Book of the Dead

When I met Ben’s family, one of the stories that I heard about was his grandfather’s “Book of the Dead.” If he had a bad experience at a restaurant, gas station, you name it, often it went into the Book of the Dead. Meaning he would not go back. There was one restaurant that he didn’t go back to for something like 30 or 40 years because of the poor service he had experienced all those years earlier. When I asked Ben what the name of the restaurant was, his response was, “Which one?”

Ben’s mom still jokes about this and has her own version of the book of the dead. When we move to Kansas this winter it will be the first time she and his dad have driven in the state since the Ice/Wind Storm of one of his childhood trips to Colorado. Fingers crossed Kansas doesn’t get a double entry!

I have recently begun using the Hallow app. The app is full of Catholic prayers, resources and meditations. It’s very peaceful and has a multitude of ways to engage in prayer. There are psalms, homilies, guided silence, and Lectio Divina. I have been trying to do the guided Lectio Divina each day as well as a Divine Mercy Chaplet. I will be honest, one of the things I really like is the timer feature. For nearly every experience you can choose how long you want it to be. If I know I have time, I can do my Lectio for 30 minutes (I haven’t actually gotten to do this yet, but it’s nice to know the option is there for someday!) Or, if I know the kids will be awake soon, I can set it for only 5 or 10 (what usually happens).

The Lectio passage from a few days ago had some interesting words to say about life and death. It was a short Gospel, and to be honest it isn’t one I’ve really noticed before. The meditation was on Luke 20:37-38. This passage is part of a longer story where the Sadducees are trying to trick Jesus into making judgments about what happens after people die. Jesus, of course, answers their question in a way they don’t expect and wins the day.

Part of His answer was to point out that God is the God of the living, not the dead, for “to Him all are alive.” I had to stop and really think about that for a minute. No one is dead to God, for even the dead on earth are still living souls in eternity. Their bodies may be gone, but their soul remains forever.

This, I believe, is big news for the past year. How often have we heard people (ahem, and maybe our selves?) exclaiming that they want this year over, that it’s time to move one, that it’s dead to them, or in Ben’s grandpa’s words, ought to be put in the Book of the Dead? But no, this isn’t what Jesus wants us to do with the year we have been given!

There has been pain, suffering and death in this year. Fact. We cannot sugar coat the tragedies, the sorrow and the large sacrifices that have taken place all over the world. Many, if not most, people have personally encountered the pandemic’s devastating effects on their families, friends and workplaces. It has been a hugely difficult year. But that doesn’t mean it should be written off, left for dead or abandoned.

Jeff Cavins has an excellent book, When You Suffer: Biblical Keys for Hope and Understanding, which I highly recommend (I posted a review of it a while back if you’re interested in checking that out). Cavins fully acknowledges that suffering is painful, challenging and a universal truth of human existence. Everyone suffers. But, as Christians and especially as Catholics, suffering is much more than this. It is also an “immense treasure” because of what we can choose to do with our suffering (pg 157). Quoting Fr. Mike Schmitz, Cavins asserts: “Suffering without Christ just hurts. But suffering with Christ can transform the world” (ibid).

Many of us have experienced suffering of a new level than we have previously. We have suffered isolation, loss, loneliness, sacrifice and more. But do not let that be the end of the story for 2020. Suffering united with Christ’s passion, using the power of our suffering to grow beyond ourselves and offer it for the suffering of others, and other tools Cavins explores in his book are all ways to discover the transformative potential this year has given to us.

With Advent at our doorstep, a new liturgical year is dawning. Advent is an excellent opportunity for focused spiritual reading, intentional prayer time, and closeness with the Holy Family. If you are able to find a copy of Jeff Cavins’ book, I very much recommend it to everyone. Don’t forget about the free Advent journals I have created for your personal use as well. They are still available and will always be free to print.

I hope that you had a joyful Thanksgiving, even if it was a smaller one. If you haven’t already, this weekend is a beautiful opportunity to take some time to write down what you are grateful for this past year. It’s easy to think of negative things first. Give yourself time to really dig into the year. Go back through your planner, your Facebook or Instagram accounts. What brings a smile to your face? When did you have a sense of peace, of happiness, or contentment? This is also an excellent way to begin preparing for the Advent season.

Wishing you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving weekend and a blessed First Sunday of Advent.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Free Advent Journals 2020

It’s that time of year again, if you can believe it. All the memes about how March lasted for 5 years, the summer was 1,000 days and that this year would never end. Yet here we are, at the end of October. In a way, Catholics get to cheat the system a little bit. We don’t have to wait for December 31, 2020 to celebrate the end of the year. According to our liturgical calendar, the new year begins the first Sunday of Advent – this year on November 29.

This year has been full. Full of emotion, full of questions, full of time. I know so many of us are hoping for some sense of closure to 2020 by the time 2021 gets here. Rather than blocking out the past 9 months, I would like to challenge all of us to use this Advent season to meditate on what God has been speaking to us. What lessons have you learned? How have you grown? What good things will you carry forward into the Christmas season?

Advent, while a festive time secularly, is also a desert time. It is a time where we relearn, each year, how to wait with hope and purpose. Taking time with Scripture is an excellent way to slow down and focus on where the Holy Spirit is leading you for the season.

With this in mind, I’ve created two completely free Advent resources. The first is the classic Lectio Divina journal that I’ve been creating for a number of years now. In it you will find a guide for how to pray following the lectio model as well as daily journal pages. The pages have a Scripture passage selected from the day’s readings and include space for journaling, prayer and reflection. If you would like to choose your own Scriptures, there is a blank page included below as well that you can print off as many times as you would like.

The second journal is both similar and a departure from last year’s reflection journal, for those of you who used it. We are still focusing on the Sunday readings, but in a new way. Beginning on the First Sunday of Advent, each day will have a Scripture focus taken from the Sunday readings. The Scripture is accompanied by a short meditation and reflection question with space to journal.

Now, the techy stuff. There are 2 versions of each journal. One is the normal, in order, print, staple at the corner, you’re on your way. The second, for the brave and adventurous, is set up so that you can turn your journal into a legitimate booklet. You will have to print double sided either by choosing that setting on your printer, or by printing the odd pages, reinserting them into your printer however you need to (every printer is different, I’m sorry I can give better directions than that) and then printing the even pages. I highly recommend do a test of the first and second pages to make sure you have the process down before printing the whole thing.

I hope that you find these journals helpful and encouraging during the upcoming Advent season. I love hearing how they have blessed you, your families and small groups. Please feel free to let me know if you have ideas or suggestions for Lent. I would also love love love to know how the booklet printing goes – it took a lot of brain power to figure out how to get the pages in the right order and I hope it works for you.

Please share this post with anyone who is looking for a quality Advent resource and doesn’t want to wait for shipping! May God bless each of you as the year closes and Advent brings us into a brand new year.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com

Warp and Weft – Plus FREE Lent Journals

I think it’s high time I came out and claimed myself as a fiber artist. For anyone unaware, I have a healthy obsession with yarn. I crochet, cross stitch, try to knit (not well at all!), sew, quilt (also very amateur) and now, my latest project, weaving. Just this week I hauled all 5 kids to Home Depot to buy a few boards of pine and a box of nails in order to make my own frame loom.

First project on the loom.

And I’m in love. How haven’t I been weaving my whole life? It’s like coloring, which by the way I also enjoy greatly, but with yarn. The phrase, “Match made in heaven,” comes to mind. Up until this week, I knew little about weaving. So, the learning curve has been steep. But I’m soaking it all up, thanks to the generosity of other weavers on YouTube. I stumbled upon one video from a group of tapestry makers who are based at the Getty Museum, the site of a grand tapestry organization dating back to King Louis XIV outside Paris. These men and women are creating massive, handwoven tapestries, some taking multiple years to create. And they are breathtaking.

The first step in these intricate tapestries is the same as on my simple frame loom – warp the loom. The warp threads are the ones that go up and down your piece. The woman narrating explained, “The warp is one, continuous piece of thread.” The design comes in the weft threads. These are the threads that travel across the piece. They start and stop at the artist’s whim, moving fluidly about to create the overall picture.

There is a poem that floats around, the author is unknown, called The Master Weaver’s Plan. The poem speaks of God as the Master Weaver. He is the one who weaves the weft threads throughout our lives, picking up colors both light and dark. Our life is a tapestry.

Another way of looking at it is that our life is just one weft thread among thousands, millions, traveling across the tapestry of the universe. We interact with others, creating new shapes and designs we are unable to see. Only God, who has in view the entire masterpiece, is able to discern each thread’s unique purpose.

Both of these images focus on the weft, on the colorful threads which travel across the design. But what about the warp, that continuous piece of thread which undergirds the entire piece? Any weaver will tell you that if your warp is off – too loose, too tight, uneven or haphazard – the entire thing will go wrong. If God is the master weaver, and we are the weft, then who or what is the warp?

Jesus of course!

John’s Gospel tells us that before there was creation, there was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word, the Logos in Greek, is Jesus Christ. We can see in the very foundations of Genesis, at the moment when Adam and Eve are expelled from the Garden of Eden, God is making plans for their salvation. Up and down the Scriptures, Israel is being prepared for their Messiah. Through Jesus’ Passion, the thread which began before the beginning continues unto eternity. Our sure foundation, our solid rock, our taut warp.

I was joking with a friend the other day about how much yarn I have. She was encouraging me to try out a new kind and maybe do a spotlight on it for the blog. I carelessly said, “I’m sure I can find God somewhere in yarn.” Turns out I was more right than I realized!

How God Works

If we want to get to know our Master Weaver better, we need to look at His Word. This is why every Lent for the past few years I have created Lenten Lectio Divina Journals. I’m so please to offer this journal as a free printable, updated for this Lent 2020. It includes:

  • A guide for how to pray in the lectio divina method
  • Scripture passages taken from the daily readings for each day of Lent and the Triduum
  • A blank page which may be used if you wish to select your own passages to pray with
  • A page for homily notes which you can print and place wherever you need them within the journal.

I’ve created two sizes of the journal. One is A5 and the other is a standard 8.5×11. The A5 you will need to print on A5 specific paper or cut down but it will create a smaller book once finished and be easier to carry around.

I’d love to hear any feedback you have so I can continue to make these better each year. I pray you feel the movement of the Spirit within these sacred words during the Lenten Season. May they be a source of inspiration, solace and encouragement for all of our walks of life.

Daily Graces. kktaliaferro.wordpress.com