Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Desert 
(at the Jersey Shore)

Sometimes it seems like God is so very far away. We wake up in the morning, go through the day and wonder what happened to the time; life just eats us up in the daily grind. It’s easy with the “speed” of life to feel like a feather in the wind; we end up wherever life takes us, but we don’t know how we got there!

At these times, it’s easy to feel like we have little control over our own lives, and people may find themselves in the throes of despair when life doesn’t go smoothly. We may cry out to God for comfort, but God seems distant.  Nothing seems to help.  What do we do?

Before Jesus started his ministry, he removed himself from the whirlwind of daily life, seeking the silence and solitude of the desert.  It is in the silence that we too can find that God is never more than a whisper away.  Here, “outside” of the world, we can gain a sense of perspective.  Here we experience God as real and the world as nothing more than an illusion.  The life in which we find ourselves is nothing more than a freely chosen, self-constructed “reality.”

When God finished creating the universe a day was set aside to rest, to gain perspective.  God instructed us to keep this law of rest and to set aside a day each week to remove ourselves from the busy life in which we are often caught up.

However, in American society we have lost sight of this time we set aside for respite.  We think it is wasteful to not make the most out of every hour we are given.  We fill up all of our time with the “noise” of life -- work, school, TV, computers, cell phones, etc.  We fill up our days and soon wonder how we’ve lost control over our lives.  We have made no time to center ourselves, to center our families and to place God at our center as well.  We have no time for introspection and perspective -- no Sabbath!

The summer for most of us, marks a transition into the “Sabbath” of the year.  The school year ends, giving our children time to step outside the world’s expectations of them so that they may be children.  It is also a time for vacation - for a family to set aside a couple of weeks to be with one another outside the hustle and bustle of the work week, as well as the activities that fill up our already busy lives.  It’s a chance for us to reconnect with our spouse outside of the world’s priorities which often distance us -- a time to fall (further) in love all over again. And summer can certainly be a time where one finds silence to make room for oneself and for God.

In Greek, the word kenosis means “to empty oneself.” When the world seems overwhelming, we can easily become mentally and emotionally filled up.  We quickly lose control over our lives, especially and most devastatingly in our personal relationships. When we find ourselves blindly careening down the highways of our lives, it becomes hard to put on the brakes. Remember, objects in mirror may be larger than they appear, and the same applies to the problems in our lives. It is at these hectic points that we must stop and get off the road, before our worries overtake us.

As Americans we are given so much opportunity, and many of us have been blessed with so much. Because of this, it’s easy to let the “stuff” take over. So as we enjoy this summer, let’s make the most of it by making an effort to put the brakes on our lives and just sit back and gain perspective.  May this summer also be a sacred time, a time of emptying oneself, a time for reconnecting to those we love and a time for reconnecting with our true self and with God.

So this summer take it easy!  Remove yourself from the world when need be and remember to keep Holy the Sabbath.

May you have a great and blessed summer!

Your faithful servant,      


Discover a deeper spiritual connection with The Heart Of Discipleship. The Book is now available via website or on Amazon at…/…/ref=sr_1_1…

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Little Background Please.


A Little Background Please.

Author of The Heart of Discipleship
Quick Bio on Author and Illustrator:

About the Author: The Rev. Carmen J. Viola is a deacon in the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of New Jersey. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and youngest child where he loves serving God and showing others how to have a deeper relationship with God and one another. Visit Carmen at  

About the Illustrator: Travis Hanson is an Eisner nominated fantasy illustrator with a huge imagination. His works include comics, children’s art, fantasy and just fun illustrations that encourages the need for people to be creative. Visit Travis Hanson at

Frequently Asked Questions.

What is the book about?

The illustrations in this book visually depict stories from the Bible to illuminate God’s word. The images are such that a child can view the story on one level, while an adult can view the same image and be led into a more complex understanding of the Creator. Often, seeing things from a different point of view can give us fresh insight into God’s plan for our world and our lives.

The questions in “Points to Ponder” provide an opportunity for the reader to take a deeper journey of spiritual enlightenment. The “Children’s Corner” pose questions to help children get a deeper meaning from the illustrations.

How did the book come about?

There are no coincidences; only God-incidences! Two years ago I purchased an illustrated book on living your dreams, by Travis Hanson. I really connected with the artist’s vision and drawings, so much so that, two weeks later, I found myself literally dreaming Travis’ art style into several biblical pictures. Not knowing Travis personally, I instead reached out to other artists I did know to try and recreate my vision, but couldn’t quite find the right fit, and the dream stalled.

For the next two years, I occupied myself with work, family, and church, leaving little time for dreams. During this time, I came home every day feeling drained by my hectic schedule, so I reincorporated exercise into my life, hoping it would give me the boost I needed. I had ridden my bike often in the past, so I searched online for bike trails —lo and behold, there was a bike trail through the woods just around the corner from my home. I had lived there for seven years without ever once noticing the trail! I started riding my bike again, and my energy quickly returned, allowing me to devote more time to my physical, mental, and spiritual self– I felt great for the first time in years.

During this “rejuvenation process,” I was browsing Facebook one day when I saw a post by Travis Hanson, the artist of the illustration book that had inspired my dreams two years ago. He indicated that he was searching for creative projects, so I emailed him, and he called me back. A few minutes into our conversation, I knew that Travis was the artist for my vision.  There was an instant energy and connection between us.  He too was a lifelong active Christian. I got an immediate sense that everything would come together. I told Travis that I only had a few pictures developed, but he suggested that we needed more along the lines of 30 images if we were going to create a whole book!

What happened next was uncanny. The following three weeks I woke up almost every night, writing my dreams in a notebook by my bedside. Then on my bike rides I continued to daydream and cultivate these visions. Within a month, I had created enough pictures and concepts for a whole book on discipleship. At the same time, I received a call from someone telling me she had been praying for me, that the Holy Spirit would guide me, and that I would have the strength to do God’s will. The timing couldn’t have been more amazing – she knew nothing about the journey I was on – it was clear now that God was calling for me (literally!) to finish this book. I called Travis to tell him what had transpired, and that we needed to accelerate development. I still wasn’t sure how to finance it, but with God all things are possible.

Thankfully, my wife, bless her, unconditionally supported this daunting undertaking.  And God continued sending much needed help. A webmaster friend of mine offered to develop the website. Then I met with a fellow deacon and his wife for lunch and during our conversation, brought up the book and all of the coincidences that surrounded this effort. His wife looked me in the eyes and asked if I knew what they did for a living –she told me that they market Christian books.

We have a saying at our church: “God is good, all the time!” My journey as I’ve described it above is certainly proof of that! Travis’s tagline at his website is, “This is your story, your dream, your adventure. Let’s bring it to life!” To be honest, this book was more like an inspired vision than a dream and this story really isn’t mine, it’s ours...and the rest as they say is “His Story!”

If you are lost, broken or just don’t know what to do, this book might help you find your way. If you are looking for a deeper understanding of what God wants for us, this book can help. If you are addicted or have given up this book will help.

So, come! Discover what God has been trying to show us all along. God will meet you wherever and however you are…Right Here, Right Now!

Your Faithful Servant,
The Rev. Carmen J. Viola, Deacon