Archive for January, 2015

Catholics, Come Home.

Posted: January 31, 2015 in World On The Edge

Catholics Come Home

This Catholics Come Home “Epic” TV commercial emphasizes the history, beauty, spirituality and accomplishments of the Catholic Church over her 2,000-year history. It illustrates how the universal Church is comprised of all races, ages, cultures and socioeconomic levels. It combines important factual information with breathtaking imagery and is an invitation for fallen away Catholics to consider coming back to the Church.–

Want More Than You Have??

Posted: January 30, 2015 in World On The Edge

girl with netIf we’re honest, we’ll admit that we’re always looking for something more than what we have, even if we seem to have a lot. It may be something we can’t quite put a finger on, but we feel its lack and a certain craving for it inside us. Could that thing we’re looking for be God? The Good News is, God is looking for us.

God is truly seeking you. He has made Himself flesh for you because He is madly in love with you. And if you’re longing for Him in return, you will find Him right here on Earth. You will find him in the person sitting, sleeping, or working next to you, and in the myriad of other people you meet in life.

The Hound of Heaven is a 182-line poem written by English poet Francis Thompson (1859-1907). In the poem, the speaker is running from God, as do many of us who get caught up in the world. But God pursues him. The speaker is aware of God’s love for him, but he continues to run, thinking that if he turns to God, he will have to give up the worldly pleasures he holds to.

The name is strange. It startles one at first. It is so bold, so new, so fearless. It does not attract, rather the reverse. But when one reads the poem this strangeness disappears. The meaning is understood. As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and imperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.– The Neumann Press Book of Verse, 1988

God loves us and so He seeks us. If we run from Him, it’s because we don’t really know Him. We cannot love someone we don’t know. Neither can we love someone we know little about. Trying to get to know God is on our shoulders. He is there, always, loving us. He is waiting.

Beginning Something New?

Posted: January 29, 2015 in World On The Edge

Learning_to_ride_a_bike_at_Sunnysands,_Barmouth__2012_2Beginning something new and unknown is often frightening. We’re like a child learning to ride a bicycle for the first time, We fear the results. We fear the fall.

Starting something new may cause us to doubt ourselves. We may not know how to go about it, or exactly what we’re doing. But not knowing what we’re doing isn’t always a bad thing. Especially if you’re trusting in someone who does, someone like Jesus.

The trick in beginning anything is not to lose faith. We have to keep our eyes on the prize. And if we need help, ask for it. And who better to ask than Jesus?

So let’s get our feet wet. Let’s try–and expect success. Because in our souls, we possess the only real model, and we are made in His image. He will not let us drown. So when Jesus calls our Love into action by asking for something we’ve never tried before, what will we do?

Scripture tells us in this example: “After feeding the 5000, Jesus sends his disciples ahead of him in a boat to cross the Sea of Galilee. A storm comes up and the disciples are afraid, so Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. The disciples think they are seeing a ghost. Jesus says, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Peter says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” So Jesus invites Peter to come.

Who Opens His Arms to You???

Posted: January 28, 2015 in World On The Edge

bookcoverIn good Catholic fiction, characters live in a broken world, like ours today, and they are fallible people, as we are. What’s important though, is the absolute truth that God’s grace breaks into this reality. God is now, and always will be, present to the characters in Catholic Fiction—just as He is in real life for us.

There are plenty of sinners in my novel, A Hunger in the Heart. I’d like to tell you about one of them today, and to point out that God never leaves this character alone, even in her sinfulness—just as he never leaves you and I alone.

Sarah Neal Bridgeman is an alcoholic, a vindictive mother and wife. This is a woman who’s lost a lot. And because she’s somewhat narcissistic, she can’t handle that loss. She’d like to, but she just can’t let go of her own self-importance and prejudices. Yet, she doesn’t let God go either.

Her greatest loss is in the deficiency of the perfect husband she used to have. Sarah Neal wants him to be like he was. She prays for it. She surrounds herself with symbols of God. She wears a crucifix around her neck and hangs one in every room of her house. But Sarah Neal is a person, like many of us, who wants to blame someone else for her sorrows.

Surprisingly, she doesn’t blame God. She never says, “Why did God do this to me! Instead, she blames the soldier her husband saved in the war. She even blames her alcoholism on this soldier.

And her drinking affects everyone around her, especially her son, Coleman. Her sin changes her, just as sin changes us. God still loves her, but she can’t love him as she ought to, because whiskey has become her primary love. Addictions do that. They take over our lives.

God’s grace is available to Sarah Neal, as it is for all of us. He waits for us to take it. The problem is, until we see ourselves as the sinner—-until we notice we’re the only one in the room responsible for our sins—-we can’t recognize that Grace so we don’t reach for it. And just like Sarah Neal, if we don’t recognize and reach for grace, how can we use it in our lives?

In real life, if we take a truthful look at ourselves, we will see our sins and how they affect others. That truthful look at ourselves can cause us to change our behaviors and return to the God who loves us, who waits for us with open arms.

sad childHow many people in today’s world would you call ‘damaged?’ Or does life itself just pre-conclude that by the time you leave it you’ll have been damaged in some way?

Life is difficult. For many, it is sometimes dangerous. It doesn’t seem like a gift, but something to get through. Of course, that’s a depressing view–but many people, especially some children, hold it.

Countless children are born into circumstances they did not create, and under circumstances that cause them great pain. Others have been taught to have no faith in anything except themselves, a ‘self’ that is blemished and marred: Trust no one. Somebody’s always out to get you. Take what you can before it’s taken from you. Grab. Steal. Even kill.

None of us choose the circumstances of our birth, but some appear to be luckier than others—I’m not talking about the amenities money can provide–I’m talking about strong families who support their children. Yes they make mistakes, but they confirm their children as being valuable, and patiently direct them onto non-destructive paths.

I’m talking about one father per family, not a father of ten by ten different women. Appalling? Yes. Yet those young lives are no less valuable in the eyes of God than are the more fortunate children. But how can they know this when their parents slap God in the face with their own selfishly stupid behavior?
There is no all-encompassing solution to changing this. More parental responsibility would go a long way, with fathers who not only see life as a gift, but their child and his mother as a gift, rather than a notch on his belt of so-called, ‘baby mamas.’

Every parent is human and often makes poor decisions. There’s no getting around that fact. And sometimes it takes tragedy to see what our mistakes as parents have been. When that happens, we can either fall apart or try to rectify it however we can.

Because life IS a difficult journey for each and every one of us; no matter our parents, no matter our circumstances.

Maybe we don’t honor our children. Maybe they don’t honor us. In the frustrations of life, we say things we don’t mean. Sometimes we even forget HOW to love them.

But we can get that back –in little steps, one foot in front of the other without giving up–and all the while thinking of ourselves and our children not as victims, but as victors, the way God wants them to be.

You may need a Kleenex for this next video about reconciliation between a Father and his son.

Does God Shout??

Posted: January 26, 2015 in World On The Edge

file0001311391105Is there any parent here who cannnot identify with this picture? —The hands over the ears when you’re trying to get a point across to your child?

So what do you do? Well–after you’ve yanked away his hands–I would bet that you’re speaking a bit louder to him. In fact, you might even be shouting!

We’ve talked about God’s speaking silently to our hearts, giving us gentle direction, or confidence, or leading us softly where we need to be. But there are times when God does not speak softly. He SHOUTS!

And during these times, His voice is demanding. What He desires to communicate to us may be what we NEED to hear, but what we don’t WANT to hear. Like the boy in the picture, we put our hands over our ears, too, because what God wants from us may require us to change something we’ve grown accustomed to, something not very good for us.

How many times do we close our ears to His voice pounding inside us––or should I say warning us?––to do what we ought to do?

God is SHOUTING then, in order to shine out some action on our part—some change in our behavior.
The actions or events that come to us then, may be ones we wouldn’t chose ourselves because they’ve ultimately been caused by our own sinful behavior.We may even have to suffer a loss, or humiliation before we will change our sinful ways. God allows our suffering. And His allowing it is a loving action. Of course we can choose not to listen. God never takes away our free will.But during these times, God is SHOUTING.

There are also times when WE cry out TO GOD. He is our parent, after all; our Father. This is not quiet prayer. This is prayer of need, maybe out of sorrow, or fear, or defeat. We NEED God. We don’t want Him to leave us alone. We let Him know it. We ask. We knock. We SHOUT.
God is listening to both our prayers–the quiet ones, and the loud ones.

But are we listening to Him and His will for us? Or do we cover our ears like an impudent child? If we want to know God’s will for us, then we have to be open to PRAYER. We NEED to pray.

In my novel, “A Hunger in the Heart,” the main character, a boy named Coleman, looks at his mother Sarah Neal, who is an alcoholic with a crucifix hung around her neck and a rosary in her hand. And the boy sees a hypocrite.
“How can you pray?” he asks her. She looks back at him and says, “Because I’m a sinner, Coleman. If I wasn’t sinner I wouldn’t need to pray, would I?”

She’s not completely correct about that, but at this point, all she’s thinking about is sorrow for her sinfulness. God is present to Sarah Neal, just as God is always present to us. And in prayer we make ourselves present to HIM. We acknowledge God’s presence. And this is just what He wants us to do—acknowledge Him, reach out to Him. Right here. Right now. No matter the circumstance.

For some of us prayer takes a humility we haven’t been willing to give. It takes the acceptance that despite the current hype that we ought to be totally independent, we know somewhere deep inside us that we can’t go it alone. We need another’s hand.

When we pray God is listening. We can tell him anything without worry because He loves us. In fact, He’s madly in love with us.

file00074226366After our Surrender to God, something else follows—doing His will. I don’t know if it’s been the same for you, but I’m always asking the question: How do I know what God’s Will is for me?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the most personal answer to that, is through prayer–communication with God.

When we communicate with someone, we get to know them better. We get to know what they want. Prayer helps us grow closer to God and connect with Him. God shows He loves us by speaking to us in different ways, according to our uniqueness as Human Beings, as well as the uniqueness of our situations.

Sometimes, He uses the voice of silence.

Yes, silence absolutely has a voice. Let’s think about that kind of voice. We’ve all heard about the “still, small voice” of God and understood it to mean that His instruction comes within the silence of our hearts.For me, that silent time is early morning, when I’ve just awakened and my mind is fresh and open. It’s my time for listening. Because if we want to hear God speak to us…if we want to know His will for us, we must be quiet and listen.

Will He speak to us audibly? Of course He could if He wanted to. Some of the prophets heard the audible voice of God. But for most of us, it isn’t that.

I think this is how it works: If you’re in love with someone, and he or she is in love with you—are words always necessary? I think not. We can simply sit, or walk with, or just be in the presence of someone we love and not say a word–yet we know and feel their love, just as they know and feel ours. And without any audible word from them–don’t we often know what they’d like us to do?

Another example: The parents of an infant know what their child wants and needs without words. They just know. And then they provide whatever it is for the child they love.

So many times, silence is the language of love. And who loves us more that our God? So we’ll be quiet and listen, and let God speak to our hearts.


Posted: January 22, 2015 in World On The Edge

The_Annunciation,_by_Francesco_AlbaniDay by day, even minute by minute, each of us are called to make decisions and to act on them. Some are trivial—-what will we eat for supper? What will the children wear to church, or a party?

But the decision to return God’s love affects our whole lifetime. It determines what kind of life we’ll have and even how it will end. How do we make that single decision to reach back? With one word: Yes.

The woman who made the greatest, single decision of all time is The Blessed Mother. Her decision was made with that one word: Yes. And then, throughout her life, she carried out one significant action: She let God lead her. She surrendered to His will.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, surrendered. If she hadn’t, there would be no Jesus Christ. If she hadn’t, there would be no Christianity. If she hadn’t, we’d never have heard the words, “eternal life.” In fact, we would have no idea how to attain it.Mary allowed God to use her; and certainly, she could have said no. She had free will just like the rest of us. Almighty God would never have forced her to bear His son.

For a moment, put yourself in her position. When Mary was asked to be that vessel by a messenger from God, what would she have thought–“Am I going crazy? Do I really see an angel? Am I dreaming?”
She was engaged to be married. How would Joseph react if she turned up pregnant? He had the right to have her stoned. But there was something in her, a grace given by God that allowed her to trust that the angel was His messenger. She didn’t ask for proof that she would become the mother of the Redeemer. Her only question was, “How?” Because she believed in God, and most importantly, she believed that He loved her, and she allowed Him to do so.

But how do we allow God to love us?

Well, Mary knew how. She made the decision to surrender her life to Him.

Surrender is the opening move for each one of us, but for most of us, it’s hard. No matter what our personality is, we each have an instilled desire to control our own life. Why is that? Why do we feel we have to be in complete charge of every aspect of our lives? Why are we so afraid to give up control and surrender ourselves and our problems totally to the will of God?

It may be that we don’t believe, as Mary did, that He loves us—-really and personally loves each one of us. And if we don’t first believe that He’s madly in love with us, then there’s no way we’ll surrender or trust Him.Stop a minute and think about it. The person I trust most in the world is the person who loves me, who wants only the best for me, and would lay down his life for me if he had to.
If I believe that Almighty God loves me—-and he does–then why shouldn’t I trust Him enough to surrender my fears and worries, all my heart breaks, my illnesses, my lack of self confidence–in fact, everything that bothers or upsets me?

When we give up control of our life in favor of God’s plan–done His way, not ours–then we enter onto the road called: Trust. And what does Trust in God prove? It proves His faithfulness. I can certainly say that I’ve seen His faithfulness in my own life. And if you look upon your circumstances, whatever they are, with spiritual eyes, I’m sure you can see it, too.Mary saw it and it caused her to make a decision. It caused her to say: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy will.”

Mary Surrendered.

Let’s take a few minutes to think about making that decision to surrender to God’s will. Are we able to let go and trust Our Lord and Savior?

hands-touching-reaching-outWhat are you seeking in your life right now? What are your needs? What are your desires? What are you hungry for?
One of our most basic and fundamental needs is Love. Every human being has within him or her the hunger to be loved. Why are we so hungry for Love?

We are hungry for it because God created us in His image. But what does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God? We don’t physically look like Him; we are certainly in no way as powerful, or intelligent; and we are not perfect, but very imperfect.
His image is within us. It is our innate capability to Love.

Love is a relationship, so God has given us the capacity to actually have a personal relationship with Him. We’ve heard many times that God is Love. And we know that’s true. But it doesn’t mean God is a big, immobile valentine. God is not stationary—because Love is not stationary. God is active. He actively seeks us, each and every one of us. He is truly hungering for our love. And because we are made like Him, we are hungering for His love.

Often we don’t realize that God is who we are looking for. We reach for situations and things that we mistake for love.But the Truth is: we have never quite departed from the newborn baby we once were, lying in our cradles, craving to be held and touched, reaching up for our parent. In other words, from the moment of our birth, we are reaching for love.This is the way God planned it. He planned for us to love Him, to seek him—because he IS madly in love with us, and He wants us to be madly in love with Him.

God reaches for us every moment of our lives. Are we reaching back?

Let’s take a look at this beautiful artistic expression by Dan Stevers,, and listen as if our mighty and infinite God is explaining the hunger He has for us.

God Overshadows Us

Posted: January 20, 2015 in World On The Edge

St. Louis Conference RoomA week ago I returned from St. Louis for the 2015 Saint Louis Marian Conference, Jan 9 – 11. The conference was entitled after my debut novel, A Hunger in the Heart. Amazing! In fact, the entire conference, where I gave a presentation to over 800 people of all ages at the Hilton St. Louis at The Ball Park Hotel, was amazing. If you’d told me a few years ago that I could speak to that many people without fear, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But my talk was very well received and I sold plenty of books, both A Hunger in the Heart and Birds of a Feather. I was surprised, too, at how many people who’d already read A Hunger in the Heart wanted to know when/if a sequel will be out, including Father James Kubicki, S.J, of the Apostleship of Prayer who’d read it on Kindle! So, I’m working hard on getting out the sequel.

My table was set up between Fr. Kubicki and Dale Ahlquist,President of the American Chesterton Society, creator and host of the EWTN series “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense,” and Publisher of Gilbert Magazine. Both, very nice men as were all the other presenters. Father Charles Becker, Archdiocese of Chicago and the conference MC, was quite complimentary in his address to the audience after I left the podium. All this was so gratifying!

The Marian Conference was begun sixteen years ago by Elinor Finneran who had visited Medjugorje, and while there, felt called to initiate a conference in honor of The Blessed Virgin. The conference has been attended over the years by thousands of people. Many are families who repeat their visits to St. Louis year after year. And the presenters are always wonderful priests, bishops, and lay people. One of my favorites was Annie Karto, a singer songwriter, who for the conference had composed and then sang a lovely, new song: A Hungry Heart. Can you imagine how touched I was when she dedicated it to Elinor–and me! Maybe the song will soon be on her page.

You might wonder how the whole thing came about. I believe God lead me to it. Last year, I gave a Mother’s Retreat at Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta, and the day after had a book signing at Eagle Eye Books in Decatur. A friend of mine brought Elinor’s daughter, Denise to the signing. At that time, I was giving away little phosphorescent statues of Mary since the little statue is somewhat of a main character in my novel. So I gave one of them to Denise. She mentioned it to her mother, Elinor. When her mother wrote to ask me not only if I would talk at the conference, but also asked if she might use the title of my book as the title of the conference–well, I knew that God had a hand in it all.

But isn’t this the way God works? He surprises us with good things, and often we don’t even notice or give Him any credit at all. Maybe we should re-examine all the surprising good things that have happened in our lives to see a divine hand in them, and then give God the credit. He truly overshadows anything we can do on our own!