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Jesus, A Pilgrimage – Book review and giveway

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_nIn November 2004, I had a chance to visit Israel, a place that I had longed to see. At the time, the Second Intifada was in full swing, the Carmel market in Tel Aviv had been hit with by a suicide bomb two weeks before I was to go, and Yasser Arafat died two days my prior to my arrival. It was an uncertain time, but I was not afraid. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime, and one that truly impacted my faith. Before going, I read so many books about the Holy Land and about faith, although no book at that time could have prepared me for my journey.

In his new book, Jesus, A Pilgrimage, (Harper Collins, 510 pp, $27.95) Jesuit priest, author, and commentator, James Martin SJ writes about his own journey to Israel, his life of faith, and about Jesus. My initial reaction? Where was this book when I went on my pilgrimage?

Whether you are about to go to Israel or not, this book is a journey of mind, body, and spirit. With his deft writing skills well honed from years of working his craft, Fr. Martin leads us on a pilgrimage like no other. Weaving stories and anecdotes from his own recent visit to Israel, along with a remarkable breadth and depth of scriptural reflections and insights, he takes us on a journey to know Jesus.

It is the rare gift that someone can take scholarly material and make it accessible and easy to understand, without dumbing it down. Fr. Martin possesses this gift in abundance! Whether examining scripture, historical context, or a spiritual kernel of wisdom, the author takes us higher and deeper at the same time, satisfying the intellect and the heart at once. He cleverly uses anecdotes from his own travel experiences and often in humorous ways, to illustrate a point, and Martin’s scholarly references provide a solid foundation for the conversation.

Whether or not you have ever been – or ever want to go to the Holy Land is not important. If you have an interest in Jesus, from any perspective, this book has something to offer you. For those of us who follow Jesus, we will find an invitation to deepen that knowledge through not only what we read, but because of the ways that this book invites one into prayer and reflection.

Smart, funny, inviting, engaging, wise, and deep, Jesus by James Martin is a pilgrimage like no other. You don’t have to leave your chair, but you must open your mind and heart, your transformation is optional, but it would be hard to imagine reading this book, and not being transformed in some way.

Jesus, A Pilgrimage. The journey awaits you- are you ready?

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Would you like to win a copy of this book? Here’s how… Please leave a comment on the blog; it needs to be a full sentence, not just a word. This post will appear on multiple blog platforms, but there is only one drawing. Multiple comments does not mean multiple entries. Deadline for leaving comments that will be entered into a random drawing is Friday, April 4, 2014, 11:59pm. Winner will be informed via email no later than Monday, April 7, 2014.

I’m back, it is Laetare Monday

rejoiceIt has been a long winter, hasn’t it? And a long Lent, or so it seems to me. The weather was a real challenge this year; recent milder winters had lulled me into a cheery complacency about what snow and cold truly meant in upstate New York. And I say that knowing that those in the the mid-Atlantic states further south had it much worse! Hard to think about rejoicing, right?

Add to that, starting in October, and never (gratefully) with anything life-threatening, but I have been in the near constant care of doctors for one thing or another. I get it, I’m 56, and I have not always taken care of my corpus very well, but much like the winter, this all came as a startling and repeatedly disturbing challenge. Let it suffice to say that I think that I may finally be turning the corner into, God willing, some better health. That’s why I am calling this Laetare Monday!

Our Lenten journey is meant to be one of the kind of serious prayer and introspection that leads to change. This is not the navel gazing of my earlier years, when a faux seriousness pervaded my being, but was not very deep or authentic; I was young, Continue reading

One week into Lent…

We may be one week into Lent, but this submission from Shannon O’Donnell, written originally for the start of Lent, still holds true. How is your Lenten journey thus far?

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

Image courtesy of Mary Brack, at Me With My Head in The Clouds.

For the first time or the twelfth or the sixty-third, we stand at the borderland of Lent. The bright promise of Easter and its celebrations of light, water, oil, and Eucharist lie ahead of us, out of sight, beyond the horizon. We stand, like so many of our ancestors, refugees with our stories and dreams, wondering about this journey.

We have known failure, disappointment, betrayal. We are marked by the violence done to us and by the harm we have done to others. We long to be better people, to love without reserve, to transform the world that we all might live in grace and peace.

The journey will not be easy or quick, but we will be together. With Christ in our midst, we will listen to him and to each other. We will make space to acknowledge our pain and fear, our sin. We will take on the task of reconciliation and peace because Christ will show us how. He is the great Reconciler and he calls, “Come, follow me.”

-Shannon O’Donnell

Shannon O’Donnell is a jail chaplin, a lay minister, and author from Seattle, Washington. She generously shares her gifts through periodic reflections on this and other blogs. Her book, Save the Bones, about her mother Marie,and Alzheimers was published last year. It is available at in both paperback and ebook editions at the link.

Did we see Jesus?

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban's with "Homeless Jesus"

Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s with “Homeless Jesus”

He’s right in front of us. All the time. There’s no denying it. We see him everywhere and in everything.

If – and it is a big if – we choose to see him. And how often we choose quite the opposite… We either willingly, or unwillingly look away.

That’s the Rev. David Buck, Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, in Davidson, North Carolina. Father Buck and his parish community, through a donation, installed a replica of the controversial “Homeless Jesus” statue originally created by sculptor Tim Schmaltz. In full disclosure, I know David Buck and have been to St. Alban’s; I was present when he and a dear friend of mine were married a few years back.

Today’s Gospel is the one that inspired the statue, Matthew 25. This famous chapter can be Continue reading

Lead us not into temptation

mediumTemptation. What does this word mean? For many of us it means things like avoiding the temptation to look at our phones compulsively, or to stay away from snacks. It might mean the feeling of wanting to buy something new, when we have a perfectly good whatever-it-is at home, but we want a new one. There are many sentences that begin with “I was so tempted to…” and end with something that does not seem very harmful. We pray, “lead us not into temptation,” but what do we mean when we say those words?

A long time ago, I was speaking to someone who was practicing the 12 Steps of AA. He said that rationalizing the dismantling of small boundaries was the road to ruin for him. Often he would be tempted to put himself in a situation that might not seem to be so bad, but one that he knew might be a trigger. And he might even do OK in that situation, not yielding to the magnetic force of his addiction. Then he would Continue reading

Lenten Journey

sign-for-lent-with-integrated-crossOn certain days in Lent I will cross post across all of the blogs that I manage, but on many days, I will only post on my personal blog, There Will Be Bread. And yes – today is one of those days! I am writing about what it means to give so much to God… very hard for all of us if we are honest.

So please feel free to read or subscribe, if you want to see what’s going on. And if you don’t, no worries – simply find whatever ways you can to bring you closer to God in this holy season!

And if you want to share your own Lenten thoughts on these pages,  please get in touch! All are welcome to read and to submit entries. (All submissions will be reviewed and possibly edited. Just get in touch – we will talk!)

Ash Wednesday and Hard Hearts

heart_stoneHere we are, another Ash Wednesday. This one comes so late, too. By this time last year Easter was clearly on the horizon, at the end of March. This year, we are just about to begin Lent.

Somehow, all I can think about is the dark of winter and Lent, and how light it will be starting next week. No, no, no… Something feels off about that.

It’s me that is off if I am honest; I don’t like change as much as I pretend to like it. Why can’t Lent always start in early or mid-February? My pretty, shiny stone heart likes it better that way! Insert pouting face here. I know that we got those ceramic hearts at mass this weekend… And I believe, as Fr. Jerry told us, that they are to remind us of God’s love, but my heart feels hard, resistant to change. Very. Resistant.

Oh Ash Wednesday, you are upon us. Today work was full of the usual “Ashes will be distributed at masses at 9, 12, and 6:30pm.” My goal is to avoid the church secretary’s tongue twister that offers the potential for mixing up ASHES and MASSES. If the “sh” ends up with the m, then the double s goes Continue reading

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