What’s the Word?

Happy New Year! We had a full Christmas and New Year, hence the radio silence here. But I’m happy to say that though it was a season of newness, (we celebrated my brother’s wedding and bought a new van while on vacation), we are settling back into our familiar routines. Homeschool, playgroups, making bread and finding order amidst chaos. Hopefully this also means some more regular posts from me, along with a few new resource ideas I was dreaming up on our long car rides this holiday season.

Have you seen the Veggie Tales rendition of the story of Jonah? It’s quite comical, as Veggie Tales stories often are. Jonah, played by an asparagus, teams up with a caterpillar named Khalil and a band of pirates whose theme song revolves around their pride in not doing anything. In the opening scenes, Jonah enters the town of Joppa while the villagers sing a song asking Jonah, “What’s the word?” They want to know what God’s Word or message is, and they know Jonah is the prophet through whom God speaks.

As we have officially entered the New Year, it is a great time to pause and ask this same question: What’s the Word, Lord?

I recently listened to the New Year’s episode from Abiding Together, a podcast hosted by 3 lovely Catholic women. Every time I listen to the podcast I feel uplifted, inspired and usually convicted to dig deeper into some area of my life. This episode was no different. The women discussed their twist (and others have done this as well) on a New Year’s resolution. Rather than making a commitment to do or not do something on their own, each woman has prayerfully and thoughtfully chosen a word to serve as a theme for 2019. This isn’t something they came up with all at once, but is the fruit of nearly a month’s discernment. For each of them, they spoke about how the previous year had gone and how this new word for 2019 is building upon or growing out of 2018.

I love this idea! I loved it so much that my first instinct while listening was to pick the first thing that came to my mind and claim it as my word. (Exactly the opposite of their process.) Thankfully, I’m slowing myself down and plan to spend a good portion of January reflecting on this question: What’s the Word?

The women had some great ideas for how to go about this, especially if you are someone who is just starting to deepen your relationship with God. Go to the Scriptures, especially Isaiah 61:1-3

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and release to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to provide for those who mourn in Zion— to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit. They will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, to display his glory.”

This passage holds special meaning for the podcast and is full of hope and comfort for the New Year.

Other ideas for lectio divina would be the Beatitudes, the Psalms, and John 17. You might also consider spending some time in adoration, devoting yourself to talking through this question with God. If it is a challenge to get that solitary time away because of your family schedule, maybe talk with your spouse about spending a few extra minutes in prayer after Mass, or arriving early and you spending that time speaking with God (perhaps from a different pew *wink wink).

If you’ve struggled with New Year’s resolutions, or are already struggling with this year’s, maybe a word for the year will work better for you. I think it’s going to for me and I’m excited to explore its possibilities.

Have you tried this before? Would you consider it now? What ideas do you have for discerning God’s Word for your year? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Use the comments or head over to any of my social media spots and let us know what you think!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Book Review: Rejoice! Advent Meditations with Mary

I’m a sucker for beautiful pictures of Mary. Especially when she is pregnant or while Jesus is young. As a youngish mom with four kids I connect very strongly with this image. The hopeful expectation, the waiting, the she-totally-gets-how-it-feels-when-I-can’t-roll-over feeling, all of it. It’s probably why Advent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. I’m surrounded by these images of Mary and the Holy Family and it brings my heart so much joy. The new Advent meditation journal Rejoice! by Fr. Mark Toups is full of beautiful reflection and gorgeous paintings. And I mean gorgeous! So gorgeous if anyone wanted to give me the set to hang in my house I would be overjoyed…hint hint.

Rejoice! is published by Ascension Press, so you know it’s solid in its theology, wisdom and direction. I have gone through the entire book and used so many book darts! The book encourages imaginative prayer, which is a prayer form that I think our culture is uniquely suited for but no one talks about much. Imaginative prayer comes to us as a formal prayer from from St. Ignatius. Fr. Toups explains that “we imaginatively see the persons in the Bible passage, we hear the words they speak, and we observe the actions they accomplish in the event.” It’s taking the time to slow down enough to be in the scene. 

Then, after spending time within the passage, you move onto a method called A.R.R.R. – Acknowledge, Relate, Receive, Respond. You acknowledge how God is stirring within you, you relate to God (this means talking straight to God, not thinking about what you think God thinks or wants you to think, but real and deep sharing of everything that was brought to your mind), receive what God is sharing with you and lastly, respond to what you’ve received. You are also encouraged to journal about your experience so you can look back and see how you’ve grown and how God has shaped you during this Advent. 

What is so cool, and I didn’t pick up on until reflecting back on the meditations as a whole, is that Fr. Toups very gently leads you through this A.R.R.R. process over the four weeks of Advent. The first week is spent looking deeply at where God is in our life. The second is about relating with God in a vulnerable and authentic way. The third is about our receptivity, how open and empty are we so that we might receive God more fully. And the fourth, though short this year, challenges us to respond proactively to what we have experienced over the four weeks. It’s so brilliant.

Ascension, has carefully thought through the whole package. Their ideal for the meditations as stated in the very beginning, is for this to be a community walk with Mary. There are additional videos that offer fresh and expanded insights on each of the four weeks of Advent. They have free videos online right now, plus there is an Advent Mission Kick-off video which is about thirty minutes to help your small group or parish get things going. You can also sign up to have the weekly videos sent straight to your email if you are hosting a gathering in your home, or if you are simply journeying as a family. Community is an integral part of holiness and I love how it is gently and thoughtfully woven into this journal experience. 

If your parish is looking for something to do together this Advent season, it’s not too late to get your journals in bulk. Be brave, if this review has inspired you bring it to your priest or parish coordinator. You could be the spark that begins a wonderful Advent experience for your whole community.

I can totally see our family using this journal around the dinner table, and sharing in a joint imaginative prayer experience with our children – aren’t they the best at it? As I was writing this review, my seven year old came up and asked what I was doing. After I explained and we went through the pictures, he said “That’s cool,” and walked away. Later that day, he was sitting with his four year old sister and I overheard him saying,

“Clare, we have to get ready for Advent. Mommy has a book and it has pictures of Mary in it. It helps her get ready for Advent. What comes after Advent?”

“Christmas!” she shouted.

“Right,” he said, “So we all have to get ready for Jesus.”

How precious, and that’s just from looking at the pictures! Also, p.s., the pictures are all free and available right now to download for your phone or computer to use throughout Advent. Check them out here. You know I already have them downloaded. I hope you check this journal out, maybe even share it with a friend or two or twenty!

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Advent Journals are Here!

I’m so pleased to share with you all these Advent Journals. As you may have noticed, Advent is quickly approaching and there are so many wonderful resources available to help deepen and enrich your Advent experience.

For the past few years, I’ve noticed a need for Advent journals that cover a few bases. 1. They are Scripturally based 2. They are simple 3. They are not time consuming but still powerful 4. They are free. I have 2 different journals this year so be sure to read to the bottom to hear about both. One is based on lectio divina, the other is a deeper look at the 4 Sundays of Advent.

Lectio Divina Journal

In the journal I’ve highlighted one or two verses from the daily readings for reflection. There is space to prepare yourself for lectio and think about what’s going on in your life that day. What’s joyful, stressful, exciting or bothering you? Your lectio experience is colored by what’s happening in your life and it is good to take a moment to acknowledge what you are bringing to the table. There is also a place for your Word or phrase that has been highlighted during your reading as well as your prayerful response to God’s movements in your heart. Finally, there is room to think creatively about what God is calling you to do or change as inspired by the day’s prayer. 

The journal includes an overview of what lectio divina is, how to pray it and why it’s such a rich experience of prayer. As I said, I have chosen one or two verses for your reflection. However, maybe you already have a habit of reading the daily readings. Maybe a different verse stood out to you. At the very end of the journal is a blank page. It has all the formatting and different writing spaces, but the Scripture portion is blank. You can use this page to write your own verses in. 

Remember, this is completely free and is a pdf. So you can print the whole thing if you are going to use the verses I chose. Or you can print that last page 30 times and fill in your own verse every day. Or maybe you’re overwhelmed and already have a daily Advent devotional but want to give lectio divina a try – just print a week and see how it goes. Maybe every Sunday would work better. This is completely customizable to you. 

4 Sundays of Advent Journal

This is the brand new journal and I’m so excited about. I was inspired by a few things. First by my long-term writing project on the Philippians 2 Christ hymn. In that project, I am doing a deep study of the hymn, looking at the historical, theological, ecclesial, and liturgical significance and why it is a piece of Scripture that we all should know inside and out. I was also inspired by Every Sacred Sunday and how their Mass journals encourage Catholics to spend quality time preparing for Mass. If you are looking for something long term to help you dig deeper into the Sunday readings all year long, I cannot recommend their journals enough.

My new Advent Journal works like this. The first and super important thing you need to know is that it starts on Nov. 26. Yes, that’s before Advent actually begins. But, if you are going to be preparing for the 4 Sundays of Advent, you’ve got to start before the first Sunday, right?

Ok, got that cleared up. Mondays we spend time with the First Reading. Tuesdays the Psalm. Wednesdays the Second Reading. Thursdays the Gospel. Each page has the reading as well as space for any notes, questions or insights you might have while reading. There is also space for a brief prayer or reflection on what you’ve read. Think of this as lectio divina lite. 

Friday’s I offer a theological reflection on the readings. These include any historical information that is relevant, how the readings fit together, and what they can say to us today. It concludes with a quote from a saint that illuminates the overall theme of the Sunday.

Saturday encompasses how we can take what we’ve learned and grow in the week to come. I include another brief reflection, followed by questions or ideas meant to inspire you to apply the readings to your daily life and enhance your Advent experience. 

Sunday is a simple page for homily notes or other reflections you have on these readings. Perhaps you have another Advent devotional you are doing side by side and want to write down a special quote or work through a new idea. Here is space to do it, especially in light of the Sunday readings. 

Click below for a closer look at the Four Sundays of Advent Journal. You will be opening a pdf document which you can print for your own personal use. 

Click below for a closer look at the Four Sundays of Advent Journal. You will be opening a pdf document which you can print for your own personal use. 

I’m so excited for your Advent journey. It would be great to hear from you which journal you chose and why. I love feedback and want to keep developing these into quality, useful tools for you to deepen your relationship with God. Do please share with anyone you think would benefit from these journals. 

God bless

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com