The Book of Esther

In what simple way is God calling you to act that would draw you closer to Him? For me it was spending a year to read and study the Bible. .

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These are my own contemplative thoughts. If you disagree with the below that’s ok! .

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Before Christ, in the Old Testament, under the old covenant, only priests were allowed near the altar, and they acted as the mediators between God and man. The book of Esther is symbolic to this as it describes her standing in the inner court in front of the king’s hall. The king sees Queen Esther just outside his inner court, HE FINDS FAVOR IN HER (a statement we read often in scripture when God’s relationship to his people is discussed) and holds out his scepter to her as a sign that it is ok to approach him. She moves towards him and touches the very tip of his scepter, a sign of her obedience and humility. To me her approach is like those hoping to come to God either for the first time or after a long hiatus. We have to approach with humility and an open heart, yet we do not have to be pure, or holy, or of a certain worldly stature. We are allowed to come as we are. Esther, who despite knowing she was doing something against the man-made laws of the day said she would approach the king to save her people the Jews from being slaughtered, “even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” In this statement she showed her bravery. This kind of bravery is what God wants to see from us, wants us to cut through all the worldly “laws” like our own expectations, guilt, rules, etc., right to Him. And He will find favor in us for this—we will become his special students in that moment, He will take us under His wing and show us wonderful miracles and bless us tremendously, especially show us how to find His kind of joy in this life if we keep our eyes open to Him. .

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Contemplative Vision by Juliet Benner

Contemplative Vision by Juliet Benner is a book about contemplating religious art with prayer in mind and using it to expand our prayer life by gazing at the face of God through it, seeing His face and meditating about the art’s purpose/story, and the artist’s time creating it. The book discusses using art as a purpose to expand our faith and awe. For instance, the artists who create icons of Christ meditate on his face for hours while painting him. Just beautiful! .

Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker

Talk about a cozy book for the season! Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker is that! Prairie Avenue was a really fancy neighborhood in Chicago in the early 1900’s. This story highlights the world that goes on behind closed doors—really fancy ones—and in rooms—really fancy ones with large stone fireplaces and indoor gardens. Despite what we may see, trouble can brew anywhere and people can be in pain even though their life may look grand on the outside. Arthur Meeker highlights this kind of paradox and I highly recommend it! It’s one of my favorites and it is one of the few books I would read again. .

Listening Hearts: Discerning Call in Community

I help my son with his math a lot these days, sometimes I feel like it’s my job while they are remote. It works out because I’m also confused so it boosts his confidence and he gets to teach me a lot of the time. But in between problems I whittle. I’m almost done with St. Margaret of Scotland who looks more like the princess from Mario Brothers and the other is the Blessed Mother, who is not finished yet. I’m trying to figure out a way to do them that would look more folk art than a cartoonish depiction, so I’ve been studying museum folk art pieces. Totally irrelevant to the book featured here that I will read soon as it was a recommendation from a priest who is my spiritual mentor while I’m taking this discernment course. Anyone out there ever read it? What did you think?

The book of Lamentations

I have no authority to teach you. These are my own contemplative thoughts, you may disagree and that’s OK!

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness, and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail… They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait (quietly) for him.”
(Lamentations 3:19-24)

The title of this book was originally translated from Hebrew to the words “Alas!” or “How?” Lamentations is a sort of epic poem of which
Jeremiah was probably the author. Throughout the book, the prophet is lamenting over the destruction of Jerusalem. We all have things that
bear weight in our hearts, the crumbling of our comforts and securities perhaps? Here Jeremiah describes the horrific events in Jerusalem; then with hope and faith in the Lord’s mercy, he prays for
the people and describes the Lord’s mighty hand of Love which delivers perpetual hope to the faithful of this Hope. Jeremiah reminds us that we must remember our afflictions and the distractions that kept us wandering away from God’s path for us. To continually grow and mature in Spirit we must remember, like Christ, we too have born our own crosses, and these crosses were not in vain. Their purpose was to teach and redirect. When Jesus was nailed to the cross he looked up to heaven and lamented ‘why?” to God. “Why has thou forsaken me?” Which are the same words David speaks in psalm 22. In doing this he was lifting his troubles to God giving God credit, not only for future generations to see the Truth in that day, but to show the witnesses that He had not lost His faith even when it was God who allowed Him to suffer the way He did. The verse of Lamentations continues saying, “Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it?”

The Life of Saint Dominic

St. Dominic is the saint who, according to Catholic writings, was given the vision of the rosary by the Blessed Mother. I’m reading this to delve more into the history of the rosary, but also out of pure interest. I have been studying prayer lately for the class I’m in, centering prayer in particular, which is similar in meditation to that of the rosary. Centering prayer however is a prayer of quiet and the rosary, according to tradition, should be said aloud, though I believe many rules about religion were made to be broken and so I say much of it in whispers or silence. I have heard this book by Drane is hard to read for some because the language is a little old fashion, but I read stuff like that all the time so it might be OK. If anyone knows of a better version of his life let me know. 😄

Paul’s letter to Titus

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved
us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his
mercy.” -Titus 3:5

Paul’s letter to Titus, who was leading ministry efforts for the
island of Crete, is an essential letter for leaders of the church even
today. Paul’s words in the verse above here are important for us too,
as he reminds us that we are to love even those who hurt us. As we’ve
heard it before, it’s easy to love agreeable people who love us back
and show their love to us, but it can be hard to love those who hurt
us and don’t want us in their lives, but if your heart is open to the
Holy Spirit it will be easy to love these difficult people. Be open to
the Spirit and let her talk to you about True love and mercy, because
it’s the only language she knows. Any other language speaking to the
heart that doesn’t revolve around love and mercy is not coming from
the Holy Spirit and comes from some other, dare I say, unholy place.
Be well in heart, all of you!

Peace for Artsakh!

Preparing and serving food feels so much like a prayer. Please help stop the attacks in Artsakh. If you can, please text PASSAGE to 52886 to send a prepared letter to your state rep. It’s so easy and takes only three seconds.

Even though most of this food is Jerusalem-inspired, I couldn’t help thinking about my Armenian friend who is very upset about the violence in #artsakh so I made and dedicated this food to my friend and the Armenian people suffering tonight. *Armenian string cheese is represented and I ordered an Armenian cookbook today to do this right with my whole family. #artsakhstrong

The book of the Prophet Jeremiah

Oh my anguish, my anguish!
I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
My heart pounds within me,
I cannot keep silent. For I have
heard the sound of the trumpet;
I have heard the battle cry.”
(Jeremiah 4:19)

Any time I have witnessed an injustice I have felt this way. Here
Jeremiah, a prophet, emphasizes exactly what I felt when I read about
the Poletown neighborhood in Detroit that was razed for the GM plant
in 1981. I can’t explain it, but the story awakened something within
me. It was like a trumpet that vibrated every part of my soul, and I
couldn’t shake the urge to talk about it endlessly to those who would
listen. I finally contacted a publisher and now the book, which has
been a year in the making, will be on shelves by Febuary 8th, 2021.
The sound of the trumpet is a call to something. It is the adrenaline
that bubbles up in our chests when we feel the need to speak Truth. It
is the nagging urge to do something, call someone, reach out, show
love. So by this, sometimes the trumpet’s call may sound different but
it is still a call. It is our job to try our best to listen for its
cry. Jeremiah’s book begins with his call to be a prophet, he heard
the trumpet, God’s voice saying, Get yourself ready!…They [the kings
of Judah and priests] will fight against you but will not overcome
you, for I am with you and will rescue you…” (Jeremiah 1:17-19). If
you have Christ’s Truth which is centered around unconditional love,
mercy and, empathy, then you have God. Do not be afraid to speak
Truth, do not be afraid of the trumpet’s call, its battle cry may just
be your life renewed.

The Street by Ann Petry

So good! I came across this at @cottagebooks over the summer and thought I’d give it a whirl. Her writing is fabulous! Sometimes you just know when someone’s got it and Ann Petry has IT! As a writer, talent like this, the mystery of it, because you can’t really put you finger on what makes it great, but you know it just is, inspires me. Maybe because she just says what something feels like and looks like without thinking about how the reader will think, without TRYING to make the descriptions sound good but just putting them out there. I need to wrangle that kind of courage!

“Lutie Johnson, a newly single mother whose efforts to claim a share of the American dream for herself and her son meet frustration at every turn in 1940s Harlem. Opening a fresh perspective on the realities and challenges of black, female, working-class life, The Street became the first novel by an African American woman to sell more than a million copies

The book of Luke

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)

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In the class I’m taking through the diocese, we are learning about a lot about prayer. It is a time for renewal and restoration. Some go on week long retreats to pray, some for the weekend or a day, and others take 15-30 minutes everyday to center themselves in prayer. Some simply meditate. However you do this it is healthy and good to reconnect to God and to your ‘center’, where God exists or the very best version of yourself. We all need to reconnect to this part of our existence often to keep ourselves restored, renewed, energized, inspired so we are able to continue straight the road to Love.

How do you pray or center yourself?