February 1, 2008

Book can help answer many of Lent’s challenging questions

By Mary Ann Wyand

What important questions do you need to ask yourself during Lent?

"Come Next Spring: Scripture Reflections of Promise and Hope", published in 2007, can help you answer many of those challenging questions.

St. Barnabas parishioner James Welter of Indianapolis wrote the reflection book as a companion volume to When Winter Comes: Scripture Reflections for Daily Living, which was published in 2003. Ascending View Publications, a company created by Welter, published both books.

“The first book was an outgrowth of the e-mail Scripture ministry that I started at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis back in 2000,” Welter explained. “That ministry started with about 10 people receiving the reflections and readings each day, and has grown to over 6,000 people all over the world. After a few years of writing the reflections, someone suggested that I put them in book form.

“The second book is a little more deliberate,” he said. “Probably 50 percent of it is from reflections that I have written, and the rest is from talks and presentations that I have given over the years.”

These reflections are “a little longer and a little deeper” than the first book, Welter said. “They cover a variety of life topics—grief, loss, forgiveness, love, resurrection—and include discussion questions written by my wife, Helen, to make the book useable for small faith-sharing groups.”

Both books are Catholic resources that also appeal to Protestant readers.

“I see Scripture as one area on which we can all agree,” he said, “especially if we look at Scripture as how it speaks to us in our daily life.”

The title of each book was inspired by Welter’s childhood experiences on his family’s farm in northern Indiana.

“Like the people in Scripture, farmers are people of hope,” he said. “By that, I don’t mean hope as wishful thinking but hope as an expectation of good. There was always that expectation that next year would be better [on the farm].

As a child, he remembers hearing the farmers say, “Come next spring …”—especially if their crops did not grow into a bountiful harvest that fall.

“Come next spring, we’ll turn the soil again,” he writes. “Come next spring, new rains will fall. Come next spring, the flowers will bloom and new growth will flourish. We will live again. We will laugh again. We will love again.”

That imagery captures the promise and hope of Christian life, he said. “Lent isn’t about endings—it’s about beginnings.”

Hope is a grace and blessing from God, he said. “Many times, we have to look back on our life and spend some time reflecting [on our experiences] before we can see God’s movement in our life.”

Welter hopes readers will turn to Scripture to gain insight about their lives and grow closer to God in the process.

Father Clem Davis, pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish in Columbus and a member of a small Church community for 15 years, wrote the introduction for Welter’s second book.

“Jim’s memories will help to stir recollections from your own life, and will open windows onto the lush landscape of your relationship with God,” Father Davis explains, “… so that you, too, may see the promise and hope that [God] offers.

“I invite you to embark on this journey of self-discovery,” he writes, “and to hear God’s Word in a new way by reflecting on it in light of Jim’s life experience—and your own. You will find that you are indeed ‘surrounded by a cloud of witnesses’ [Heb 12:1] and are by no means alone in your faith, nor in your struggles.”

(James Welter’s books are available at Catholic bookstores as well as the gift shops at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis and the Benedict Inn Retreat and Conference Center in Beech Grove. “Living in Hope,” a Lenten reflection guide for use with the book, is available free at the author’s Web site at www.ascendingview.com.) †

Local site Links: