent University.  

His doctoral dissertation is entitled “How Catholic exorcists distinguish between demon possession and mental disorders.”  His non-fiction book on the subject of spirit possession, Demons, Deliverance, and Discernment, is published by Catholic Answers.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

National Library Week

National Library Week is fast approaching and author Laura Pearl is celebrating with a book giveaway you won't want to miss!

Erin's Ring is a book that celebrates librarians in a beautiful story of love and hope. It really is the perfect gift for any librarian in your life or in the life of your kids!

Check out Laura's giveway here.

Friday, March 6, 2015

.99 Cent Miracles

The Healing of the Paralytic by Jennifer Franks (author of He Shall Be Peace ) is an inspiring fictionalized story lifted from the pages of Mark 2. 

In her gifted way, Franks draws the reader into this compelling story of a man whose friends so much wanted him to be healed by Christ that they lowered him through the roof so that he could reach Christ and be healed. If you don't know the Scripture account of this miracle, you'll want to...and if you do know the story, you'll find yourself renewed with hope.

That Jennifer Bates is offering The Healing of the Paralytic for .99 cents is a miracle all its own!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

God's Grace and Grace Kelly

Laura Pearl has started an online women's book club called "Grace Filled Tuesdays."

If you haven't yet checked it out, it is just week #2 and well worth the time!

Explore God's grace...and a heroine whose namesake is Grace Kelly!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Five Words That Will Change Your Life

Have you ever really paid attention to your vocabulary?

Does it match your faith life?

Or is your faith life a bit stalled and you wonder how to jumpstart it?

Your vocabulary is the key to it all and understanding these five simple words can drastically change your life.

Word One: Disordered

Our world gets a bit crazier every day. More things take up our time and energy and consequently leave us less time for God. Our dreams, desires and longings get caught up in the ways that we experience the world. So, instead of dreaming God’s dreams for our lives, we live with and pursue disordered dreams and desires. We keep ourselves on Satan’s treadmill where our disordered existence exhausts us and steals our joy.

“Lord, remove the disordered desires from my mind and heart so that I may experience your peace and dream your dreams for my life. Do not allow the illusions of the evil one to infiltrate my heart or mind where I unwittingly allow them to undermine or replace your plans for me and my life.”

Word Two: Mightily

It is easy to feel defeat as we move through life but this isn’t supposed to be our existence at all. We are meant to mightily move through life because the battle has already been won for us through Christ! When we feel discouraged, we ought to call upon the conquest we have in Jesus’ shed blood.

 “Lord, help me see that in all my circumstances, I am able to call upon you and mightily move through them. Let me find the strength I need to boldly and confidently call upon your promises. You have made sure that I am never alone and in that awareness let me humbly but mightily live.”

Words Three and Four: Natural and Supernatural

Living in the natural means that we experience our world with our physical senses. Oftentimes, those senses are not real indicators of real truths. We might not see angels but they are there. We may not hear God’s voice but He speaks to us nonetheless. The more attention we pay to the natural, the less assurance we tend to have of the supernatural. Today is the day to turn that around.

“Holy Spirit, thank you for my physical senses but do not let them be the only way that I experience life. Open up the eyes of my heart so that I may supernaturally experience life and always remember that while I am on the earth, I am not off the earth. Mine is life meant to live in the spirit. Let that begin today!”

Word Five: Victory

The evil one is more than happy when believers get stuck this side of the Cross. He delights when believers focus on the Crucifixion at the expense of the Resurrection. It is critically important that believers experience the Cross and Crucifixion as part of the journey and not the destination. Victory belongs to the believer. Victory takes the believer beyond the Cross to the Throne. Victory takes the believer beyond the Crucifixion to the Resurrection.

“Father, through your Son I have victory. Do not allow the difficult experiences of my life to overwhelm and define me. Please stay with me as I persevere to my final destiny given to me freely through your Son. In Jesus’ name, victory is mine!”

(picture Dreamstime Madeleine Mattson)

Monday, February 9, 2015

We've Got the Man in Your Life Covered...for $2.99!

Some of our most popular books for the man in your life are now just $2.99 on Kindle!

For the young man (10-15), All Things Guy: A Guide to Becoming a Man that Matters, a non-fiction book that covers such topics as:

Dignity; Virtues; Media; Vocations; Family and Friends; Body; Know Your History; Boys in the Kitchen; Strong Catholic Men Today; Basic Combat Training (prayer).

For the same young man looking for great Catholic fiction for a Kindle reader at a great $2,99 price, you'll want to read Hiding the Stranger: The Trilogy

Then there's Jared Zimmerer's awesome book Ten Commandments for Lifting Weights that has a great appeal to all guys interested in any form of physical fitness. (Jared's other popular men's book is Man Up! Becoming the New Catholic Renaissance Man.

Other books guys love include:

No matter what sort of book the man in your life enjoys, we've got it.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Women's Online Book Club

If you are looking for something unique and engaging, consider Laura Pearl's online book club! Join women from around the country and share thoughts, gain insights, and just have fun!

Laura is the author of two novels: Finding Grace and her latest novel Erin's Ring.

She's a gifted storyteller and a funny and warm-hearted blogger (as well as mother of five grown sons...) Nancy Carabio Belanger (author of The Gate which won first place in the 2014 Catholic Press Awards for novels) has said about Laura's latest novel: "This wholesome novel had me shed tears of sadness and joy, and these brave young Irish-Catholic women from different generations drew me in. Lovingly and tenderly written, Erin's Ring is a story of true friendship, sacrificial love, and above all, the God Who is never bound by time or space."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Our Lady of Lourdes Feast Day Coming Soon!

February 11

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes

From this grotto I issue a special call to women. Appearing here, Mary entrusted her message to a young girl, as if to emphasize the special mission of women in our own time, tempted as it is by materialism and secularism: to be in today's society a witness of those essential values which are seen only with the eyes of the heart. To you, women, falls the task of being sentinels of the Invisible! Pope John Paul II

ow fortunate we are to have so many ways and so many days to honor Mother Mary. Through her fiat—the yes, let it be done—that she answered to God, the omnipotent Lord of the universe took on human flesh to redeem us. Countless great saints and learned theologians, from St. Bernard of Clairvaux to St. Albert the Great to Pope John Paul II in our own time have felt and expressed their powerful and heartfelt devotions to Mary.

When Jesus said to his beloved disciple John, “Behold, your mother!” he was speaking to every one of us. On February 11, 1858, Mary appeared for the first time to a poor, humble, and not particularly devout young girl, Bernadette Soubirous (Feb. 18). On March 25, the beautiful lady announced herself with the words, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Little Bernadette had no idea Pope Pius IX (Feb. 7) had officially proclaimed—four years prior—the dogma of the Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The Feast of our Lady of Lourdes was declared by the Church in 1907. Countless pilgrims have journeyed to the healing waters of Lourdes, France in the century since. 

Exercise: Our Lady of Lourdes appeared with a rosary draped over her right arm. What better day for a rosary workout? If you have not explored the ways in which The RosaryWorkout combines the spiritual with the physical, we invite you today to do just that! Visit to see how caring for yourself spiritually and physically will energize you and will allow you to fulfill your vocation more joyfully!

(this excerpt is reprinted with permission from the Catholic daily devotional Tending the Temple)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Life Lessons from a 1,000 Piece Puzzle

I’m not sure if they are still around, but do you remember the “Love Is…” cartoons?

They had simple little drawings and a completion to the “Love Is…” sentence starter that almost always made you say “Aww! How sweet!”

You know:

Love is…sharing your last cookie.

Love is…going skating when you’d rather be at the movies.

Love is…holding hands under a starry night sky.

Lately (okay I say “lately” but what I mean is in the last decade or two) I notice that just about everything I do could be a completion of a “Life is…” sentence starter.

Years ago I took a walk around the neighborhood and had to duck under some branches that were in the way of the sidewalk and found that I was also moving in and out of sunshine and stepping over large mounds in the sidewalk cement that had been uprooted by big trees. I kept thinking to myself “Wow! Life is like this walk! Sometimes you have to duck and sometimes you have to watch your step. Sometimes everything in front of you is bright and clear and open and sometimes it is dark and a bit shadowy.”

The revelations of that walk have always stuck with me.

This Christmas I received a puzzle. A beautiful Italian water scene. I haven’t done a puzzle in a really long time but was excited by the prospect. My husband joined me, too. Sometimes we worked together and other times on our own. Very quickly I realized that the puzzle was yet another one of those “Life is…” revelations as it sat there on the table beckoning me. My response varied from day to day. There were times I relished the challenge and dug in while at other times I turned my back on it, not up to the commitment and even a bit frustrated.

“Life is like a 1,000 piece puzzle!” I found myself constantly saying. In fact, the quiet I anticipated while doing the puzzle was sometimes overrun with the revelation in my spirit: Life really, truly is like a 1,000 piece puzzle!

1.      All the pieces fit—even if you don’t see that truth right away.
2.      Try as you might, pieces that seem to go together can’t be forced if they really don’t go together; on the other hand you can’t be afraid to at least try to see if the pieces fit!
3.      It’s nice to have someone to do it with but sometimes you just need to go at it alone.
4.      Sometimes you need to take a step back—take a break—to get a better picture of what is happening.
5.      There will be times when all things come together without any effort—and there will be times when no matter what you do, nothing works out; but it is ALL GOOD!

And now that my puzzle is finished, I am struck by the incredible understanding that it really is all about the journey!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tending the Temple

January 10
 St. Gregory of Nyssa (330-395)

For this very reason make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 2 Peter 1: 5-7

A greedy appetite for food is terminated by satiety and the pleasure of drinking ends when our thirst is quenched. And so it is with the other things... But the possession of virtue, once it is solidly achieved, cannot be measured by time nor limited by satiety. Rather, to those who are its disciples it always appears as something ever new and fresh. St. Gregory of Nyssa

St. Gregory of Nyssa shared brotherly affection and love with St. Basil the Great (Jan. 2), his own big brother. Along with St. Gregory, these three bishops from what is modern-day Turkey, formed the great “Cappadocian Fathers” of the Church, all fighting the Arian heresy that denied Christ’s full nature as God and man, and all defending the doctrine of the Trinity.

St. Gregory, echoing the admonition of St. Peter, also wrote much on man’s God-given responsibility to perfect his own human nature (with the assistance of God’s grace). Inspired by St. Paul’s words “forgetting what lies behind and pressing to what lies ahead, I prize the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:13-14), St. Gregory wrote that humans are called to engage in a process of epektasis, epektasis, of “constant progress” in godly virtue leading us upward towards Christ.          

Exercise: Still early in our march through the calendar of another temporal year, in what ways are you seeking out constant progress in virtue and holiness, in body and soul, in preparation for eternity? Will you commit to God that this is the year you will develop the virtues of fitness within your soul? Will your knowledge of fitness grow, and along with it your affection and love for all around you? What about today? What thoughts and deeds might foster your own spiritual growth and share its bounty with those around you? Let’s think about that—and act upon it!

(This excerpt is reprinted with permission from the daily devotional Tending the Temple by Kevin Vost, Peggy Bowes and Shane Kapler.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Joggers, Rocks, and All the Ways God Speaks to Us

God is always speaking to us, His people, but we are not always listening. Or we aren’t quite sure how to listen because we aren’t quite sure what that looks or sounds like in our daily lives.

The fact is, we can’t obey Him or follow His lead unless we hear Him—and we can’t hear Him unless we understand how He speaks to us today.

Many of us read Scripture and long to hear God speak to us as He spoke to Moses, Noah, or Abraham. We desire the clarity that apparently existed for the prophets and sages and patriarchs. Consequently, we miss out on God’s active participation in our lives because we miss out on all the ways He speaks into our very existence.

The first, most prevalent way that God communicates with us is through His word. This is why it is called “living.” It has as much relevance today as it did thousands of years ago. When we become familiar with God’s word, He is able to use it to talk to us.

Very early every morning, before the sun rises, I take my cup of coffee outside and spend some quite time with God. I enjoy the stars sparkling and starting my day with Him in this way. During an extremely difficult time when I felt exhausted and discouraged, I continued my routine but with no real enthusiasm. As I stood outside, gazing at the stars but with nothing to really “say,” a jogger strode by. I had no idea who this person was and had certainly never, ever seen this person before during my morning coffee time with God. As soon as this person passed, my spirit was filled with God’s word from Hebrews: …and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Had I not known God’s word, He simply could not have spoken it to me that morning. Through His word I was able to regain hope and strength.

Another way God speaks into our lives is through our circumstances—but we must be paying attention!

Most people see the serious side of Jesus—and rightfully so; but a woman I know typically sees a fun, amusing side of Jesus. She feels He has a great sense of humor and so that is how He broke into her routine.

There is a wooded path that she enjoys hiking through and does so quite often. During a particularly lonely time in her life she hiked the same trail as she had always done. To hear her tell it, she intimately knew every branch on every tree and every part of the trail. Except on this day, something new appeared. As she hiked, feeling more than a bit forlorn in her spirit, a rock on the ground caught her eye. It was big enough for her to see and what brought it to her attention was that it had a regular formation on it that was in the shape of a smile. The rock was smiling at her (and not in a potato-chip-shaped-like-the-Virgin-Mary sort of way!). So much so that she took it home and cherished it for many years, until God asked her to give it to another person—which she did in obedience.

Which is the last way in which God speaks to us today: through others. The day that this woman was asked to part with her cherished rock was a day God was asking her to be Him to another person.

He asks the same of us all: to be His messenger of love and hope and peace. We are all invited to speak God’s love into the lives of those with whom our paths are crossed.

There is never a coincidence in who God allows us to meet and greet. In all ways we can become the herald of His words and wisdom to someone else. All we need is a heart open to Him and a desire to be His servant.