Thursday, June 7, 2012

First Things First - A Book Review

Colleen Spiro is a blogger, an author, and a spiritual director. Her newest book is an e-book, First Things First, A Personal Retreat Journal and is available for download (pdf ) and also available on Kindle.

First Things First is a journal that takes you on a spiritual journey as seen through the eyes and heart of the author. It is written with simplicity and the straightforward manner which is the mark of this particular author's writing style. Many of you know Colleen through her blog and Catholic website or from reading her memoir, The Third Floor Window (a personal favorite of mine) and have been blessed by her insights and her ability to pierce through the morass of our messy lives and reach to the heart of things. She has done this once again with First Things First. This book can be used as a retreat guide or for spiritual reading and reflection.

Whenever we read spiritual books under the guidance of the Holy Spirit there are things that have a tendency to "stand out" for each reader. These things that stand out are often areas the Lord is calling our attention to so I am going to write about what jumped out at me.

The first thing that struck a chord in me were Colleen's words about patience and balance.  "The message I have been getting today is to be more patient with myself. I expect too much of myself. I expect perfection..."

Got me there. I have a tendency toward perfectionism, especially in the spiritual life (which is a mark of pride). Unfortunately, my idea of perfect and God's are miles apart.

 "My life is out of balance."

Mine too. Until we understand that we need to let go of our rigid hold on life (our idea of perfect) our lives will never be balanced. Like Colleen, I have a tendency to multi-task. Multi-tasking robs me of my peace and makes me feel as if I am rushing through life and using my time unwisely. A wise use of time is to focus  on the task at hand and live in the present moment. Colleen touches upon this widespread problem in her book. We live in a world that focuses on rushing and productivity and many of us need to slow down so we can hear the Lord instead of our inner tumult.

And then came these words: "I am worried about the birds. They look exhausted trying to beat their wings with the wind and the rain pelting down on them. There are enough trees around here for them to rest in. Why don't they?"

I read these words over and over. At first I couldn't understand why they struck me like a ton of bricks. And then I realized...I felt like one of those birds. Pelted by the storm and beaten by the wind. When she mentioned trees, a mental picture of the Tree of the Cross formed in my mind and I knew Jesus was telling me to bring my disordered life to the foot of the cross and take refuge in His opened side.

Colleen's book is all about putting things in their proper order. I'll leave you with this quote:

 "First things first. Put God first in my life and let everything flow from there."

As an interesting side note: I have been wanting to do this book review ever since I first read the book but I kept getting a check in the spirit (a "not yet") and couldn't figure out why. Today I felt the nudge to write it and after finishing the review I realized that this e-book would be a good book for those who are trying to discern if their aridity in prayer is due to measures beyond their control or due to an imbalance in their spiritual lives. The Lord lined it up after my post on aridity. The second thing I noticed is the theme of the book lined up with today's Gospel reading. Interesting.



  1. OH...was that a message to me Mary?

    Okay...hint taken...will be putting this on the Kindle too. Your other recommendation has been a God-send.

    My chaptcha was *assedia* in other words ACEDIA...yep.

  2. Hee! Hee! It wasn't!! Now that's funny!

    I popped open a book I bought at a used bookstore today and was complaining in my head to the Lord about how I needed a nap and the first words I read were, "Jesus was an earlier riser." and then it went on to say, "Very early in the morning, WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed." (Mark 1:35) I immediately thought about our insomnia and couldn't help but think that God just wanted to spend this early morning quiet time with us. My head is most quiet at this time too, come to think about it :)

  3. Theresa,
    That would be "early" riser. But, who knows, maybe He got up even earlier than we do ;)

    Ugh! My perfectionist qualities even make me correct my own comments when I make a mistake!

  4. What a beautiful review, Mary. Thank you so much. It really came from your heart and I so appreciate it.

    Love the God incidence too! It does fit the gospel reading today perfectly!

    As for the birds - it was not until I was re-reading my book, did I realize that I was one of those birds too! I wrote a post about it - Flapping My Wings, Feb 23rd 2012.

    My hubby is feeling much better by the way. May come home tomorrow. yay! Thanks for your prayers!

    And may I quote your review for my website, blogs, etc?

    Thanks again!

  5. Colleen,
    I'm glad your husband is feeling better! That's great news!

    I remember reading your post "Flapping my Wings". I thought I commented that I was struck by this passage too but I was so busy with the new house I may have forgotten to write to you about it. I'll have to go back for a reread.

    I thought it was cool how it lined up perfectly with today's Gospel too :) You and God-incidences always go together!

    Yes, feel free to use anything here and thank you for a wonderful book!

  6. Mary,

    Thank you for the review. Now I want to go back and read Colleen's book again. As you said, different things will 'stand out' for different readers. Perhaps also different things will stand out for the same person at different times.

    God bless!

  7. That is really neat that you *stumbled* across that quote. I like the early morning, more so when I have slept the night before. I am not so distracted as I am at night. I got called into work at 5:30 am this morning so up but not by choice. Making some coffee and headed in the other room for some quiet prayer time before daughter notices I am gone from the bed (teehee).

    I have the book on my Kindle and just started it : )

  8. I went back to read the comments on that post and yes, you did comment about that. That was the time you and DG were teasing each other too. Funny to re-read it.

  9. Hi Sue,
    I read your review too. Definitely, I think that different things stand out at different times in our spiritual journey. I often reread books a number of times and they strike me in different ways depending on what the Lord is trying to show me at the time. There were other points that Colleen made in her book that jumped out at me but the post would have been too long for a review.

  10. Theresa,
    I like early morning too...I just don't like the day that follows ;) Coffee and prayer go well together! I've done that "sneaking" thing too in the Enjoy the book!

  11. Colleen,
    Ha! Ha! I read it again! Got DG back too!
    We got a similar message from your passage about the birds. And it also brought the Scripture verse about not worrying, "Look at the birds in the sky..." (Mt 6:25-34) to my mind.

    God bless!

  12. Mary, I have Colleen's first book and know her story. So appreciate you doing this wonderful insightful review on her. Thank you very much. She touches many people. Blessings my friend.

  13. It looks like a good book, Mary - I'll follow the links, later, when I catch up on my blogging (it's morning here, at the moment).

    Hey, Mary, I just had a great idea for how to maintain my reputation on my blog and still have fun - I'll just comment on your blog as 'Anonymous'! What do you think? Smart, eh??!!

    Oh, and I can't get rid of the old hag - there's no hiding that sort of reality!

    God bless, sister hag:-D

  14. Hi Grace,
    Yes she does. Her writing has touched me a number of times.

    Good luck with your new parakeet! I hope he/she (how are you supposed to know?) adjusts quickly :)


  15. You are too smart for your own good, Anonymous :) Okay, if I start getting a lot of funny comments from Anonymous I won't let on that it's you (yeah, right).

    I'm not sure you'll be able to call me sister hag much longer...I plucked that one stubborn chin hair. Sheesh! That thing didn't want to come out! I still have the dark circles though...okay, sister hag will work ;)

    I recommend Colleen's book The Third Floor Window, too. I cried my way right through that thing but was incredibly blessed through it at the same time. God works in strange ways.