Sunday, June 27, 2010

Featured Book: God Alone Is Enough by Claudia Mair Burney

I know author Claudia Mair Burney by way of her Amanda Bell mystery series, a mix of Christian suspense and romance.  Through her artful storytelling and sometimes lyrical prose, Burney has both pleasured and provoked my soul.  Now Ms. Burney has put her pen to paper for a nonfiction book that explores the art and power of prayer, courtesy of St. Teresa of Avila.

In this unique blog tour, each day a blogger has talked about a single chapter in the book.  (You can find the tour schedule here.) The final chapter is chapter 13, The Mysteries of the Bridal Chamber.

To bring you up to speed, Burney invites readers to take a prayer journey, guided by the provocative and powerful words of St. Teresa of Avila, a Roman Catholic saint. Like Burney, I too grew up in a church environment where "the esteemed dead in Christ are gone for heaven's sake". The "saints" were alive and well, or dead and never to be communicated with again.

Thus, I came to this blog tour with curiousity and not a small amount of apprehension. But I'm glad I did.

Regarding contemplative prayer as a means to growing closer to God, St. Teresa compares the soul to a castle with many rooms, not unlike the mansion God has prepared for each of us, the entry door being prayer.

Before we get to the bridal chamber, we must first go through rooms one through three, dark places where we must become more self-aware and get past the worldly things--possessions, accolades, business affairs, etc.--that cloud our minds and lessen our ability to hear God. Room four is a transitional place, brighter where our "holy longing" is more acute but still fraught with temptations and the possibility of falling prey to spiritual disappointments.

In this last chapter, however, Burney tells us, now that we've made it past the first four rooms in our soul's castle, we've arrived at a place that's not for the faint of heart. It's time for the spiritual "meat", and she likens this meat to "steak tartare...raw and dangerous".

Here, in rooms five through seven, is where we see ourselves as the spiritual brides of Christ, longing for Him, waiting for Him following our betrothal, and giving ourselves wholly to Him upon His return to us, the intensity of our passion for Him growing to the point of each passage into the next room growing aching and unbearable.

As Burney says, this is "heady stuff". I can't tell how many times I've heard recited or read the Scriptures likening Christ to the bridegroom.  I've mostly considered these to deal with the unbeliever coming, as the bride, and joining with Christ in salvation. Not so much have I've given thought to them with regard to continuing to seek Him after one is already in relationship with Him. But as Burney so pointedly notes, "we rarely trust what we already know how to do, which is why we miss many precious encounters with God".

Have you taken God for granted? I sure have. Not intentionally, of course. I certainly seek Him when I have need of Him or desire His grace for someone else, and I pray throughout the day, but I can't say that I walk around with a heart-wrenching longing for Christ every day. Sad and difficult to admit, but true. I've spiritual work to do.

"In the seventh dwelling things are different from before. God removes the scales from the eyes of he soul so she can understand in some way the grace she's received...What we knew by faith is now understood by sight, so to speak...The truth is, she's (the soul's) more active than before, especially where God's work is concerned, and where she's not busy serving him, she enjoys his ceaseless companionship. Unless she turns away from God, he'll keep her aware of his presence and she'll possess an assurance that God will never take the favor he's given her away now that he's bestowed it."

So go the words of St. Teresa of Avila. A ceaseless companionship such that the favor of God will never be taken away? Wow. Almost unimaginable.

But if we embark on this prayer adventure with Burney and St. Teresa, we may find the way to achieve such a state and our souls most certainly will be blessed.God Alone Is Enough is a wonderful companion guide for the journey.


"Joyous, sprightly, earthy, zestful and real, St. Teresa of Avila comes bursting forth in this vibrant new book. Claudia Mair Burney is the perfect guide to lead readers into the freeing, but often misunderstood, spiritual insights of one of history's most remarkable women." -- James Martin, SJ, author of My Life with the Saints

You have the opportunity to spend a few hours listening to the wise advice of a prayer warrior--one of the most interesting women to ever follow Jesus with abandon. So pull up a chair as Claudia Mair Burney introduces you to Teresa of Avila. You'll be able to say you've met a real saint.

"A perfect read for all who thirst for spiritual waters." -- Lisa Samson, author of The Passion of Mary Margaret.


Claudia Mair Burney is the author of seven novels, including the Amanda Bell Brown mysteries, and Zora and Nicky, and Christy Award finalist in 2009. Readers familiar with her style will enjoy this rollicking journey through their own interior castles. She lives in Kentucky, where she also authors the popular blog, "Ragamuffin Diva."

Learn more about the book at Paraclete Press.

1 comment:

ragamuffin diva said...

Thank you so much, Patricia. I so appreciate your candor, and am deeply gratified to hear how God is drawing you.

Enjoy the journey into the unimaginable!