Archive for the ‘Slow Reader Friday’ Category


Slow Reader Friday: Mastery

Stack of books

Click here to see the July 2017 MIP Book Club Selection!

What? You don’t remember me announcing that my MIP Book Club choice was Mastery by George Leonard? Good. It means you have a life.

I chose it last summer…July to be precise. And then life happened to me and I had to let go of the blog this past year. So, better late than never, right? (Just nod your head and agree.)

Once again, Mastery is a book that I studied the first year I was in the HeartPaths Spiritual Direction training program. When I began reading it, I was little astonished that it was on the reading list. It’s not an overtly Christian book. 


Slow Reader Friday: Be Still…


Last night the eldest called and reported that, for a rather monumental birthday soon, he is going camping…alone. Yes, totally alone. Why? Because when looking at Jesus’ example, he noted that He often went away from the crowds and spent time in solitude. The eldest thinks he needs to do the same to find a better, closer relationship with the Lord.

Be still, my heart! An answered prayer, for sure. So, it is probably not coincidence at all that the MIP July 2016 Book Club Selection is entitled Be Still by Jane Vennard.

As I’ve mentioned before in my spring 2016 posts, God doesn’t usually speak when we are distracted. In 21st century America we are constantly distracted, except maybe when we’re asleep. And unfortunately for us, it’s often difficult to experience God while asleep, unless we have prophetic dreams like those described in the Bible.

Thus, we need silence. And because of the many distractions we now have, one of the few ways we can encourage and “grow our silent time” is to go on retreat. Vennard’s book explains both why this is important and how to create prayer retreats that focus on being still and being quiet.

We Americans are uncomfortable with silence, as a rule. We are so accustomed to noise that we no longer even notice it. Right now, as I type this with the TV, radio and music off, I can still hear 5 sounds! I can hear my ceiling fan both rattling (because it needs to be tightened up!) and whirring and I can hear the AC and the gentle clatter of me typing on my keyboard. And my breathing sometimes makes a sound, probably because my allergies are acting up!

Where I am typing is also close to a road. So, it wouldn’t be unusual to hear outdoor noises, such as a car going by (as it just did!) and roofer noises from the neighbor getting a new roof!

Thus, when we go to a remote place, and we switch off the phone and just sit, we often start fidgeting. Even if we manage to sit still, we often want to manipulate God’s communication with us. Of course, this is foolish! And if you are anything like me, you assume that God can only communicate by talking to us through our thoughts. In reality I have learned, in the last year, that God can give me sensations and visions and that ALL of that is Him communicating.

How do I know that it’s God communicating and not just me or some evil entity talking? (I get asked this a lot!) Practice. More than likely if you’ve never experienced God communicating, He’ll give you a little “taste” of that unseen world by answering a heartfelt question or giving you a sensation or a vision that you KNOW just can’t be anyone else other than God. The first time it happened to me it DEFINITELY did not sound like something that came from head! It even involved this blog and yes, I blogged about the experience.

After that experience I just got crazy excited to have more of that in my life–it’s freaking awesome! Enter Heartpaths and the reason why I read Be Still and other recommended books from Year 1 of this 3-year program.

Did I know that studying prayer was going to lead to more “revelations” from God? No. But since we are to communicate with God via prayer, it makes sense that He would communicate back this way. However, we Americans like to dominate “the prayer conversation” and not allow God to enter into that conversation–it’s more like a soliloquy for most of us!

I thought that there were only a few ways to pray. Wrong! Having studied and practiced a handful of them now, I’m learning to recognize “God thoughts” from “MaryAnn thoughts.”

Vennard not only discusses why we need contemplation in our lives, but also how to design retreats that encourage contemplation and teach various prayer techniques. In addition she outlines designing retreats so that people have breaks periodically, avoiding the typical problems associated with such retreats, and promoting them successfully.

Vennard begins the book with an enticing story about a church that began with two people simply wanting to start a centering prayer group in their church and how that small group became a whole new ministry that completely transformed the church. At one point there was even a rift between two groups of church members and they “prayed their way” through that rift and became a cohesive unit again through simply seeking the Lord.

Be Still makes me want to give such a gift to my own congregation and normally, I would charge forth, confident that I could do this all by myself. What hubris!

But after a year of reading, praying and experiencing God’s communication, I now prefer to spend a considerable amount of time praying with my minister and others on how best to bring this to my church and to have as many people involved in planning it as possible. I welcome suggestions by others who may be more knowledgeable than I.

I think a prayer, contemplation and silence revolution is on the way. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, if you ask me. Want to join the revolution? Let me know by posting a comment below or sending me an email here. Then get busy and read Be Still🙂

Monday’s Post: What is the definition of the WOW?

You Might Also Like: August 2016 Book Club and Slow Reader Friday: SoulTypes


Slow Reader Friday: SoulTypes


You’d think that a Christian, who also holds a bachelor’s and master’s in psychology would have thought of this: apply Myers-Briggs typology to church ministry. But nope, I’m not that bright!

For those unfamiliar with the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI), it is widely-used to place people into one of 16 different personality types based on four different aspects of behavior. As with most such tests, each personality type has a particular set of likes and dislikes.

Hirsh and Kise (the authors of SoulTypes) take it a step further and list how each personality type would prefer to deepen their faith. For some it’s doing outreach or mission work. For others it’s practicing religious rituals from the Christian faith tradition. For still others it could be innovative ways of learning about God.

If you’ve ever wondered why the things that “trip your trigger” religiously don’t seem to interest your fellow parishioners and church members, here’s the answer: They don’t have the same personality type as you! I think this answers the question as to why some of us are Methodists; some are Catholics and some are Assembly of God. We all find meaning in certain traditions, innovations and service characteristic of these denominations.

However, we should remember that not everyone in our churches neatly fits into the denomination’s normal practices and we should try to have a wide variety of opportunities for people to find that meaning for themselves. While this is a huge programming challenge, particularly for small churches, it would probably attract more people into our sanctuaries who have traditionally been irritated by some of our insistence on doing things a certain way.

I felt that Hirsh and Kise made this book more complicated than it had to be and that much of it was very formulaic and repetitive writing (probably because my personality type likes innovation!), but the information is valuable in thinking through how one can effectively minister to a wide variety of personality types.


Slow Reader Friday: Christian Meditation…


Happy 4th Anniversary to the darling daughter and her hubby, aka, the DSL! Hope you have a joyous remembrance of that lovely Texas day 4 years ago and a fun celebration!

The MaryAnn In Progress May 2016 Book of the Month is Christian Meditation by James Finley. Finley studied under the much-vaunted (at least in the “spiritual formation/discipline” circles) Thomas Merton. Thus, Finley has authored a book with a great deal of insight from Merton.

I read this book when we were studying Breath Prayer and Centering Prayer. Both forms of prayer are difficult for someone like me, who tends to be a thinker, analyzer, and processor when praying. Both of the aforementioned prayer styles are about emptying your mind as much as humanly possible and allowing God to interact with us in whatever way He wishes.


Slow Reader Friday: Praying Our Experiences


I would love to tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed Praying Our Experiences by Joseph F. Schmidt, but this book was assigned by HeartPaths at a time when I was extremely busy at Compassion Counseling Center. In addition it came at a time when we were honestly struggling to help our youngest son through some difficult times.

I say that because I may not have given this book a fair shake. I do think that the book could have been better written and that I already seem to do much of what was suggested.

If you’ve been to this blog more than once, you’ve probably noticed that brevity is not my thing. And thus, I think I spot verbosity faster than anyone. My lack of it causes me to be overly critical of others with the same challenge. In Praying Our Experiences I felt that the points could have been made much more succinctly–there was a lot of repetition.


Slow Reader Friday: Soul Feast

giving hands

It’s difficult for me to contain my enthusiasm for Soul Feast, since it opened up a whole new realm of discovery, study and blessing for my spiritual journey. But, I think restraint is warranted here, since others may have encountered this material before and thus, be less impressed than I.

Written in 1995, author Marjorie J. Thompson proposes that a major spiritual awakening is due for us earthlings any day now. History states that these events occur about every 500 years and the last one took place in the 16th century. Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that the 21st century version is already underway. People are restless and want something more.

Thompson contends that the something more they seek is to be found in practices first initiated by the “desert fathers and mothers.” These folks grew up in the era immediately following the deaths of the Apostles and felt that they were losing something important from the absence of Jesus Himself and these great teachers and writers.


Slow Reader Friday: The Early to Rise Experience

alarm clock

If you’ve been reading my recent Wednesday and Friday posts, then you know that I’ve been reading The Early to Rise Experience by Andy Traub. I’ve been rather vocal about my night owl tendencies and have thought that there was really no way around my crazy body clock that wants to begin working at about 10 am (at the earliest–I’d really prefer noon!) and finish my work day around 7 pm. I could honestly be productive at home until midnight, too.

Unfortunately, this belief about myself has me at odds with the rest of the American citizenry. And since I’m not Zuckerberg, Obama, or Tom Hanks, I’m not likely to significantly change that fact about the American work ethic any time soon.

I would like to tell you that I used to be a morning person and then I went to college. Unfortunately, my mother was very fond of recounting that I kept her up late into the night playing happily when I was a mere toddler. 


Slow Reader Friday: Start

Water Punch

If you are a Christian blogger, most likely you have heard of Jon Acuff. If you are a Dave Ramsey fan, most likely you have seen Jon Acuff. Jon (as if I know him personally) first gained fame by writing the blog, “Stuff Christians Like.” Dave Ramsey noticed his warped sense of humor and put him to work at his organization. Then Jon began writing books with “cute titles.”

Since I am a huge fan of the “cute title” books, his Quitter book caught my attention when I took the Financial Peace University class by Dave Ramsey. While much younger than this naive blogger, Jon is surprisingly good at savvy writing, sensing patterns, and insights into human nature. He is pretty much my guru for writing.  (The only problem is that it usually takes me a long time to read his stuff, admit he’s right, and then implement his suggestions!)

Quitter became one of my first Slow Reader Friday choices and I could not believe how similar our stories are. I think we both fell victim to trying to pleasing society by our early career choices instead of pursuing what God really created us to do. Jon just learned much faster!

Being a professional writer doesn’t usually thrill your parents–it is one of those careers where success is largely determined by others, as opposed to being determined by how hard you work. Thus, when Jon started pretty much putting in print the thoughts in my head, I was enthralled. And so, it only makes sense that I would want to read Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work that Matters

I can see Jon’s progression as a writer in Start. I read the first page and was laughing out loud. For writers, that’s usually rare, because we usually read A LOT. So, little actually tickles our funny bone enough to make laugh out loud. And he quite obviously took the criticism about Quitter seriously. I saw less “writing career bias” in this book than I did in Quitter

If you decide to read Start yourself, I won’t spoil the first page for you. But, expect to chuckle out loud several times, so maybe don’t read this book during a boring meeting where people actually expect you to be paying attention.

The premise of Start is that the life your parents probably wanted you to pursue to ensure your financial viability and stability is probably not what you were called to do. And if that is true, then you have a choice to make: Be “average” or be “awesome.” The average life is fine if you want that stability. However, if deep within your soul, you long to be awesome and have an inkling that you are pretty awesome at something that others around you admire (because they aren’t that awesome at that same thing), then perhaps you are meant for the “awesome track.”

Acuff is honest–the awesome journey is hard! First, people don’t understand it because they chose the average track and they only understand average. Thus, you’re often forced to seek out others who are on the awesome track to help you on that journey and they are either so few and far between (particularly if you live in Podunk, USA like moi) that you have difficulty locating them or they are extremely busy human beings with actual entourages wherever they go, that you’re never going to gain access to their awesome wisdom.

Acuff also points out that there are a ton of myths about working towards awesome and thus, you are forced to continually confront and squash those little suckers right out of your thinking patterns. He accurately tells you that being awesome is difficult work with long hours involved.

My only criticism is that I wish Jon had spoken more about doing what’s right in God’s eyes even if it doesn’t quite match up with what you envisioned doing in your awesome life. I am happiest when I write full-time. But, right now I think God seriously wanted a nonprofit counseling center started in my community. And my crazy resume and writer lifestyle actually is a plus for doing exactly that. So, some of my writing time is going to be nixed as I follow God’s leading to do something important for my friends, neighbors and community members.

On one of the first seasons of The Apprentice Donald Trump took his contestants to the Central Park skating rink. He told the contestants that for years, the city of New York tried to put an ice skating rink in Central Park. It never got done. Donald Trump looked at that and said, “I have enough money to put that skating rink there right now. And it’s the right thing to do. It’s time to give back.” Was building a skating rink Donald’s Trump version of awesome? Nope. We already know that. But he did it anyway…because he could.

I’m no Donald Trump. I’m a borderline good writer at best. And writing is definitely my version of awesome. But, I also know more than the average person about counseling, event planning, Facebook promotion, training, encouraging the next generation and putting people together because their skill set is needed to create something needed in our community. And thus, I’ve put writing my books on the back burner until I can get Compassion Counseling Center off the ground. Are there days when I yearn to go back to full back writing? Yep. It occurs more than I really want to admit. But, am I proud of the nearly 65 hours of counseling we have done in our first month of operation to help some people who might not get counseling any other way? Absolutely. It’s worth the sacrifice of my book writing time. Will I maybe regret this choice in about 10 years? Yep. Probably. But will I also be proud of myself for heeding God’s call to play by His “playbook” for me instead of my own? I believe so.

What is God calling you to do today? Do you feel “out in left field” about it right now? Congratulations! You’re on the right track.

God’s going to take your unique talents and the people around you to do something awesome–it may just look different than what you originally envisioned. And reading Start is an excellent place to begin that journey today.

So, what’s keeping you from awesome? Fear? Lack of support? Debt?

Punch it in the face and get busy.  We have God’s work to do.

Monday’s Post: Do you know the definition of the Word of the Week?

You Might Also Like: Slow Reader Friday: The Rabbi Who Found Messiah; Slow Reader Friday: Unstoppable; and Slow Reader Friday: Twirl


Slow Reader Friday: The Rabbi Who Found Messiah…

wailing wall

Book Club Announcement: Go here to learn the title of the February MIP Book Club Selection!

Good morning, Book Lovers! It’s a beautiful cool morning in central Texas and such mornings are definitely “my cup of tea” in January. I hope you are warm, comfortable and that your life is filled with “Sonshine” even if the sun is not shining where you are. And the “Son” and his ever-spreading “shine” is what I want to discuss today.

When I select books for the MIP Book Club, I try to do as much research as I can on the book before I select it. I thought this book was intriguing and would be good fodder for the Book Club, but as I started reading, I had a dreadful thought, “Maybe this book was a HUGE mistake for the MIP Book Club.” I seriously thought about selecting another book, but I decided to hang in there with The Rabbi Who Found Messiah and now, I’m glad I did.


Slow Reader Friday: Twirl


I needed this book this month. I especially needed this book this week. Things exploded this week on the Compassion Counseling Center front (in a good way) and I found myself scrambling to just get the essential tasks of living done each day. I’m not complaining–God has chosen to use me in a way I never thought I could be used and it’s exciting. But, if one is moving too fast through life, we may fail to stop and realize how much “extra” God has provided for us to simply enjoy, particularly in the United States.

Enter TwirlIf you’ve never heard Patsy Clairmont speak, plan to do it. The elder stateswoman of the Women of Faith speakers is hilarious when speaking and she could easily have her own comedy series any time she wanted. Instead she chooses to use that sharp sense of humor to remind us to take time to appreciate the little things in life.

The titles of her very short chapters ( more like long devotionals) tell the things we fail to appreciate every day: decorating, reading, laughing, art, dancing, fragrance, bubbles, trees, birds, cuddling, and stars, just to mention a few. At the end of each chapter she asks the reader to ponder 3 well-written questions to encourage deeper reflection about ourselves.

Even though Patsy is probably 20 years my senior and has a deeper appreciation for all of the above (particularly this month), I found myself identifying with various parts of her life and enjoyed both the poignant and humorous “phraseology.” Here’s a taste of what I mean:

1. “Sometimes growth can only be measured by where we’ve been, not by what others are doing. (You might want to back up and read that sentence again.)”

2. “Take, for instance, the seed….Get this: It has no brain, yet it knows exactly what it wants to be when it grows up. (Most of us are still trying to to figure that out.) We never see zinnias strain to produce tomatoes, nor have I caught my petunias trying to be svelte lilies. Instead this diminutive encasement follows its Creator’s plan and purpose right up to the blossoms.”

3. “As I age my sleep patterns become more unpredictable. I’m finding it takes a lot more discipline to set myself up for sleep. Resisting sweets, ice cream and chocolate after 6:00 seems helpful. And personally, I can’t handle any caffeine after 3:00, which includes chocolate; otherwise I’m practicing Zumba steps at midnight, which tends to annoy Les.”

As we enter this holiday season, I hope you will pick up this book and put down what you’re so busy doing and just read one chapter. And take a moment and remember how much fun it is to twirl, like you did as a kid.

Monday’s Post: What in the world is “infix”?

You Might Also Like: Slow Reader Friday: Beating Goliath; Slow Reader Friday: The Way Home; and Slow Reader Friday: The ONE Thing