On Barb’s Bookshelf: Meeting God in the Upper Room

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Monsignor Peter J. Vaghi describes the Upper Room as “the most important room in Christendom” in his new book, Meeting God in the Upper Room (Servant, 2017). In one whirlwind 8-week period, the Upper Room was the location for three significant events in the birth of the Church:

  • the Last Supper
  • Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances to his disciples
  • Pentecost

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By Assaf Yekuel (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Msgr. Vaghi notes in the Prologue that the Upper Room, or Cenacle, was renovated in the 14th century, which explains the architectural style of the room as seen above.

What must the disciples have felt during their time in that room? Did they celebrate the Passover with trepidation, having heard Jesus tell them again and again that this trip to Jerusalem would end in his death? Were they astounded and elated when the risen Christ appeared to them in that room, continuing to teach them to take on the work of building the Church? Were they simultaneously energized and terrified at the descent of the Holy Spirit and their commissioning to make disciples of all nations?

“Once we catch a glimpse of the events that transpired in this room, we will be forever captivated by the mystery of the God who loves us so much that, even as he prepared to return to the Father, promised that ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’ (John 14:18, NRSV)” (1)

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Msgr. Varghi’s discussion of the history of the Upper Room based on Gospel accounts complements the meditations that are the meat of this book. I found the history fascinating; in various chapters, you’ll read about personalities, prophecy, sacraments, and Catholic social teaching. Each chapter ends with a section titled “Preparing Your Upper Room” in which the reader is invited to consider the personal implications of Jesus’ message.

I recommend Meeting God in the Upper Room for spiritual reading during Lent or, even more appropriately, beginning in Holy Week and continuing through the Easter season, when you can read the book as you liturgically relive the events depicted in it.

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This post contains Amazon affiliate links; your purchase through these links helps support this blog. Thank you! I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: Refuge of the Heart Review and Giveaway!

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Crises involving refugees are in the news right now, but once a situation moves off the front page, it becomes easy to forget that refugees are real people with real needs who have gone through really awful situations–and their problems are not solved overnight.

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Love the cover art for this book!

Refuge of the Heart, a new novel by Ruth Logan Herne, introduces the reader to Lena, a young woman who fled war-torn Chechnya with her 5-year-old sister Anna. Lena, who was a medical student on her way to a promising career before the war tore her family and her life apart, wants nothing more than to complete her nursing degree and find a job that pays well enough for her to move to a safer neighborhood with a good school for Anna. As the novel begins, D.A. Mitch Sanderson happens upon Lena and Anna as they discover a flat tire on their car on a snowy night. One broken date later, Mitch arranges for tire repairs for Lena’s car, and slowly goes on to win the independent Lena’s heart.

Lena’s past proves to be a complication for their relationship, as she fears legal reprisal for some of the things she did in order to survive the living hell of war in Chechnya. Mitch’s high-society family doesn’t help matters either.

This novel is a tribute to resiliency of spirit and a life lived gratefully. Lena has very little, but she constantly looks for ways to give back.

FM_Color_LogoTo help me introduce this book to more readers, publisher Franciscan Media is offering a copy of Refuge of the Heart to one lucky reader! To put your name in the hat for a FREE copy of this novel, simply answer this question in the comment box:

Thanksgiving dinner (two of them, actually–one at church and one at Mitch’s family home) is the first holiday celebration Mitch and Lena enjoy together. Name the one dish that must be on your family table for Thanksgiving.

This contest ends Tuesday, October 20 at noon Eastern. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen. USA only, please!

Want more chances to win? Visit the other blogs on the book tour and enter your name in their giveaways!

About Author Ruth Logan Herne:

herneBorn into poverty, Ruth Logan Herne is the mother of six and grandmother to thirteen. She and her husband, Dave, live on a small farm in upstate New York. She works full time but carves a few hours each day to write the kind of stories she likes to read, filled with poignancy, warmth and delightful characters. She is the 2011 award winner from the American Christian Fiction Writers.

On Barb’s Bookshelf: The Sweetest Rain Review and Giveaway!

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On my bookshelf today: a sweet Catholic romance novel that takes place in Depression-era Arkansas. As historical fiction goes, this is one of my favorite time periods to read about; I think this is because characters are too busy surviving to do much navel-gazing.

ofu5Nt5bAI1EOJeG-oPAco0tPN9Tk6LCDMtIAp0NsxAMyra Johnson’s novel, The Sweetest Rain, finds a tenant farmer’s responsible oldest granddaughter in search of a way to supplement the near-nonexistent farm income during a drought season. Boldly approaching the plantation owner, she lands a housekeeping job in his grand home and upsets the status quo by getting involved in “upstairs, downstairs” politics–and falling in love with the owner’s son.

I enjoyed the portrayal of the two very different worlds that Bryony, the heroine, walked between, and the strength and grit she showed in helping her family survive. In some ways, she reminded me of George Bailey, doing what had to be done for her family, even at the expense of her own dreams. How this plays out as the story goes on–well, I don’t want to give any spoilers here. But I will say this: if you like Downton Abbey, you’ll like this novel!

Since this book is from the genre known as “sweet romance,” it’s appropriate for teens as well as adults.

FM_Color_LogoTo help me introduce this book to more readers, publisher Franciscan Media is offering a copy of The Sweetest Rain to one lucky reader! To put your name in the hat for a FREE copy of this novel, simply answer this question in the comment box:

What’s your favorite time period to read about in historical fiction?

This contest ends Tuesday, October 13 at noon Eastern. Winner will be notified by email and will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen.

Want more chances to win? Visit the other blogs on the book tour and enter your name in their giveaways!

Myra Johnson 2014About author Myra Johnson:

Myra Johnson’s roots go deep into Texas soil, but she now enjoys living amidst the scenic beauty of North Carolina. Myra’s debut novel, One Imperfect Christmas, was a September 2009 release from Abingdon Press. She has also written six novels for the Heartsong Presents line. Most recently she has completed a three-book historical romance series, “Till We Meet Again,” for Abingdon Press. Myra and her husband, Jack, have two married daughters and seven grandchildren.

 

Book Review: Chime Travelers series for kids

For the past 8 years I have spent 1/2 day per week volunteering in the library of our local Catholic elementary school. I check books in and out, help kids find books, put books away, and talk with kids about what they like to read. In those 8 years I’ve seen , talked about, and read an awful lot of children’s books.

(Yes, I read children’s books. Sometimes it’s because the librarian has asked me to read something aloud to a class. Sometimes it’s because, as I was putting a book on a shelf, I was intrigued–so I’d take the book home.)

It’s a Catholic school library, but there’s almost no Catholic fiction in it. Except for Tomie dePaola’s picture books, I haven’t found any Catholic fiction in it.

chime travelers bannerThat’s about to change; I’m going to be donating copies of Lisa Hendey’s Chime Traveler series to the school library. And I’ll be talking them up when the first- through fourth-graders come in.

The first two books in the series were released today! I’ve read them both; they center on a set of twins who are thrust into adventures with saints from long-ago times. These adventures help the twins learn a life lesson related to something they’ve been struggling with.

chime travelers book 1

Book 1 is titled The Secret of the Shamrock. In this story, Patrick meets his patron saint, St. Patrick, and travels (with his frog in his backpack) across Ireland. On his journey, Patrick wrestles with the mystery of the Trinity and learns about trusting in God.

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of that frog, though.

chime travelers book 2

Book 2, The Sign of the Carved Cross, tells the tale of Katie’s adventure as she journeys with St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Katie struggles with the popularity issues so many kids will relate to, trying to fit in with the “mean girls” by excluding others. Her encounter with St. Kateri will help her learn about true friendship and compassion. 

 These are fun stories, complete with mischief and humor, that feature the bonus of learning what it might be like to walk side-by-side with a well-known saint. The novels portray the saints as real people who become friends with Patrick and Katie and whom young readers will want as their own friends!

I’m glad to introduce these novels to young Catholic readers. They’d make great classroom novels or family read-alouds as well as being fun reads for independent readers getting their feet wet with chapter books. Kids will easily relate to Patrick and Katie, who try to be good but don’t always succeed and who struggle with the usual stuff: family, friends, chores and school. 

 I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the superb work done by illustrator Jenn Bower, whose art features a fun, lively, retro feel. The covers are totally eye-catching; I had the books on my coffee table one evening when a few friends came over, and everyone was picking them up. But there are more charming illustrations within the books as well.

Im a chime traveler

You can order the Chime Travelers books from the Amazon links above (the books are $5.99 each) OR you can purchase autographed copies directly from the author for only $5 each postpaid! Bulk orders save even more. Use this form for direct purchases

 
The fine print: I received advance reader copies of both Chime Travelers novels from the publisher, Franciscan Media, in return for my honest review. I did not receive any other compensation for this review. Opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. 

 
More fine print: Links to the Chime Traveler books are Amazon affiliate links. Your purchase of a book using those links adds a little something to my Amazon piggy bank, but costs you nothing extra. 

 Image credit: Chime Traveler Kids page on Facebook. Used by permission of Chime Travelers author Lisa Hendey. All rights reserved.