See the Table of Contents
and read a sample chapter.

Read Fr. Coutinho's biography
Fr. Paul Coutinho, S.J.

The Talk at Creighton U.

Watch the Video


Read the sharing sent in this week from our world-wide reading group.
We asked people who use our site to read this powerful book and to send us what moved them about the book, week by week, during the month of October.

Watch a Video of Fr. Paul Coutinho's Talk at Creighton U.

Meet our Readers | Sharing on Chapters 1-7 |
Sharing on Chapters 8-21 | Sharing on Chapters 22-34

The Sharing for week 4: Chapters 35-48.


The river that flows through Coutinho’s book generates a vision. Scripture says: Habakkuk 2:2-3 “Write the vision down, inscribe it on the tablets to be easily read, since the vision is for its time only: eager for its own fulfillment, it does not deceive; if it comes slowly, wait, for come it will without fail.” So I write my vision down. I enter the well and its water. Jesus is there and greets me smiling. It’s as if we’re treading water when I playfully splash Jesus. He laughs and splashes me back and then dives deeply. I quickly follow. I’m swimming down – deep. There’s no turning back. What have I done? It’s so dark now I can’t see Jesus. I fear I’ll drown. I realize I’m not out of breath and I just keep swimming, trusting I’m in Jesus’ wake. I see light, then bright light and I surface. On the river’s shore stands Jesus with a smile and outstretched arms to welcome me. I’m safe. I’m HOME. Jesus is the source.


We control our emotions? I don’t think so. Maybe if I were a stoic or had a phlegmatic personality type, it would be easy enough, but for a melancholic like me, who lives in feelings, it’s a different story. When my husband says, “I don’t what the hell’s wrong with you, Annette…,” I feel as if I have been pierced through the heart by an arrow. I’ve used “I-messages,” but they never worked and only made him madder.

Here is my problem. I have been wrestling with the idea of my being God’s beloved child, which is a big change from one who has to be perfect and earn God’s love. When we were kids we rattled it off “children of God and heirs of heaven, children of God and heirs of heaven,” but it had no real meaning. Right now my being God’s beloved child is more an intellectual fact than something I experience, so what can I do to change my gut beliefs?
First, I can beg God to let me know God as my father and my mother, in my gut, as who I am.

Then, I can remind myself of that fact over and over during the day, lots of times to obliterate the negativity of the past. Finally, when my husband makes a sarcastic remark, I may do the P.Q.R. (Pause, question, response.) or smile and say, “Join the club of the FHB’s.” (God’s lovable Fallible Human Beings.)
Controlling emotions? Hmmm.


These last chapters have been so inspiring and meaningful to me! The thought of each of us having the FREEDOM to find meaning in our lives is so powerful and not always so easy to remember.

I have been pondering on the two following questions: " What do you want your tombstone to say?" and "How would you sum up your life in just a few words?"(Ch. 36).
What I would like to have engraved is "GOD WAS HER RADIANT LIGHT AND IT SHINED THROUGHOUT HER LIFE.", but what it would sum up to be at this point in my life: " SHE STRUGGLED TO FIND PEACE AND MEANING IN HER LIFE."

I am more aware than ever that seeking pleasure and personal fulfillment and satisfaction have kept me from allowing God to be my guiding light often times. If only I could take, own and live Coutinho's words: " Chaos is often the shortest path to our spiritual core. "I could have so many possibilities of living more freely in harmony with myself and others. Thus deepening my relationship with God. I loved the story of the caterpillar where it refers to how "pain enlightens us about the true meaning of life".

This book has been somewhat challenging and very insightful. A new chapter in my life-journey where I hope to continue exploring and discovering
the immensity of the DIVINE.

Thanks again for your willingness to make this happen.

Best regards, Rosalie

The grace I received in reading these pages is the understanding that with God, less is more. For much of my adult life I was trying to make meaning with more projects, more reading, more service. I am now slowly beginning to experience God calling me to let go of it all, to stop trying to be good and make meaning and to just let God be my meaning.

What freedom there is in that! I don’t have to cling to a belief system or any specific outcomes. I only have to know, love and serve God. That frees me up to enter a situation and pray only for the grace to love, not to be the smartest , the best, the best dressed or wittiest. I don’t have to win or prove a point or make sure things happen a certain way. I only have to love. It’s a big shift and one that comes slowly. But also one that brings deep peace.

Coutinho’s book is a little gem. It’s not necessarily ground breaking, but it affirms so much I have read and heard and only now am beginning to live. Thanks to Fr. Coutinho for the challenge and to you at Creighton for the experience! Thanks, too for all the sharing. It has truly been a blessing.

Mary H.

Fr. Coutinho mentions three damaging root beliefs that people sometimes have, and as I read them, I realized I was committed to all three of them. The first one, stated in chapter 41, is the belief that to be worthwhile, I must get the love and approval of everyone. As he points out, this is really an impossible task that can only result in failure. I know - I've been working on it forever.

The second root belief that causes a lot of problems (in chapter 42) is that the other people in my life have to be fair and kind to me, or they will have failed me. I didn't think this was my belief until I started reading ... "a good friend is always there when I need him or her" ... argh!

The third damaging root belief Fr. Coutinho mentions is that life must make things easy for me; otherwise life is not worth living and I feel cheated and depressed (chapter 43). I know intellectually that life isn't fair, but deep down, I really hang on to the idea that it actually is and I feel betrayed when things go very badly, even angry with God. But I liked very much the way Fr. Coutinho ended this chapter ....

"When my life is chaotic and I find it difficult to understand what is happening, let me allow the divine spirit to hover over my darkness, and let me wait for the new and the beautiful to spring forth in my life."

Thanks for including me in the group -

For me, one of the most challenging chapters of this book is chapter 39. Realizing what my beliefs are causing me to feel and react, limiting my relationship with God. Many, many things on which to meditate.

It’s true that our past influences our present, but it doesn’t control our present or determine our future. I need a sampler with this on it!

So is God your steering wheel in life or just your spare tire? Sometimes I feel like Miss Daisy – I let God drive but I’m crabbing at Him all the way!

This little book has so much in it and we sped right through! My plan now is to start the first week in November, read a chapter a week, and mediate and journal.


It is so easy to get caught up in our everyday chores, responsibilities, activities that we lose sight of why we do it all. Even the good, worthwhile things that we do can overtake the reasons for doing them. It is probably too common among folks involved in various ministries that this happens. Fr. Paul’s warning, “when the well of religion offers dogmas, liturgies, and prayers without engaging the heart, it robs people of an experience of the Divine” is something I pray I will always keep in mind in working with those who inquire about our Catholic faith.

Fr. Paul explains that our emotions are not caused by situations, but by our beliefs about those situations. I read this just after becoming quite angry about the way people drive on my way to work. It’s not because they pass on my right, or fail to signal, or cut me off; it’s because they don’t share my belief in the way we should treat each other on the road that makes me so mad.

The chapters on beliefs and the problem causing root beliefs were really challenging…they hit very close to home. But, at the same time, they give me hope that we can change our beliefs. We can experience the Divine. We simply must open our eyes and ears and pay attention to our God as he works to help us see what he created in us.


The question of what I would put on my tombstone is one that makes me think. I have kidded my wife in the past that we could put something on her tombstone such as “At least I cleaned the house one last time.” I think right now my response would be similar to some of my college business students when an assignment is due-“Could I please have just a little more time.” I agree with the author that life is all about finding meaning and I feel that much of my life has been a struggle to find the real meaning-not what family, peers, media or anyone else says is the meaning of my life, but finding that meaning myself within the givens of my family, work, community, and faith.

I found the story about the man on the subway with the unruly kids to be meaningful to me. Part of my struggle to deepen my faith and to be a better person has been to focus on why I do the things I do and why I say the things I say; what fears, anger and other things are behind the scenes within my mind and heart that cause my behavior. The author’s statement that our beliefs, and not our emotions, are at the heart of our perceptions of events. I love his PQR formula and am trying to apply this in my own life because to often in my life I have found my self reacting rather than thinking things through and carefully responding to a situation. Too often I have felt disconnected from the constant “I” and I am hoping that by applying some of the things I have learned from reading this book, I can become more constantly aware of the Divine Breath, of the constant I. The concept of seeing other people as fallible human beings (FHB’s) ties in with this thinking and could help me to be more patient with other people.

I think the root beliefs that I need the approval of others, that others are to be fair to me, and that life should make things easy for me have all played some role in my life at one time or another. I know that I have made some decisions in my life largely to gain approval of others rather than making the best decision for me. Maybe some time ago, I may have thought life was supposed to be easy. After all, I grew up at a time when kids often read fairytales that almost always ended by saying the people lived happily ever after. But, I have come to believe that if our faith centers upon a God who himself suffered, then suffering is part of life for all of us and can actually have meaning in our lives. I really enjoyed reading this book and plan to go back to it as I try to apply some of the concepts to my daily life.


“…I wanted to know if life has a purpose
And what it all means in the end.
In the silence I listened to voices inside me
And they told me again and again.

There is only one river. There is only one sea.
And it flows through you, and it flows through me.
We are all one spirit. We are all one name…

From the dawn of creation we are one.”

“River of Jordan”
Peter, Paul and Mary

The root beliefs of our irrational thinking and their correctives as well as the search for meaning were familiar to me from the works of Albert Ellis and Victor Frankl. However, there was still much richness to be had, especially in the instances in which Couhinho specified the explicit relationship to spirituality. The best example is the teaching that FHB’s (Fallible Human Beings) have a right to make mistakes and the reminder that the person with whom I am angry is still the image and likeness of the Divine, the very breath of God. This ties in with Ignatius’s model for assertive behavior in the Spiritual Exercises. First, find a good interpretation for what the person is doing or saying. If you believe the hurtful behavior is deliberate, clarify the deliberations with the other person. If that doesn’t work then correct the person’s behavior with kindness and love. In a time of major tensions and disagreements in the church today it is an excellent reminder.

Other precious nuggets were:
1. God is not going to do for us what we can do for ourselves.
2. “When the well of religion offers dogmas, liturgies, and rote prayers without engaging the heart, it also robs people of an experience of the Divine and fails to satisfy the spirit. With Mary of Magdala we can say, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have put him’.”
3. In the story of the African missionaries, the symbolic use of the bible (the belief systems from which we find meaning) and the land (our personal identity that makes us less ourselves when lost) and that the only way to get your life back is to give away all your ‘bibles’, take back your land, write your own scriptures and take responsibility for your life.

When reading the latter chapters of the book I felt something of an anticlimax. They did, however, point out the fullness of all that had preceded them and reminded me to go back over the earlier chapters and make a list of Practice Possibilities to use for the future. For that and all the inspiration from the book I owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Couhinho.

I also want to thank Andy and Maureen for all their work and encouragement on this project and to tell my fellow discussants how enjoyable and profitable their sharings were. Last but not least, to thank any readers for attending to our thoughts and hopefully gaining something from them. It has been a blessing to participate in the learning and faith sharing and the benefits will have lasting effects.

I too hope we make it, kids!

Jean M.

These last pages have been the best of all. The chapters are meditations that could be used daily - but, more ideally, weekly or even monthly. Just the titles can give pause. In all, what I take away is a greater clarity of the beliefs I hold which are superficial and keep me from experiencing a bigger God who gives the peace that is beyond understanding; a greater sense of how living a meaningful life is of such essence that I wanted to slap my forehead when I read those chapters - how could I have let something so obvious escape my notice and commitment? It is no wonder I get exhausted spinning my wheels.

I was awakened to the patience needed to let life unfold in the story of the butterfly. And, finally, the chapter with the stories of the people who were able to decide when they were going to die was moving in that it reveals how connected we can be to the universal flow of life, how unconditionally God invites us to experience his loving compassion and expansiveness in all things.

This book makes me want to go on retreat and dwell on God's big love for me, for us all.


This is a strange and difficult week for me. It is the anniversary of my mother's passing on this Sunday. She had a deteriorating form of vascular dementia brought on by mini strokes. In some ways I lost the mother I knew fifteen years ago and there was a continual sense of grief through the years. Fortunately she knew me and others who saw her on a regular basis but by the time she died she was totally dependent on my father. Nevertheless her loving presence was important and I think it’s true to say she reminded me of the essential in life. I write about this as my own belief ‘life has meaning under all circumstances until our last breath is reinforced through Father Paul’s writing in the chapter Our Stolen Search for Meaning.

The chapter Life Does Not Owe Us Pleasure – it Offers Us Meaning is very helpful to me. Reflecting on these words alone gives me a sense of gratitude for the gift of my own faith and the numerous ways in which it is supported. Father Paul writes ‘pleasure is the by product of meaningful activity’. As I worry and fret about finances, long term security and future plans I remind myself not to loss sight of finding meaning in my everyday life.
Where is the meaning? For me it is simply in loving God and my neighbour and I would like to be remembered as a person who was able to be a source of blessing to others through my relationship to God.

This weeks reading also spoke to me on a personal level to be more accepting and forgiving of others as they like me are fallible human beings. I also sense a call to be more audacious in the way I live which on reflection comes from trusting God and finding my sense of security and identity in Him.

Sue P.

How right Fr. Paul seems to be in so many things. His writing appears to be inspired as he gently nudges us on to the path that leads to God.

The message he gives seems to me to be very close to the good news that Jesus brought. It carries the essence of what Paul writes in his letters and of the words of some of the very early followers of Jesus that I have read.

Is there a re-formation going on at the moment? Modern Christian writings are beginning to make me think of a dog shaking himself after he’s been in water, with all the sun-filled drops flying away from him. The movement and freedom of the animal suggests excitement and joy – goodness! It sounds ridiculous to tie the idea to an animal but it suddenly strikes me as I write that it’s something of the joy of baptism, escaping from dust and dirt and mess into freshness and light. Another – and here I can only use the word ‘vision’ - but not in a supernatural way – is that of a butterfly emerging from a shabby chrysalis leaving the old behind and soaring into light and newness. (Oh, that story was so sad: the poor butterfly who fell down and couldn’t fly . . . )

Help! Am I suggesting that tradition may have swaddled the simplicity of the teaching of Jesus? Am I wandering along the edge of an abyss with heresy at the bottom? I feel giddy. Dear Lord, please hold my hand.


Chapter 41 in the last section of our reading helps me desire to be more forgiving, generous and loving towards myself and others, nearer to God's love for me. I found it illuminating to read that aiming "to get the love and approval of everyone and be perfect in everything" is an irrational statement. I can do a lot of things and I do many of them. Why do I expect to excel at most of them and be recognized so? What is wrong with just "being?" Why do I try so hard and then critique myself harshly? Just who is out there to please so important that my joy is sacrificed? If I act this way, what sort of spouse, mother and friend do I portray?
God is in me, a blessing. He wants me near Him. Other illusions do not matter unless I give meaning to them. Along the way I gain knowledge of my view of importance. (Chapter 35) I am learning more what matters and approval is not "it." In knowing this I can be more loving towards others and this is meaningful. I can also just "be."


The book is just fantastic and has been very useful to me with my adult faith sharing group.

I must say I read the last seven chapters of the book a lot slower than I did the thirty-four.
I guess I did not want the book to end it.

Chapters 41,42 and 43 really struck a chord in me, about our having damaging root beliefs. For many years I always worried if every one liked me and if I was pleasing the "whole " world. I thought if someone did not like or love me it was my fault and some how I had to correct this and make myself more likeable or loveable.

I know now my happiness depends on no one but myself and my relationship with God.
It took me over 40 years of struggling with this especially concerning my relationship with my parents. Through prayer and Gods presence in my daily life I have overcome a lot of painful struggling in my heart. I now look to God for all my needs and for him to guide in my daily life.

As Fr. Paul says in ch. 43, chaos maybe all around us, but God will clear up this chaos and lead us through the chaos to a new place in our life.

Without even knowing it I have been following the teaching of St Ignatius's ' model for assertive behavior' in The Spiritual Exercises. I have tried very hard to correct behavior with kindness and love, in the past I did have a hard time with people in not changing their negative behavior. Now I do my best to not respond in anger and remain loving, I try very hard to see Jesus in all people.

God is really amazing.


I did a study with a local Jesuit a few years ago and one of things I learned from that was to “notice”. These chapters were noticing chapters. I needed to notice the instructions I felt I was receiving. I needed to pay attention and to use the key points and move forward. These chapters seemed like a “what to do list” to continue on from this book.

In this book I spent time with God. I learned about a relationship with the Divine. My God is thus bigger because of this. I took the time to look at the difference of my relationship with God and with Jesus. Often I think I relate to Jesus. There is great joy in having God in my heart. I know He is there and I can’t take it for granted. I loved Father’s “Eastern Way” of looking for the Divine Presence in the unexpected. The key point is to “look” for that unexpected and expect the unexpected.

I was glad to know that the Divine can be experienced at any age, it is happening to me now. This is still a work in progress for me. I anticipate that the Divine and I will have some wonderful encounters ahead for us. St Ignatius says all I need is the will to experience the Divine and I have that will.

So How Big is my God? Is He bigger now than when I started reading the book? He is indeed. I think the biggest grace He gave me was time, the gift of time to do this. I found I loved reading what others wrote. We are all children of God with so many different thoughts to express. I extend thanks to Fr Andy and Maureen for all they did to provide this program.


As soon as I saw the section entitled “What Do You Want on Your Tombstone” I laughed right out loud. I remembered that crazy pizza commercial!! After I finished laughing, I thought to myself, “I wonder what I’d want on mine…I wonder what others would put on mine!” I think I would want it to say, “She longed with all her being to see the Face of God”.

The next section that got to me was the one entitled “Do you React or Respond to Life?” I am a definite reactor…something I have been working on for most of my adult life. I spent all of my childhood and adolescence smiling and saying, “Oh that’s OK, no problem.” And when the lid came off, it blew so far away, I have never quite been able to retrieve it. I loved the “PQR” solution. In all of my work on anger, the best things I have read always suggest stepping back for a moment and pondering what just happened, and what is happening inside me. And I totally believe that what we believe about anything is the trigger for how we react.

There were so many touching chapters in the end of this book. The story of the little boy seeing God in his mother’s face was so moving! The question of whether we run for fun or run for our lives also made me pause and think! In my hectic life, I ALWAYS feel like I am running for my life, although I did not have the insight or vocabulary until I read that Chapter. I have a 45 minute drive to my new job which is something new for me and at first felt like it would be a total burden. Lately, I have found myself thinking of what a gift it is to ride through the rolling hillsides of the Hudson Valley in the Fall and take in all the beauty. It has totally changed my sense of that ride, which I try now to treat like a sight-seeing tour and not a drag! I may feel differently in the snowy winter, but for now, it has become a gift. Every morning I work, I get to see a rising sun through gorgeous foliage.

Finally, I just love that final image – I hope you make it kid! I felt like after all the beauty of the book, and all the lovely insights, Fr. Paul was giving each of us struggling human beings this lovely blessing. I felt like my heart and mind and soul were expanded, and he was wishing us all well. Sadly, I finished the book, but I continue to try to make it towards the face of the God who loves me, and guides my life!

Mary M.

Chapter 36 What Do You Want on Your Tombstone gave me much food for thought. I began to think about my life up to this point and to wonder what my friends and family might engrave on my tombstone if the decision was left to them. “Here lies The Cause of Our Joy!” If I was lucky maybe one or two of them would write such a thing. Or maybe “Here lies The Tower of Wisdom.” Extremely doubtful. Hopefully not “The woman Most Afflicted”. Actually it would be a mix of all of those things. I am sometimes joyful and wise and unfortunately I have been known to complain a little (okay sometimes a lot) but I ask for forgiveness and forge ahead trying to do better.

After reading this book and all of the sharing from our group I would say that I would want my tombstone to read: Here lies “A woman who loved much”. I believe that as Fr. Coutinho stated earlier in the book that a single thought can change me and the world. If I want to become a woman who loves much I will choose to begin thinking loving thoughts which will turn into loving actions. These loving actions will eventually change my character and make my own little corner of the world a better place. My dream is to take what I have learned from the book and all of you and use it as tool to unlock my heart and mind so that I can experience God and allow Him to work in my life. May God bless all of you!


The final section reflects some of my favourite personal homilies: response versus reaction, belief systems, and choices. Coutinho’s mention of the “root belief that we need others’ love and approval” (134) is so true, and the shattering of that false paradigm, so freeing.

True as well is that God really does not interfere (Coutinho 146). There is, as I continue to find, choice in every moment, and God’s power to make the right one: His.

We have all the help we’ll ever need.


These last chapters greatly empowered me! Paul Coutinho says, “The only way to get your life back is to give away all your bibles, take back your land, write your own scriptures, and take responsibility for your life.” This made me think of another quote from a renowned percussionist, Evelyn Glennie, who said, “It’s important to grab on to any opportunity that comes your way, but you also need to practice the art of creating your own opportunities.” I’ve seen some not so nice things happen to good and honest people who have spoken out against problems in the Church. I am not the most outgoing person, and because of what I’ve seen, I am even more afraid of being in confrontational situations. I am afraid that if I confront a powerful person in the Church, then that person may use his or her power against me in every way possible.

I don’t want to be afraid anymore. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of me or does to me. I am going to grab every opportunity that comes my way, knowing full well that at any moment in time, I may lose everything because someone doesn’t like me or because life is just not fair. But I’m okay with that because “[I] have the power to decide how [I] respond to situations that are out of [my] control.” And I have the ability to create my own opportunities. No one can keep me from being happy because happiness comes from within. I want my tombstone to say that I inspired people to live their lives fully. I want to inspire my husband, my children, my parents, my friends, everyone I meet, to find what makes them truly happy in life and to be happy. I am very grateful to the people in my life who have inspired me, and I am very grateful to have been a part of this reading group. I am grateful for Paul Coutinho, Creighton University, the other readers, and everyone else who was involved in this. Thank you so much!


And now we ask, "How big is my God?”

Let me count the ways, at least some of them. From the beauties of nature, we have the calm lakes, the roaring oceans, the artist’s palette of changing leaves, the glorious sunsets. All, God’s gifts to us.

From our friends and relatives, we have their support, affection, understanding, and best wishes. It would be a dismal world without their presence.

And finally, “why did God make me?”

To know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. Through these relationships, Father showed us the web of our existence. If any part of the web is broken, we know that a loving God is with us to put it back together.


Chap. 35: “When the well of religion offers dogmas, liturgies and rote prayers without engaging the heart, it also robs people of an experience of the Divine and fails to satisfy the spirit.” This can be the case at certain times. However, I feel that familiar liturgies and prayers can lead us to the Divine if we choose to engage our hearts and minds. Nothing is so uplifting when I travel knowing I can go into any Catholic church and feel a sense of belonging to God’s huge family. Once while in Vancouver, BC, Canada, four thousand miles from my home, the parish I visited was largely Asian. To see those beautiful people saying “our” prayers and singing “our” hymns with such joy engaged me totally.

Similarly, in London, England, I took the underground subway to a different area while my husband was working. As I was walking, I found myself at Tyburn Convent at 8 Hyde Park Place where there is perpetual Exposition of the Eucharist. People of every nationality were present. Hearing familiar rote prayers and the beautiful singing of the cloistered nuns was a sacred moment. I returned daily for the duration of our visit. To think I had been led to that oasis of grace in the midst of the hustle and bustle of downtown London was not a chance happening. I was overjoyed. As my older brother would say, “God winked!”

Chap. 39: “Beliefs are learned and therefore can be unlearned.” I have had to do a lot of unlearning in my adult life! Since I am learning to mind my own business ( my eleventh commandment!), detach from situations that could be toxic to me, focus on self improvement (not the improvement of others) and stop analyzing the behavior of others, I am clearing a lot of space for God’s Spirit to move within me. God is becoming bigger as my ego is becoming smaller. How could I ever have thought that I could possibly know what is best for another individual? But I did, and every time I did, I created a lot of anxiety within myself pushing God further and further away. Thankfully, God is patient with me.

Chap. 40: “Our land has been taken away from us”. I now understand that anything I received in my formative years that was less than unconditional love diminished my spirit (my land). Had it not been for significant individuals who convinced me that I am “good enough”, that I am precious to God just the way I am, I might have become a spiritual cripple. Jesus has encouraged me in His word to disentangle myself lovingly and gently from anyone who is not able to validate me, keeping my focus on Him and on His perfect, unwavering love.

Chap. 41: Damaging Root Beliefs This chapter resonated with truth for me. It is true, especially in our North American culture, that our level of success is measured by our accomplishments and/or net worth. I have come to know and believe, that in God’s world, we are all valuable simply because we exist. We have God’s approval; nothing else matters. If we truly believe this, and believe also that God is with us in spirit, life has profound meaning. This insight gives dignity and purpose to the simplest and most humble of tasks.


Sea Glass Prayer

I am like a piece of sea glass.
Although I am nestled amid
the gritty sand and hard rocks
of life,
Your gentle waves of love
continuously wash over me
so that I become
smooth and soft.
Look closely!
I am glistening, sparkling and colorful.
I stand out
from my surroundings.
I am a reflection of
Your Holy Love
in me.

Last fall, I spent some time alone at a hermitage that was close to Lake Michigan. I spent long hours walking the beach and collecting pieces of sea glass. Sea glass are little pieces of broken bottles, litter, really, that have been pushed back and forth against the rocks and sand by the waves, until they are no longer sharp, but become rounded and soft. Collecting sea glass is a favorite pastime (obsession really!) for my children and I. We usually arrive home from visits to the beach with one or two pieces to fight over. But on this quiet weekend, I found more sea glass than I knew what to do with! Every time I bent down to pick up one piece, I found ten more! That treasure hunt inspired me to write this prayer.

Shortly after I returned from my time away, I fell into a deep depression like nothing I had ever experienced before. I felt like Rabia al-Adawiyya when God asked her to show Him where it hurt, and every cell in her body burst into tears before his tender eyes. For months, I cried again and again in God’s presence. Then, my dear friend, Danette, lifted me up with these words: “Anne,” she said, “You are sea glass. God has taken all of your broken, discarded pieces and he has gently washed them in his love. Now, He wants you to sparkle for the world around you, so that everyone will know how wonderful He is.”

When I die, I don’t want words on my tombstone, instead, I want a mosaic of sea glass imbedded in the rock. Through this mosaic everyone will see how I tried to reflect God’s love to my surroundings, and everyone will see how much God caressed me with his gentle waves of love. The sea glass will be a wordless testament to the story of my life.

I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to share in the reading of How Big is Your God?. When I began reading this book and I came to the part about God coming for my Isaac, and the question was raised “Do I still want to know God?” I was tempted to answer “NO” and close the book, but I am so happy that I continued on, because this has been a great source of inspiration and growth for me. Through my participation in this reading group, I was inspired to read books by Anthony de Mello, I was motivated to go to confession, and was encouraged by the words to a song I had never heard before, but now runs through my mind daily (How could anyone ever tell you…). This was a wonderful opportunity for me to feel God’s love wash over me, and I thank Fr. Andy and Maureen, and everyone who participated for sharing part of your hearts and your lives with the world.


Chapters 41-43 (the Misguided Root Beliefs) in my opinion are at the heart of this book.

- I Need the Love and Approval of Everyone - I commend Paul for identifying this falsehood. The theme of my life has been to try to be perfect at everything (which is entirely impossible) to try to please everyone (again, entirely impossible) or else I’m worthless. My fiancée refers to this as “jumping for the cookie”. One is constantly seeking approval and it’s never attainable because, just like the dog jumping for a treat, the “master” raises his/her arm and removes it from reach. Thank you, Paul, for saying it’s OK to not be perfect and not please everyone. I can finally stop jumping!

- Others Must Be Fair and Kind to Me - Again, this is obviously an unreasonable expectation. We are all “FHBs - fallible human beings”. Contrary to our desires, our friends and significant others aren’t always going to be able to meet our expectations/needs (even if they would like to).

- Life Must Make Things Easy for Me - No, life is random. Bad things happen to good people all the time and its nobody’s fault. Just like Paul mentions, I’ve “cursed” bad weather and traffic jams. Instead of expending the negative energy on something that can’t be helped, why not take a deep breath and figure out how I can adjust my response to accommodate the situation.

How big is my God? Attaining the knowledge and awareness that I am not alone as I struggle to overcome the negative effects of these three fundamental root beliefs.


I am learning much from wandering in the desert. I go through the motions sometimes following a script or “bible” I had to follow long ago, oftentimes unaware of its power. I unravel those beliefs that lie beneath the surface and discover that a good many are lies ~ not told to harm, but perhaps to protect ~ perpetuated by parents passing on their truth ~ which happened to be built on lies that were given to them.

I choose to break the cycle. Piece by piece, I confront each one, sometimes by intent, other times because they come up in a new way, needing more attention or releasing in order to heal. It is much easier to change the beliefs in my head; convincing my heart and spirit usually takes longer. It is accompanied by the grief of leaving behind the familiar to move forward. Forgiveness is also part of the package and is visited on many levels. I feel scared, alone, angry, sad, cautious, hopeful, happy, enthused, out of control, and a lot more.

My time in the desert is also characterized by temptations, which often come in
the form of dreams, suggesting that I second-guess myself, God’s activity in and through me, and the progress I have made. When I’m feeling vulnerable, it is easy to slip a little; otherwise I choose to see it as a badge of courage and success, and an opportunity to strengthen my decision to know that God is shaping and forming me according to His will.

Who I was then, was an extension of others; my parents, teachers, the Church. Words that I remember are “Don’t do anything that would make us look bad”; which, among other things, leaves a legacy of compliance and passivity, and taking care of or pleasing others, (inappropriately). Independent thinking was not part of the agenda. Finding out who I am and creating meaning that I own involves re-writing the script and trusting that I know my own truth to make way for a “bigger God”. God certainly isn’t finished with me yet, and I look forward to the ride!


Life is not fair! ask any parent raising children especially teens. We are providers, carers, feeders, healers, nurses, councillors, teachers and we love our children to bits and what do we get in return...abuse, disrespect, disobedience, insults and the list is endless. When we become parents we are not given a script on how to raise our kids so they can do everything we demand and expect. It is true that we do demand and expect to be respected, loved and obeyed for all the things we do for them after all that is fair.. or is it really.

My son made me loose my temper this week in a way that I have not lost it since he was a tantrum throwing 5 year old. I knew at the end of my tantrum that non of us were winning in the argument. I had to repent because I knew my behaviour was out of control. I did not correct his behaviour with kindness and love (pg138). For a moment I wanted to do things my way and not God's way. I spent an hour or more I think infront of the exposed blessed sacrament reflecting on the first sorrowful mystery in repentance for my anger. My prayer was LET THY WILL BE DONE. Chapter 42 was the answer to my prayer on dealing with my son's negative behaviour. God anwered my prayer by confirming something I already knew but was half -hearted in doing. I realise that my son is not going to change overnite but I have changed my behaviour and attitude towards his bad behaviour. I told him that I will not condone his negative distructive behaviour but I believe in him and still love him no matter what. My husband and I know we can only give him the guidelines and show him in the right direction but we cannot live his life for him or demand his respect and obedience. We have no control over what he does with our advice or guidelines but we pray and trust God will do the rest. We are at peace. We sleep peacefully and we can lock the door at night even if he is not home. We refuse to be held captive by fears and worries.....we have freedom in Jesus Christ.


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