Friday, May 29, 2015

Interview with Sonja Corbitt author of “Unleashed”

Q: You identify as a “Scriptural Evangelista” Tell the readers what that means?
A: That just means that I use scripture in every media, radio, television, written workbooks, everything, in order to nurture a love for Christ in the bible, and a more serious, not just a knowledge of him in a head kind of way but in a heart kind of way. So that’s basically all it means to me. I’m all bible all the time and that’s how I say that “Scriptural Evangelista”.
Q: You have a radio show called “Pursing the Summit” on Real Life radio. Tell us a little about that.
A: Well, actually, you know I do have a show but that’s kind of funny. I’m really just pretending. I mean I have this very first shot on a radio show for me and I am just totally green. But it’s fun and what I love about it is that I am able to teach my original studies and since I have an hour every single day I can really delve in to the detail in a more thorough way than I can even in a regular weekly teaching. So where as I’ll use the same workbook on the radio show as I do with teaching a study at a particular location on a weekly basis; but I only have an hour for a physical study whereas on the radio I can take 4 days if I want to. I’m really enjoying that and it’s a lot of fun. In the beginning when I first started I thought I might take calls and then somebody, I forget who, said “No, you don’t want to do that, you’ll lose your train of thought when somebody calls in.” Then I thought, you know what, that’s probably true. I love it; it’s been a lot of fun.
Q: You mention in the book, you have done talks at conferences and retreats. What gave you the idea to turn them into a book?
A: You know it’s kind of funny. I have a love hate relationship with facebook. But I was on facebook and I got a private message from someone and I hear this lot. Have you ever thought about writing a book? I answered and said sure, what would you like me to write about? She said “We publish Lisa Hendey’s books.” I almost fell out of my chair that this was a real publisher. So then I was trying to put her profile together to find out who this was and it ended up being the editor for Ave Maria Press who worked with me to bring “Unleashed” to fruition. What was interesting was when she first contacted me, I remember talking to the Lord and I said “You know I don’t like books, I like studies”. But I just felt like I needed to just kind of go with the flow because he had something in mind. That’s how that started, I really I had no intention whatsoever of writing an actual trade book, but it just worked out that way and I actually really like that format to be perfectly honest.
Q: How did you decide on the title “Unleashed”?
A: That’s a great question because that was not the title at all when it first started out. It was called “When God Breathes” because the Spirit of God is said to be his breath or the wind of God. That was my title then the publisher changed it and I’ll just confess that’s a big masculine word “Unleashed” so I wasn’t too thrilled with it. I mean I went with it because I just felt like the Holy Spirit was accomplishing something and I just needed to keep my mouth shut and go with it. So I did. But I wasn’t happy with it to begin with, it just seemed very, it was a strong, strong word whereas the whole premise of the book is how gentle the Holy Spirit is, so it kind of bugged me. But then when the cover came and they paired that beautiful feminine cover with that big manly word. I thought that is so perfect. I ended up being thrilled. Everybody that knows me asks me, my mother even, thought that the woman on the cover was me. Everybody asked me that “Is that you? Is that you” It’s not but I told the publisher when they first sent the picture over I said you’re not going to believe this but I swear I have those boots. And it’s funny on my very first book signing I wore basically that cover outfit because I had the skirt and all that. Anyway it was fun. The cover thing has been really cool.
Q: I liked the structure of your book “Unleashed”. There is a Question at the beginning and at the end the Invitation and God prompt. Do you find this is a good way to unpack the bible in your other bible studies?
A: That is actually exactly the way I do it at the very end. What I typically do in the workbook is I lay out the pathway that God led me in and I ask the same questions of the participants as God asked me as I was studying so I just lead people in the very same path then at the end when I have all the information, the factual stuff then I’ll start applying it and I’ll ask those kind of questions those God prompt questions in order to apply what they just learned to their own lives. So I use almost exactly that same, I don’t usually use a review until the end of a whole chapter. But I do like the review because it gives me an opportunity to say the very same thing in a different way. It helps to reinforce everything that we are learning so far and I love the God prompt because that’s just a very simple way to get people in touch with God themselves. I don’t think that a lot of Catholics realize that God is really waiting for them in the Bible that way. One of the greatest privileges of my being Catholic has been leading people to that place with God because how cool is that, that God is sitting right there waiting on us.
Q: Can you talk more about predominant fault? I find this very interesting and an important point in the book. Tell the readers what that means in the book?
A: Well for me, the predominant fault, I share it in the book mine is rebellion and it comes out in rage. The bible calls it “The sin the so easily besets us”. The one that we trip up on the most often because it’s usually the most rooted. We don’t typically know that’s its operating. That’s really part of why I wanted to use that exact phrasing in the book. Because when I first read from the church fathers and doctors on prayer about that fault I thought “Oh my word, how true”. I’d never considered the fact that we all have one, just that phrase kind of gets stuck in her head. You sort of meditate and mull over it. I wanted to be careful to include that exact phrase. But it’s that sin that trips us up on a repeated basis and we may or may not get very fed up of going over this process over and over and over. For me I did, I kept wondering, “Am I ever going to be done with this?’ But eventually I came to realize that the whole point of being here is to finally eradicate that completely. It’s so deeply rooted sometimes that we don’t even know how to get to it. For me, because of the nature of my own faults, it really came to color how I viewed God and who he was and my perceptions of him was really distorted because my thought was rooted in my relationship with my own dad. So, this not only kept me from God but it kept me from relating properly to my children, who are both boys. The way we view God colors every single relationship that we have, and that is a barrier to all of us and our spiritual growth. That’s why it’s so important.
Q: I like the part of the book when you talked about survival mechanisms and self protective systems. I’m going to read you a couple of quotes from the book and maybe you can expand on the topics. The first quote is from Chapter 3 titled “Has No one Condemned You? The Reference here is John 8:10. “My distortions and patterns were rooted in parental beliefs and attitudes, coping mechanisms and other ‘Baggage” I brought forward from childhood and projected onto God and even other people. The system was built for a reason that no longer exists. It was a survival mechanism for a powerless child in an overwhelming family situation. It served a legitimate purpose at that time, but later became a powerful, secret trap.” What more can you tell us about this?
A: There were really two areas that I struggled with without really understanding why. One of them was I had a terrible habit of just bold faced lying to any male that was in authority over me that confronted me over something that I had or had not done, because that’s what I did with my dad. He would ask me, ‘Do you know so-and-so?’ and I would just say ‘Nope” because I just didn’t want to get in trouble and I didn’t want to get screamed at, so I would automatically lie. It would just fly out of me and I couldn’t have controlled it because I didn’t even realize it until it was already done. As you get older, such as in my early twenties, that was completely inappropriate. I remember going to a therapist, and I sat down in his office, and it was funny because there was an issue of Time magazine there that had an interview with a pathological liar, and I took that magazine into the office with me, laid it down on the table, and said, “This is me. I don’t know why I’m doing this, and I need help.” He almost laughed, which made me a little mad. The very first thing he asked me was about my relationship with my dad, and I just broke down sobbing. That was one of the traps that I was in: I would lie. I lied to employers who would ask me whether or not I had done something, and of course eventually I would have to back-track and tell the truth and look stupid, so I finally had to stop and ask myself why I was doing this. I went to a therapist and he helped me. I never even went back. As soon as he uncovered that it came from my fear of getting in trouble with my dad, suddenly it had no more power over me. I knew right then that this person is not going to be able to do anything to me. I don’t have to be afraid of them, and I needed to stop. So it was a struggle to overcome it. The other one was closely related and it goes back to the criticism thing. As soon as I was criticized by that same kind of person, I just went into this total kind of tailspin. I would plot revenge and seethe on the inside. When I couldn’t act out aggression I would just seethe and seethe on the inside. I don’t know how I didn’t have an ulcer. It was just a mess, and eventually you just get so sick of feeling that way. I share it in the book that I felt like the prodigal son in the pigpen where I just realize and ask myself what’s wrong with me. When I was a child, that’s what I did. I would lie in order to not be criticized by my dad because it was extremely painful and I knew I was going to get in trouble. I tried very hard to stay away from any instance that I was going to get me criticized. I always tried for good grades and anything else that would make him proud of me so that he would only say good things. I got so miserable doing it, and until I realized it was a coping mechanism, I stayed trapped in it. I shared in the book that you have to ask yourself, when is the very first time I remember feeling exactly like this, and for me there was a memory associated with it. I would have to identity exactly where those feelings come from. Then you have to sit there wallowing in how crappy you feel about it, and once that’s done, once you have acknowledged that pain and that memory, and let that really hurt, and talk it over rationally with yourself and with God, then it has no power over you. That was one of the most incredible realizations of my entire life. I don’t have to feel like this forever.
Q: The second quote is from Chapter 4 titled “Why do you see the speck in Your Neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the Log in your own eye.” The Reference here is Matthew 7:3. “We remember events the way we need or want to remember them, because they reveal what was, and continues to be, most important to us. Subconsciously, we pick and choose the specifics; we attach feelings and memories to the wounds we received and remember. Our memories speak volumes about who we are, not because we recount completely and accurately what has happened to us but because the Holy Spirit wants to unleash us through them. What more can you tell us about this?
A: A very difficult realization for me was when I realized that my memory may not be completely accurate. In fact, it almost never is. I began to notice it in other people too, like with my mom. Whenever we would talk about different circumstances in our lives together with my dad, she would say things that I wouldn’t remember, or my sister would. What I came to realize, and it’s not like I just realized it one day, is that you do attach those emotions to those memories because of what they draw up in you at the time. That’s why we have to be careful in our accusations against and our judgments of the people who do things to us, especially when we’re young, because oftentimes we’re not recalling it perfectly, and that’s ok. That’s the way it is. What is interesting and useful for us in those memories is how the Holy Spirit wants to use it. What is it that we do remember? Whether or not it is completely accurate, it’s a perception and memory that you have and it’s important to you. So, without judging other people, we have to determine how the Holy Spirit can use it in our lives to help me through that. What was it that was so painful for me? For me, when I would analyze it that way, almost unemotionally, if you can separate rationality and emotion in that way, suddenly you realize things about it that you couldn’t before because it was all emotion. That was the difference for me. When I could be rational about my feelings, and separate the feelings from the reality, that’s when things really started to make sense for me. It’s a hard acknowledgment to make that I may not be remembering this perfectly and this person who did this to me may not have been as bad as I thought. That was really hard for me because I wanted to blame my dad for everything. Truly he is a human being who is just like everybody else. I make mistakes with my kids, probably not the same mistakes, but I make mistakes too. We really need to give other people the room to be faulty.
Q: You spoke briefly in the book about converting to Catholicism. Being a convert myself I find this very interesting. Can you tell us about what led to your conversion?
A: Interestingly enough, it was the very same process. I just love how economical God is with his resources. It’s so shocking to me that he uses absolutely everything that was going on in my life at the time, and still does. The conversion came about when we experienced a couple of church splits. I was in my early twenties; I had barely been married for a couple of years. I was very young and I didn’t really know the pastor so I kind of got sucked into the gossip. I just remember thinking ‘at least I had a daily prayer time with God and the scriptures’ and He was just constantly telling me to keep my mouth shut. He told me he didn’t want to hear anything I had to say, I don’t know what I was talking about, and to let him handle it. That church split and it ended up being nothing but a matter of personality and some of the stronger personalities in the church rose up against the pastor and basically they just crucified him for absolutely no reason, but I didn’t really know him very well so it didn’t affect me too much. Now, fast-forward about five years, we have a new pastor with a strong personality, but this one I absolutely loved. I began teaching classes, and the more I taught the bigger they got, so a few men started using those passages in the bible about how women should be silent in the church. Well my pastor gave me my own Sunday school class, and when he did that in the face of all the criticism I was hearing it was one of the very first gifts that somebody in his position gave me, and it still makes me cry. Then, we experienced a second church split against this pastor who I loved. It was the same situation, there was a personality conflict and the same exact people did the same exact thing to a second pastor. It upset me so badly that I thought ‘Lord why have you not done something about this when you have corrected me over and over about this kind of rebellion?’ So I was upset because I felt like he should do more about it, but it turns out he was grooming me for the questions about authority that the church answers through the hierarchy. I started realizing I know what the bible says about his pastors, and I know he cares about them, and he has made better provision for them than this. It was a perfect storm because at the same time I was doing my own research on the early church fathers. I believe it was Scott Hahn who said “The center of the church is the Bishop and the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ”, and I just remember thinking that that was a lie. So I get online and I start looking for the ante-Nicene fathers and I find them, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and what do they say? They say exactly what Scott Hahn says and it was a big ‘Oh My Gosh” moment for me. It all kind of conspired together to draw me to the authority of the church, which I understand to be proper. Especially looking at Martin Luther and reading his own writings and seeing that what he had done was basically what these church people had done in my own churches. So that was it; that was when the snowball kind of gained momentum. I hid it for a long time but eventually that verse in James that says “For he who knows that to do and doesn’t do it, for him it is sin.” So I just said well I guess I’ve got to come in.
Q: The book gives some personal details about your life and your family. It’s not really about your conversion story but about leading the reader into deeper spiritual relationship with Christ. How does the book help to do this in your opinion?
A: Well all I can say is, I say it does. My attempt was simply to lead people in the exact same ways that it lead me, and still leads me today, make it as simple as possible, and as accessible as possible. That’s why I use a lot of personal detail. I think that too often, especially women, will put on this air of holiness because we think that’s what’s going to be effective, especially if you have any kind of ministry to other people. We think that this air of holiness is what’s going to draw people to you, but that is not it. I had to realize that was makes a person powerful in the hands of the Holy Spirit is that absolute authenticity. That’s just it: Integrity and authenticity. You can’t be one way with God and another way with other people, because something in them knows it. The more authentic we are the more transparent we are, not they we have to let every single detail hang out, I’m not saying that, but the more authentic we are and the more integrity we have with God, the more powerfully he can work through us, without us even knowing about it. That’s what’s so cool about it. He hides it from us because we’d get proud. That is what I’ve found to be the secret. I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you said this,” and I’ll just answer that I didn’t say that, but you have to learn to just roll with it because the Holy Spirit works and I just try to get out of the way. What I really tried to do with the book was lay out my own process and then get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work.
Q: Is there anything else about the book you would like the readers or potential readers to know about the book Unleashed?
A: I would like the readers to know that there is a DVD series that is ready now, I just don’t have it posted to my website yet, and it’s not on amazon, and it’s going to air on Catholic TV. So I’m very excited about that, and the book and the DVD series go together. It’s a 13 part DVD series and the book is only eight chapters, but the TV series is 13-30 minute episodes. You just get more opportunities to get into the scripture and hear from God. They go right along with the book. I even used the same questions as I asked in the book.
Q: Will the series and DVD have the same title “Unleashed”?
A: Yes and I’ll be posting it so it’s available to people. I’m not sure when it’s going to air but sometime in June on Catholic TV. They can get the DVDs on my website: and I’ll be putting them on Amazon as well. Thank you so much for talking with me today. Good luck with your book and your ministry.

(Editor's note: This interview was conducted on 5/18/15. Since that time Catholic TV has released the schedule for Unleashed and it will air the first time on Sun June 7th at 12:00AM, then Mon 8:30AM, Tues 4:30PM, and Sat 9:30PM. There is also an interview with Sonja Corbitt on This is the Day on Catholic TV that will air the first time on June 16th 7:30PM, then Weds 4:30AM and 5:30PM, and Thurs at midnight. )

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Pilgrim by David Bunn

This is a work of historical fiction based on Helena, mother of Constantine, finding the true Cross. There is a sense of realism that is engaging. I was previously fascinated with this story of Helena. Now I feel like I have lived it. Helena appears courageous to the point of abandonment. She doesn’t give up and has total trust in God to protect her and continue to lead her on her quest. She is inspiring to those who join her on their journey, in The Pilgrim and equally inspiring to the readers. David Bunn helps the reader become invested in the characters such as Anthony, Cratus, and Favian. I liked Macarius, an old priest who often offers mass to the pilgrims, who has seen a lot and offers wisdom on the journey. I like the encounter with the leper, Aquilina. Helena and Aquilina have a tremendous effect on one another and Aquilina is important to the conclusion of the story. I had chill bumps as they discovered the true path of Christ to Calvary. Although I have never been to Jerusalem, I think we take for granted that we know where events from Jesus’ life take place. To have been there early on in the first centuries after Christ and not know where these historic sites were located adds to the realism and awe of this story. Also, to have been there when the tides were turning for Christians in the legalization of Christianity and release from tyrannical violence and slavery was momentous. You could feel God there every step of the way. I would recommend this book to you to help you get closer to this heroic story of Helena and closer to God. This is an amazing story that changes everything for Christianity. St. Helena is attributed with helping to rebuild the churches at the nativity and the Ascension. I’d like to think I would have done the same thing as Helena. It is said she brought back a piece of the true cross to her son, Constantine. You can imagine what impact this would have made on him and the local church. This story takes place before a time of unprecedented growth of Catholicism throughout the world.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blessed Are You by Melanie Rigney

This is the sequel to the Sisterhood of Saints: Daily Guidance and Inspiration. If you love saint stories like I do you will love this book. But do you know what’s even better is that these stories are aligned with the eight beatitudes. There is an introduction related to each beatitude, then stories of four saints who embody these virtues. Then there are bonus short stories if you want to know more. There is a good mix of saints that are well known like Maria Faustina Kowalska, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Therese of Lisieux and ones that you are newly introduced like Claudine Thevenet, Eurosia Fabris, and Lura Vicuna in Blessed Are You. I especially connected with the stories of Jeanne Jugan, Germaine Cousin, and Anna Schaeffer. Jugan was selfless in taking care of others. Cousin was strong in persistence and forgiveness. Schaeffer underwent great physical trials and showed grace in her response. These saints demonstrate spiritual poverty and great love. Melanie Rigney is especially good at making the stories of saints accessible to the readers with descriptions that we can identify with in Blessed Are You. The format was predictable but was comforting and allowed this to sink into the background and the reader to focus on the Saint stories. There are 64 women saints in the book and an unpacking of the beatitudes. There are reflection questions at the end of each chapter that challenge the reader to take action in living out the beatitudes. I would recommend this book to you for learning about the beatitudes, introduction to many interesting saints, and how to apply these to our lives. Melanie Rigney writes in an easy to follow conversational tone. The saints are a good example of how to live our lives and persevere in time of trouble but I also appreciate that the saints are women allowing an even better identification with their stories.

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Soul of a Pilgrim by Christine Valters Paintner

What does it mean to be a pilgrim on a pilgrimage? The Soul of a Pilgrim seeks to answer this question with us. Being on a spiritual journey is not new to most but to define yourself as a pilgrim is more than just being a traveler. I would say it is by way of seeking that makes the difference. The author speaks of letting some things find you and not to push to hard to understand but let it wash over you. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the story of the physical move of the author to Ireland and her inner spiritual journey. The book is more about being open and taking chances. I liked the creative praying the scriptures with immersing yourself into the story and speaking interiorly with the characters. I also, liked the photographic walks where you receive photos instead of taking photos. Using photography as meditation was a new concept to me and I love photography. I thought the biblical reflections by John Valters Paintner, the authors husband was the best part of the book. The introduction seemed a little new age like with yoga and meditation for me, this traditional Catholic. The reflections are explaining how to do Lectio Divina, which is a very Catholic way of prayer and bible study. The writing exploration through midrash is an ancient Jewish practice of explaining problems encountered in bible study. There is a part in Chapter 6 of the book about being okay with feeling uncomfortable. That may be a way of realizing something you need to learn and this spoke to me of letting things happen and not pushing so hard. I’ve been so schooled on making things happen that letting things wash over you is foreign to me. Intentional silence and intentional letting go of control is freedom. My favorite line in the book is “All of the feelings I encounter that make me want to slam the door on my inner life, these are precisely the place we are called to meet God”. Mrs. Painter goes on to say “I hope you see that much of our lives rest in the space between loss and hope. Our lives are full of Holy Saturday experiences.” I would recommend this book to you in beginning spiritual exploration and bible study in Lectio Divina. I was definitely left wanting more which is a good thing.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

This Is My Body: From Obesity to Ironman, My Journey into the True Meaning of Flesh, Spirit, and Deeper Faith by Ragan Sutterfield

I have a confession to make that this is not a Catholic book. The author Ragan Sutterfield is in the process of becoming an Episcopal priest. He has a strong faith in the Episcopalian tradition. I felt drawn to this book because of the topic of how are body fits into our spirituality. We are an Incarnational people where Jesus has come to us in our humanity in human history and through the Eucharist everyday. We believe in the Resurrection of the body at the end of times. Jesus’ resurrected body still had the wounds of his crucifixion when he appeared to his disciples in the upper room. We are called to accept our bodies as part of ourselves as to who we are in this life and the next. That can mean different things to different people. I can identify with the main character in This Is My Body as he struggles against his body early in his life then comes to terms with his body as part of his identity. It is an amazing journey described by Sutterfeld from obesity as a child to an Ironman competition of 140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running. The book is steeped in scripture and theology throughout. I am not an athlete or a runner but I can understand when the author says when he runs his body and spirit are one. We take our faith into ourselves through our body in communion and interface with our environment and other people living out our faith through our hands and postures to bring God out to the world. I enjoyed the format of the book where the author counts down to the Ironman competition in every other chapter in current time and then alternates with his biographical history. There is a restlessness Sutterfield describes with being locked into cubicles in the city and in isolation with living on the farm that is very relatable. I think we can often feel this way when we are trying to find our place within the world where we feel satisfied, engaged and fulfilled. This is My Body is so motivating to connect with your interior life, with God, and with the physical world. I would definitely recommend this book to you. This Is My Body was difficult to put down and a “page turner” as they say. It challenged me in thinking of the body as not just a temple of the Holy Spirit but integral to our experience of God and our expression of our faith.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Unleashed by Sonja Corbitt

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Unleashed and the spiritual journey Sonja Corbitt takes us on as we learn how to let go and rediscover our interior life. Each chapter has a review for important points, an invitation to apply scripture and the chapter to our lives and a God prompt for specific ways to get closer to God. The author suggests keeping a journal with our thoughts and questions regarding the content of the book. The title Unleashed has several meanings such as our desire to have the Holy Spirit unleashed within us and our desire to unleash that which holds us back from going forward from our past. Each chapter quotes a question from Jesus in scripture to us today. For example the first chapter is “What do you wish?” from Matthew 20:21. Jesus is ready to come onto our lives and because of free will; he wants to know that we seek him in our life. We are to discern what is really important to us (our values) and be true to seeking that which brings us closer to this. Sonja Corbitt asks thought provoking questions taken from scripture that bring us closer in our relationship with God. Within Unleashed, the author points out that St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross have described the Holy Spirit’s action as outward to inward and an upward spiral action. I mostly identify with the letting go of childhood survival mechanisms that are no longer useful but can be actual barriers to our growth in our spiritual life. Another interesting facet of the book is discovering what the author describes as our “predominant fault” that keeps us at bay from our true relationship with God. This book is steeped in scripture with an almost Lectio Divina attitude toward scripture and bringing it into our lives and making it relevant for us today. The author uses personal experiences and scripture to help the reader discern what we want for ourselves and our relationship with God. There are group questions at the end of the book that help to unpack the richness of the book content. From the beginning to the end I would recommend this book to you.