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Retreat in Silence

This afternoon, I’ll be heading out for my annual silent retreat.  The retreat center where I go generally has these Ignatian retreats in August, but this year, it was moved to the middle of June. As I noted in my post yesterday, I know that God always has a plan.  I’m wondering if He knew how much I would need a retreat at the beginning of the summer, instead of at the end.  Maybe it will be made clear to me. I’ll let you know how it goes 😉

Usually, I bring a ton of spiritual reading with me, most of which I carry back home unread.  I tend to try and “fill” the silence, but not this year.  I’m only bringing a couple of things to read, along with my journal.  I want to really be able to “hear.”

My traveling companions this year will be Chris Lowney, who wrote Heroic Living.  St. Ignatius will be joining us, along with St. Phillip Neri, who has only recently come back on my radar.  Together, we’ll be walking, thinking, praying, and relaxing.  Together, we’ll be traveling along the path that leads to the One who calls our name, reminding us that we are His, and all is well.

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The Unfolding Mystery

I had the chance to visit one of my good friends today.  I wanted to talk with him a bit before I went on retreat, to seek some guidance about what I should focus on.  We spent some time talking about several of the key things that have been going on with me over the last few months. Nothing bad, mostly good.

As I finished up filling him in, he said the image he got was a kind of unfolding of a story. How it will end is still a mystery, with new chapters being written with each passing day.  I really liked this image, and it resonated with me.

Life really is a mystery, isn’t it?  Although many of us try to figure it out, in the end that approach seems a bit futile.  We get frustrated when we think that everything is up to us, that we are fully in control.   In the end, I know that God has a plan for each of us, and for the world.

I can’t say for sure what tomorrow will bring.  That’s part of the mystery unfolding before us. This unfolding started long before our present generation, and will probably end long after we’re gone.  Our own unique stories are woven into a larger one that continues to be written.

I can’t wait to see how this story plays out.  I think it will all make sense in the end, like most good mysteries.   Maybe we’ll scratch our heads and think to ourselves, “I should have figured it out so much sooner. The Author put signs and hints on nearly every page.”

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! plans to give you a future full of hope.  When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot.

Jeremiah 29:11-14

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Sacred Feasts

(Assisi, 2007)

In his cookbook, Sacred Feasts, Brother Victor-Antione D’Avila-Latourrette (what a name for a monk) wrote that he hoped his readers would discover an affinity for the monastic (vegetarian) approach to cooking.  Brother Victor (much better ;)) wrote ,

this style of cooking is characterized by simplicity, tastefulness and resilient frugality.  It’s also imbued with the innumerable joys and ways of praising God daily through the practice of food spirituality in the humble sanctuary of the kitchen. (pg. vii) 

When I first purchased this great cookbook, I didn’t know that for centuries, monks ate an almost exclusively vegetarian diet.  As I read through the recipe commentaries, I began to understand not only the rhythm of monastery life, but also how simply the monks ate.  Brother Victor presented the monk’s favorite recipes with the hope that everyday cooks would recreate and experiment with the dishes, which he called authentic food for the body and soul.

Being an everyday cook, I did just that, and through trying the recipes, I became hooked on vegetarian food.  I loved the line about authentic food for the body and soul.  Yes, that’s what I think we need to do.  Link our physical and spiritual nourishment together to improve our overall health.

 If we eat only junk food, which we know is not the best for us, do we also not pay much attention to what we consume for our spiritual growth?  It’s a pretty good question to ask yourself.  When I look back to the time that I was eating very poorly, I can now see that I wasn’t taking care of myself spiritually either.  Today,  I’ve got both in sync, along with positive mental growth, and I’m in the best overall shape I’ve ever been.

All this got me thinking, and I decided to begin inviting friends over to my house for simple vegetarian meals.  I wanted the food to be really good and easy to prepare.  I had my first sacred feast a few months ago, and all of the recipes can be viewed in the recipes section on the right.  Everyone loved the food, and it was a great experience for me. 

My goal now is to start having these dinners every month.  I’m encouraging you to try some of the recipes, and then host your own sacred feast.  So many people are looking to get healthy, not only physically but also spiritually.  I think hosting a sacred feast is a really cool  way to help those we love to take care of themselves a bit better. 

In the next week, look for a Sacred Feasts tab to the right.  I’m going to get some menu ideas posted, along with some new recipes for you to try out (I have to test them first!).

Thanks to everyone who continues to follow this blog.  It has taken a life of its own on, and I’m still learning.  For those who have subscribed and get the blog through email, I have a tip for you.  

When you open the email, click on the title of the blog entry (using today’s  for example, Sacred Feasts).  This will take you from the email to my actual blog, Making All Things New.  You’ll be able to see everything the way I’m intending it to be viewed, which I think will make it a more meaningful experience for you.


Here Be Dragons

According to legend, on certain ancient maps you can find the letters H.B.D. written at the edge of where the uncharted territory begins.  The story goes that the letters stand for “Here Be Dragons” and warn that there may be dangerous creatures in the unexplored and mysterious waters.

Maybe one of my studious nieces or nephews can find out if there really are maps with H.B.D. written on them. Until they do, I think the concept is fascinating, and it has relevance to many of the postings I’ve been doing lately.

Unexplored territory can be scary.   Anytime you move from an old way of doing things to a new way, it’s pretty easy to quickly become uncomfortable.   Going into this new territory, whether be changing a diet, developing an exercise regime, settling into a new job, or making some other change in your life, committing to unfamiliar practices can make you feel lost and unsure of yourself.  Sound familiar?

What can you do when you confront one of these dragons in the uncharted waters of your own life?  Many folks seek refuge in the harbor of their old habits.  Yes, going back to where you were might make you feel comfortable and may give you shelter and a sense of safety, but it could deny you the success you will experience if you stay on course.

The feedback and support you get from others can help you navigate this unfamiliar territory. When its all said and done, some adventurous sailors did venture out into those mysterious waters where they had never been been before.  Did they ever really encounter the dragons?  I think you know the answer.

Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from boldly developing a new course for your life.  For some, this might only mean making small changes and easily achieved goals.  Good for you! For others, it might mean developing life-changing goals and objectives that won’t be easy to achieve. Not easy doesn’t mean  impossible, however.  I bet there will be a lot of people to cheer you on. I’ll be one of them 🙂

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Heroic Living

The title of the book, Heroic Living, intrigued me, so I picked it up.  Written by Chris Lowney, the book uses Ignatian Spirituality as a tool for developing a personal life strategy to achieve your “mighty purpose” in life.

Lowney was a high-powered investment banker for JP Morgan.  He got out in time.  I don’t even know if JP Morgan exists anymore.  Well, before he was an investment banker, the author was a Jesuit seminarian for a time.  While he was in formation, he developed a love for the Ignatian Spirituality which reminds us to “find God in all things.”

So, Lowney combined the leadership skills he learned at JP Morgan with his passion for this centuries old spiritual way of living, and presto, this book was born.  I’m not sure if you can get it at your local library, but maybe.  If not, it came out in paperback not that long ago,  and I think it can be a helpful tool for anyone who is desiring to make changes in their lives.

This comes from the introduction,

You were born to change the world.

You can make the most of this unique opportunity by mastering three vital skills:

  • Articulate a purpose worth the rest of your life.
  • Make wise career and relationship choices in this changing, uncertain world.
  • Make every day matter by mindful attention to your thoughts, actions, and results.

Is that a great teaser, or what?  I know many people who are in my life, some reading these words, who want to make changes so they can begin to be the person God is calling them to be. Whether it be this book, or one like it on your shelf, the time to start making these changes is now. We have to get moving.

As Pope John Paul II reminded us so often, quoting from the words of the angels found throughout the Bible, “do not be afraid.”


Who I Am Makes A Difference

This morning, my sister emailed me about this powerful video.  For some of you reading this blog, it will have deep meaning.  Mother Theresa used to say that we didn’t need to do great things, just little things with great love.  The video speaks for itself….

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Todd Burrier

Todd Burier is a friend of mine and he works hard at helping people live healthier and happier lives.  He does this as a motivational speaker and wellness expert.  The other day, he sent me a really inspirational email, and I asked him for permission to share it with you.  He said yes and you can read it below.  Todd has two websites at the bottom of his email.  Take a minute and check them out.

Sunday as I was traveling, I landed in Memphis and was picked up by the man who typically shuttles me to and from the airport. As we were walking to the van I noticed someone walking very closely behind us. Almost like they were going in the same direction as us, but didn’t realize they were walking so close to us that it seemed strange. As we got to the van, this woman was still right next to us and at this moment the man introduced me to her as his daughter. This was the first acknowledgement that she was with us.

This woman is 40 years old, and the man had told me in the past about the disease that she and some of her other siblings were born with. Essentially they were born with no sweat glans, no ability to have teeth, and no hair. I don’t know the name of the disease only that the things I descirbed are just the tip of the ice berg. For many years it was questionable that they would live very long.

As we were riding to our destination I learned that she had spent all day at a Zumba seminar to get certified to teach this aerobic dance/fitness style (which she must teach with an air conditioner blowing directly on her or her body will overheat and she could die). It was hard to get her to talk because she was very shy.

On the way back to the airport a few days later I asked her Dad some more questions. She is unemployed, has had a very hard life (as you can imagine…not just living with the disease, but dealing with the verbal abuse she took from schoolmates making fun of her) and is trying to start her own business teaching Zumba. She has no experience running a business and no money, but she rented a little warehouse space and is giving it a try. I told the man that if he had her call me I would be happy to help her in any way that I could.

I was surprised when she emailed me and said she would like to talk. I called her yesterday and spoke to her about 20 minutes. I learned that she has a passion for helping peoiple with their weight (because she has had her own struggles) and she has a passion for dance, and Zumba gives her a way to do both at the same time. Of course she is going out on a limb by renting space in a warehouse, with no experience and no way to pay her bills, and no understanding of how to run a business.

I gave her a few ideas about how to make sure she could keep the doors open first, while she kept a roof over her head. She was so thankful, because she had no idea how to even think about what to do. Basically all I did was encourage her and help her see that she can do it.

That phone call felt very good for me. There is no interest or gain in this for me. It was purely to encourage and help someone else. And that’s the point of the story.

People who are trying to accomplish something need encouragement. They need people to cheer them on and be there for them. Not just because this helps them, but because there aren’t many people who do it.

People spend more time telling people why it won’t work or questioning the attempt. Why?

Sometimes out of ignorance…they simply don’t know any better.

Sometimes out of jealousy….you are doing something which makes them reflect on themselves.

Sometimes out of fear….that you will succeed and things will change between you.

Sometimes out of concern…they genuinely are worried you might fail (unfortunately this is a limited view becasue it is far better in life to try and fail than to not try)

Sometimes out of selfishness…because your goal will take time away from them.

There’s more, but this gives you an idea. Having been someone who has strived for goals in a very open way for years I can attest first hand that encouragement is a rare commodity. Anyone who is attempting to accomplish something is going to have struggle, doubt, fear, fatigue, etc. at various times.Help them. Be there for them. Encourage them.

Think of someone you know today who is working toward something. Call them up and let them know how much you respect what they are doing and how much you believe in them. Let them know that you know they can do it and that when times get hard, you will be there for them. Ask them if there is anything you can do for them. It will be a gift to them…and not bad for you either.

Many Blessings,


Todd Burrier-Making a Million Lives Better

“When we know about something that can help people we have a responsibility to share.”

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Biggest Loser

The other night, I happened to catch the season finale of The Biggest Loser.  I’m usually at work when the show is on, but I saw it for  the first time during one of our big snow storms.  I guess that was towards the beginning of the season.

Having recently undergone my own weight loss journey, I was amazed at the exercise routine of these very obese people.  Without a doubt, they had to have the show hosts after them non stop in order to achieve their goals.  Those that didn’t meat their weekly goal got bumped off the show.

When I saw these folks at the end of the series, having lost an unbelievable amount of weight, I was impressed.  They didn’t look like the same people.  They have a lot to be proud of, and I hope they are able to keep the weight off.  It’s an ongoing battle, and will be probably for the rest of their lives.

I’m bringing this all up because I think that it’s very important to set goals for yourselves, and then keep following through until you achieve them.  Maybe your issue isn’t weight, but rather you want to find a new job, or you want to get out of debt.  Whatever it is for you, start setting up some reasonable goals.

I say reasonable because if you begin with false expectations, you’ll quickly give up and go right back to where you were, or maybe worse.  I’m guessing none of us have the luxury of personal trainers like the ones on Biggest Loser. We’re probably going to have to do it on our own.

For me, achieving my goals by myself has been hugely rewarding.  I studied up on what I needed to do, got some good advice, and set reasonable and measurable goals.  These weren’t long range goals, but weekly, even daily.  When I met a goal, I celebrated.  When I missed one, I went back and figured out why, then worked on it again until it was accomplished.  This was not easy.  Achieving good goals usually never is.

Do you have some things you need to work on?  Summer is a pretty good time to develop a plan, since things slow down a bit and you can focus.  There are tons of resources, including 974 titles at Amazon to help you.  Or, you can do it the old fashioned way.  Put pen to paper, and write them out.  Don’t forget to ask for a little Divine Assistance.  It always helps!

The experts say this step of writing goals out is important.  If you don’t you’re almost surely doomed to failure.

Lastly, you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.  Bring God into it.  Watch what happens 🙂

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Why Can’t We Stop It?

I generally try to stay out of politics.  Everyone has an opinion, and they’re entitled to them.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that things are in a real mess, with no end in sight.

But, for the life of me, I simply can’t understand how the politicians can’t get their act together and resolve this oil spill in the Gulf Coast.  At this point, weeks after it began, who really cares exactly who is to blame and what went wrong?  They’re going to figure that out in the courts anyway, probably for decades to come.

This is such a catastrophe, it seems to me that we should be putting everything we’ve got on this.  Why is it important that the evening news shows tape from a congressional hearing today showing newly released video of oil and gas gushing out of the pipe?  Doesn’t the entire world already know that’s happening?

Maybe the politicians are too afraid that, if they did take over the task of resolving this crisis, somehow a part of the blame will fall on them.  In the meantime, the oil continues to gush up, at the rate of something like 70,000 barrels a day, according to one estimate.

If there was any issue we could come together and resolve, you would think this would be it.

Will the real leaders please step up soon?