When I met Neil Combs at the Catholic Writers Guild Live conference, I sensed a connection that was beyond Catholics and writers. He introduced himself to me when we were volunteering at the Catholic Writers Guild booth in the CMN trade show. He was excited about his book, A Body in Prayer: Praying from Head to Toe, a subject that fascinates me.
Then I discovered his conversion story from a Lutheran family was similar to mine from an Episcopalian family. We both converted after our marriage to a Catholic. We both struggle with what to give up in our busy lives in order to establish a good prayer time. So I relate to his journey to write the book and to convert to the Catholic Church.
The simple organization of the chapters makes it easy to concentrate on the gems of wisdom. Here are a few of my favorites:
“Open Mouth” – “A great way to evangelize is to create the opportunity for a conversation about the faith.”
“The Eyes Have It” – “I think that the reason that tears are such effective prayers is that they are pure emotion, unrehearsed, unchecked, and free-flowing: they are emotion that should not be held back but should be welcomed.”
“All Ears” – In Neil’s experience as a pharmacist in a nursing home, he observed that “Being receptive to what people have to say is another way to open your hearts and minds to others, and to another form of prayer. “
“The Nose Knows” – He suggests a two-minute prayer exercise of offering to God “one petition of prayer for every breath you take such as one thing you are glad to be alive for, one person you are glad to have in your life, or one person who could use a prayer.”
“A Leg to Stand On” – Neil shares his struggle to stand up for his faith, especially at his workplace where he uses opportunities to steer the conversations, jokes and put-downs toward a respective viewpoint.
“Footprints” – Walking the Christian walk gives Neil lots of practice in stewardship and overcoming resistance to washing the feet of others. “It’s often easier to give our treasures than it is our time or talent, but Jesus is clearly telling us, ‘If I can serve, so can you!’ Why are we to deny him?”
“Gotta Hand It to Ya” – Neil writes that our attitude toward work can evolve into an attitude of 40 hours of prayer, dedicating each hour of the workweek to something or someone on our prayer list.
“Feast or Fast” – “ Eating and drinking are such simple acts, yet in these simple acts, which Jesus asked us to repeat, lies perhaps the deepest way to experience Christ: The Eucharist, or Communion. Do this in memory of Christ.”
“Sacred Heart” – “Compassion is looking past all our own emotions and feelings, past any injustice we might perceive, and seeing the hurting and troubles of others. Then we act out of love to help.”
“Mind Over Matter” – “We have to first desire to act the way we think we should; then we have to exert our willpower to do it. It might help to think of willpower as obedience to the will of God over our own will.” Neil compares our willpower to a muscle that gets strong with exercise.
Neil helped me find new ways to look for God in everything every day and try to make life a prayer. The Catholic Writers Guild has awarded a Seal of Approval to “A Body in Prayer” by Neil M. Combs, published by Bezalel Books. Find him at http://www.abodyinprayer.com.
(@ 2013 revised 2017 Nancy H C Ward)