Book Review: People Pleasing, Miss Perfection, and Following God

To join the discussion about A Confident Heart, or to order a copy, go here BC AConfidentHeart 1

There’s an old story about Abraham Lincoln and his horse. It seems that the president was trying to get on his horse, but the horse started hopping around and got his back hoof hung in the stirrup. Lincoln stopped, looked at the horse, and said, “If you want to get on, I’ll get off.”

I think that God sometimes says something similar to us. Women, in particular, are afflicted with the Miss Perfection syndrome. I think it comes from our strivings to be good girls. We share an all-too-human craving for approval and validation from the people around us. For women, this is intensified by our intuitive understanding of others.

Make no mistake about it, women are better at people skills than men. When it comes to human interaction, we have a whole other level of intelligence that is just not there in most men. This intelligence can cripple rather than empower if we turn it on ourselves in the guise of people-pleasing.

The truth is, if we are trying to please others 24/7, then we aren’t in sync with the God Who made us. We aren’t doing what He made us to do. Read the Scriptures through from “In the beginning” to “Come Lord Jesus.” You will not find admonitions to make people pleasing a life’s goal in there anywhere.

On the contrary. We are a exhorted to please God, even if it displeases other people.

That’s a tough order for most of us with double x chromosomes, wired as we are with antennae that respond to the slightest change in the emotional weather of those around us.

Renee Swope wrote a book from her heart to other women when she wrote A Confident Heart. The subtitle, How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises, says it all.

Mrs Swope talks directly to women with this book. She frames her message by sharing the life lessons she has learned, first from growing up in a broken home with a distant father, and then walking the high-wire act of care-giver, mom, writer, ministry leader.

The truth is, the average American woman’s life is an insanity-making brew of conflicting demands based on conflicting roles. Most women work almost non-stop at their various jobs, and most women feel that they are failing at least a little bit at each of those jobs. We live, as Henry David Thoreau said, “lives of quiet desperation.”

We drive ourselves to get it all right, at least on the outside, and often end up neglecting the inside of our lives and the lives of those around us. Miss Perfection doesn’t have time to follow God because she is too busy trying to prove something that can’t be proven to people who really don’t care all that much, anyway.

We are not the sum of our successes with our failures subtracted to give us a net worth. We are children of the Living God, and He loves us, just exactly as we are.

People pleasing is a poison that drives us to drink deep of the unhealthy brew of perfectionism and pretense. God pleasing is simply being who we are.

People pleasing perfectionism is all about lying on the outside, hiding the flaws that make us human and hoping that no one ever finds out. It is about self-isolating fear and fraudulent living under the whip of our own demands. God pleasing is a matter of letting go and simply knowing … accepting … that He is God. God pleasing is as simple as saying yes in a long sigh of relief.

We don’t have to do anything for God to love us. No matter what we accomplish, He will not love us any more. No matter how often we fail, He will not love us any less.

Unconditional love is the answer to people pleasing, and the only place we will ever find it is at the foot of the cross.

Mrs Swopes takes her women readers through a discussion of the gifts of the spirit and how they apply to their own lives. That is the one place where I part company with her in this book. Catholics and Protestants both encourage people to spend time looking for what God wants of us. Catholics call it discernment, Protestants call it seeking God’s will.

I think — and I realize that I am almost alone in this — that all we have to do is just follow. Follow Christ. Obey the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes and trust Him. You don’t need to chase yourself around, looking for God’s plan for your life. It has been my experience that if God wants you to do something, you won’t be able to get out of it.

It is a mark of how much this book got to me that I say that. I got engaged with it, and found myself in quite a few of the things that Mrs Swopes wrote. I did this to the point that I found myself dialoging with the author — and now the people reading this blog — in my head.

A Confident Heart is designed to be used either in personal reading or in small group settings. It comes with a dvd to help the study group setting.

If you are a woman who is struggling to find spiritual balance in your life (which of us isn’t?) then A Confident Heart is a good place to find some answers.

I’m going to offer a free giveaway of this book to three of Public Catholic’s women readers. It will be very simple. The first three women commenters who ask for it, will receive a free copy.

 

Pope Francis: Pray Together as a Family

How many family problems would simply go away if families prayed together?

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Pope Francis: Marriage is the First Sacrament of Humanity

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As we would describe it here in Oklahoma, Pope Francis said a mouthful.

His comments on family life have been spot on. Here are a few from a discussion he gave Friday to the XXI Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family:

The family is the “community of life,” the “natural center of human life,” the “engine of the world and society,” and the “place  (where) you learn to love.”

Each of us builds his own personality in the family.

In the family a person becomes aware of his own dignity and especially if his education is Christian, recognizes the dignity of every human person.

Marriage is the ‘first sacrament of humanity.’

A society that abandons its children and marginalizes the elderly severs its roots and obscures its future.

From News.va:

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis called the family a “community of life with its own consistent autonomy”, and that it is the “natural centre of human life”, “the engine of the world and history”, and the “place you learn to love”.
He was speaking on Friday to participants of the XXI Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for the Family. The Assembly has been looking at the theme “Family, Live the Joy of Faith” and also marked the 30th Anniversary of the Holy See’s 1983 Charter on the Rights of the Family.

“Each of us builds his own personality in the family, growing up with their mother and father, brothers and sisters, breathing in the warmth of the house,” Pope Francis said. “In the family, a person becomes aware of his own dignity, and especially if his education is Christian, recognizes the dignity of every human person, and in a special way, that of the sick, weak and marginalized.”
The Holy Father reminded the participants the family is based on marriage, which he called “like a first sacrament of humanity”.
“In marriage, we give ourselves completely without calculation or reservation, sharing everything – gifts and sacrifices – trusting in God’s Providence,” Pope Francis said. “This is the experience that young people can learn from their parents and grandparents. It is an experience of faith in God and mutual trust, of profound freedom, of holiness, because holiness pre-supposes giving of yourself with faithfulness and sacrifice every day of your life!”
The Pope then spoke briefly about two stages of family life: childhood and old age.
“Children and the elderly are the two poles of life and also the most vulnerable, often the most forgotten,” he said. “A society that abandons children and marginalizes the elderly severs its roots and obscures its future. Whenever a child is abandoned and an old person is marginalized, is not just an act of injustice, but it also demonstrates the failure of that society. Taking care of children and the elderly is the only choice of civilization.”

Steve Jobs on Knowing You are Going to Die

This is good advice for all of us, no matter what the doc said at our last checkup.

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Pope Francis: Three Words for Married Life are Please, Sorry and Thank You


Pope Francis spoke about families. The temporary quality of modern life cuts us to pieces, he said. But marriage gives us courage.

I’ve found this to be true in my own life. The one person I can always count on is my husband. Marriage provides stability and security that people cannot find in any other human relationship.

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Amazing Things Babies Do in the Womb

 

Dedicated to loving parents everywhere.

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Vatican Says No to Communion for Divorced and Remarrieds

Rumors aside, it appears that Pope Francis is not going to overturn the 2,000-year-old Church teaching on the sanctity of Holy Matrimony.

The Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller published an article in the Vatican newspaper, putting that story to rest.

Archbishop Muller writes that marriage is indissoluble as is testified in both Scripture and Tradition.

From National Catholic Register:

That Pope Francis is not going to change the discipline that denies Communion to divorced-remarried people is established by the long article Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, drafted for the Vatican daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano.

In the article, published on Oct. 22, Archbishop Müller reiterates that a Christian marriage is indissoluble and that this is not simply a pastoral question, but a doctrinal issue that involves the Church’s theological understanding of the sacrament of marriage.

There are also other key passages. Archbishop Müller stated that the Orthodox practice of allowing second or third marriages under certain circumstances “cannot be reconciled with God’s will.” He rejected that the individual conscience can be the final arbiter on whether a divorced and civily remarried Catholic can receive Communion. And responding to the argument that Christian mercy mandates allowing such Catholics reception of Communion, he asserted that “an objectively false appeal to mercy also runs the risk of trivializing the image of God by implying that God cannot do other than forgive.”

The article seems a clear corrective to those who recently praised the Church for, they said, finally being open to bringing Communion to divorced-remarried under Pope Francis’ pontificate. And it also serves as a correction to numerous newspaper headlines that have misrepresented the theme of the next Extraordinary Synod of Bishops — “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization” — as meaning the 2014 synod will open the door to a new Church discipline on the matter.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/communion-to-divorced-remarried-catholics-the-cdf-says-no?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-10-25%2020:59:01#ixzz2isPprnKm

Book Review: Building Christian Family by the Sacred Rules

To join the conversation about Six Sacred Rules for Families; A Spirituality for the Home, or to order a copy, go here

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Family life will either be the salvation of America, or the death of it, depending, almost entirely on whether or not American Christians begin living their home lives like the Christians they say they are. 

That has long been my opinion about both family life in this country and the future of the country itself. We are imploding as a nation because we have allowed our homes and families to implode along trendy lines. 

The authors of Six Sacred Rules for Families; A Spirituality for the Home, have written a simple how-to book for husbands and wives who want to create true Christian family and home for themselves and their children. There is no more important work than the rearing of little children to be strong, Christian adults who can take their place as the shepherds of the next generation after themselves. 

That is what parents are: Shepherds of the home. If they fail with their little flock, then nothing else they do in life matters. 

Let me repeat that: If you fail in raising your kids, then all the other things that seem so important — career, houses, cars, expensive vacations — all of it is for naught. I don’t believe that God ever created a person for the purpose of having a big house, driving an expensive car and taking lavish vacations. Those things, if they come your way, are the garnishes. They are not life. 

Child rearing is becoming a lost art. We are inundated with childcare books for the early years, when things are easy, and a stale silence for the drug-infested, sexual-experimenting later years of childhood, when they are not. Our cultural role models are all about dissolution, parental selfishness, broken homes and designer babies. 

True parenting is not about taking. The me-first, kids-are-tough-and-can-take-it philosophy has led us to the where we are today, which is the place where a huge number of our young people are not able or willing to form families and raise children of their own. From the throwaway kids of the inner cities to the trophy children of the rich and shameless, family life has far too often devolved down to a sad manifestation of the narcism of self-satisfying adults. 

How are Christians, especially those who were themselves shaped by this malformed and malfunctioning social milieu, going to learn the techniques for raising their kids in a true Christian home?

Possibly, from books like Six Sacred Rules for Families. 

This is not an in-depth book. It is rather, a faith-filled starting point. Sue and Tim Muldoon wrote a book that shares both their personal experiences of child-rearing, and the humility they faced in having to accept that they would not have children of their bodies, but would rather adopt children of their hearts. All this is informed by their professional work in the areas of faith formation and counseling. 

They built the book around six rules that can get parents started in a dialogue about how best to build a Christian home. The rules are:

  1. God brings our family together on pilgrimage.
  2. Our love for one another leads to joy.
  3. Our family doesn’t care about ‘success.’
  4. God stretches our family toward His Kingdom.
  5. God will help us.
  6. We must learn which desires lead us to freedom. 

If you want to learn what these rules mean, you will have to read the book. I will say that I found number 3, “Our family doesn’t care about success” thought provoking in a personal way. I’ve got some changing to do myself, and reading this book helped me see that. 

We’re going to have to be Christian in new ways in this post-Christian society. Perhaps the best way to begin that project is by resurrecting the lost art of Christian homemaking. Six Sacred Rules for Families provides simple direction on how to start down that path. 

National Organization for Marriage Sues the IRS for Disclosure of Tax Returns

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If the government starts breaking its own laws to give out information from our tax returns for the purpose of allowing a favored group to punish their enemies, we are all in trouble.

In March 2012, the Human Rights Campaign, which is a gay rights organization that supports gay marriage, publish the National Organization for Marriage’s 2008 tax returns.

That, my friends, is clear evidence that somebody somewhere committed a felony. Yet, no one has charges have been brought and if there’s an investigation, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

When the Human Rights Campaign published this list of donors, it laid these people open to harassment and reprisals of all sorts.

As I said earlier, when the government starts violating its own laws for the purpose of allowing a favored group to punish their enemies, we are all in trouble.

From The National Catholic Register:

National Organization for Marriage Sues IRS for Disclosure of Tax Returns (2085)

The lawyer for the organization says the measure is ‘in order to discover who committed these felonies against us and then hopefully get them prosecuted as a deterrent to future abuse by IRS officials.’

WASHINGTON — In March 2012, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s leading homosexual-rights group, posted the National Organization for Marriage’s (NOM) confidential 2008 tax returns, including the names of donors.

The disclosure of tax returns without permission is a felony, and NOM quickly cited evidence that allegedly pointed to an Internal Revenue Service official as the likely source of the confidential data.

But a year and a half later, after repeated inquiries elicited no satisfactory response from the IRS, NOM has filed a lawsuit demanding answers and damages.

“Our confidential tax returns were disclosed to the Human Rights Campaign, which posted our confidential list of donors (Schedule B of the tax return) on its website as part of its effort to harass and intimidate our donors into silence,” said John Eastman, NOM’s chairman and law professor at Chapman University School of Law, explaining the group’s decision to file the lawsuit on Oct. 3.

“Computer forensics discovered that the document had originated from within the IRS. Disclosure of a confidential tax return is a serious felony, yet no charges have been brought.”

 

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-national-organization-for-marriage-sues-the-irs-for-disclosure-of-tax-r?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+NCRegisterDailyBlog+National+Catholic+Register#When:2013-10-18%2014:22:01#ixzz2i6cJl7kz

Divorce, Catholic Divorce and Following Christ as Counter-Cultural Living

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Divorce is one of the plagues of modern America. It is the root cause of much of the misery of our modern life. The damage it does to our children and their children and their children’s children is incalculable. It is almost as if we have visited a social plague of Biblical proportions on ourselves with our disregard for marriage, home and family.

And we do disregard these things.

Social policy, especially as it pertains to how business activities are regulated, do not ever seem to consider the good the family. If you want to see what people really care about, look at what they serve. Judged by that standard, American government — and the American people as well — consistently put the Almighty dollar ahead of families, including, or perhaps most especially, children.

Divorce is a cause and a symptom of these values, as well as a result of them. In this way, we have created a divorce cycle that feeds on itself and appears to be endangering the survival of the institution of Holy Matrimony in the larger society. If we are heading toward a society where only certain groups of people maintain stable homes and families, there is no better place for one of those groups to form than among faithful Catholics.

It appears that the foundation for this sort of thing may already be in place.

According to a recent study by the Applied Research Apostolate at Georgetown University, Catholics divorce. In fact, Catholics divorce a lot. But compared to those other guys and gals out there, Catholics don’t divorce so much.

I suppose it’s a relief to learn that we’re not as prone as non-Catholics to steer our marriages — and our lives and our children’s lives — onto the rocks. In fact, I know it’s good news. The study shows that 28% of Catholics have been divorced at some time in their lives. I am assuming that this includes people who converted to Catholicism after they were divorced. If that’s true, the numbers for cradle Catholics might be even lower. Catholics who are married to other Catholics divorce at the slightly lower rate of 27%, so there may be something to that notion.

Protestants divorce at a rate of 39%, other faiths at 35% and people of no faith at 40%.

What this means is that, while we’re far from the point where we need to pop open the champagne and begin congratulating ourselves, we have a basis of solid Catholic families on which to build. Our ultimate goal should be the conversion of the larger society. But for now, I think it’s more than enough for us to look to ways to strengthen and build strong Catholic families which can raise children who will grow into productive and faithful adults.

I’ll talk about this more later, but we’re going to have to face the reality that our society is inimical to us and our values. If we want to live the true good life of stable homes that produce children who grow into equally stable adults, we face the necessity — not the choice, but the necessity — of pulling our families and our kids out of the cesspools of modern life.

We can no longer rely on the larger culture to be a safe place for our kids. And we certainly cannot rely on the larger culture to teach either us or them about what matters in life. Following Christ has always been counter-cultural. It was a scandal to the larger society from its beginning. In a very real way, we simply need to go back to our New Testament Gospel roots and live out our faith as the countercultural force it is and always has been.

From Catholic News Agency:

.- Recent studies on marriage show that while their rates of divorce are significant, U.S. Catholics are less likely to divorce than people of other religious affiliations.

“Although the Catholic ‘divorce rate’ is lower than the U.S. average it is still a daunting figure,” said the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

In a Sept. 26 blog post, the research group explained that divorce among Catholics “represents more than 11 million individuals,” many of whom “are likely in need of more outreach and ongoing ministry from the Church.”

In its article, the organization explained that different ways of tallying divorce and marriage rates create a range of different divorce figures, including the oft-quoted statistic that “half of all marriages fail.”

Looking at national surveys, “Catholics stand out with only 28 percent of the ever-married having divorced at some point,” the blog post stated, compared to more than 40 percent of those with no religious affiliation, 39 percent of Protestants and 35 percent of those of another religious faith.

Furthermore, Catholics who marry other Catholics are also less likely to divorce than Catholics married to people of other faiths.

A 2007 survey from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate estimates that only 27 percent of Catholics married to other Catholics have ever experienced divorce, compared to nearly half of Catholics married to Protestants or to spouses with no religious belief.


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