Desperately Seeking Something

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This post – a book review of Desperately Seeking Spirituality by Meredith Gould,  along with an author Q&A was all set to go for Monday. Then Orlando happened. The senseless and tragic massacre at the Pulse nightclub was on everyone’s mind, so I postponed this until today. Now I am doing a little rewrite because no matter what, it seems like many of us are desperately seeking something.

91c84649763ac9c3518749992a8937e1In the face of a tragedy some people gravitate towards faith or religion, others decry it. This grows even more complicated when the killer claims that he acted in the name of God. And it grows even more problematic when many mainstream religions overtly or covertly condemn LGBT people. Yesterday I was struck when I watched NBC anchor Lester Holt interview Pulse shooting survivor Joshua McGill, because at the end of the clip, McGill talks about how he prayed with another club patron, one who was badly wounded. This scenario is one of many reasons that I think that the book I’m here to talk about today really essential.

DSS.489x750Prolific author Meredith Gould has once again written a book for the very present moment with her latest work, Desperately Seeking Spirituality, A Field Guide to Practice. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 136 pp, $16.95)  Not surprisingly, she shows up with just the right words at just the right time.

The book is compact and easy to read, with each chapter interspersed with boxes that are chock full of helpful information and insights. For both the church-goer with a curious mind, and the church avoider who is inquisitive, and everyone in between, this book offers rewards that are both practical and spiritual. In short, many seek the sacred, whether in a traditional church or elsewhere and the author offers refreshing pathways to grace and renewal.

This review is brief and ends with an editorial review that I wrote prior to publication:

The image of a seeker standing before shelves of books looking bewildered can now be replaced with an image of a seeker happily holding a copy of this book. Meredith Gould has written what will certainly be the go-to volume for many; both those who search for a spiritual practice, and those with a practice, but who wish to go wider and deeper. With her trademark brand of experience-based wisdom infused with humor, the author offers readers smart, practical, and refreshing options as they make their spiritual way.

KERN-.GouldHeadshot.500pxAlso for today, Meredith answered a few questions that I prepared so that those of you who are not that familiar with her would gain some insights. As for those of you who, you will enjoy her trademark wit and perception that never dumbs us down, and always leads us deeper.  With that – here is Meredith Gould!

DSS is a different kind of book for you. Was writing this one significantly different from earlier works?
For people who know me because of church communications, I suppose Desperately Seeking Spirituality might seem like a different type of book. For me it’s a return to an early and persistent call.

I started writing about the spirituality of everyday life during the late 1980s, primarily for magazines. I continued exploring the mystical mundane during eight years of blogging and then in my first four books, even in the one about working from a home office! In The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today, published in 2008, my focus shifted to church communications. I had my reasons!

After working as a part-time pastoral associate, I realized just how much we needed to recognize communications ministry as a core ministry. I also discovered Twitter in 2008. In 2011, I created the church social media hashtag (#chsocm) and launched a weekly Twitter-based chat, and the rest is history but not necessarily destiny.

A couple of years ago, I felt a familiar tug to write about spiritual life thanks, in part, to working with churches and clergy.

How – if all – did your own spiritual practices change or grow during your writing of this book?
Desperately Seeking Spirituality is about why and when traditional spiritual practices stop working. I’d been hearing stories about discouragement with traditional spiritual practices from other self-identified spiritual seekers. Oddly comforting. To provide a context for readers, I write about my own spiritual journey and gradual transition from enthusiasm to ennui.

By the time I proposed this book, I’d basically stopped doing formal spiritual practices and was exploring what it meant to actively be spiritual. I zeroed in on five core spiritual practices – willingness, curiosity, empathy, generosity, and delight. Writing about these spiritual practices of being meant I had to get honest about my own commitment to practicing them. And so, each chapter drew me deeper into the practice I was writing about, which was challenging and exhausting in ways I did not anticipate.

I also rediscovered the extent to which writing is spiritual practice that invites me to connect with and surrender to a power greater than myself.

Along those lines, what is your favorite or most enriching spiritual practice?
Curiosity has been my go-to practice for years for all the reasons I list in the chapter. Curiosity slows down reactivity; opens new gateways to wisdom and knowledge; generates enthusiasm for inquiry; and substitutes light for heat. Things go much better internally and externally when instead of acting out of outrage my prayer of first resort is, “Dear God, what’s up with that?”

As for traditional spiritual practices, I always experience anchored transcendence when I chant or walk a labyrinth. I suspect this is because these practices give my body something to do that relaxes my mind enough to open a connection to the Holy Spirit..

Do you have a favorite part/chapter of this book?
I confess to you and Almighty God that I probably had too much fun writing endnotes. In addition to typical stuff like citations and resources, I add semi-snarkastic commentary thus providing yet another glimpse into my thought process. Readers tell me they rarely other authors’ endnotes but always read mine.

I also loved creating “Know Thyself” questions for contemplation and discussion, and am planning to develop workshops – probably webinars – based on them. I have two favorite content boxes. First is the one about orthopraxytosis, a toxic condition I’ve identified and named. The second introduces readers to “spiritual bypassing,” a defense mechanism that has been characterized as “avoidance and holy drag.”

What’s next for you? Is there another book already in the making?
I should probably stop declaring that whatever book I’m writing is the last one I’ll ever write. Two days after sending the manuscript for Desperately Seeking Spirituality to Liturgical Press and vowing I’d never write another book, I started making notes about the next one.

I’m currently writing that book and the working title is, Transcending Generations: A Field Guide to Collaboration In Church. I’m focusing on issues shared by people of faith regardless of chronological age, lifecycle development, or generational cohort. I’m keen on helping readers remove false barriers between generations while honoring authentic differences. It’s going to be my last book! Kidding. Maybe.

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Taste and See – a book review

As the breeze blew the scent enveloped me like a cloud, surrounding me with its sweetness – lilacs! It was a cool but clear early evening in May and I was out walking. The scent was intoxicating and for a moment I stopped and breathed it in deeply. I was deep in that moment and I was also full of the memory of the lilacs of my childhood. Ahhhhh… So beautiful. A short while later, traversing a path in the woods as I made my way home, the sun appeared – a golden orb like a ball stuck upon the upper branches of the trees. In reality, it was on its way down, soon to be followed by the shimmering white disc of the moon rising on the other side of the sky. As evening walks went, this one was pretty spectacular, and was truly a feast for the senses.

407173_LARGEIn her latest book, Taste and See, Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses (Loyola Press), author Ginny Kubitz Moyer dives deeply into the sensual realm of Catholicisma as lived through our senses. Yes, some may think we are a pretty uptight crowd – and with good reason! But in our hearts, if we pay attention, the Catholic faith invites us to luxuriate in the world around us with each one of our senses.

As a writer with a deep Ignatian sensibility, Continue reading

Lent Resource Reviews

7056_ImportantUpdateIMPORTANT UPDATE… please take note!
It has come to my attention that even though Amazon is offering Not By Bread Alone. The page for the book says that it is out of stock, will ship later – but they are NOT selling the book. Please go to the Liturgical Press website to order!

That got me thinking, what if that is also the case for Sacred Space for Lent? It also shows as out of stock. Anyway, that can be ordered via the Loyola Press website.

If you visit the Ave Maria Press website you will find Sacred Reading for Lent and the Living Gospel.

And how could I have forgotten two important resources? I did! One is absolutely free – go to the USCCB Daily Readings page to sign up for an email of each day’s Scriptures. Video reflections are also offered and can be found here.

Last but not least, I highly recommend a subscription to Give Us This Day. Yes I have a bias, I do write for them, but before that day ever dawned, I was a charter subscriber. Go have a look at their subscription page, you can even request a free sample.

 

Lent-631x295While it was my hope to have had this post out earlier, here it is at last! Lent begins on February 10, a little more than two weeks away. As has been my custom, I would like to offer up some ideas for your Lenten prayers and reflection.

Sometimes we feel too busy for Lent, but most of these resources are small enough to put in a pocket or purse, and are short enough for brief periods of prayer. The idea is not to add stress, but to create spaces, however “small” they may seem, to invite the peace of God into our lives. At Lent we truly are on a “journey” through the desert, as we make our way towards Easter. It is good to have one or more resources to accompany us – maybe think of these books as road maps pointing us toward the Triduum.

In no particular order, I present to you:

While it was my hope to have had this post out earlier, here it is at last! Lent begins on February 10, a little more than two weeks away. As has been my custom, I would like to offer up some ideas for your Lenten prayers and reflection.

Sometimes we feel too busy for Lent, but most of these resources are small enough to put in a pocket or purse, and are short enough for brief periods of prayer. The idea is not to add stress, but to create spaces, however “small” they may seem, to invite the peace of God into our lives. At Lent we truly are on a “journey” through the desert, as we make our way towards Easter. It is good to have one or more resources to accompany us – maybe think of these books as road maps pointing us toward the Triduum.

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In no particular order, I present to you: Continue reading

The Nones Are Alright – a book review

978-1-62698-157-7My day job as parish secretary brings me into contact with numerous people, often seeking sacraments; one of the most frequent being infant baptism. A young mom or dad reaches out, sometimes tentatively, to inquire about how to proceed. More often than not, they are not regular church-goers, sometimes they were married at the parish, or simply grew up there. It is a joy to encounter them and help them in whatever way I can. If they follow through, it becomes my job to collect information so that the great welcome of the new child can begin.

That’s when it might get sticky, when I get to godparent(s) requirements. According to Canon Law Continue reading

Looking Towards Lent

Keeping-a-Holy-LentAlthough it may be hard to believe, Lent begins in less than three weeks, on Ash Wednesday, February 18. For many of us, Lent offers us the time to re-orient ourselves through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  As we walk with Jesus in the desert, we are given gifts which may appear heavy and burdensome, as we are confronted with the weight of our own sin. That said, we are also given the gift of change and transformation, ultimately dying and rising with Christ our Lord.

Long before Lent begins, I am on the lookout for prayer resources to use during that season. This year, I have before me, three books, each one offering different gifts of prayer that you may Continue reading

Figuring what out? A book review.

Box-of-Paper-Facial-Tissues-with-Pile-of-Used-Tissues-190Snot. Prodigious amounts of snot, buckets of it, really. Honestly, I can’t ever remember needing to purchase an accessory for reading, but this book was different, and boxes of tissue – boxes, not one box, were de rigueur. Members of my family could tell where I had been reading. No matter the location, bed, chair, or sofa, living room or family room, many telltale piles of used, crumpled up tissues would start springing up, like little mountains of white fluffy muck. It was unprecedented. All from reading a book – all from reading this particular book.

At this point you are confused, aren’t you? You look down and to the right, and you see an image of a book with the word, well, an approximation of the word sh!t in it. Then the opening paragraph is all about snot. What the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on?! This is a faith inspired blog, isn’t it? Well, the Catholic faith is deeply incarnational, meaning things like sh!t and snot are unavoidable. Sorry. Tune out if you wish, but take note – you will be missing out if you do. And who wants to miss out on sh!t like this?

Figureshitout-book-kindleFiguring Sh!t Out: Love, Laughter, Suicide, and Survival, by Amy Biancolli (Behler Publications, 245 pp, $15.95, also available on Kindle) is a highly unusual Continue reading

Living Under the Influence – a book review

404618_LARGEA phrase often overheard – for good or ill – at a bar is, “I’ll have another.” Yes, have another drink, you’ll loosen up and feel good.

Or will you? Perhaps you will end up, “under the influence” and that is not necessarily so good.

Years ago I heard Richard Rohr speak about the notion that alcohol was called “spirits,” something that I had not thought of before that moment. But we consume “spirits” or alcohol, to get a little buzz and feel good, and we begin to fall “under the influence.”

In his latest book, “Under the Influence of Jesus,” (Loyola Press, 176 pp, $15.95)  the wise and prolific Joe Paprocki sets forth a vision. The subtitle of the book says it all – “The Transforming Experience of Encountering Christ.” Forget how we feel if we have a few drinks, how do we feel after we experience Jesus? Continue reading