New book by “Tapestry” co-author, Joe LaGuardia

CoverOur very own Dr. Joe LaGuardia has published his second book!

In AWE and TREMBLING: Reflections for the Christian Journey, pastor and syndicated columnist Joseph V. LaGuardia reminds us that although we walk a precarious journey of life, we do not walk alone. We sojourn with a God that is personal and holy, majestic and ever creative.

The result?  An anthology of essays and homilies that deepens our love and wonder of God, draws us closer to Christ in contemplative intimacy, and grounds faithful discipleship in scripture and the sacred rhythm of the Christian calendar.

Order your copy online now!

“Joe employs vivid, descriptive imagery and numerous stories drawn from his daily life that invites readers to recognize the holy work of God all around them. This is the mark of a good author and preacher.” –Zach Dawes, Jr., EthicsDaily.com

A portion of proceeds goes towards the Linda Kozic Fund.  On August 5, 2013, disgruntled citizen Rockne Newell opened fire on a Ross Township Town Hall meeting in Pennsylvania, fatally wounding Jerry Kozic, David Fleetwood, and James LaGuardia.  Linda Kozic was injured and continues to incur medical costs.  See more at the fund website.

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Three keys to writing your 2015 “life story”

typewriter

By Joe LaGuardia

Every year I set out to keep some much-needed resolutions. These resolutions have to do with change: I’d like to eat less, exercise more, pray without ceasing. Its the usual New Year’s stuff.

Since I rarely keep these resolutions beyond the second or third week, however, I wonder if perhaps I’ve been going about this all wrong. And, if you’ve had trouble keeping your resolutions in years past, maybe you’ve gotten it wrong too.

It’s not that we have to change our life so much as we may have to change the way we see our life. Whenever I’ve changed how I see my life in the past, a change in my behavior, values, and habits followed.

One of the ways is to view life as a story that is slowly unfolding, one in which you can sense a series of beginnings, middles, and endings.

Call them chapters if you will. Each chapter tells a different side of the main character–you!–and when one chapter ends, a new one begins.

So what if you had a bad habit in the past? That chapter has ended, and a new chapter can begin.

Maybe you came out of an abusive relationship. A new year is a good opportunity to write a new chapter beyond the abuse that has shaped your life all too often.

So, with that in mind, here are three keys to consider when writing your new 2015 story.

1. Your story is what God says it is, not what others say it is. God has created you in God’s own image and you are a child of God. Don’t let others tell you how your story should either unfold or end.

If you were to write your story this year with your Heavenly Father in mind, how would it be different? What authenticity and vulnerability might empower you to change for the better?

2. God has a purpose for your life, so your story should have a purpose too.

Have you ever read a story or watched a movie that didn’t have a purpose? A story with no purpose has no direction; it just stumbles along.

I know that we stumble along in life sometimes. We lose a job or our hearts get broken, and we can only go from day to day like a person meandering in the dark.

But some seasons in life are like that; and yet, overall, our story has a purpose because God has a purpose for us.

The Bible labels this purpose a “call” that God gives us. We are all called to be a part of God’s story, and by joining God, God writes our stories too.

The second letter of Peter says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:10).

3. Your story won’t be complete without recognizing how others play a part in it.

On the internet, you will find what are called “internet trolls.” These are people who go from status update to status update. blog to blog, article to article, and post to post to criticize, leave negative feedback, and simply publish bad advice or mean comments in general.

Trolls have encouraged more than one suicide, and they are ruthless in their backbiting and baiting.

These are not people that make up your story or should be a part of your story.

Characters that are a part of your story should be positive and help you fulfill God’s purpose in your life.

I recommend building a circle of friends made up of mentors, cheerleaders, teachers, and friends that make for an effective support system. Do not neglect this part of your story, and distance yourself from the trolls in your life.

As you look forward to the new year ahead, I hope that you will put an imaginary pen to paper and write something new. I hope that it will be God-inspired and that you will be the very person God has made you to be, for without God, your words will be fleeting and ever failing.

5 Ways to encourage kids to Journal

Writing - Girl in CarThere is no doubt that keeping a journal has long been considered a spiritual and personal discipline.  Even the Bible have hints of the journal genre–from parts of Jeremiah and Nehemiah and the psalms to first-person accounts in the book of Acts.

Christian history is also fraught with examples in which the act of journaling has connected the people of God to the movement of the Spirit.  St. Augustine, Julian of Norwich, and Thomas Merton immediately come to mind.

If journaling is such an effective way to grow spiritually, therefore, why not teach our young people to do it as well?

In fact, if a young person is called to be a disciple of Christ and can write or draw, there is no reason for that person to not journal.  Sometimes, they–like us–simply don’t know where to begin.

Here are five ways to encourage children to journal:

1.  Provide writing prompts.  Too often, we hear children say that they don’t know what to write about.  If we want to encourage them to experience God, however, it would be wise to give writing prompts.

Some prompts may include having children write about what they learned in Sunday School or church.  Others may be more general, like having a child write about how nature or a church season (like Advent) can help us see God’s amazing creativity.

2.  Show children how to write their prayers.  This is helpful in two ways: First, writing prayers help a child communicate with God in concrete ways that are familiar and fun.  Second, writing prayers will widen a child’s perception of what prayer is all about.

Prayers are more than mere words we say at the dinner table or in church; they are conversations with God in which we can be honest and open with all of the feelings, experiences, and circumstances that we face.  Writing prayers down help us memorialize those conversations.

3.  Let children copy a few verses from the Bible and have them write about what they think the verses mean.  We are often surprised at how much children listen and learn when we think they are not paying attention; just imagine how much they will learn if they engage the scriptures in a way that is intentional and reflective.

Scripture tells us to “meditate upon God’s Word” daily.  If I remember correctly, there is no age-limit to this challenge–all of us, young and old, need to learn how to meditate on God’s Word.  Writing God’s Word can be just as important as reading or hearing it.

4.  Let children draw as a part of their journaling experience.  When I had my first-born, I was delighted to find that stores sell kid-friendly journals that have a blank spot on the top half of each page.  Children write on the bottom half and then draw a picture to accompany what they wrote.

Sometimes self-expression is best portrayed in picture form than in writing.  Our children should explore every facet of art and journaling in order to experience and learn about God.

5.  Keep project-specific journals.  Children can keep more than one journal in their arsenal of spiritual disciplines.  A child can keep a missions journal, a travel journal, or a prayer journal.  This encourages children to recognize that they can “meet God” in places beyond their church.

It also encourages children to “join God at work” in the world as we adults point out ways we’ve met God along the way.  Taking a vacation, for instance, doesn’t mean we vacation away from God.  We vacation as a way to be on mission for God, and a child can record those points of contact where–guided by intuitive adults–God shows up to be at work in the world.

A christian is never too young to start implementing spiritual practices.  Journaling, as one such practice, is good for the brain, heart, and soul.  And, as St. Augustine once quipped, it encourages all of us, no matter the age, to tell our story “for the love of Your love.”