#FREE on #KINDLE Pondering Tidbits of Truth Volume 2

PTT2 Cover

Today through Thursday, Pondering Tidbits of Truth (Volume 2) by Michael Seagriff will be available FREE on KINDLE.

Volume 2 of Pondering Tidbits of Truths, like the other four books in this series, presents 100 potentially life-changing quotations for you to read and ponder, one morsel at a time, at your own pace and at a time of the day that  you  find  most  convenient – when you first begin the day, during your coffee or lunch break, while you are in the waiting room of your doctor, or before settling in for the night.  All five volumes are also excellent for group reflection and discussion.

Each of the books in this series is a simple but sure-fire tool to make certain you spend some time every day thinking about, and being in the presence of, the God who loves you and desires to spend eternity with you. It is an inspiring way to learn more about the Catholic Faith. (You can view a short book trailer on this series here.)

AS AN ADDED BONUS!!! – In addition to this free giveaway, the first 10 readers of Pondering Tidbits of Truth – Volume 2 who post a review on Amazon.com and send the author a link to their review will receive a free, signed paperback copy of Volume 5! The ten lucky winners will be well on their way toward having the full 5 volume set!

GET YOUR FREE Copy of Pondering Tidbits of Truth – Volume 2!!!  – From Tuesday, August 20, 2019 through Thursday, August 22, 2019 only BY CLICKING HERE

There are 1440 minutes in each day. Give God just five of them. Slowly read and chew on one quotation at a time. Ponder the truths and challenges it contains. Ask God to let you know how He wants you to respond to what you are reading. Then do as He tells you!

This is what a recent reviewer had to say about Volume 1. His comments would apply to any of the five books in this series:

“…I usually try to find some good spiritual reading before bedtime – either something very inspirational, or else something very informative about spirituality, a relationship with God, or about the Church. This book was quite different – I could not quite make it out. I ended up reading it through a number of times, trying to size it up, and found eventually, in the midst of snow-shoveling or some other mundane task, that quotes from the saints from the book would pop out to me. It dawned on me then what this book was – none other than a primer, an exercise manual in saintliness! As one would read a book to improve one’s tennis game, or knowledge of a foreign language, or relationship skills, Vol I offers us a clear path to holiness! Ordinary goodness / kindness / spirituality will only go so far – to approach sanctity, we must go EVEN FURTHER, and Vol. 1 gives us 100 examples from the testimonies of the saints, as to how far we are called to go, on the path of love, for God and His people. WWTSD? ‘What Would The Saints Do,’ indeed, in thought, word, and action!”-Armand Di Scenna

Don’t miss out on your free copy! Please share this post with your readers, friends, family and fellow bloggers. Tell them to get their free copy as well!

 

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Open Book – July #openbook

An Open Book 800W

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and CatholicMom.com for Open Book.  Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month (heavy on non-fiction this month):

Kizan

Warrior of the Kizan by Ann Margaret Lewis

Amazon Synopsis: Star Wars meets Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars in this techno-magic tale of war and redemption!

Dakhar Talin, a member of a cursed, telepathic people, is the new head of security for the Royal House of Emun. When the princess, Tasia, is kidnapped, Dakhar’s investigation leads him to a sinister planet called Earth.

But inner demons from his military service torment him, threatening his sanity, integrity, and the success of his mission. Can he bring the princess home before he loses his soul to ever-corrupting madness?

My review:  I’m still in the process of reading this. I was fortunate to be able to read a few versions of this book while it was still a work in progress.  Ann Margaret Lewis’ writing flows beautifully and her characters are well-defined.  Full review to come.

Infiltration

Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within

by Taylor Marshall

Amazon Synopsis: It took nearly two millennia for the enemies of the Catholic Church to realize they could not successfully attack the Church from the outside. Indeed, countless nemeses from Nero to Napoleon succeeded only in creating sympathy and martyrs for our Catholic Faith.

That all changed in the mid-19th century, when clandestine societies populated by Modernists and Marxists hatched a plan to subvert the Catholic Church from within. Their goal: to change Her doctrine, Her liturgy, and Her mission.

In this captivating and carefully documented book, Dr. Taylor Marshall pulls back the curtain on their nefarious plan, showing how these enemies of Christ strategically infiltrated the seminaries, then the priesthood, then the episcopacy, and eventually the cardinal-electors all with the eventual goal of electing one of their own as pope.

You’ll come to see that the seemingly endless scandals plaguing the Church are not the result, as so many think, of cultural changes, or of Vatican II, but rather the natural consequences of an orchestrated demonic plot to destroy the Church.

My review: This was a compelling read. Marshall sets the foundation for his thesis well by starting the story in the 19th century.  Some of what he sets forth, however, is speculation. Much of it is based on hard evidence. And we have seen and are witnessing the culmination of the “infiltration” happening today. Highly recommend. Five out of five.

Inheritance

Inheritance by Dani Shapiro

Amazon Synopsis: What makes us who we are? What combination of memory, history, biology, experience, and that ineffable thing called the soul defines us?

In the spring of 2016, through a genealogy website to which she had whimsically submitted her DNA for analysis, Dani Shapiro received the stunning news that her father was not her biological father. She woke up one morning and her entire history–the life she had lived–crumbled beneath her.

Inheritance is a book about secrets–secrets within families, kept out of shame or self-protectiveness; secrets we keep from one another in the name of love. It is the story of a woman’s urgent quest to unlock the story of her own identity, a story that has been scrupulously hidden from her for more than fifty years, years she had spent writing brilliantly, and compulsively, on themes of identity and family history. It is a book about the extraordinary moment we live in–a moment in which science and technology have outpaced not only medical ethics but also the capacities of the human heart to contend with the consequences of what we discover.

My review: This is was an extremely well-written book that read almost like a novel.  With my fascination in genealogy and ancestry, I found this to be a compelling story and I enjoyed reading about the author’s journey.  In her specific case, she didn’t look Jewish and didn’t look like anyone else in her family.  Had I been her, that would’ve been my first clue.  But it it made me think: what would I do if I found out I was not who I thought I was all along?  Five out of five.

Patty Duke

In the Presence of Greatest: My Sixty-Year Journey as an Actress

by Patty Duke and William Jankowski

Amazon Synopsis: The Miracle Worker. The Patty Duke Show. Valley of the Dolls. Those perennial film and television titles still reverberate with audiences entranced with Academy Award-winning film actress and Broadway and television icon Patty Duke.

Patty first gained national attention and praise playing Helen Keller in both the Broadway stage and film versions of The Miracle Worker. As identical cousins on The Patty Duke Show, her name became an American household word. Her later work in Valley of the Dolls, Me, Natalie, My Sweet Charlie, a later television remake of The Miracle Worker, and dozens of other productions established her as one of America’s leading actresses.

Illustrated with over 70 rare photos from both Patty Duke’s career and personal life, many never before published and from her personal collection.

My review:  This really isn’t a book, per se.  It is a transcription of conversations between Patty Duke and William Jankowski.  There were too many typos for a professionally published book and sometimes I had to read a sentence over again to figure out what she was trying to say.  As well, I don’t think Patty/Anna would’ve liked the title In the Presence of Greatness, which is a bit over-the-top. All that being said, however, I knew what I was getting when I purchased this book.  I’ve read her other books and now that she has passed, I was interested in reading this one.  Enjoyable read and great photos. Three out of five.

 

A Love Such as Heaven Intended Now Available for #Preorder on #Kindle

A Love Front Only

A Love Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer

Full Quiver Publishing‘s upcoming release, A Love Such as Heaven Intended (Heaven Intended #3) is now available for pre-order on Kindle.  The print edition will be available later this month.

Synopsis:

In A Love Such as Heaven Intended, budding Civil War socialite Josephine Bigelow is inspired by the words of Louisa May Alcott to make a name for herself as an investigative writer covering the plight of Confederate soldiers held in Federal prisons. Little did she know that one of the inmates she would encounter was her brother’s roommate from West Point Military Academy.

Even though her father is a Union brigadier general, Josephine’s infatuation with the handsome Confederate soldier Michael McKirnan is rekindled. As captivating as Josephine is, the last thing Michael needs is to entangle that beauty into his life of intrigue. The strong-willed Josephine will not be deterred and their lives become intertwined as they embark on a journey of a lifetime, trying to stay one step ahead of the military and a madman bent on revenge. As they journey from Washington, D.C., to St. Louis, Atlanta, and finally East Texas, the two of them discover what love, faith, compassion and loyalty truly mean.

Reviews:

“A Love Such as Heaven Intended by Amanda Lauer is a sweet love story that history lovers are sure to appreciate. I enjoyed the first two books in the Heaven Intended series, so it was fun diving into the third book. We even get a glimpse at characters from the previous two books. Fans of historic fiction are going to love this!”  Theresa Linden, award-winning author

“Thoroughly enjoyable! This book abounds with the virtues of faith, hope and love.  Lauer shows us that even during times of war, love wins.” Virginia Lieto,  Author, Editor and Public Speaker

“A Love Such as Heaven Intended is a sweeping love story that is nearly impossible to put down. With equal parts intriguing adventure, fascinating history lesson, and blossoming romance, Amanda Lauer has another hit on her hands.”  Leslea Wahl, Author of The Perfect Blindside, 2018 Catholic Press Association winner

“The third installment in Amanda Lauer’s Civil War romance series matches beautiful and determined Josephine with Michael, a West Point Military Academy graduate who seems to be on the wrong side of the conflict. Filled with historical and military detail and a unique setting for a Civil War novel, A Love Such as Heaven Intended will please both fans of history and of romance.”   Carolyn Astfalk,  Author, Stay With Me and Rightfully Ours

 

 

In Memory of My Sister, Diane

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Sisters 2018 L to R: Diane, me and Laurie

My sister, Diane, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly two days ago at the young age of 62. I’m in shock and still trying to process the news. She had health issues, but she was still working full-time.

One of the ways I handle grief is to keep busy. I’ve been looking through old photo albums searching for photos for Diane’s slide show to be shown at her wake.

Of course, as a writer, the other way I deal with grief is to write.

Diane was the second child and first daughter of my parents. She was also a Christmas present. Born six weeks early on December 24, 1956, she weighed 3 lbs, 15 oz.   My brother Mike was only 11 months old when my sister was born. When the doctor delivered my sister, he said, “I can’t believe it! Two tax exemptions in one year!”

Like most sisters/siblings, we had our good times and bad times.  We fought and made up too many times to count, but in these last ten years, we’ve had a closer relationship than ever, talking on the phone for an hour at a time every few weeks and emailing and texting frequently.

Here are some of my favorite memories and little-known facts about my sister:

When we were small children and Mom put us to bed, we would stay awake and play games like “You Don’t Say” and other guessing games. Often Mom would have to tell us to “Be quiet and go to sleep.”

One time when we were about ten and twelve, Di and I sneaked down to the Christmas tree in the living room before everyone else was awake to see what “Santa” had left.

Diane would give me hints about what she bought me for Christmas. And every year, I’d be surprised because the hints she gave me were only to distract me from guessing what the real gift was. You’d think after several years I would have caught on, but I never did and I was always surprised.

1971:  Diane and my brother Frank found and broke into my diary. They proceeded to mark each entry. If their name was in the entry, they gave it a good mark. Otherwise, there were a lot of F’s.  If I had to be honest, the entries were quite boring, talking about what grades I got in this or that subject. We laughed about it for years. And… I still have the diary with all the notations.

1975: We had a bad argument when we were teenagers. I don’t even remember what it was about. She was so angry that she proceeded to dump a glass of vegetable juice over my head.  I was shocked that she had done it, but then we both started laughing.  I asked her, “Do you feel better now?”  She responded, “Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do.”  That was another memory we laughed about for years.

1976: Di asked me to buy her some perfume when I went to France on a school trip.  I bought L’Interdit and she liked it so much, she continued using it for many years until it was discontinued.  She gave me a old container of it years ago and whenever I smell that scent, I think of her.

An entry from my diary in 1977: “Shopping with Diane is like putting yourself in front of a firing squad.  She must’ve tried on 30 different pieces of clothing in ten different stores and didn’t end up buying anything!”  (I’m not a patient shopper!)

1978: I was babysitting my cousin Eleanor’s daughter and my sister kept calling, but was quiet except for breathing.  I suspected it was her, but she never answered. I was trembling with fear and about to call the police. Finally, she called and laughed.  I was so glad it was her (and not a psychotic stalker) that I also laughed about it.

In recent years, she had developed emphysema so she depended on kind people to help her. She kept a stash of small angel pins to give to those who helped her. She would tell them, “You’re my angel.”

Two years ago, she recommended the TV show Blue Bloods and happened to own the first two seasons and asked if I wanted to borrow them.  I did, and I was hooked. I wound up purchasing the next few seasons and now watch that program regularly.

She also recommended a movie called “Lars and the Real Girl.”  When she told me the premise (a delusional young man strikes up an unconventional relationship with a doll he finds on the Internet), I told her I didn’t think I’d like it.  She said, “Trust me.  You’ll like it.” And, well, I did.  I would even say it’s up there among my top 100 movies. Excellent script, story and acting.  I’ll miss her future recommendations.

We both loved the rice pudding from The Meadows Diner in Blackwood, New Jersey. Every time I visited, I would bring her some (and enjoy some for myself!)

During our last conversation a few weeks ago, she shared with me that she hoped to come up to Canada for our first grandchild’s christening in the summer.  She told me that I would love being a grandmother because she loved being a Mom Mom to Lanna.  We talked about grandmother names that I might want to use. The last words we said to each other were, “I love you.”

I already miss her.  And I wish I could’ve said goodbye to her.  I know I’ll see her again someday and the reunion will be a joyous one.

Requiescat in pace, Diane.

May the choirs of angels come to greet you.
May they speed you to paradise.
May the Lord enfold you in His mercy.
May you find eternal life.  Amen.

December 24, 1956 – March 7, 2019

A memorial fund has been created in Diane’s name/memory to provide for her granddaughter, Lanna’s, education.  If you would like to contribute, here is the link.

Her obituary is here:

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1961 L to R Mike, Diane, Frank, Ellen

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1963: My sister (right) and me

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Diane’s First Communion 1964

AAA Di and me

1978

AAA My wedding

At my wedding, my sister (right) was the maid of honor

All five 1987 cropped

1987. After my youngest sister (Laurie) was born in 1981, we became five siblings! (L to R, Mike, Diane, Laurie, me,  Frank)

Fasting, Peace and Forgiveness

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Copyright Josh Hrkach, used with permission

Lent is a time of change and sacrifice. In his Lenten Message of 2009, Pope Benedict XVI said, “The faithful practice of fasting contributes, moreover, to conferring unity to the whole person, body and soul, helping to avoid sin and grow in intimacy with the Lord.”

As we approach Lent this year, perhaps we can take some time to consider the spiritual practice of fasting and how it can cultivate peace in our hearts.

Everyone wants peace: no wars, no terrorism, no slavery, no abortion, no oppression. However, when we start arguing with someone about an insignificant topic, or when we don’t want to admit we’re wrong, or when we have a hard time forgiving someone, it can be difficult to find that peace within ourselves.

How can we foster this peace in our hearts?

Regular fasting (together with prayer) cultivates peace in our hearts. Fasting invites the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God, and our relationship with others. Fasting helps us to be selfless instead of selfish.

Let’s take for example, forgiving someone. We are all called to be merciful and forgive those who have hurt or offended us.

But what if the offense is grievous? Say, like torture, abuse, rape, or murder? And what if the person we must forgive is not repentant?

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus didn’t give any exceptions to this rule. We will be forgiven as we forgive those who trespass against us. We are still called to be merciful and to forgive regardless of the offense. We are all called to have peace in our hearts. Forgiveness and showing mercy to others helps heal our hearts and souls. However, forgiving someone, especially those who have grievously harmed us, is not easy and it is impossible without God’s grace. Fasting opens our hearts to this beautiful grace and peace.

Throughout my life, a relative of mine was verbally abusive to me and to others in our family. Eventually, she was diagnosed with a mental illness and, with medication, she was able to stop being verbally abusive. When she got older and began exhibiting signs of dementia, however, it seemed like she was falling back into her former caustic, abusive self.  I had thought that I had forgiven her but realized that I never did forgive her for all the cruel things she had said and done to me. At that point, I had already been fasting for several months, and my confessor suggested that I fast and pray for this relative to help me to forgive her. So I fasted and prayed for her and eventually, I realized that I had been given the grace to forgive her and to speak about and treat her with the utmost love and kindness. I don’t think I could have done that without praying and fasting for her.

Lent is a time of change and sacrifice. Fasting and prayer together will help to cultivate peace and forgiveness in our hearts. Fasting will invite the Holy Spirit in to heal our hearts, our relationship with God and our relationship with others.

Fasting is not an easy practice with our society’s current tendency to overindulge. However, if you can do penitential acts during Lent, if you can fast during Lent, then you can fast all year round!

What I try to do throughout the year is to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays (using the Ash Wednesday/Good Friday fast of no meat and eating two small meals, then one meal that is no larger than the two small meals combined).  I’m 59 years old, so fasting is not obligatory for me, but I fast because I’ve experienced many great spiritual, emotional, and physical benefits.

Always check with your physician before beginning any fasting routine.

Copyright 2019 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Open Book – March #openbook

An Open Book 800W

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for Open Book!  Here’s what I’ve been reading for the past month!   It’s Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent!

 

Into Glorious Light

Into Glorious Light:

Memoir of Converting from Exhausted Atheist to Joyful Christian.

by Paul Keough

Amazon Synopsis: Warning to the hate-crime police: this memoir is not politically correct. What it is, though, is a story very appropriate for Valentine’s Day. It is a story of searching for truth and falling in love with something greater than oneself, greater than humanity, greater than nature, the world and the universe. Paul quickly realized – even as an atheist – that there is no point in trying to make everyone like you. No matter what position you take, there will always be someone on the opposite side of that opinion. Given that, we might as well pursue the truth and do what we think is right, correct?

Truth reveals itself as seen here in these three strange occurrences that challenged his concept of truth:

1. How does an atheist scientist end up married with several children? Is not the world overpopulating from the totalitarian perspective? If that is true, wouldn’t having several children be irresponsible? Why would a trained doctoral scientist from a top university do such a thing? Was he not shocked when he found scientists, business leaders, doctors, scientists, engineers and other intelligent rational professionals were having more than two children?

2. How does a Wall Street analyst in New York City, often considered the center and top of the world, voluntarily leave Wall Street when there was more and more money to be made? Had he lost his marbles? What could be better than making a ton of money? But then we look around and see that most Wall Street professionals do leave Wall Street on average about four years after starting… so the fact that Paul lasted twice that time also seems unlikely.

3. Why would a nerdy science geek break up with a handsome woman who comes from wealth? As an atheist, why would it matter that she claimed to be a witch? If there was no such thing as a witch, or anything like that, why care about any label she gave herself? Except … was there trouble coming from being with a person claiming to be a witch?

My review: Paul Keough has written a compelling memoir of his journey from atheist to Catholic Christian. The eighth of twelve children, his sometimes mentally unstable (Catholic) mother and abusive non-Catholic father made his early life difficult. Often retreating to the safety of his imagination, Keough’s dysfunctional family was not unlike many families.  His religious upbringing was limited to a very brief stint at a Catholic school and CCD.  Eventually, he chose not to continue practicing any faith and, by age 16, he had embraced atheism.  The author takes us on a step-by-step journey from his childhood, college years and young adult life to his years on Wall Street, to his eventual conversion.  Recently published, this book is an ideal gift to those friends, relatives and acquaintances who may be dabbling with atheism.  Highly recommend.

 

Bakhita.jpg

Bakhita: From Slave to Saint

by Roberto Italo Zanini

Amazon Synopsis: In 1948 Aurora Marin arrives with her family at the convent of the Canossian Sisters of Schio, Italy, where Sister Bakhita has just died. Aurora was hoping to see her before she died. She gathers her children around the picture of Bakhita and tells them of the incredible life of the woman that had raised her as her nanny.

Born in a village in Sudan, kidnapped by slavers, often beaten and abused, and later sold to Federico Marin, a Venetian merchant, Bakhita then came to Italy and became the nanny servant of Federico’s daughter, Aurora, who had lost her mother at birth. She is treated as an outcast by the peasants and the other servants due to her black skin and African background, but Bakhita is kind and generous to others. Bakhita gradually comes closer to God with the help of the kind village priest, and embraces the Catholic faith.

She requests to join the order of Canossian sisters, but Marin doesn’t want to give her up as his servant, treating her almost as his property. This leads to a moving court case that raised an uproar which impacts Bakhita’s freedom and ultimate decision to become a nun. Pope John Paul II declared her a saint in the year 2000.

My review: I’m not quite finished reading this book, but I’ve been inspired by its contents, and especially the dictated entries of Saint Josephine Bakhita to one of her fellow sisters.  Her story is one of great suffering and yet she shares her horrific journey with no sense of embellishment or exaggeration.  The strength of this book is in these entries, although the story behind the story is interesting too.  Highly recommend.

PBC

Poor Banished Children by Fiorella de Maria

Amazon Synopsis: An explosion is heard off the coast of seventeenth-century England, and a woman washes up on the shore. She is barely alive and does not speak English, but she asks for a priest . . . in Latin.

She has a confession to make and a story to tell, but who is she and from where has she come?

Cast out of her superstitious, Maltese family, Warda turns to begging and stealing until she is fostered by an understanding Catholic priest who teaches her the art of healing. Her willful nature and hard-earned independence make her unfit for marriage, and so the good priest sends Warda to serve an anchorite, in the hope that his protégé will discern a religious vocation.

Such a calling Warda never has the opportunity to hear. Barbary pirates raid her village, capture her and sell her into slavery in Muslim North Africa. In the merciless land of Warda’s captivity, her wits, nerve, and self-respect are tested daily, as she struggles to survive without submitting to total and permanent enslavement. As she is slowly worn down by the brutality of her circumstances, she comes to believe that God has abandoned her and falls into despair, hatred, and a pattern of behavior which, ironically, mirrors that of her masters.

Poor Banished Children is the tale of one woman’s relentless search for freedom and redemption. The historical novel raises challenging questions about the nature of courage, free will, and ultimately salvation.

My review: This is on my To-Read shelf.