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What the Last Harry Potter Movie Got Wrong

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Spoiler alert: Please do not read this article if you have not read the books and plan to see the last movie.

I came to the Harry Potter books late. I didn’t read them until my children wanted to read them. As a result, unlike those who had to wait patiently or not so patiently for the next installment in the series, I was able to read all seven books in quick succession. It is only in light of book seven that the whole series makes sense. Harry’s ultimate purpose and author J.K. Rowling’s message come to light.

I have seen all the movies as well. The last three were family events we eagerly looked forward to seeing in the theater. Overall, I found the movies a little disappointing, but there was no way they could not be. The books were so huge and masterfully written with so many different subplots and motivations. There was no way to convey all of that on the big screen. Yet, they were entertaining and my children greatly enjoyed them, even though even they would cite all the inconsistencies between the two mediums.

The last movie, in the theaters now, is arguably the best as far as it goes. It is fast paced, entertaining, and features some great one-liners to lighten the mood amidst all the pain. It follows the story line of the book rather closely and wraps up all the loose ends. I’m sure that those who have only seen the movies are fully satisfied.

Yet, as a Catholic reader of the books, I left the theater feeling as if the movie had missed the whole point. Yes, Harry goes to the forest to die at Voldemort’s hands. He does not resist. He has learned what he must do and he sets out to do it. But, the reason he does it is lost. In the movie, his motivation seems to be that he was told he must. In the book, the whole reason he goes to the forest is because by his death, he will save everyone else. No one else will have to die. It is the ultimate self-sacrifice. “Greater love than this no one has, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.

Of course, Harry doesn’t actually die. What he does have is a near-death experience in which he is reunited with his esteemed headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. The movie uses many of the same lines as the book, but it misses a key part of the conversation. In both venues, Harry is given the choice whether to return to the world or go on. In the book, however, Dumbledore tells him, “By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart.” Once again, the motivation is self-sacrifice.

The final battle between Harry and Voldemort is also lacking in substance. The reason Voldemort’s spells no longer work on anyone is because of Harry. In the book, Harry tells him, “I was ready to die to stop you from hurting these people . . . I’ve done what my mother did. They’re protected from you. Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them.” Just as his mother’s love saved Harry all those years before, now his love has saved his friends.

The movie also misses that even at the end, Voldemort had a chance at redemption. All was not lost. Harry had seen part of Voldemort’s soul in his near-death encounter. It was an ugly, writhing thing. Even after all Voldemort had done to him, his family, and his friends, Harry still encourages him to repent and change his ways. “Before you try to kill me, I’d advise you to think about what you’ve done . . . Think, and try for some remorse . . . It’s your one last chance . . . I’ve seen what you’ll be otherwise.”

Despite the offer, Voldemort continues with his plan. It is important to note that Harry doesn’t kill him – he only disarms him. Voldemort’s own spell backfires and ends his life. Voldemort chose evil and his future in hell. Even at the end, he could have made a different choice.

The Christian themes of self-sacrifice and redemption pulse through the book, yet were unfortunately ignored in the movie. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you will definitely want to see the movie. You will enjoy it. But do yourself a favor and read the books as well in order to fully understand the true motivation behind the acts.

Book Review: “Pausing to Pray – Lenten Meditations for Busy People”

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

Pausing To Pray Lenten Meditations for Busy People
With Excerpts from the Diary of St. Faustina and Meditations by Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception
Compiled and arranged by Sarah M. Chichester
Stockbridge, MA: Marian Press, 2010

Lent is right around the corner. “Pausing to Pray: Lenten Meditations for Busy People” offers short reflections for each day from Ash Wednesday through Divine Mercy Sunday. Each day features an excerpt from St. Faustina’s Diary which focuses on Divine Mercy and then a short meditation from one of the Marian Fathers. The contributing Fathers include such notables as Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, author of “No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy,” Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers and author of the “Consoling the Heart of Jesus,” and Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, world-renowned authority on the Divine Mercy Message and the life of St. Faustina.

The reflections are short and thought-provoking and will aid in devotion during the spiritual season of Lent. The booklet can be used year after year. It also features an examination of conscience, St. Faustina’s Way of the Cross, the Novena to Divine Mercy, and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

This is the reflection for the First Saturday of Lent:

Jesus, I accept everything that You wish to send me; I trust in your goodness. (Diary, 190)

Meditation

Dear Jesus, I am afraid of what I would have to give up if I gave You my unconditional ‘Yes.’ I guess I don’t trust you enough. How did St. Faustina come to a complete surrender to You? She knew You better than I do. Help me to come to know You more deeply, Lord. I don’t want to be afraid of the path that You have picked out for me. Help me to believe that You will be with me every step of the way and that my surrender to You won’t lead to misery, but is the key to my happiness.

A Sense of Home

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

The holiday season will have many of us focusing on home. Whether we are traveling back to it, decorating it, or welcoming people into it, home takes center stage. In part of his forthcoming book, A Time to Plant: Life Lessons in Work, Prayer, and Dirt(to be released in January 2011 by Ave Maria Press), Kyle T. Kramer reflects on what it means to call a place “home.”

He speaks of embracing a “‘vocation of location’ in which we make and maintain a particular place of belonging in the world.” That vocation can include a whole list of domestic duties. These are the things that we are so familiar with – cleaning, doing the laundry, cooking, doing dishes, paying the bills, etc. Those are all important and necessary tasks, but home should mean more than that.

Kramer writes, “‘home economy’ means finding and creating a peaceable home in the overlapping circles of family, friends, neighbors, church, and the wider community.” With so many people so busy with obligations outside of the home, the concept of “home has been replaced by the cheaper idea of ‘house’ . . . an afterthought of a place where we grab a bite to eat, watch television, escape from our jobs, make love and war with our family members, pay the bills, surf the Internet, and collapse for a few hours of sleep.”

Kramer challenges us to think of home as much more than that, to perhaps reclaim a sense of home that earlier generations possessed. “Home can and should be a center of meaning and purpose in our lives. Home should invite us and strengthen us to the good work of belonging fully to a place and to its people.”

Sometimes moving to a new geographical area is necessary. It can be part of a God-given calling. However, there is something to be said for making a commitment to a certain area, for putting down roots and staying there through thick and thin. Even in an era when we can keep in contact with friends and relatives around the world with a touch of a button, face-to-face relationships are still vitally important.

There is no replacement for the friendships and family relationships that develop by spending quality time with others over a number of years. Watching children grow up, sharing meals, knowing and trusting your neighbors, worshipping together – these are the things of which true homes are made.

In this holiday season when so much emphasis is placed on home, it is a good time to think about what it means to create a sense of home. How can the environment we create within our own four walls then carry out to the world at large? How can we better commit to the people who share our house, our extended families, our neighborhoods, and our churches?

Mass in a Mall?

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

I had heard of a couple of chapels located in the midst of malls, but I had never experienced one. Never, that is, until this weekend, when life unexpectedly took me to the heart of Boston, Massachusetts. My family and I were exploring the Shops at Prudential Center, looking for a place to eat lunch, when I came across St. Francis Chapel. I absolutely had to stop and visit.

When I had imagined chapels located in malls, I had pictured a basic storefront type space with an altar and some chairs and a corner set off for confessions. My imagination certainly did not do St. Francis Chapel justice. This is a beautiful chapel. One moment you are standing in the midst of modern-day commerce. Then you enter the doors, and you are in a church. It is quiet and peaceful. It is called “An Oasis of Silence, An Oasis of Prayer” in the center of the city. I certainly found that to be the case.

Adoration was going on when I visited (it is held for several hours every day); it was so meaningful to be able to stop and pray. There were several other people inside who had also taken a break from the chaos outside to bring themselves before God. There was a wall of lit candles, each representing a prayer being sent up to heaven. Confessions were going on (a penitent was taking advantage of that sacrament), and someone was browsing the small Catholic bookstore adjacent to the chapel.

When I got home and researched the chapel further, I was surprised to learn that it has been in existence for over forty years! During that time, it has ministered to people from all over the world. I was incredibly impressed by the number of services this small chapel offers.

Ever since I heard of them, I have been a strong supporter of a Catholic presence within shopping malls. Now that I have seen one in action, I am an even bigger believer that this is an important ministry. Jesus always went to where the people were. This is a modern-day way to minister to people where they are. At St. Francis Chapel, masses and confession are offered at convenient times throughout the day. Unlike so many freestanding churches today which are locked due to security concerns, the doors are always open and welcome to everyone. The sacraments are readily available. How many times have I wanted to attend Mass only to find that my schedule doesn’t mesh with the daily Mass at the local church? As much as I may want to go to confession, Saturday afternoon is not always convenient. Priests lament that fewer people take advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation today. Why not make it easier for them to go?

A chapel in a mall is welcoming. It calls to people, inviting them to take a moment for prayer. Even if they don’t enter, people of all faiths can be reminded that God is everywhere, even in the midst of a shopping center. It can reach out to Catholics who have, for whatever reason, found themselves away from the Church. It can be the first step to a return home. For someone who has no spiritual home to start with, it can be the first step in a relationship with God. Yes, there is a cost involved, and the dedication of priests to staff it, but I definitely feel that the souls that could be served and saved outweigh any monetary outlay. In a time when so many of our churches are being forced to close due to reduced membership and income, this is an opportunity that should be taken full advantage of. At a time when more and more youth are moving away from the Church, this is a chance to reach them where they are. Mass in a Mall? Absolutely.

To find out more about St. Francis Chapel, please visit http://www.stfrancischapel.org.

Movie Review: The Perfect Game

Thursday, April 15th, 2010


Review of “The Perfect Game”
Reviewed by Leticia Velasquez
http://catholicmediareview.blogspot.com

When is the last time you saw a great baseball movie; the kind which inspires you to go outside and play ball? How about a rags-to-riches story about the underdogs who made good despite bigotry, poverty, and family drama? When is the last time you saw a film which made your heart swell with pride about being a Latino or belonging to the Catholic Church? Would you believe there is a film out there like this? And that this film stars Cheech Marin, as Padre Esteban, a devout, old-fashioned priest?” This would take a miracle”, you say, well, in this film, Padre Esteban says “Sometimes God gives us the ability to make them.”

“The Perfect Game” is all about miracles, it is based the true story of the 1957 Little League World Series in which a rag-tag group of poor Mexican boys from the metal forge town of Monterrey cut a swathe of victory through the United States, to the admiration of American children and the chagrin of racists. Their meteoric rise to fame captured the attention of America and will capture your heart.

How did boys who didn’t speak English, had no field or fancy equipment, and weighed 50 pounds less on average than their opponents win so many games? The diminutive athletes have two secret weapons, their coach Cesar (Clifton Collins Jr.)A former employee of the St Louis Cardinals gave them each a role model in a Major League Baseball star, and their pastor, gave them his blessing. With the support of these men, hard work and heartfelt faith, the Monterrey Industrials went out to make history. The story follows the tight knit band of amigos from their simple homes in Mexico all the way to the Little League championship in Williamsport, PA. But their unlikely championship does more than impress the hometown folks, they managed to change hearts and inspire those they met. In Mexico, they bravely faced the scorn of the wealthy Mexico City team, yet the boys were not prepared for the harsh realities of segregation in the South of the 1950’s. Separate bathrooms were new to them, and it angered the boys when one of the American team members ate alone at the diner, because he was black. Soon the entire Monterrey team had moved over to share a meal with him. They forged a kinship with a black Protestant Pastor Clarence (John Cothran Jr) who pinch hit as team chaplain for Padre Esteban and they forged the common bond as underdogs who refuse to let hatred win.

The unique and memorable characters of the teammates are what make the film a winner. Jake T Austin has an incredible range of emotions as Angel Macias, the pitcher who strove to pitch a perfect game. Moises Arias, is adorable as Mario, the shortest teammate famous for his charm with the ladies. The feisty yet humble personalities of the little boys captured the hearts of the teenage audience who viewed the film with me. They recognized the actors from Disney Channel, and were charmed by their characters in the film, cheering them on as they wowed America onscreen.

When Cheech Marin was asked by Brian Kilmeade of Fox and Friends how it was that he played the role of Padre Esteban so convincingly, he recalled his childhood in the Church where he was an altar boy. “I imitated the priest”, he said. In his childhood, Cheech was also a big fan of the Monterrey Industrials; “I had a lot in common with them” he said. Perhaps that’s why he successfully embodied the Padre whose heartfelt prayer for a means of giving the boys hope began the story. Soon after his prayer, a baseball saying “Property of St Louis” was found by Angel Macias, next to an abandoned church, and the boys took it as a sign from God that they were meant to play baseball. They convinced Cesar to be their coach, cleared the abandoned church plaza for a field, and began to play ball. Soon the relationship between the team and down-on-his-luck Cesar took on the warmth of a friendship as the boys assisted his budding romance with the beautiful Maria (Patricia Manterola). Cesar, an unkempt drunk, finds himself spellbound in the presence of a Maria as the two meet at the market. The boys convince him that she can be found at Sunday Mass, where Cesar stands out like a sore thumb. This impresses Maria who invites him to dinner with her family. The involvement of the entire team in Maria and Cesar’s romance is part of the film’s charm, making it an excellent date flick.

The theme of father son relationship is central to the film, where the tension is thick between pitcher Angel Macias and his father, Umberto (Carlos Gomez). Umberto is angrily mourning the loss of Angel’s big brother Pedro. Angel somehow manages to excel as a pitcher, despite his father’s insistence that he will never fill Pedro’s shoes, and his utter lack of interest in his playing. Yet, in the end, the film underscores the crucial importance of a father’s approval to a growing son.

The authentically Mexican flair of the soundtrack and unique cinematography, blending newsreel footage of the actual team and the film itself, enhance the feeling of being witness to history.

This is a film which will be soon added to the family collection, to be played and replayed, along with director William Dear’s other baseball classic, “Angels in the Outfield”. Its not often that at film comes along which baseball is merely a vehicle to inspire hope and not an end in itself. The boy’s faith, dogged perseverance and winning personalities will make you laugh, cry and cheer for them. “The Perfect Game” is an example of what sports can do for a group of children with a good adult role model to guide them.

No nudity (little boys in underwear, a verbal reference to jock straps), no sexual innuendos, an appropriately negative portrayal of drunkenness and a scene where stealing is correctly called ‘sinful’ make this film an outstanding family film, suitable for all ages. I give this film my highest recommendation. If you only go to see one film this year, go see “The Perfect Game”.

Fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

When I was growing up, my mother and I would say the rosary every day together. Before each decade, she would announce the mystery and the fruit, or virtue, associated with it. I have continued the practice of saying the rosary in my adult life. Indeed, it is one of my favorite devotions and can’t imagine life without it. I do remember all the mysteries of the original Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious sets of five decades. It took me a while, but I even managed to memorize the Luminous Mysteries established by Pope John Paul II. My memory had long since forgotten the fruits of the mysteries, however. In talking to some friends recently, we realized we were all in the same boat. No one knew the fruits of the mysteries of the rosary – only that there were some! To rectify that ignorance, here are the mysteries of the rosary and their corresponding fruits along with a brief reflection on each one. They offer yet one more good reason to say the rosary.


The Joyful Mysteries

1. The Annunciation – Humility
It is appropriate to begin the rosary with the virtue of humility. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that ‘we do not know how to pray as we ought,’ are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. ‘Man is a beggar before God.’ “ (CCC 2559)

2. The Visitation – Love of Neighbor
Mary hastened to her cousin’s Elizabeth’s house to help her in her time of need. In what ways can we be of service to our own neighbor’s today, whether we find that neighbor in our own home, in our community, at work, or on the internet?

3. The Nativity of the Lord – Poverty of Spirit, Detachment from the Things of the World
We live in a very consumerist culture. This mystery invites us to detach ourselves from our many possessions. What do we truly need and what is excess? What can we share with others?

4. Presentation – Obedience
Mary and Joseph humbly brought Jesus to the temple in accord with Jewish law. Obedience to God and to others can be very difficult, but offers us the opportunity to subjugate our own will to that of our heavenly Father. Not my will, but God’s will be done.

5. Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple – Piety
Piety is dedication to the Church’s sacramental life and devotions. Mary and Joseph were surprised to find Jesus in the temple. We, too, should be dedicated to our Church and the sacraments.

The Luminous Mysteries

1. The Baptism of Jesus – Openness to the Holy Spirit
We each receive the Holy Spirit in a special way in Baptism and again at Confirmation. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. We need only ask the Holy Spirit for help and help will be provided.

2. The Miracle at Cana – To Jesus through Mary
Mary encouraged her Son to perform his first miracle at the Wedding at Cana. She simply told the servants to “do whatever he tells you.” She helps us in a similar way – always pointing us to her Son and interceding on our behalf. We need only to turn to her and ask for help.

3. Proclamation of the Kingdom of God – Repentance, Trust in God
Jesus spent the active years of his ministry preaching and performing miracles to proclaim the Kingdom of God. He asks us to express sorrow from our sin, turn away from sin, and trust in God.

4. Transfiguration – Desire for Holiness
Jesus gave three of his closest friends a glimpse of His glory at the Transfiguration. We, too, are called to holiness, and to ultimately live in glory in heaven. But, we need to want it and we need to want it more than what the world and the devil attempts to offer us.

5. Institution of the Eucharist – Eucharistic Adoration, Active Participation at Mass
Jesus gave us the greatest gift in the Eucharist. He gave us His very self. This mystery invites us to appreciate that gift fully and to participate at Mass often

Sorrowful Mysteries

1. Agony in the Garden – Contrition, Conformity to the Will of God
Jesus, both fully human and fully divine, suffered immensely in the garden. He knew what was coming and he was terrified. He begged His Father to spare him, but submitted Himself fully to His will. We, too, are called to do this.

2. Scourging at the Pillar – Purity, Mortification
Mortification isn’t popular these days, but making small sacrifices and offering them up can be a great help to one’s spiritual life. There is an opportunity every day to sacrifice and to suffer in some small way.

3. Crowning with Thorns – Moral Courage
Jesus remained resolute even as he was being made fun of. Do we have the courage to stand up for our convictions even when we are being laughed at? Whose opinion matters more – God’s or those who surround us?

4. Carrying of the Cross – Patience
Patience is something we all seem to have difficulty with. Jesus patiently carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to his Crucifixion. We can look to him for help when we are tempted to lose our patience.

5. Crucifixion – Salvation, Self-Denial
Jesus gave up everything for us on the cross. His took on the sins of the world, past, present, and future, and died for our salvation. We need to be so thankful for that gift. At the same time, when we are asked to die to ourselves and put others first, we can look to the cross for the example of total self-giving.


Glorious Mysteries

1. The Resurrection – Faith
It takes great faith to believe that Jesus rose from the dead and that we, too, shall rise. As Jesus told his apostles, “Blessed are that who have not seen, and yet believe.” This mystery offers us help in maintaining that faith. “Lord, I believe. Please help my unbelief!”

2. The Ascension – Hope, Desire for Heaven
We hope for a world that is better than this one. We desire to live forever with Jesus in heaven. May that hope help shape our lives here on Earth.

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Wisdom, Love of God
The disciples were scared. They huddled together in that upper room not sure of what to do. Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and they were ready to go out and give their very lives in service to God. May the Holy Spirit also grant us that wisdom and love of God.

4. The Assumption of Mary – Devotion to Mary
We believe that Mary was brought up to heaven body and soul. We are devoted to her because of her relationship to her Son and because God saw fit to raise her up. “Blessed are you among women and Blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.”

5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary – Eternal Happiness
We believe that Mary is the Queen of Heaven, enjoying forever her rightful place next to her Son. May we one day share in her happiness.

Children as Spiritual Directors

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Over five years ago, I nervously went to an open house at a local center for spiritual direction with my two and a half year old in tow (mercifully, I was able to leave the 10 month old at home!). I knew little about spiritual direction at that point other than what I read in books. Unfortunately, spiritual direction isn’t one of those things that can be explained easily in writing – it truly needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Still, I knew that I was at a point in my life where I needed help. All the people I met at that open house were very kind and I soon started meeting with a very helpful spiritual director and have continued that practice on a regular basis. It has been a great blessing to my life. When I went to that open house, however, I can remember someone saying to me, “You have children! You already have spiritual directors!”

At the time, I couldn’t appreciate the wisdom of that statement. After all, my children were still very small. I loved them so much, but mostly, they left me exhausted. My struggle with adjusting to motherhood was one of the primary reasons I was seeking a spiritual director. I was at a loss as to what God wanted from me. Thankfully, my spiritual director was able to help me sort it all out. In the intervening years, however, I have come to appreciate all the ways my children are helping to direct my spiritual journey.

As any mother will tell you, children have a way of bringing out all your weaknesses. Somehow, they just know how to push all the wrong buttons. Reminded of one’s failings on a daily basis, there can be really no question of what one needs to work on. Thankfully, children also give their mothers plenty of opportunities to work on those weaknesses. Every day is a new challenge!

Children can also be a mirror sharper in focus than any other. It is one thing to see your faults in yourself. It is a whole different perspective to see your faults in your children. Either through genetics or upbringing, or a combination thereof, our children often suffer from the same issues we do. In helping them to work through their challenges, God also helps us to work through our own.

Parenting also helps us to recover from our own childhood and make peace with our own family of origin. I haven’t met a person yet who escaped from childhood unscathed. Growing up is hard and painful. We tend to blame our parents for much of that pain, sometimes with good reason, sometimes just because they are easy targets. Parenting one’s own children provides a whole new perspective on those relationships. At least in my case, I know that realizing how hard parenting is helped me to forgive my parents for all the mistakes that I had felt they made. There is something incredibly humbling about knowing that, even though I get up every day and try to do my best, my children will feel that I made huge errors in their upbringing. It also encourages me to beg for God’s help. If there was ever a time when I needed God, this is it. God made my children. He is only one with the instruction manual.

Children do help determine the course of our spiritual development in ways that I couldn’t even have imagined years ago. I’m sure as my children continue to grow into adulthood, God has many more lessons to teach me through them, even as I am helping them navigate their own paths. We will continue to travel on our spiritual journeys together.

Book Review: Heaven has Blue Carpet

Friday, December 5th, 2008

What happens when you transplant a suburban housewife and put her into a working sheepfarm? It sounds like the beginning of a joke, doesn’t it? But in Heaven Has Blue Carpet: A Sheep Story by a Suburban Housewife
Sharon Niedzinski, a devoted Christian, shares the real-life lessons she learned from throwing herself into a new life tending sheep. She not only learned the practical aspects of sheeprearing from reading everything she could get her hands on that referred to sheep and from kind-hearted neighboring farmers, but she also obtained brand new insights into the Bible and our relationship with Christ from her time on the farm. It is these lessons that she is most eager to share and which make this book very worthwhile reading.

In Biblical times, sheepherding was a very common occupation. Therefore, the Biblical references to Jesus as a good shepherd and the many stories and psalms that featured sheep resonated with the listeners. In the modern era when most of us do not spend our lives tending sheep, the deeper meaning of many of these images have been lost. Niedzinski shares her real-life experience to make these Biblical passages come alive. For example, she had orphan sheep that had been rejected by their mothers which she gave special care to. These sheep got to know her and develop a special realtionship with her. On the other hand, the other sheep who didn’t need her so much were rather indifferent to her presence, but she still cared for them and provided for them. “These sheep didn’t have a close relationship with me like my orphans did, but if they continued to listen to my voice and follow after me, they could enter into their destiny. ‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand’ (John 10:27-28)”

Perhaps the best parts of the book are the little snippets of information highlighted under “Shearing Shed,” “Good Grain” and “Chew on This” in which Niedzinski provides a very succinct lesson worth remembering. One of the best is this offering found under “Good Grain”: “On your feet now – applaud God! Bring a gift of laughter, sing yourselves into his presence. Know this: God is God, and God, God. He made us; we didn’t make him. We’re his people, his well-tended sheep. Enter with the password: ‘Thank you!’ Make yourselves at home, talking praise. Thank him. Worship him. For God is sheer beauty, all-generous in love, loyal always and ever. (Psalm 100)

“Heaven has a Blue Carpet” both educates and entertains. Neidzinski has graciously shared her hard-learned lessons with the rest of us that we may profit from them.

Some other great quotes from this book:

“Man will also give up and die without hope. Hope is a gift of life given to mankind by God. With hope, man can anticipate, aspire, and believe in what he does not see. The Lord delights in those who can put their hope in him and his unfailing love.”

“Are you hungry for God? Are you willing to let him do whatever it takes to get you to that place of broken, holy hunger? Are you willing to give the Shepherd total control over your life? If you do, don’t be surprised if he starts messing with it. He might put you in a new pasture, in a different sheep pen, or even lock you up in a smelly stall for a while; whatever it takes. Don’t hold on to any part of your life so tight that the Shepherd can’t move it around or eliminate it! He alone knows your future. You have to believe that the plans he has for you are always for your good . . . even if they stink for a time.”

Book Review: Reflections of God’s Holy Land

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey through Israel
by Eva Marie Everson and Miriam Feinberg Vamosh
Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008

The vast majority of us will never have the opportunity to take a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, to walk where the patriarchs, prophets, Jesus, and the apostles traveled. Thanks to this amazing work by Eva Marie Everson and Miriam Feinberg Vamosh, however, we are all able to appreciate the beauty and history of this pivotal geographic area. In Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey Through Israel, Everson, a Christian, and Vamosh, a Jew, combine their knowledge and appreciation of the Holy Land to create an incredibly beautiful, informative book.

The first thing one notices about this book is its sheer breathtaking beauty. Designed as a coffee table book, it is full of photos that counteract any preconceived notions of what the Holy Land looks like. Simply looking at the photos, one feels that one has stepped into a different world steeped in history and blessed by God.

The information is first-rate as well. Each location is introduced by a Biblical passage that references that locale. The “Did You Know” section provides historical background about the place and information about life in Biblical times. These sections are full of fascinating facts. The “Reflections” are perhaps the most touching part of the narratives, exploring the effect a place has on the heart and on one’s faith. For example, in Nazareth, Everson writes of looking over a railing at “Mary’s Spring,” a place which is thought to be the location of the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel told Mary she was to conceive Jesus. “I would dip my hand into it, if only I could reach it. The water is clear and appears refreshing. Above it are more remembrances of Mary . . . of her life . . .of her gift. Living Water. Without him, Mary would have been just a girl. Just a virgin bride married to a Jewish carpenter. Just a mother like any other. Just like me. Without him, there was no ‘her.’ Like her, without him, there is no ‘me.’” Another example comes from a visit to the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. “’We only have five loaves,’ the disciples told Jesus. ‘We only have two fish.’ Isn’t this the way of it? We think of what we ‘only have’ rather than what it might become in Jesus’ hands. Not enough, we think, and so we hold back . . .With this, we think, we must feed ourselves only because we are hungry. . . I stretch my hand toward the lump of rugged stone beneath the altar. If only I could place what little I have to offer upon it, Jesus would feed others. Jesus would feed me.”

“Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey through Israel” is a book to be savored and studied. It provides an armchair pilgrimage to the holiest of lands.