Unleashed Book Club: Chapter 1


Welcome to the Unleashed Book Club! We’re reading Unleashed, by Sonja Corbitt.

-Unleashed Book Club 800 - CatholicMom.com copy

This chapter of Unleashed is about hospitality and fear. Don’t think there’s any connection between the two? Neither did I, but Sonja Corbitt explains just how entwined hospitality and fear are–and that we need to let go of our fear in order to show true hospitality to God:

turning the Holy Spirit loose in our hearts and giving him permission to identify and eradicate the causes of our worry, unhappiness, discontent and regret. It all begins with a simple act of hospitality. (p. 3)

I’d never considered hospitality in that sense before. In my experience, hospitality involves serving delicious meals to guests. It means welcoming them with comfortable furniture, clean bathrooms and, if you read lifestyle magazines, fresh flowers and Pinterest-worthy handcrafted décor. (I can manage the meals and the bathrooms all right, but the rest is another story.)

That’s not the kind of hospitality we need to offer to God. He has no need of luxurious furniture, fancy dinners and cut roses. What he needs is a place in our hearts.

Biblical hospitality is simply sharing all that has been given to me with those I have been given. As I do so, I welcome Christ and unleash his spirit: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:20). (p.5)

And when we let God into our hearts, he’s going to see all those corners where we shove the stuff we don’t want anyone to see, the clutter and the mess of what we can’t let go of. If we don’t clean those corners, there isn’t going to be room for God to fill our hearts.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of cleaning those corners terrifies me–even as I know that this fear is what’s holding me back. Sonja Corbitt observes,

Step-by-step through the Scriptures, the Lord assured me that as he released me from my destructive habits, relationships, circumstances, and desires, I would find rest and peace. (p. 15)

That’s what I want. Rest and peace. Freedom from fear, and trust enough to let God in–even into the cluttered corners I don’t want anyone to see. I want to offer him the kind of hospitality I’d want someone to offer me when I visit their homes.

The Church’s understanding of life’s purpose is ultimately to increase our capacity for receiving him. Pope Francis said, “God’s will is that we grow in our capacity to welcome one another, to forgive and to love, and to resemble Jesus. This is the holiness of the Church. To stop progressing is to say no to more of God. (p. 12)

In the end, I am counting on this:

God longs to unleash me from all that hinders him from bounding to me with fulfillment; he waits patiently for the invitation to unleash his Spirit into my life. (p. 8)

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. What fears are hindering me from offering God a place in my heart?
  2. What step can I take this week to better resemble Jesus by welcoming, forgiving or loving others?
  3. What passage in the Bible most speaks to me as I take this new step in my journey of faith?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 2. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Unleashed Book Club page.

Order your copy of Unleashed: How to Receive Everything the Holy Spirit Wants to Give You at Ave Maria Press


Copyright 2015 Barb Szyszkiewicz, OFS.


About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom of 3 young adults, and a Secular Franciscan. She is managing editor for Today's Catholic Teacher magazine and editor at CatholicMom.com. Barb enjoys writing, cooking, and reading, and is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.


  1. The question that resonates with me the most: What fears are hindering me from offering God a place in my heart?

    When I read this chapter (as well as your post), I, too, found myself thinking about offering God hospitality with a “Huh! Never thought of it that way before!” On the secular side of my life, I’m involved in an organization that survives and thrives only when women welcome each other into their homes… and in these days of Pinterest and HGTV, nobody wants to welcome anybody else into her home, because nobody wants to be judged for not being ready ready for a photo shoot. So I started inviting people over even if the house wasn’t perfect… and I’m not sure that worked. People come over sometimes, but mostly they don’t. I’ve even seen a dropping off of people who used to come over, who have since become older and more set in their ways, and since our ways at our house (no TV in the living room, for instance) are not their ways… our hospitality often gets turned down or forgotten. We’re not their type of comfortable, and they eschew discomfort. No accommodations on our part provide the specific type of comfort they want. It’s… difficult.

    So when I think of offering God the hospitality of my heart, first I think, “I will spruce things up as best I can, and hope my good enough is good enough for Him.” But doesn’t He deserve better than good enough? But on the other hand, doesn’t His mercy cover what I can’t?

    Which reminds me of the truest of my true friends: she’s the only friend I have who would come over and clean my toilets for me if I needed her to. Just recently she spent the weekend with us, helping to prepare our house for an actual photo shoot (to go on Realtor.com, that is). So is God the truest of true friends? My fear is that He might not be, and I won’t find out either way until it’s too late.

    • SO glad I’m not the only one!! I have what I refer to as “family’ clean and “company” clean – lol. I avoided re-starting a bible study/book club in my house, even though I knew GOD WAS ASKING because of the effort to maintain ‘company’ clean. FINALLY I decided to just be honest – and say I am not the greatest housekeeper, but I REALLY love sharing conversation over God-stuff. So, I invited, and keep the room we are in clean, and I tidying the bathroom (I live with 3 boy/men – it is the least I could do). But that is it… and everyone is so gracious to put on the blinders if they trek to the potty, and we have had the BEST Monday nights for the last 2 years!!

      • Have you seen PinterestFail.com? I completely understand what you are saying about guests. While we have been blessed with some people who are more about being with people that they enjoy instead of worrying about our furniture, not everyone is this way. I am sitting here looking at the top of my piano with my kids three Easter baskets on it. To my parents this is simply lazy and out of the realm of the correct behavior. What I know is that my kids still leave each other little treasures in them and they do a great job monitoring their candy so there is still a few lollipops left so they get to stay out!

        • Paige, that’s so sweet that your children share treasures with their siblings in their Easter baskets! I wouldn’t put them away, either, with that going on 🙂 It might not be Easter anymore, but your children clearly know that doing something nice for others is not limited to one particular season.

          • I love that about , too, Barb and Piage. In the end, you and your kids are all offering hospitality to Jesus through those baskets, despite how the parents view it, don’t you think?

    • No one comes to my house for Pinterest-y. I can do that stuff, and really like to, but my house is so unfinished (and my style is shabby chic to the nth degree!), that my prayer is simply that people who come here get a “feeling” they can’t put their finger on, but that I know is love/Jesus/little-bits-of-holiness/welcome.

      I dedicated my house to that end, and pray that every person who darkens the threshold of my home gets that feeling, whether or not they know what it is – that people feel emotionally cozy and warm here and maybe have no idea why. I recently had an atheist friend and his wife over and it was a huge, big, fun night, to my surprise. He’s pretty “worldly” and his wife is a realtor (good grief!), so it was a sacrifice of pride for me, but I am learning that’s the essence of hospitality, both with God and in practice with others.

      I do always promise it will be clean :)) and pretty in the shabbiest ways.

      • Sonja, that description of hospitality as a sacrifice of pride is so amazingly countercultural, because the popular view of hospitality involves spiffing everything up in order to buff up your own pride. I think you have the right idea. (I wish I could promise mine would always be clean, but there’s always a horde of teenage boys trooping through, so sometimes I have to settle for “reasonably sanitary.”)

      • I have been practicing this lately too. Even though I don’t like the pressure of having company over, the more I do it, the easier it gets. I try to just tidy it so it’s not dangerous to walk, but it’s rarely clean around here, due to many little messy people. =)

      • I use too attended a non catholic bible study , during that time I went through a depression as well it was awful , however they were concern about me B/C I simply with drew from attending. One day they showed up at my house well the dishes were stacked a mile high to be wash the bathrooms were a mess and I was so embarrassed of my kitchen table I look like a mess . But it kind of bug me they came so Unannounced . one women kept insisting we clean the house well know one paid Attention To her however I could only imagine what the others though was so glad when they left. Know when I think of starting a bible study I bring it to who ever is in charge of the woman’s ministry and offer the resources and then if they need me as a backup I’ m
        there . However these same women that came too my home want too study unleshed b/c they were so impress when I share Martha story there mouth just dropped open and said where did you find this material . I would like to bring it too them but still I think( I am scarred 4- life w/ my unclean home at that time. however they love what I am sharing so much they keep asking for more . In away I think it’s gray be/c it’s catholic & most of them did leave the church but feel nervous about being embarrassed again ( can you relate (? Well
        I guess ladies as we be again this study we do have a lot of clutter me needed the lord to clean out.That was my awful experience and I’ll never forget always keep the bathroom clean not least the dishes washed if you can . One thing saying it the other is doing it.

        • Marina, thanks for sharing your experience–and I’m inspired by your courage to start up a new study group. I hope that as everyone studies this book together they will realize that the externals are not the most important thing.

          • BarB thanks for your reply it means a lot too me . Please pray I we’ll be able to bring this too the women We can all relate we all have corner to be clean out . And I must open my heart first clean my junk & if it means opening my house up well I will know the Lord will take care of the rest . Beleive I must. Blessing

    • Erin–WOW…I am really shocked that people would refuse your hospitality like that. That’s a very harsh thing to do, and no wonder it has the effect of undermining your trust. And it’s a sad commentary on our times that no one wants to welcome others into their homes for fear of being judged. (You can come on over here anytime. I may or may not move the stack of hymnals off the coffee table that have been sitting here since Wednesday’s choir practice…)

        • After reflecting on this for a couple of years now, and after worrying it’s because I’m not being hospitable enough, I realize that hospitality goes both ways. If I’m going to join someone else’s life, I can’t expect that person to bend to me. We must bend together. And if others aren’t bending to me, even if I’ve bent over backwards, it’s just a reminder how much I need to understand that the gods of our culture are named Pleasure, Comfort, And Ease. They are pleasant gods to serve and hard to turn aside, and I am no less guilty of serving them than the people who don’t want to hang out in our TV-less, terrier-full living room!

  2. I am SO excited we are journeying with this book this Summer. I not only covered this on my radio show – A Seeking Heart ( YOU have to listen to my interview with Sonja Corbitt … she is so FUNNY: http://realjoy.podbean.com/e/a-seeking-heart-w-allison-gingras-feat-sonja-corbitt-live-050115/ )

    My bible study group is ALSO spending the summer with Unleashed, and I have invited them ALL to comment and share their thoughts!! So much fun — I found this book LIFE changing. ONE I have been waiting to come from a Catholic Author for a long time!!

    Scripture speaking to me lately — as I move from kind of a self-absorbed time in my life to a more Christ centered : “Can any of you add one moment to your life span by worrying” UM nope. I’ve tried.

    • I’ve only read through Chapter 1, but I’m already hooked. I feel this book came along right at the same time. There are so many “surface issue” books. Books that try to make us feel like we’re changing our habits, but they aren’t really. THIS one, I can tell is a game-changer. Excited and looking forward to learning more and seeing what the Holy Spirit has planned.

    • I believe I miss that interview can I cath it ?
      I feel this book every women can relate too I know I have had raged in my life like sonja at off frustration . However about 3 years ago The Lord stated showing me my self a fed I kept feeling like the Israelites because they wanted complain . I would find my self taking another round on the Mountain . However as I read it’s good to know I an not alone and if Sonja can walk off the mountain I can too. Sonja you where right Gid never wast one thing that happens too us .
      However I still question how the people we pick like our husban or maybe friends are our Mirrors please explain thanks ?

  3. Barb, I’m intrigued by your second question — what can I do to better emulate Jesus’s love for others? It seems that he went out of his way to love, to welcome, the unloveable. This week, I’m going to keep my eyes and ears opened for people who are “unloveable” and try to shower a bit of care on them. I’m going to to try to do this without any expectation of something in return from them, and also hopefully in a way that is not obvious to others.

    I also really want to make sure I get to adoration this week, to give Jesus a special welcome in my heart amidst the crazy busyness.

  4. Barb, your post reminded me of something Allison Gingras said to me on her radio show when she interviewed me: that generosity can be generosity of spirit, not necessarily just a physical generosity. I think that is what you are saying about hospitality, too – that there is a spiritual hospitality that involves a magnanimity of heart, an openness to God and to others that is generous. That supersedes the “doing” and running around to make our homes and meals perfect. I think it’s essentially about being more of a Mary than a Martha – to be, to listen rather than to do and busy ourselves. 🙂

  5. What a wonderful conversation on chapter 1! I am in a similar boat with several of you. I long for a neat and orderly home, but right now, that is just not what I have. With six children and some medical complications, I just don’t have it in me. The thought of having others over causes a bit of anxiety because of this. But even prior to this point in time, I have struggled with hospitality. And I think I have for 2 reasons: 1) I’m a perfectionist, and 2) I’m an introvert. With perfectionism, I want people to see a certain side of me, but maybe not ALL sides of me. When I have had guests over, this struggle has led me to sheer exhaustion by the time they go home. My whole body aches! I think the exhaustion ties into my introvert personality, too, though … Anyway, bringing this back to God. I wonder if I just want God to see part of me. That I don’t want Him to peek into those dark corners that are a mess. What will He find? Will He be disappointed? Will He want to go home? To answer Christ’s question, “What do you wish?” Of course, I want God to reign in ALL areas of my heart … And for that to happen, I must beg the Holy Spirit to unleash me from the worry, the perfectionism, the fear, the anxiety, so that I may welcome God and others … messy house and all!

    • Amen! I hear you on the personality thing; I’m the same way.

      I’m going to spend some time this week on Psalm 139. I love most of the psalms. This one scares me, because it is asking me to extend God that kind of hospitality that I am afraid to offer. So I know I need to spend some time praying it!

    • Hey Sarah! Love that you’re reading this too! Yes! The anxiety before people come over & the exhaustion. I am similar. It completely exhausts me to have company over, even just for a few hours, but I still think it’s good practice to be generous with our time and space, so I try to practice, but it is hard not to worry and to try to “relax”, instead of stress while being hospitable to people.

  6. I am so glad I read about this book study in one of the CatholicMom e-mails. It was perfect timing. Thank you, Holy Spirit! What I struggle most with is contentment, and that is exactly what the intro. to the book discusses. I have thought about it a lot lately – what causes me to be discontented, what are my hopes/dreams, how does God want me to use these for Him? Chapter 1 was really insightful. What fears are hindering me? I really hate to admit I have any, but I feel like I am at a standstill, spiritually, and have been for a while. I do not know what it is, but when I dig a little, I feel that maybe it is fear of failure. A fear that being holy and giving myself completely to God is too difficult and that I will fail. I think TRUST in God is a big one for many of us. I don’t know how to really completely trust God. I will just have to pray and ask Him to show me. This week, regarding hospitality, I would like to focus on being loving and kind and treat every person as if they were Jesus, especially my children. And to not be lazy in it. Sometimes I make excuses for msyelf – often times – the “I’m a mom and I’m tired”, maybe this is okay sometimes and maybe it is just an excuse at other times. I am giving myself permission to rest when I need rest, but to be generous in kindness, love, and little acts of service.

  7. Gina Felter on

    Hospitality for me most recently has been redefined from being a welcoming and hospitable place of comfort for others to welcoming others to join in my life. Opening my heart, home and family to others is something that I have always enjoyed. But I do need to remember that they are joining in my life. I sometimes try too hard to be accommodating and end up putting out my own family for the sake of guests. While this is a lesson of hospitality and sacrifice there is a point when this generosity goes too far. All in balance. The key is the invitation to Join in my life. Contrasting this with my relationship with God I’d say there is huge similarity. I am totally open and welcoming but don’t go to deep. Always on guard. This makes me laugh because when I am in-tune to God’s presence and workings in my life He strikes a chord that surges my entire being into falling into his Holy will. For me it is walking side by side. I am not asked to be something I am not. Just as I am not asked to be the perfect hostess. Rather, I am asked to be the person he created me to be and invite others to join in the journey.

    • I really like your comment on asking others to join your life ! This is a fantastic concept and I really think it is true. As a introvert, as some of you mentioned, with big trust issues, this is honestly much harder than cleaning up my house and making dinner.

  8. First let me say, this book club could not come at a better time. This was my first year back to work as a teacher after being a SAHM for almost 6 years. Before going back to work, I was really involved in different bible studies, women’s groups, and had a much deeper spiritual life. The demands of this year really took a toll on that portion of my life. I’m ashamed to say that those things were the first things to go by the wayside when life got hectic. To that end, question 3 really spoke to me. The scripture that keeps popping out is “Be still, and know that I am God.” I need this reminder daily, hourly even. When it doesn’t seem like there are enough hours in the day, I need to remember that there is always time to just be with God, even for a minute or two. All that other “stuff,” is just that, stuff.

    I’m really looking forward to the rest of this book. It sounds challenging, but worth it.

    • Dear Katie,
      God bless you! Your comment really spoke to me. I was home with 5 children for 13 years before going back to work and experienced the same feeling of loss in my spiritual life. It’s an ongoing concern but it does get better. I heard Pope Francis once say ‘let Jesus SEE you’ and it helped me to believe that I can call upon God and be thankful is so many ways-day by day and moment by moment-by being present to Him in the messiness of work and family life. Also, with time that intense desire for God crept back into daily life. The Bible on my night table and Kindle books were a Godsend – instant encouragement – I’m going to get Unleashed on Kindle today! Courage!

      • I just had to butt in to say: aren’t Kindle books great?! I am such a convert! I own this particular book in print, but most of what I read nowadays is on my Kindle. You’re totally right – it makes reading so accessible and faster for a busy mom. Really a Godsend!

        • Tiffinay , I have a kindle too however where do you fine the page number ? Is it just my kindle I go to the chapters but can’t fine the page number? I have the HDX Fire 7 ?

          • Tiffany you mention you have a kindle I do too however I don’t see the page # just , well O can go to the chapter how do you fine the page?

          • Hi Marina! I have a Kindle ereader, not a Fire tablet, so I’m not certain if it’s different. On mine, page #’s don’t automatically come up, but I press to access the “controls” for moving within the book, the page # appears at the bottom.

  9. Question #1 really resonates with me as well. I am an anxious person by nature, a real Nervous Nelly 🙂 and frequently I let fear of so many things (rejection, failure, etc) take root in my heart, rather than praying and seeking God’s guidance. I loved the tie-in to hospitality in this chapter, I had never thought of my spiritual life in those terms, and it’s so lovely! I thought Sonja did an excellent job of evoking the type of image many of us have of an inviting home, and then applying it to our relationship with the Lord.

  10. I have learn if this from Martha and Mary if we should pass away what does it matter if the bath room was not clean ?
    We need that time with the Lord to it’s so important As I read sonja book she always seem to pray and ask God to show her and he does .
    I think Sonja just really knows how to listen to God b/c she has develop that relationship with him and that’s something I know I need to work on . My relationship listen know God voice if we don’t stop and spend time with him how can he deliver us from our fears and anxieties , the key is And I speake for my self too he needs to come first in our life.

  11. I had decided to reread the first chapter again slowly Ch.1 this time I made a point to look up verses and the catechism .I always thought of Jesus when he ask the women ” What do you want of me” I notice in the NT he say’s it more than once when things are said twice or three times pay attention there is a message ,
    hmm, Hmm, made me think as I look up scripture and ponders a lot especially , when Sonja said WHAT DOES HOME LOOK LIKE FOR OR SMELL” this was a hard one but I was surprised by what I came up with ” my childhood home my mother laughter the sound of her playing the piano as I fell asleep , my bedroom lying on my bed how warm and safe I felt , how she was always fun to be around every Saturday night we would watch THE Carol Burnett show TV” it was such a funny show ” if anyone remember it☺️. As I thought about it I guess I enjoy what time I could spend with her because growing up in the late 60’s &70’s. When mother would stay at home and be a hormeroom mothers ” my mom was ahead of her time she was a school teacher and soon got her masters went on to went on to teach in the University . Therefore she was never home . That thought was Big for me some reason well life changes & we grow getting marred at 21 years old moving out. Of state well was just was horrible for me my husband was an alcoholic and nine years later I divorced him . As soon as I divorced him my mother passed away at age 56 much like something Sonja said in your 20s you don’t do funerals and I did and that was my mom the day I felt the music died in me ,, the heart of the home was gone . I in many ways didn’t realize I had not realize the rage that came out in my 2nd marriage& I didn’t understand it. Before she pass away I was very much the hostess & love it because my mom Love to entertain cousins aunts come and visit it was so much fun and laughter and I’m truly miss that . The last time we where together was with her was at mass in the front row which I hate to set in the row the priest right at your face .
    That very front row we sat on my mother and I was the same row the family sat on the day of her funeral mass where everybody comes by and says I’m so sorry ? Oh weird was that the church was so crowded it was hardly enough people to set ok. For me that as the “For mr that eas the day the music died in me cliché as the song goes

    Hebrews: 13:2 it reads you never know when you entertain an angel I went out of my Confront zone and decided to do something different look up notes in the CCC WE COULD ALSO VIST ” the imprisonment And melinllnees . I chose the mentally illness an old woman crying wanting to talk and I sat down next knowing what to say so I share the story of Martha and the stone she started to cry and then got happy and sad I’m going to buy that book it gave her hope.
    In Hebrew 13:2, page 3. It reads you never know when you entertain angels okay I a while mediateon this dont know if there where angels thief?
    Then I thought the least of people like ,those in prison ,homeless ., and even , mentally ill at first I was kind of scared but I did pray before I went,
    I’m not saying all of you need to go do this it’s just something I thought of doing for my myself bring hospitality okay I know it’s weird but do we ever think of them? because I never do .
    But do you remember Jim Baker show and Tammy Fay Banker she would go and sing to the women in prison . Ok many of you would not know this show and I,am not old Sonja can tell you .
    However she would go and sing to them every year and preach to them with Gave them .
    Oh changing the subject ;
    I saw a different world I had never seen before you would be surprise they look just like me and you but have issues this patients are treated as an outdoor patient they come in the morning
    Just thought I would share my experience .
    Another different story last one
    In memory of Tammy face Baker “JEASUS LOVES YOU HE REALLY DOES”

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