Thursday, September 22, 2016

Book Review: Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life

Author Richard Rohr views the spiritual life in two stages, the first stage setting the stage for the second. In early chapters he discusses the common theme of stories about heroes and heroines, concluding that once they have slain the dragon (or whatever it is they’ve done), they find a deeper, resurrected life. Then the question becomes what to do with it.

According to Rohr, sin and failure pave the way to redemption. We must learn to heal, to forgive and to move on. I found the chapter titled “Amnesia and the Big Picture” hard to understand, but a later chapter made up for it and was well worth the price of the book. In “The Bright Sadness” Rohr writes: “There is still darkness in the second half of life—in fact maybe even more. But there is now a changed capacity to hold it creatively and with less anxiety.”

Rohr believes that there is always a “bright sadness” to authentic religious art, and he likens that to life itself. He writes of withdrawing our energy from fighting evil and instead looking for things we all share in common. He suggests concentrating on the Beatitudes rather than the Ten Commandments. The “bright sadness” comes from embracing and learning from our sorrows. Our own struggles are opportunities for growth, Rohr writes, and second half of life people are needed to help others see the big picture. In our mature years, people should want to know and emulate us.

I liked this book because it helped me to see my senior years in a positive light. Rohr did not sugarcoat the challenges, but he helped me to see that I can embrace the journey as I learn to live with contradictions. It spoke of who and what I want to be and gave me hope that I can achieve maturity as a person.

Notes, a bibliography and an index complete the book. This would make a great study for a group of seniors who want to get the most out of their remaining years.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Meet a Friend of Mine: Michelle Lazurek

Let me introduce you to my friend Michelle Lazurek. We met at a Wellsboro book festival several years ago and have stayed in touch. Leafwood Publishers just released Michelle’s latest book, An Invitation to the Table: Embracing the Gift of Hospitality. Last month Bill and I visited Michelle at her home in Coudersport. In the photo you can tell she practices what she preaches, for the table behind her is set for our dinner with her and her husband Joe. I asked Michelle to respond to the following questions:   

·         What motivated you to write a book about hospitality?

I was raised Roman catholic. However, at the age of eighteen, I became a born-again Christian. Upon hearing of my conversion to a Protestant sect of the faith, my parents were livid. After two years of constant fighting and verbal sparring, my parents threw me out of my home. A couple from my church heard of this and offered for me to live at their home in exchange for watching their children. I did this until I got married 2 1/2 years later. It was through that family that I learned what hospitality truly is—a calling to forsake the luxuries and conveniences of life, essentially mess up your life—for the sake of the gospel.
·         What is something surprising that readers will discover in reading An Invitation to the Table?

Often people think hospitality is inviting your friends over to your home and bringing out the fine china, making sure your house is spic and span and showing you have it all together. In the book I give practical tips on how to incorporate hospitality into readers' already busy lives.

·         What is one way we can practice hospitality that differs from entertaining? 

In Luke 9:1-6, Jesus gives instructions to the disciples he sends out: "take nothing for the journey." Sometimes hospitality is merely handing someone a tissue, holding his/her hand or opening your home to a stranger. In essence, hospitality is meeting the physical, mental or spiritual needs of those around us, specifically our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
·         While Christians may recognize they have a spiritual gift such as teaching, do you think they are as likely to recognize they have the gift of hospitality? If not, how might they recognize it?

Hospitality is one of the most underrated spiritual gifts. Because of the amount of perceived work involved in displaying the gift, I think people are less prone to recognize it. However, when they understand that hospitality is something we are, not something we do, it becomes easier to handle. If anyone enjoys something as simple as making people feel welcome at church, or more complicated such as giving a welcome basket to a neighbor or entertaining people in their home, they more than likely have the gift; they just don't recognize it for what it is.
·         How might readers use the end of chapter “Food for Thought” and “Group Discussion questions?

I wrote those for people to go deeper into this topic. Those sections are ideal for small groups, something I have a heart for. My heart is to help Christians reach their potential by going deeper in their walk with God. Those questions, along with the additional leader section, is designed for a small group setting so people aren't just reading about hospitality, but they are practicing it as well.

·         Can you give an example of a special blessing you received through practicing hospitality?

As stated above, I was blessed to live with a family who opened their doors to me when I had nothing. When a woman called my home one winter evening and said she had nowhere to go, I couldn't help but pay that blessing forward. Although it was difficult, I learned how to embody the gift of hospitality by blessing someone else with the gift I had received.


Thanks for letting me come on your blog, Shirley. You have been a blessing to me, and I hope I am a blessing to you as well. Michelle

Please note: Michelle is a speaker, award-winning author, pastor’s wife and mother. She is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and has written for places such as Gifted for Leadership, The Upper Room and (In)Courage. Michelle teaches at various writers’ conferences, such as the Montrose Christian Writers Conference and the AWSA conference. Visit her at She would love to hear from her, and you can order her book there.

By the way, I was privileged to endorse Michelle's book and also contributed to the "Testimonies" chapter. 

Have a blessed September.


Upcoming Engagements:

10 a.m., September 10 – Friends of the Heart at Grace Bible Church, Orwigsburg, for a Secret Sister event.

Other events that may interest you if you live in the Millersburg, Pennsylvania, area:

10 a.m., September 17 - I would like to invite you to a Fall Women’s Brunch hosted by First United Methodist Church, Millersburg. Cindy Martz of Dalmatia will be speaking on “God is the Hero of my Messy Life.” Cindy has been an inspiration to me for many years, and she will surely encourage your heart. Child care is provided if requested when the reservation is made. The event will be held at the New Life Center, 346 Center Street, Millersburg, directly across from the firehouse. There is no charge; an offering will be taken. Call me at 692-2721 or e-mail me at to make a reservation for the brunch.

6:30 p.m., September 22 – You are also invited to an 8-week Women of the Word (W. O. W.) Bible study, to be held Thursday evenings at the New Life Center. We will use a video series featuring Andy Stanley on the topic of “Christian: It’s Not What You Think.” There is no charge; participants are invited but not required to cover the $11 cost of the study guide. Call me at or e-mail me (see above) to save a spot.