It seems like forever since I’ve had one of these, huh? But I am pleased to announce that my poem, ‘In the Whisper’ has been selected for publication in the July/August 2016 issue of devozine. This will be the third time I have been published in The Upper Room’s devotional magazine for youth, and I couldn’t feel more honored.
How writing helps me be the Man of God I am meant to be
Through much of my working career in the private sector, I found myself more than dissatisfied with the typical nine to five job structure. I worked hard and tried to get along with my co-workers, but there was just something missing; at least that’s how it was for me. I typically enjoyed a job for the first month or two until I got used to it, then the luster would wear thin and I found myself bored. I always thought there was something wrong with me.
Fast forward to today, I write full-time as a Christian author. I pen stories that inspire and uplift fellow believers in Christ. The stories are written in a way that come across authenticate and realistic so that the people who read them can identify easily. While I work hard at publishing and writing, it never feels like work in the traditional sense. I always related the word work with something I didn’t want to do.
While I used to find myself confused with my dissatisfaction with a typical job, I now feel I understand my past better. The calling that was put on my life when I was a young teenager I believe didn’t allow me to settle for a typical job. If I could settle on a “normal job” I would have never became an author. And now that I’m working full-time as a Christian author, I feel deeply connected with my Creator and Savior as a result of making the switch.
I see God through the stories as they unfold into words on the screen and how the Lord’s plan for our lives is so much better than what we think is best. And it’s not only when I’m writing that I can see God in these new ways. It’s an email from a reader explaining how the free devotional changed their life or how a story helped them see things differently. Those little pieces of the puzzle come together to show just how BIG God is, and how He’s working in the lives of those in the world.
Early on in my writing career, I relied heavily on God to show me how my family and I were going to make it month-to-month. The first month I left my job was the hardest, my wife and I were terrified, but the Lord provided, like He always does. Every single thing that happens not only within the realm of writing and publishing, but also in my life points to God and His awesomeness time and time again.
You might or might not be asking yourself, where was God for me before writing? God was still there, but it was different. I didn’t have full-time work that was revolving around Him. I didn’t see emails come through my inbox that were work related about how God was changing their life; it was memos about birthday cake in the break room. I am blessed to do the work I do and I’m eternally thankful for the opportunity God has given me.
With full-time work centered on God, I find myself constantly praying and connecting with God. I feel I must consistently re-direct praise and glory and success to God in order to stay level headed. My relationship with God and my life as a whole has forever been changed.
May your day be blessed and full of renewal, warmth, and the acceptance of new growth and progress in your lives and the lives of those around you.
Sonnet VII by John Donne
At the round earth’s imagined corners blow
Your trumpets, angels, and arise, arise
From death, you numberless infinities
Of souls, and to your scattered bodies go ;
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o’erthrow,
All whom war, dea[r]th, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despair, law, chance hath slain, and you, whose eyes
Shall behold God, and never taste death’s woe.
But let them sleep, Lord, and me mourn a space ;
For, if above all these my sins abound,
‘Tis late to ask abundance of Thy grace,
When we are there. Here on this lowly ground,
Teach me how to repent, for that’s as good
As if Thou hadst seal’d my pardon with Thy blood.
A five-star Goodreads review from Raelee Carpenter, Christian author of Kings and Shepherds and The Lincoln High Project, states:
I can’t pretend to know much about or have extensive experience with poetry, but this volume was beautiful to me, gritty and profound, drawing tears from my eyes.
Thank you, Ms. Carpenter! I really appreciate knowing when I have been able to impact my readers, and am grateful that you took the time to review my first collection of poetry.
If you haven’t read Drunk Dialing the Divine yet, now is the time! Order now from Amazon or straight from the publisher. (If you order a paperback copy from the publisher, you automatically get a free eBook copy as well!). I would love to see what you think about it- don’t forget to review on Amazon, or Goodreads.
It’s always interesting to make resolutions for yourself in the hope of making yourself just a little bit better this year than last year. I always find that my Lenten resolutions end up being better for me in the long-run. Whereas with New Years I have until December to deny what I’ve failed at, or celebrate what I’ve achieved, Lent is a solid, straightforward forty days. I think it also helps to see all those constant reminders that I’m not the only one on this journey. Instead of New Years, which lives on in every radio commercial for the first two weeks of January, I’ve got constant support moments from the beginning of Ash Wednesday to the silence of Holy Saturday. It can be as sacred as Mass every Sunday and as silly and consequential as the advertisements for fish specials every Friday. Either way, I am always reminded to be grateful for my faith during this time, especially the communal rituals that are constantly giving me the support and guided reflection that I need to make myself in to the woman God made me to be.
So how did I do this Lenten season? For starters, I’m really glad that I wrote my Lenten resolves down. I find it becomes so easy over the Lenten season to simply forget or reason away the things that I wanted to achieve or wanted to try. I wanted to make sure that I was more accountable than normal, and that has definitely helped.
As for the resolutions themselves:
1) I resolved to make time to memorize the Guardian Angel prayer and prayers of St. Rose of Lima. That ended up being a massive failure. I prayed them every morning, that’s for sure, but I didn’t get any bit of either of them memorized. I didn’t spend enough time clearing my mind first before my prayer- which in and of itself has been an illuminating experience in that I’ve realized that I’ve been doing my morning prayers in a low gear. I hope that in this burgeoning Easter season I will be more mindful of working on that.
2) Continuously forgot to add a chaplet to St. Rose on Fridays, but was pretty adamant with my continuing to pray a rosary each Sunday. I feel like this is due to my closer relationship to Momma Mary than St. Rose. During the Easter season I will take a trip down to my parish library and perhaps check out anything I can find on the life of St. Rose to help me relate more to her and forge a better relationship between us.
3) I resolved to wear a chapel veil to mass every Sunday. That was a total success. After the initial weirdness, which was entirely born out of my own ego, I was able to swallow my pride and focus more on the Mass and the people I was supposed to be in communion with than what I looked like or how my own prayer life was going. I was actually able to say hello to strangers at Mass first, invite families to sit next to me during the Mass, and enthusiastically offer the sign of peace to people I didn’t know. I think the most interesting and surprising thing that came from me wearing the chapel veil was this inexplicable feeling that I was somehow protected from many of the fears and ticks that keep me from enjoying and participating in the mass as fully as possible. I think I stumbled across a new, highly effective coping mechanism. As a result, I am getting a second, longer veil and have committed to wearing the veil every Lent and Advent season. I was also able to connect with the generations of Catholic women in my family who wore the veil before me, which was a humbling experience that was practically swollen with love.
So, all in all I would say that this Lent has been a fruitful one. Like with all attempts to make myself a better person, it’s been a struggle and I’m sure not at the point that I want to be yet. But I do have a better idea of what I need to work on now and where I want to go with it next.
Feel free to let me know in the comments how your own Lenten journey was this year.
And now, without further ado:
He is Risen, Hallelujah! Happy Easter, everybody. I hope you all have a wonderful day full of peace, love and joy!
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Pure fasted faces draw unto this feast:
God comes all sweetness to your Lenten lips.
You striped in secret with breath-taking whips,
Those crooked rough-scored chequers may be pieced
To crosses meant for Jesu’s; you whom the East
With draught of thin and pursuant cold so nips
Breathe Easter now; you serged fellowships,
You vigil-keepers with low flames decreased,
God shall o’er-brim the measures you have spent
With oil of gladness, for sackcloth and frieze
And the ever-fretting shirt of punishment
Give myrrhy-threaded golden folds of ease.
Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary of being bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.
As many of you most likely know, I am a practicing Roman Catholic. Which means by the time you’re all reading this, I will have begun observing the season of Lent, a time of humble preparation for the joyful mystery of Easter.
Trying to figure out what I’m going to ‘give up’ for Lent is always a bit tricky for me. When I was a kid, it was all about giving up something that I used in my everyday in order to make myself more mindful about the fact that I was supposed to be in the mindset of Lent- every time I didn’t put my additive sugar in my food or refused to eat a piece of chocolate, I was reminded of the season and what it stands for. As an adult, it is no longer as easy as giving up coffee or sweets, and I am often loathe to repeat the same abstinence twice (which has included giving up social media, getting back into praying the rosary at least twice a week, not cursing, writing letters to friends, going to Stations of the Cross every Friday, etc). I like to take up practices for Lent that I think will make me a better, more mindful person in a way that will last beyond the season of Lent and well into the rest of the year.
So, after some prayer and reflection, I’ve come up with my Lenten practices for this year:
1) I will give up time to memorize the prayers of my confirmation saint, St. Rose of Lima, in order to foster a better relationship between her and myself, and in doing so strengthening my relationship to the communion of saints and the cloud of witnesses. Hopefully this will open my mind to the larger community of faithful here on earth as well, and lead me to be better receptive of the advice and support of others.
2) I will give up time to memorize the Guardian Angel prayer to become more mindful of the ways in which God protects and is with me in a profoundly intimate and individual way through the medium of my guardian angel. Hopefully this will help me open my heart to the many different ways in which God can be present in my life.
3) I will pray these prayers once every morning, and add a chaplet of St. Rose on Fridays to keep up the practices.
4) At Mass on Sundays during Lent, I will give up my pride and take up the practice of wearing a chapel veil. I will adopt this practice with the goal of learning a new form of humility, as well as to rejuvenate my experience of worship during this season.
Whether or not you are Catholic, support during this time in the form of encouragement or prayers would be greatly appreciated!
For my followers, and those new to the blog:
If you practice Lent, what will you be ‘giving up’? If you don’t practice Lent, what kinds of things would you like to ‘give up’ for forty days in order to change perspective in your own life?
I don’t talk too much on my professional blogs about my faith, partially because I hope that my writing does it enough for me, partially because I run a separate Catholic blog for that kind of thing and partially because I like to hold my faith a little closer to the heart to prevent me from coming off as preachy and having a holier-than-thou attitude. But this particular practice of mine has been consuming my religious poetry lately, and so I feel the need to mention it.
I enjoy having children at mass.
And I’m not just talking about the adorable sleeping babies or the kids attempting to sing the Alleluia three keys off tune in the pews ahead of me who are otherwise very well behaved. While I appreciate the parenting prowess of the people watching those kinds of children, I feel like it is a bit too easy to love and appreciate the kinds of children who are subdued.
I’m talking about the shrieking children who get hoisted up on to Daddy’s shoulder to be taken out in the middle of the rite of transubstantiation. I’m talking about the kid who pushes his little brother halfway down the pew. The baby who I notice attempting to steal my keys while I’m otherwise occupied, holding hands with his mother during the Our Father. The siblings who line up their toddler devotional books on the seat and then push them around making such loud train noises that I can barely make out the deacon listing off the Prayers of the Faithful. I’m talking about the troublemaker kids who make mass seem, for the most part, like it’s more trouble than it’s worth. The ones who take the silence of sacredness and rip it to shreds with no remorse, biting on Bibles with a giggle and a twinkle in their eyes.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s distracting. I don’t like being distracted at Mass- I’m the kind of churchgoer who prays a rosary beforehand and gets irked when the choir begins practicing early and interrupts the flow of my thoughts. This isn’t about inherently enjoying the presence of rowdy children at mass- this is about consciously choosing to do so.
I especially was brought to think about this a couple of Sundays ago at a morning mass at the Spirit of Christ parish. I sat next to a lovely woman in a beautiful chapel veil. She had with her her husband and three small children- the boys seemed both younger than four, and the daughter was still in the newborn stage. The daughter slept in her father’s arms the entire service- he even propped her up as if on a table when we knelt to pray, which was probably the single most precious thing I have ever seen- but the boys were an entirely different story. They sang out, they screamed, they laughed- they pushed each other, they tried to take the toys of the girls in front of us, they sat behind me in my spot when I stood for prayers; one of them tried to stay behind during the Eucharistic procession and ended up barreling through a couple people to get back next to them. The mother dealt with this with the patience of a saint- she took interest in what they were interested in, spoke in a soft, even tone to them and tried her best to give as much of her attention to the mass as she could spare form keeping her boys in line. The presence of those boys would normally have grated on every one of my last nerves. I don’t personally like when things are out of turn, ever, and boy were these little blonde angels out of turn.
Instead of let myself fill up with anger and indignation, however, I cleared my heart and quieted it. I thanked God for the existence of such lively, creative children. (Which turned out to be ironic because the homily for that day was about giving God thanks ahead of time, so that was kind of a smack in the chest for me). Instead of becoming irritated, I felt myself being filled from the outside in with a warm, joyous glow. I can’t really fully explain the kind of love that I felt then- it started with those boys and then just kind of radiated in and out, washing over all of that excess noise that comes with being at a crowded mass. It’s not as if I couldn’t hear all of those distractions out there any more- far from it. I was aware of them, and I was grateful for them. I was happy for the signs of abundant life there in that church, echoing and feeding into the Eucharistic mystery. I wanted to hug that mother and thank her for bringing her children. When it came time to say the Our Father, the youngest boy gripped my hand hard and stared up at me with the most calm blue eyes I’ve ever seen and smiled. For once, I wasn’t afraid to look at someone’s eyes. It was all the acknowledgement I needed. I left mass that day refreshed and energized in the middle of feeling lost and afraid regarding my impending thesis deadlines, graduation in a month and a half, and eternally uncertain writing career.
When we force ourselves to look at something that grinds on us just a little differently, its amazing how completely different we receive that experience. Just by making myself give thanks for the noisiness at church rather than grumbling about it, I was open to the grace that comes in the midst of and-paradoxically- through chaotic living. I don’t believe that you need to be particularly faithful to do this, though prayer certainly helped me, and I am certain that the love I felt at that mass was a direct gift from God.
But for those of us who aren’t religious or are looking for more of this kind of calming experience in a more secular kind of way, I would venture to say- find yourself a new perspective. Meditate on it. Write it into a poem (as I often do), a journal entry; a short story. Go on a walk and speak a new way of living to yourself, and see how amazing it is when that new way of living simply opens up through the act of willing yourself to see it.
So see your job as a live-giving experience. Assume the best out of the actions of people you consider your enemies. Seek for the love in the annoying things your siblings do. Take those rejection letters as abundant opportunities to make yourself a better writer. Be thankful for readings and signings with low attendance, for the room for growth and humility they provide. Forgive your lover for the small things, try to see their hobbies through their eyes. Enjoy the mischievous children at Church. The benefits are incredible.
To open up 2013, I’ve decided to list a book giveaway on Goodreads. From now until January 26th, enter to win a hand-numbered, hand-signed print copy of ‘Drunk Dialing the Divine’!