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Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: Prayers and Reflections for Getting Closer Paperback – April 6, 2017
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For a long while, Julie Davis has been, as her blog title suggests, one of the happiest Catholics I know. But from where does that happiness stem? Simple. She's encountered Jesus Christ, and the result of such an encounter is always joy. In this reflective new devotional, she helps us meet Jesus in the same way. The wonderful diversity of quotes, prayers, and reflections, taken from the best parts of the Christian spiritual tradition, make it easy to find Jesus in our busy, scattered lives. If you want to be a happy Catholic, you need to encounter Jesus. And if you want to encounter Jesus, read this book. -- Brandon Vogt, Author of RETURN: How to Draw Your Child Back to the Church
This book is a joyful pilgrimage to the Father, made with the most amazing companions, from Ambrose of Milan to Marshall McLuhan. As always, Julie Davis leads us forward in prayer by way of good books, good movies, good conversation, and even good food. Highly recommended. --Mike Aquilina Author of The Fathers of the Church
In our fast-paced world, we love the pithy phrase, but we're forever sharing or re-tweeting a striking quote and then moving on, without really pondering why the phrase speaks to us, or what it can bring us. In this book Julie Davis takes those phrases and makes them useful in the most productive way possible -- to help us become closer to Christ Jesus. Her brief meditations are down-to-earth, thoughtful, easily identified with, and truly useful for helping us become open, just a little bit more each day, to the Christ who loves us and wants us to draw nearer to him, that he may drawn nearer to us. -- Elizabeth Scalia, Editor-at-Large at Aleteia.org and author of Little Sins Mean a Lot: Kicking our Bad Habits Before they Kick Us
The search for God begins with prayer. In this endearing, practical book, Julie Davis takes us by the hand and leads us to some of the most thought-provoking and heart-inspiring meditations on Jesus ever written. If you're seeking God or feel lost on your spiritual journey, this book is a compass pointing you in the right direction. -- Gary Jansen, Author of Station to Station
Whether you're a personal prayer novice or simply looking for fresh new resources to draw you into an ever deepening relationship with God, let Julie Davis be your companion as you invigorate your daily dialogue with the divine. -- Lisa M. Hendey, Founder of CatholicMom.com and author The Grace of Yes
About the Author
Raised by atheists but always seeking, Julie Davis converted to Catholicism in 2000 and began blogging at Happy Catholic in 2004. She and her husband live in Dallas, Texas, where they have have worked together at their graphic design firm for 30 years. They have two grown daughters.
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I wasn't exactly buying it sight unseen, mind you; I had the opportunity to read and comment on it before it was published, so I knew what I was getting.
_Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life_ is a series of daily devotions on the subject of prayer. Each page begins with a quote (or two, or three) about prayer, from a variety of sources. Many of the quotes come from Scripture; others are saints like Saint Augustine, or from well-known authors like C.S. Lewis; others are from people you've likely never even heard of. The quote is followed by the author's own reflections on what the quote has to say, and then the page ends with a short, relevant prayer for the reader.
Now the thing is, she didn't originally set out to write a book on prayer. Rather, as part of a concerted effort to get to know Jesus she began keeping a prayer journal. As she read and prayed she copied down quotes she'd found helpful, and also her own reflections. Now me, when I've tried having a prayer journal it's been a write-once/read-never kind of thing; but Julie used her journal as a kind of devotional, revisiting each insight multiple times and using it as a springboard for prayer. Eventually she realized that it could be that for others, too, and the project grew from there.
In short, this is all material that has helped her in her spiritual life; and I'm here to tell you that there isn't any deadwood. If you're interested in learning to pray, or to pray "better", which is to say if you want to draw closer to Jesus Christ, this is an ideal book to spend time with.
I use the word "spend time" advisedly. It isn't a book for rushing through, or reading cover to cover over a few days. Rather, it's meant to be an exercise in _lectio divina_ in its broadest sense: fodder for your own prayer and meditation, taken in small doses.
The book has a unusual feature: you can read it either one page or two pages at a time. Each page stands alone, but facing pages are related in some complementary way, and can fruitfully be read together.
I wanted to end with a quote, and every quote I picked, I found that I wanted to include the whole page. So here's something from one of Julie's reflections that resonated with me, taken completely out of context: "God, who created us, doesn't insist on only one style of prayer from his variable, changeable creatures. I can trust him to meet me where I am, in the way I'll be best able to know him."
I have become more an more of a fan regarding the genre of daily meditations. Usually I like the format of a quote or two, short reflection, and a closing prayer/reflection. I usually like the conciseness of such books which get right to the point.
I have been taking a leisurely stroll through this new book using it as intended. Reading a single or a couple of pages daily. I really enjoy the variety of quote sources and how she reflects on them. She has a Chestertonian ability to see things afresh and to illustrate that freshness to you. There is gratitude and wonder in her reflections that inspire me to want to imitate that viewpoint more consistently.
Sometimes even from the best of writers I usually find the closing prayer/reflection more as something tagged on than integral. More as an expected part of the format than something useful. Not true here where even a single sentence is the exclamation point to what goes before.
So yeah - highly recommended.
The quote from Luke: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those that love them … But, rather, love your enemies and do good to them." The quote by St. Augustine tackles this challenging commandment in practical terms: we must remember that even hateful people are "God's work" and capable of change for the better. Davis acknowledges, "I can't control the emotions that flood over me when I'm mad at someone." Davis concludes the page with a prayer: "Lord, have mercy on me and bless my enemy. I am not strong enough to love him by myself. Help me to see with your eyes."
Each pair of pages, left and right, has a theme. The themes are subdivisions of the book's twelve chapters. The opening chapter is "Beginning to Pray" and the closing chapter is "Continuing to Seek." In the chapter entitled "Finding Jesus in the Cross, the Resurrection, the Eucharist," themes include "Spending Time with God," Jesus as a courageous hero, and "Death Shall Be No More: Death, Thou Shalt Die." Each quote on the page relates to the theme.
There are quotes from the Old and New Testaments on almost every page. Otherwise, Davis' sources range broadly. There is a prayer, that originated from the Helpers of God's Precious Infants, contemplating Jesus as he developed in Mary's womb. There are several quotes from CS Lewis, Thomas Merton, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Popes Benedict and Francis, and the writings of saints including Patrick, Therese of Lisieux, Teresa of Avila, and Augustine. There are also quotes from Hermann Cohen, a nineteenth-century Jewish convert to Catholicism, Andrew Klavan, a twenty-first-century secular Jewish convert to Christianity, media theorist Marshall McLuhan, and Father James Yamauchi, who, I take it, is Davis' home church pastor.
These Biblical quotes, quotes from literature, and Davis' reflections are elegantly laid out on the page. Formatting is important in all books, but especially in a book like this. Davis is a visual artist as well as a verbal one, and her careful choices in fonts and spacing guide the reader through a flowing experience.
Davis' own reflections are general, and mostly free of particular biographical detail. You won't learn much about her from her personal comments, except that she is a wife and mother. For example, about suffering, she writes, "I want to avoid suffering … I know that great good can come to me through the Cross. That is different from the present moment when I'm suffering. Then I have to fight self-pity. Sometimes suffering is inflicted by others. Sometimes I inflict it on myself as a natural consequence of my own actions."
One doesn't know what is causing Davis this suffering, who is hurting her, or how she hurts herself. By using general language, I conclude, she is trying to produce a document that can be significant to many readers, no matter whether the reader shares biographical details with Davis or not. Every now and then Davis lets slip a very personal detail. For example, she sometimes uses a kitchen timer in her prayer life. Her description of this method is priceless and very true.
Davis wants this book to be an aide to other Christians in their prayer life. Online reviews attest to its value and success at just that. One reviewer reported, "I immediately ordered copies for the six people in our RCIA class who will be baptized or confirmed at Easter this year." Another said, "Exactly what I needed at this point in my life!" Another reviewer wrote, "Are you ready to hit the reset button on your practice of the faith? Here it is." This book is helping people.
I think Seeking Jesus has another use. I think this would be a great gift to an open-minded Christophobe. There are a lot of people these days who insist that all Christians are violent bigots. Jesus is certainly the main character of this book, but Davis is a very appealing sidekick. She is humble, eager to learn, thoughtful, and patient. I think giving this book as a gift to someone trying to understand a modern American Christian's interior life would be a very charitable act.