book review

Chapter Chats - Above All Lenten Journal

Even though it feels like we just put away our Christmas decorations, Lent is right around the corner. After a joyous preparation for the coming of Christ as a little baby in the manger, we are getting ready to enter into a season of penance. We're preparing our hearts to see our Savior betrayed, beaten, condemned, scourged, nailed, and risen. 

With so many incredible Lenten journals out there to choose from, it can be a hard decision to pick which one to read and write! Different devotionals offer various ways to deepen you walk with Christ throughout the season of Lent. What a blessing to have choices between incredible resources!

I've prepared with the Blessed is She journals before, and have loved every minute of them. Last year, I prepared for Advent with Rooted in Hope. The reason I've returned to Take Up and Read is because I love the planning aspect of the journal. I often get sucked into to-do lists and accomplishments. But Take Up and Read journals encourage me to stop my hurried pace and abide with Christ. 

How? How will the tired soul living in the woman in the middle of winter gray be energized by the beginning of a season of penance? How will she find hope and new energy in the hard work of repenting? She will pray - more.
— Elizabeth Foss

This year, I'm excited to start diving into Above All, a Lent journal from Take Up and Read. This Lenten journal includes daily Scripture passages, devotions, beautiful space to journal, and (my absolute favorite!) space to organize your day with Christ at the center. It encourages time spent with Lectio Divina throughout the day, and provides space to offer forgiveness to those who hurt us. 

So just what's inside Above All? Here's a sneak peek into the journal! 

Prayers

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Each day of reflection begins with prayer. I loved the prayer written to start of Ash Wednesday: "Jesus, I want to know Your voice. Please instill in me a desire for Your Word. Make me want to spend time with you." What a beautiful prayer - I love praying for the desire to pray and spend time with Our Lord! 

Scripture

Part of the daily reflection includes Scripture readings. They're set in context with historical notes to deepen your understanding of God's word. After the passage, more Scripture is recommended if you wanted to dig deeper into the theme offered for the day. 

I'm not the best at memorizing Scripture, and admittingly rely on Google (and Alexa) too much. So the fact that Above All encourages readers to memorize Colossians 3:12-17 was a huge draw for me. Memorization is aided with seven beautiful calligraphy pages! 

Devotions

I love reflecting on Scripture with the amazing women who contributed to this journal. You'll find reflections from Carly Buckholz, Micaela Darr, Emily DeArdo, Elizabeth Foss, Ana Hahn,  Mary Lenaburg, Allison McGinley, Laurel Muff, Heather Renshaw, Kathryn Whitaker, and Kate Wicker. 

Without a doubt, each reflection has always met me exactly where I'm at. These women come alongside you on your walk through the liturgical season of Lent and encourage you on your path to Christ. They always write exactly what I needed to hear - God definitely speaks through the words of these women. 

Lectio Divina

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Following the lead of Father Benedict, Above All focuses on being drawn into Scripture. Each day includes digging into the meaning of Scripture and how it applies to our lives. First, the passage is read, then mediation and contemplation follows. New to Lectio Divina? Above All beautifully walks you through, step by step. 

Action

Each day ends with two questions - How will I make my life a gift for others in charity? What does God want me to do today?

Then, you go through three steps of repentance, seeking forgiveness, and giving thanks. Each day examines a different area of the interior life and leads an in depth, Lent-long examination of conscience. 

Beauty

I loved the beautiful watercolor picture of the San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio, Texas. Recognize the work? You may know the artist, Christie Peters, from Every Sacred Sunday! 

Find out more about Every Sacred Sunday in my interview with Kassie Manning, "A Letter to the Woman Who is Bored at Mass"

Profits from the sale of Above All are donated to Adore Ministries in Houston, Texas to provide ongoing hurricane relief. I'm eagerly counting down the days for Lent to start so that I can start reading Above All. When Easter Sunday comes, I want to be able to shout Alleluia! and mean it. 

Old Fashioned Girl is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Chapter Chats: Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta

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coffeebook

We are exactly one week away from the start of the Lenten season.  Even though Lent is late this year, it still seems like it sneaked up on me.  After all, didn't we just finish the Christmas season? But ready or not, here it comes. So pour yourself a latte and pull up a chair - let's have a heart-to-heart.

Every Lent it seems that I resolve to give up something I like (coffee) or put into practice a spiritual habit (getting up in the morning to pray). And each Lent, after about a week, I lose my stamina and the season starts sliding downhill for me.

If you know where I'm coming from and also struggle with this beautiful season of preparation,  there's hope for us yet.  After all, the Church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners. And this Lent, I'm checking myself in for a serious case of spiritual neglect.

Life has been crazy for the past couple of months, and as things start to settle down, I've realized where I can improve.  For me, this Lent provides an opportunity to grow closer to God in conversation and prayer - with an emphasis on my need to develop listening skills in prayer.

So I was excited to receive a book to review for the Lenten season (this is just one of two books I received - watch for another Chapter Chat post soon!)  Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations  by Heidi Hess Saxton could be just what the spiritual doctor ordered.

What I love about daily devotional books like this is that there is a daily appointment. In past years, to avoid the temptation to let the book slip after reading the first day, I place books that I'm reading through Lent on my pillowcase.  Now I can't go to bed without picking it up and reading a  short meditation.

The book is designed to be read once a day during the 40 days of Lenten preparation. Each day starts with the scripture readings from the daily Mass.  Then, Heidi Saxton pulls a thought out of the readings and highlights it.  For example, this is the scripture passage she selected for Ash Wednesday.

We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

After scripture, Heidi reflects on what the passages meant in the life of Saint Teresa herself.  For the Ash Wednesday reflection, Heidi speaks on how we are called to love over and over, to pick up our cross  of love even when it is inconvenient.  Lent is not about posting our #GetYourAshToMass selfie, but about how we live the next forty days without the cross on our forehead to remind us of what this season means. Heidi ends her reflection with a quote from Saint Teresa:

I'm very happy if you can see Jesus in me, because I can see Jesus in you. But holiness is not just for a few people. It's for everyone, including you...Holiness is the greatest gift that God can give us because for that reason He created us.

Then, Heidi offers moments of reflection. Here's what the questions for Ash Wednesday look like:

  • Look in the mirror and study the cross on your forehead. What kind of cross were you given to carry? Is it big and bold? Barely visible? What is God saying to you about what He wants for you this Lent?
  • Is it time for you to go to confession? The Church teaches that we need to go to confession at least once a year, or whenever we are conscious of having committed serious sin (CCC 2042). Don't worry if it's been a while - God is waiting to meet you there. Don't settle for ashes alone when you can receive absolution and a fresh start! 

Finally, she ends the devotion of the day with a quick prayer.  Here's what the Ash Wednesday prayer looks like:

Lord Jesus, as I start my Lenten journey, I confess that I still have far to go on the "road of reconciliation." Give me the courage I need to follow you, as St. Teresa did, even when the road is hard. Holy Spirit, work in me so that one day I too might be a saint! Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

This is the first Lent that we celebrate with Mother Teresa as a Saint - I can't think of a better way to get to know her better throughout this Lenten season.

Do you have a favorite book you're revisiting for Lent? Or perhaps you've picked up a new title to discover through this season? Tell me about it in the comments !

You can purchase the book Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations from Franciscan Media here.

* This post contains links to Franciscan Media * Although this post is sponsored by Franciscan Media, all opinions are my own. * In exchange for the review of Lent with Saint Teresa of Calcutta: Daily Meditations, I received a free copy of the book from Franciscan Media.

Chapter Chats: Caring for Creation

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coffeebook

There is nothing that I like more than a cup of coffee and a good book to curl up with.  This week's Chapter Chat is Caring for Creation: Inspiring Words from Pope Francis.  The book is published by Franciscan media.

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Ever since the Pope's inaugural Mass, he has lived out a mission to care for the earth that God has given us. From releasing Laudato Si to actively living a pro-life mission, Pope Francis truly aspires to his namesake.  The book is composed of the Pope's personal writings, encyclicals, prayers, homilies and tweets that show his passion for God's creation.

The introduction sets the tone for the book, saying, "Still, Pope Francis's message is ultimately one of hope...Pope Francis's words reveal that he believe we can move towards a new kind of conversion - a higher level of consciousness, action and advocacy that will spark a 'bold cultural revolution'". 

The book is divided into five chapters: God's Loving Plan for Creation, Everything is Connected, The Roots of Consequences of the Current Crisis, Called to Protect God's Handiwork, and Towards a Healthier Planet.

I'm definetly a Pope Saint John Paul II girl, as proven by my love for NFP, Theology of the Body and Babies.  However, when Pope Francis mentions the environment though, he is not diverging from the path that JPII showed the world.  Instead of viewing the environment as something that does not include human beings, Pope Francis examines the environment with a holistic approach that includes the humans that live on this earth.  He means to connect nature with society for a more appreciative view of the gifts God has given us.

We are speaking of an attitude of the heart, one which approaches life with serene attentiveness, which is capable of being fully present to someone without thinking of what comes next, which accepts each moment as a gift from God to be lived to the full. - Laudato Si' 225-226. May 24, 2015

The book would make a great read for the New Year to accompany your New Year's Resolutions.  We're all called to a greater appreciation of the gifts that God gives us and Pope Francis's words make a great companion on that journey.

Pick up a copy today and let me know what you think...and, can you pass the coffee?