Finding God In Winter

I have to admit, winter is not my favorite season.  I’m a spring and fall kind of person, but there are some things I just can’t control, no matter how hard I try.  The seasons and the weather which comes with them are things I simply cannot control. Last weekend, I was leading a retreat in Maryland, and we had to end sooner than expected because a winter storm was bearing down on the retreat center. With the prediction of several inches of snow, many retreatants decided to head home, leaving just a small group of die-hards wanting to stick it out.  Being the leader, I decided to stay too, and I’m so glad I did.

As the snow began falling, a peace also fell over the center, and our little group talked, prayed and ate wonderful food, prepared by a dedicated staff.  Some of us ventured out, enjoying the snow as it came down.  Together and individually, we experienced God’s loving presence and when we were finally able to leave, we felt so blessed and renewed.

For those of you living on the East Coast, you may know that our winter forecast includes the return of the Polar Vortex, something I for one am not looking forward to.  The last one helped create one of the most snow-filled winters I had ever experienced since moving to Maryland nearly thirty years ago.  We’ll see what happens, but I must admit that I can’t wait for spring!

I recently came across a blog post written by Vinita Hampton Wright, and she writes about three ways to Find God in Winter. In her simple style, she lays them out: Use the opportunity for deeper prayer; Explore other sources of joy; Identify winter-worthy opportunities to serve.  As we move into the deepest part of winter, please take a few minutes and read Vinita’s post and then pray about how, in addition to her three ideas, you might think up a few of your own as we all go about Finding God throughout this winter season.


Lentil Marinara

I led a retreat this past weekend, and wanting to have the retreatants try some healthy and easy recipes, I made one of my favorites for them to sample.  Everyone loved it, but unfortunately, I left my recipe handouts at home.  In order to make things easier, I told them that I would repost the recipe on my blog, and here it is.  Lentils are almost a perfect protein, easy to prepare and inexpensive.  Give this recipe a try, especially during these cold winter days.

Lentil Marinara

Serves 6

1 jar (26 oz) tomato-based pasta
sauce (I used Wegman’s “Grandpa’s Sauce Goes Vegetarian”)

1 12 oz. bag Wegman’s frozen Mirepoix (diced carrots,
onions, and celery) or 3 fresh carrots,

diced, two medium onions diced, 2 stalks celery diced

2 tb olive oil

1 cup dried lentils, picked over,
rinsed and drained (I used regular brown lentils)

1/2 cup dry red wine (or low sodium
vegetable broth)

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper to taste

In skillet, sauté Mirepoix in olive oil over medium heat
until onions are translucent, about ten minutes.  In heavy pot, heat six cups water to boiling.
Add lentils and bay leaf and reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered for
15-20 minutes or until lentils are tender.
Remove from heat, drain and discard bay leaf.  Return lentils to
pot and add mirepoix, tomato sauce, wine, salt and pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes,
covered.  If sauce becomes too thick add some of the pasta water.

You might try something different and serve this delicious
Marinara over spiralized veggie noodles rather than traditional pasta.

This sauce is tastier the second day.

(recipe adapted from Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for
Reversing Diabetes)


A Vision For 2019

Since this past summer, a  Scripture passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians has kept coming up in my prayer, and I think it presents a vision for living out 2019 with hopefulness and optimism.  I’ve mentioned this thought to several friends, and they agreed, so I wanted to share it with you.

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

St. Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in prison, and he wanted the Christians in Philippi to know that he saw all the hardships he was experiencing as his opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ.  I think the encouragement flowing from this passage can be a great companion for us this year, especially as we struggle to overcome the difficulties which will surely come our way and strive to be the people God calls us to be.

I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that St. Ignatius drew great consolation from these words of St. Paul.  As he recovered from the battle wounds which nearly took his life, Ignatius realized that he wanted to do more for God and devote his life to Him.  Ignatius felt called to travel to the Holy Land, an arduous trip in those days.

On his way to the port of Barcelona, Ignatius wanted to get right with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  His first stop was a monastery high in the mountains. That’s the monastery you see in this photo.The Benedictine monks settled on Montserrat in the ninth century, and their monastery home has been known for centuries as a place where pilgrims can come to pray.  St. Ignatius,  with his leg still not fully healed, climbed up this rugged mountain and stayed several days, meeting with a holy monk who offered just the spiritual help and healing Ignatius needed. Of course, there is much more to this story, but for today, we’ll leave it at that.

So, as we continue to move through the first month of 2019, I think it important to ask ourselves about the goals we have set.  For some, they’ve already given up and they are right back where they were.  In fact, statistics show that most people give up on their New Year resolutions/goals within weeks.

But, what if this passage above could be our grounding for our desire to persevere with what we set out to do?  I know for me, I love the idea that Christ is walking right beside me as I go through my day, to both challenge and encourage me.  How much more could I accomplish if I realized Christ is right there to give me strength?  Ignatius would add, I think, that whatever it is we hope to do and achieve this year, our main desire in those things must be to do more for God.  If we accomplish what we set out to do, let God have the glory, not us.

If you have a list of goals for 2019, go back and pray about them.  Where can you find God in them?  How can God be glorified in your successful accomplishment of them?  Let’s spend the next week prayerfully considering these questions.  The Lord who gave St. Paul strength, who gave St. Ignatius strength, is our Lord too.  Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Let’s choose our 2019 goals wisely through prayer, and then surrender them to the Lord.  Tell him that you want to achieve these goals, not for your benefit, (although you will certainly benefit, maybe in unexpected ways) but for his glory.  God will give you the strength to do anything, if you ask.  If we do this, I have great confidence that when we arrive at the end of 2019, we will ask ourselves how was it we had such little faith.  For when the Lord gives us the strength, all things are possible.


2019 Retreat Schedule

I’m excited to be offering several Ignatian retreats in 2019, and I’m grateful to once again partner with Bon Secours Retreat Center in Marriottsville, MD where they will be held.  Although the best options are the weekend retreats, my day retreats throughout the year have become popular and are a nice option for those who just want to check out how some key Ignatian spiritual practices can strengthen their relationship with God and improve their lives.  To register, please click here to link up with the Bon Secours website.  I hope you’ll prayerfully consider joining us on one of these upcoming transformative retreats.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

 Let’s make 2019 the year we get back on track so we can do more for God!

Feb. 23 Prayer Walking/Rules for Eating- This day-long retreat will focus on ways we can improve our health, both physically and spiritually.  Walking is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to exercise and when we add prayer, great things happen!  St. Ignatius of Loyola integrated rules/guidelines for eating into his Spiritual Exercises knowing that for many people, paying more attention to what and how they eat can help their spiritual life. This retreat is led by Paul Gallagher.

May 17-19  The Ignatian Way- This weekend retreat provides retreatants with some key Ignatian spiritual practices which can help them grow in all areas of their lives.  This retreat is led by Paul Gallagher and Nancy Marshall-Bickel.

Aug. 17   Everyday Discernment- St. Ignatius was a master of discernment, both for big and small things.  We know that even the smallest decisions can have an impact on our lives.  Come join us as we learn what discernment is, and how an Ignatian framework for making decisions can benefit everyone. This day-long retreat is led by Paul Gallagher.

Nov 15-17  Making All Things New- This is our signature weekend retreat, based on my doctoral work.  We’ll spend our weekend looking at the connection between spirituality and health, primarily through the lens of Ignatian Spirituality.  We also integrate healthy eating, cooking and prayer walking sessions into our time together.  This transformative retreat will include an opportunity for retreatants to participate in a twelve week online retreat starting in January, 2020. This retreat is lead by Paul Gallagher and Nancy Marshall-Bickel.

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in this paths.”  Isaiah 2:3


New Year Lentil Soup

We’ll soon be entering the first full week of 2019, and I’ve been working one of my goals for this year, and that’s to do more healthy home cooking.  My first attempt was this Lentil Soup, and I was happy how it turned out.  Like all soups and stews, this one tastes better the next day.  I used smoked paprika, but feel free to use regular if that what’s you have on hand.

New Year Lentil Soup

Serves 8

2 tb. olive oil

1 12 oz. bag Wegman’s frozen Mirepoix (diced carrots, onions, and celery) or 3 fresh carrots, diced, two medium onions diced, 2 stalks celery diced

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes

1 1/2 cup dry lentils (I used French Green)

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground pepper

3/4 cup red wine

2 bay leaves

1 32 oz. vegetable broth (low sodium)

1 sprig fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 tsp. paprika

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In soup pot, bring eight cups of water to boil.  Add lentils and bay leaves.  Cover pot and gently boil for 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.  Discard cooking liquid, saving lentils and bay leaves.

In second pot, add olive oil and heat.  Add vegetables and garlic; sauté until translucent about ten minutes. Add wine.  Simmer two minutes.

Add in:  vegetable broth, cooked lentils, bay leaves, tomatoes, salt, pepper and paprika. Bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover pot and simmer for one hour.

Before serving, add parmesan cheese and parsley. Enjoy!