Thursday, March 29, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 31-36...

😭😭😭

Well. We knew this book would be ideally suited to Lent, did we not? I knew when I picked up this last segment over the weekend that it would be a tearjerker, and it did not disappoint. Let's dive in. I suppose.

😭😭😭

We pick up on Crucifixion day. UGH! Oh my gosh, I was bracing myself as I read, as I'm sure you were too. Nissa wakes up determined not to abandon Dismas during his hour of need, and she carries through. She finds the men as they are given their crosses to carry up to Golgotha, and stays by Dismas's side. Other people gather to throw stones and spit at them. I mean, really? No matter what they've done (or you think they've done) aren't they suffering enough already? I even feel bad for Gestas at this point! Nissa protects Dismas as much as she can from the cruelty of the bystanders.

Longinus is there too, and he does what he can to straddle the fine line between doing his job, but doing it with compassion. When Jesus falls, he ropes in Simon of Cyrene to help him out.

During all of this, I could literally FEEL the agony. We want this suffering to end for these men, this terrible burden of carrying heavy wooden crosses up a hill when they've already been physically weakened by a brutal beating. But we know that when they arrive at their destination...their worst suffering is still yet to come. I was having a difficult time sitting still while I was reading, this was all so palpable to me.

Up on the hill, Dismas extends only forgiveness and love to all. He is at peace, and says that doing this, taking Nissas place, is the best thing he's ever done. This moment, combined with the descriptions of them all being nailed to the crosses...this is where I lost it. They hadn't even gotten to Jesus yet, and I was a sobbing basketcase. The inhumanity of death by crucifixion had never been more real to me.

Longinus compassionately tends to Jesus. Nissa does not leave Dismas's feet. Jesus dies first, and when a priest demands proof that Jesus is dead, Longinus pierces His side with a lance. The blood and water that pour forth completely convert his heart that Jesus is the son of God. He finally does something that he couldn't bring himself to do before - he forgives Nissa. He has Marcellus hurry along the deaths of the two thieves, in order to shorten their suffering.

Meanwhile, we learn that Gestas had betrayed both Nissa and Longinus before he died. Longinus is arrested for treason, and he urges Nissa to immediately leave Jerusalem.

But, of course, she doesn't. She heads to Gehenna, where the bodies of Gestas and Dismas are taken. She does not want their bodies to be left for the wild animals. While she is hiding, waiting for her opportunity, she encounters the hanging body of Judas.

Nissa gives Dismas, and even Gestas, a proper burial, and while she is doing this, it begins to rain. Her heart has been changed by Dismas and Longinus's witness, and she begs God for forgiveness, and prays for the first time in a very long time. She heads home looking for Cedron, and encounters Gilad, our other evil G person from this story. When he tries to get money from her, suggesting that she can pay "in trade," Nissa puts into practice the defense moves Longinus taught her and successfully kicks Gilad's ass. I had a very proud Girl Power moment right there.

*virtual fist bump*

She finally finds Cedon hiding at the Temple with his friends, and they're all confused. Jesus is dead, and thus they are all convinced this means that he's not the Messiah they were waiting for. They were ready for revolution, and He let them down. Nissa does what she can, but leaves discouraged by their attitude.

She hustles to the prison to try and find Longinus. She finds Marcellus, and convinces him to sneak her in. Naturally, Silvanus catches them, because he is a squirrelly evil person. Her and Longinus are taken to Pilate.

Pilate has no more sympathy for Longinus. He sentences him to death, and for Nissa to be given to the Sanhedrin. And we all know how compassionate THEY will be towards her. Suddenly, somebody rushes in with news. Jesus's guarded body has disappeared. This has a big impact on Pilate.

He is a man devoted to the Greek gods, and fears that this mysterious God of the Jews could potentially strike him down. He releases both Nissa and Longinus.

I was surprised by this! We actually have a happy ending for Nissa and Longinus. They have no money, but they love each other, and they have their faith, and they agree to figure out a way to share their lives together.

They head to the tomb. There is a crowd gathered there of Jesus's followers, but also Cedron, Marcellus, and Cornelius, another Roman centurion. They are the believers of the early Church.

So, WOW. This book had a powerful, powerful impact on me this Lent, and especially this Holy Week. The scene on Golgotha will never leave my head whenever I meditate on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, and when I attend the Good Friday liturgy. I am speechless. The author so realistically set the stage of us being bystanders on that journey and seeing the events unfold. I was SOBBING. Sobbing. Each step, each nail, each breath of agony, I was there. We were all there together.

I may re-read this book every Lent, it had that big of an impact on me. I am SO GLAD we chose this to read for the book club this Lent, and I would absolutely love to gather *your* thoughts on the end of this book!

We'll have another book club this summer, how does July sound? We're going apologetics this time, and we'll chat about it as the date draws closer!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 6! Contemplating the Holy Week liturgies...

I get all into liturgy nerd mode on our late-Lent edition of:

I wax nostalgic a bit today about my cradle Catholic years with Lent and Easter, but having never experienced the Triduum liturgies until just a few years ago. We linger over Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, and the meaning behind those liturgies. To be continued last week since I got so into this!




**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

What are your experiences with the Holy Week liturgies? Did you participate in them as a child, or only as an adult like me? I would love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 25-30...

So much sighing. This book is actually getting hard for me to read because I fear so much what will happen next. I sort of want to finish just so that the agony will be over, but if I don't stop between weekly segments, I lose track of what happened when, in terms of writing these posts. :0 So I stopped, and here are my thoughts for chapters 25-30!

*ominous music plays*

When we left off, Dismas had been captured by Longinus and company, and the assumption was that *he* was the murderer of the Temple priest. Cedron and Nissa cook up a plan to help trap Gestas for Longinus and his men, because, as we all know, HE is the actual guilty party.

Out and about as Mouse during the planned trap, however, Nissa freezes and allows herself to be captured along with Gestas. She wants to help Dismas, and figures this is her best shot at doing so.

Longinus quickly realizes that not only is Mouse a girl, but that girl is Nissa. He immediately jumps to the conclusion that *Nissa* in fact killed the Temple priest, and behind his back has been mocking him and generally making a fool of him. These guys and their insecure egos in this story!

#ItIsRatherExhausting

He drags her off to prison, where she is tossed into a cell with Dismas and Gestas. Gestas, of course, only wants to save his own fanny and tries to blame everything on Dismas and Nissa. Longinus is still stewing about Nissa, and exposes her identity as a female to Dismas. Instead of shocking and scandalizing Dismas, it only softens him all the more towards Mouse. He begs Longinus to free her, taking all the responsibility for what happened given that he coaxed her into a life of theft to begin with. He officially offers to take her place as the second thief.

😭

Nissa is horrified, but Longinus accepts Dismas's offer.There's a whole wrenching scene here wherein Nissa begs Dismas not to do this, but he is steadfast, and Longinus tosses her again, this time back onto the street. Nissa concocts a plan to find Jesus, thinking perhaps he can save Dismas. She and Cedron go to Mary's house to look for him, and isn't this such a touching interlude?! I loved it. Here, they find out that Jesus has gone to pray in Gethsemane, because "his time has come."

*more ominous music plays*

Cedron thinks that she means revolution, but we all know otherwise, don't we?

#ohdear

This plot point of Cedron being a Jewish follower of Jesus, and the conventional wisdom that Jesus came to be a political figure, is so, so informative and interesting to me. As Nissa and Cedron are about to leave Mary's house, someone rushes in to tell them that Judas is about to hand Jesus over to the authorities. Much rushing about commences.

Back with sulky Longinus, he is rushing to the garden to warn Jesus about his own leaders wanting him dead. Nissa is rushing to the same place, wanting to find Jesus so that he can help Dismas. They literally run into each other. Longinus hides them so that no one else observes them, and from their hiding spot they espy Peter denying Jesus, and Jesus being betrayed by Judas and then taken by the authorities. Nissa realizes that Jesus will not save himself, let alone Dismas. This scene was very poignant and chilling to behold, was it not?

Then things really get dicey. Longinus meets with Pilate, but as they fear, the Jews reject Jesus and want Barabbas released. Silvanus manages to trick Longinus down in the prison area and locks him into a cell. Longinus then overhears Jesus being scourged and crowned with thorns outside, which is pretty horrifying. 😳 With the knowledge that he already has of Jesus, plus given this new incident of him courageously bearing the unfair punishment without any fear or anger, Longinus converts.

Longinus finally manages to deck Silvanus, and goes outside to see Jesus. They have a moment. Longinus realizes that he will be called upon to assist in crucifying Jesus.

Oh.My. I know several of you have already finished the book because you just couldn't bear to stop. I totally understand! I'm glad that I still have the last 6 chapters to read this weekend as we move into the start of Holy Week, and that I also had a chance to catch my breath after the way that Chapter 30 ended! Being able to observe, if you will, the events surrounding the end of Jesus's earthly life has been incredibly meaningful. This book has been such a important and eye opening part of my Lent, and I hope that the rest of you feel that way too!

I'll be discussing the final 6 chapters next week, on Holy Thursday. Hold onto your hats for that one!

Leave your thoughts below on this part of the book, or over in the Facebook group!

Friday, March 16, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 5! On Almsgiving...

We've come to the end of the 4th week of Lent, and another Lenten edition of...


Today we wrap up the final installment in our sub-series on the 3 pillars of Lent, and discuss almsgiving! This includes giving of our time, talent and treasure, particularly during the Lenten season. I manage to weave in introvertism and an upcoming Catholic Mom book club. ;-) I hope you'll join me!





**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

Items mentioned in this episode:



How is your Lent going, dear listener? What are your thoughts on almsgiving during the Lenten season? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 19-24...

😳

Oh.My. I'm just... I can't...

😩

This is rough, guys. But how PERFECT is this read for Lent?! We're literally approaching Holy Week through this story! I need to catch my breath again, hold on... All right. Now I can start sweating again.

*sigh*

OK, we left off with that tragic priest situation that Nissa got caught up in. Nissa is feeling pretty bad about herself and her life choices right now, and feels that she cannot be forgiven. As she is walking home, she encounters the Evil Guy, the one who killed the priest - Gestas.

😑

Just insert that emoji mentally after every sentence I'm about to write here. Gestas followed Mouse, and discovers his/her true identity. In a move that surprise absolutely nobody, he uses this to his advantage and threatens Nissa: she will steal with him and give him pretty much everything. Otherwise, he'll kill or maim Cedron. Nissa knows that she is trapped. She agrees only after Gestas does physical harm to her.

Longinus discovers her like this, and is distraught. He brings her home, and although he obviously doesn't know the evil Gestas situation, remember that he thinks that Nissa is employed as a prostitute to support herself and her brother. He offers her a solution: she can marry him. He would protect and provide for her.

This actually IS a solution to Nissa's secret problem. Gestas won't mess with her if she's married to a Roman centurion. Although she is tempted by this offer (she has come to genuinely like Longinus) in the end she refuses him, and does so in a deliberately hurtful manner so that he will not question her. She does not want him to be caught up into her dangerous situation. She plots to draw Gestas into a situation where he may fall into bad hands and get himself killed, and therefore out of her hair.

Meanwhile, Stephen is still playing chess in the prison with Marcellus. Longinus feels increasingly conflicted about what to do with him. He decides to use Stephen a bit for his own strategic advantage, but would also have the added benefit of releasing him without harm - he sends Stephen to warn Jesus not to come to Jerusalem. The Passover is coming, and he ways to set a trap for the thieves without the distraction of Jesus in town. As well, Longinus had overheard some conversations near the temple. Jesus has raised a man named Lazarus from the dead, and everybody is all abuzz. He overheard Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin plotting to have Jesus arrested for fear that the Romans will see the Jews generally as causing too much trouble, and possibly revolting. Longinus has a soft spot for Jesus, and does not want to see him killed.

In an amusing scene, Marcellus and Longinus help Stephen disguise himself and escape from Silvanus's arrival. Stephen warns them that Jesus will do as He is meant to do, despite any warning. Longinus makes plans to catch the thieves, by making the marketplace a bit more accessible to them at Passover (I can't remember all of the details here, but he had thought it out real well. ;-)).

On what we now call Palm Sunday, Jesus enters Jerusalem, much to Longinus's chagrin. This was *interesting* here, wasn't it, as to why the people lined the road with palms, and the background on the entryway to the city? In the fray, while the thieves are out and about, Dismas is captured. Nissa is HORRIFIED.

Dismas has been nothing but good and protective towards her, how can she leave him to be punished for all of their sins? In her emotional agony, she confesses to Cedron that she is a thief.

Good grief. I have a feeling that these next, and final, installments, of this book are going to be real tear fests. 😭

Thoughts please on this part of the book?! We only have 2 weeks left in our Lenten Book Club!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 4! On Fasting...

We're in the middle of a short series this Lent, as we podcast our way through to Holy Week...


I'm in the middle of a trio of episodes on the 3 pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Our episode today focuses on fasting. How does this work in the daily life of your average married, work outside of the home mom, who is all rushy rushy on a regular basis? We reflect a bit on how fasting involves more that just abstaining from food between meals. Join me!





**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

Items mentioned in this episode:


How has fasting played a part in your Lent this year? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 13-18...

Whoa boy. Things are getting intense around here, aren't they.

*sweats*

I was breathless a few times during these latest chapters, and I found myself torn between wanting to tear through the pages to see what happened next vs. not turning anymore pages because I DON'T WANT TO SEE WHAT HAPPENS NEXT LEST IT MAKE ME CRY. :0

All right, let's see where we're at:

Last we left off, Cedron was healed but his parents had disowned him, Longinus was on a mission to find the thieves and had employed Cedron for this task, and Nissa was majorly panicking. And for good reason.

And so we pick up with Cedron and Nissa trying to build a life for themselves without their parents, and Longinus stalking about being all moony and moody over Nissa, and WHO WE DO COME ACROSS ONCE AGAIN?!

Shem!!

😱

I was not prepared, y'all. We saw Shem in The Well didn't we? And we loved Shem and then he came to follow Jesus, and then Jesus changed his name to Stephen, and then...

😭😭😭

I was not expecting to see him in this story, I did not think about the timelines overlapping. Although, *of course* they do. And so now we get a peek into what happened to Shem during the gap in his story in The Well.

Deep breaths, Tiffany, lots of deep breaths.

Longinus finds him and nearly kills him, because Shem is the ONE WHO KILLED HIS FRIEND SCIPIO. I know I'm shouting a lot this week, but I just can't help myself; OMG!

The beginning of The Well! Shem is the one who kills Longinus's (frankly, lecherous, serial attacker) friend. And Longinus sees this as some grave injustice, although we all know that Shem was simply defending a woman who was about to be assaulted. Instead of killing him right away, Longinus has Shem thrown into prison, guarded by Marcellus. Longinus watches out for Marcellus, trying to protect him from the evil Silvanus. Anyway, that story stews for a bit, while meanwhile...

Nissa pretties herself up to meet smarmy Gilad and pay their rent, but Gilad proves himself to be the Class A Jerk We Already Knew Him To Be. Longinus had unexpectedly come to visit Nissa just before this, and is all surprised to find her bathed and coiffed. He also notices that although Cedron still can't work given his leg injury, the pair now has food, perfume and other niceties. He assumes that Nissa must be prostituting herself to bring in the money, although he keeps this surmise to himself. He's sad about this, and teaches Nissa how to physically defend herself against untoward aggressors. Nissa is confused by this instruction, Then Gilad comes over, sees Longinus leaving, and assumes the same thing. He, however, does NOT keep this surmise to himself. He outright accuses Nissa of this, and Nissa has no way to dispute it. Because after all, how DID she get the money? From stealing. She can't exactly admit THAT.

Gilad takes advantage of the situation and charges her triple the rent. I hate this guy.

😑

This whole "the guys saw each other leaving and assumed the worst" thing is straight out of a daytime soap opera, just for the record.

OK, now we skitter around a bit with all of our protagonists, and it all made me *super* nervous:

Shem is all converted to Christianity and at peace with himself and the universe. He befriends Marcellus, which I have to say, I found endearingly hilarious, and Longinus discovers the two of them playing chess and Shem decidedly NOT being starved to death. He's angry, but realizes that he too no longer hates Shem/Stephen as much as he thought he would. Shem projects goodwill and general goodness. Longinus begins to wonder if, given all of the evidence he's seen (the stymied stoning of the woman caught in adultery, Cedron's healing, Stephen's otherworldly countenance), there really is something to this Jesus guy. Instead of throwing Stephen out to be crucified, he decides to use him as leverage against Cedron: up your efforts to find the thieves; if you are successful, Stephen will be released.

Meanwhile, Mouse is back in action. Nissa knows how dangerous this is given Longinus's efforts to catch the thieves, but she's desperate: they need more money than ever with Gilad extorting them for rent. And now there's a new snafu in this already dangerous plan: Dismas has a new partner. I can't remember his name, but he's EVIL. Nissa has a bad feeling about him from the get-go.

She tags along with him only because she knows he'll be greedier than Dismas, and although she doesn't want to be greedy, she now has no choice. He involves her in a scheme to lure a Temple priest down into a dead end alley of some sort. Nissa is confused about the greater plan throughout, until Evil Guy kills the priest. Then she is clued in.

😰

Nissa now has blood on her hands. She did not intend it, she did not knowingly enter into this plan. But all the same, she attached herself to Bad News, and the outcome was a tragedy. She is devastated.

Dismas tries to get her to still take the money, feeling responsible, and figuring that now they *really* have to stop stealing, so she'll need the money. But Nissa won't take it. This is where we leave off.

*sweats anew*

Oh baby. This was a doozy of a week. I need your thoughts, people! I wrote more than usual because I got so into this; my keyboard has been tap tapping away for far too long. :0

Friday, March 2, 2018

Tea Time for Lent 2018 - Episode 3! On prayer...

We're going to start examining the 3 pillars of Lent, horray! Join me for another special Lenten edition of:


We're talking Lenten pillars for the next 3 weeks, and today we're starting with prayer. Scripture, prayer postures, structured vs. more informal prayer, we cover it all!





**To subscribe to the audio version of Tea Time with Tiffany, just search for it in iTunes or use this link to subscribe in your podcast app of choice. Intro music is "Feelin' Good" from http://www.purple-planet.com 

Items mentioned in this episode:

USCCB page on Lent
Catholic Journaling Bible
Blog that I mentioned re: transferring things to the journaling Bible

How are you employing prayer this Lent? I'd love to hear from you!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lenten Book Club 2018 - "The Thief" chapters 6-12...

Oh boy. Things are really heating up in the land of Nissa and Cedron! I read these chapters in 2 sittings over the weekend. WOW, wow - the author does such an amazing job of drawing us into the scene and empathizing with the characters. Let's dive in!

So we pick up right where we left off, with Nissa and Cedron heading for the pool of Siloam after their encounter with Jesus. The crowd around them gets whipped into quite a frenzy during all of this, and as I expected, when Cedron washes his eyes off in the pool, his blindness is gone. He can see, and this causes quite a bit of mixed emotions within the crowd around them. Some are happy, of course, but many are skeptical, thinking that Nissa, Cedron and Jesus are all frauds.

Longinus is on the scene as well, and boy are we starting to actually like this guy, right?! He's empathetic and caring in his own way towards others beneath his tough exterior and position. Nissa's saucy bravery in protecting her brother has drawn his admiration, and he disperses the crowd so that the two of them do not get trampled or otherwise hurt.

We are then whirled into a scene of Cedron being tried before the Sanhedrin, and and is it me, or was anyone else a bit confused about how this actually happened? Did they go there right from the pool? We could see conflict coming, because there was a lot of reactions amongst the crowd that they suspected Cedron of some wrongdoing or dishonesty, but are the Sanhedrin just on standby, waiting for some poor soul to be dragged in to see them on a moment's notice? I think I missed something here. Oh, and the no-good parents are dragged in and disown Nissa and Cedron for good measure.

Next thing I knew, some priests and others were starting to stone Cedron, Nissa was understandably hysterical, and Longinus was intervening. I felt very out of sorts and confused about how and why this all happened. My impression was that they felt Cedron was a charlatan, and thus they were"justified" in their actions. Longinus breaks things up and saves Cedron. He saw what happened with Jesus both times, and though torn, he believes that Jesus genuinely can heal and otherwise save lives. Cedron is badly injured, but is alive.

Longinus helps them both escape to a place they can hide out for a spell, and then departs. Nissa hides them out in the place where she transforms into Mouse, but works on getting them a house rental with some money she stole. It's not in the best of neighborhoods, but it's something. She also gets Amit the donkey back.

Whew.

We see some more of Nissa working with Dismas to steal money for them to live on, and we learn a little backstory on Dismas's sad entry into a life of crime. Cedron tries to get work now that he can see, but his leg injury from the stoning is making that difficult. Nissa espies him speaking with Jesus, and learns that Cedron is working with a group called the Zealots, who support Jesus and His work.

We connect again with Longinus, and now things really get interesting. He figures out where Nissa and Cedron have moved to, and seeks them out. He is clearly drawn to Nissa, and she to him. and everybody, including you and I, know that this is going nowhere good.

😰

Nissa just wants him to go away, because she fears him discovering that she is Mouse. He likes Nissa, and simply enjoys her witty company, but he also has a plan for Cedron: he wants to employ him to find the two thieves he's been searching for.

😱

Cedron, of course, has no idea that Nissa is one of these aforementioned thieves. He wants to earn an honest wage to help support Nissa and Amit, and he figures he has nothing to lose, because his Jewish brethren already know that he supports Jesus, of whom many are already suspicious. What difference does it make if he now sympathizes with a Roman?

He agrees, and both he and Longinus are very happy with this arrangement. Nissa is inwardly horrified, and who can blame her? That's where we leave off.

THOUGHTS?! I'm terrified for both Nissa and Cedron. I'm feeling all kinds of empathy for Longinus, but we know things don't end well for him, so I'm already grieving. 😭This is the perfect read for Lent, don't you agree?

Please leave me your thoughts in the comments!