Weekend Daybook: the first of 2019 edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this month

January walk at St. Mary’s by the Sea in Black Rock (Bridgeport)

January walk at St. Mary’s by the Sea in Black Rock (Bridgeport)


(2) links to celebrate MLK’s birthday

  1. Martin Luther King, Jr. – His Prophetic Faith in 15 Quotes via Englewood Review of Books

  2. Martin Luther King, Jr. – In His Own Words [Video] via Englewood Review of Books


(3) new blog posts from this week

  1. Epiphany 1: Baptism of the Lord (Look, Listen, Read, Pray, and Do to remember our own baptism in the belovedness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.)

  2. 7 Literary Books Our Church Read Together in 2018 {Apostles Reads} (From the true and devastating accounts of one lawyer’s campaign to free the wrongfully imprisoned in Just Mercy to the bittersweet fictional tale of a lonely college rad roaming the streets of Chicago with a basketball and a fantastical pet dog in Chicago to the relentlessly shocking characters in Flannery O’Connor’s deep South and more, this little reading community has responded to each title with grace, humility, empathy, and intellectual curiosity. I’m honored to be among them.)

  3. What I Read October - December {From the Book Pile 2018} (Hope you enjoy these micro reviews!)


(4) photos from Kendra’s UNT graduation!

In mid-December we drove (!) to Denton, TX to celebrate Kendra’s graduation from University of North Texas. We rented a mini-van in order to take Natalie the rest of her belongings we still had stored in a closet and to bring back all of Kendra’s belongings from her college life. I’ve come to understand that about 70 % of parenting is figuring out how to keep track of everyone’s stuff.

We rented an Airbnb in Denton so all the kids could crash together with us for the weekend. On Friday we celebrated a belated 21st birthday party with Natalie (more on that another time), on Sunday we celebrated Christmas (another bonus for driving - presents!), but Saturday was all about KENDRA. She persevered through some pretty tough circumstances to make it to this day (as do most college students, I imagine) and we wanted her to know we were so proud of her accomplishment. I helped Alex prepare pots of his famous chili recipe so that a bunch of Kendra’s amazing friends from the past four and a half years could come to the rental house and celebrate with us. It was pretty much perfect (including my obligatory ceremonial cry).


(5) links (that I’ve paid attention to) re: about the border crisis

  1. Advent, Caravans, and Engaging Their Humanity by Rev. Michael Jarrett via The Diocese of Churches For the Sake of Others ("I think one of the countless gifts our Lord gives us is a renewal of our faculty to care.")

  2. Phoenix-area families opening their homes to migrants released by ICE by Griselda Zetino via KTAR News ("“They’re here to help serve food or help distribute clothing,” he said. “But as they get a chance to meet the people and see the people, by the end of the evening they’re stepping up and saying ‘Hey, I’m willing to take somebody home with me.’”)

  3. Trump’s Border Wall Prototypes Are Minimalist Art — and Should Be a National Monument via New York Magazine (Artist Christoph Büchel saw the prototypes for President Trump’s border wall, and proposed that they be made a national monument — a concept several critics dismissed as trolling. But New York’s Senior Art Critic Jerry Saltz begs to differ; the monuments, he says, are “perfect minimalist sculpture.”)

  4. Maria Rivas and Emily via StoryCorps (“Im terrified of missing you growing up.”)

  5. Retirees and Refugees: How 93-year-old Julia Allen builds community through ESL (“Their long-term goal is to help 11 elderly refugee participants pass the naturalization test that they must take within seven years of being granted entry to the U.S. — if they hope to access social services.”)


(6) photos from Christmas in Texas with our kids!

We managed to fill the mini-van with presents, some of our Christmas decorations, and some of the pots and pans we use for our favorite traditional recipes. Have Christmas, will travel!

  1. Our “Christmas” morning nativity story on the back porch in Texas farmland.

  2. One of the favorite gifts for our teacher son who sees Fred Rogers as an icon for the classroom.

  3. My friend Jen felted these little HP ornaments FROM SCRATCH to give to our kids.

  4. Brian surprised me with the incredibly thoughtful gift of asking our friend Monica to add to the set of Christmas stockings I’ve had since I was a little girl. She also cleaned up the old stockings which were singed in our New Year’s Eve 2002 house fire. Can you tell which stockings are the old ones?

  5. Some of our favorite Christmas Eve tastes and smells.

  6. This 28-year-old, handmade (by my sister-in-law, JoAnn) Nativity set deserved to be carried along on this Christmas pilgrimage after surviving all those years we’d never heard of unbreakable nativity figurines and let our little kids handle them while we scolded and read them the Bible.


(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2018 - Encountering Christ in a D.C. Suburb {Walking Epiphany 2018 series} (As a former youth leader, I hope it's okay to say I am so proud of the woman Glorya has become, and I wish I could have heard her Neighborhood Honor Contract idea when my kids were younger!)

    You can see more from this series that published this time of the year: Rio Grande Valley & University of Notre Dame)

  2. 2017 - A Few More Words About the Hole in Wendell Berry’s Gospel (As I’ve been given the gift to reconsider my essay, I’ve been able to gain clarity what I’m hoping to say in response to those who wish to follow his ideals.)

  3. 2016 - A Season of Abundant Celebrations, part 5 {pretty, funny, happy, real series} (Thanks to outrageous generosity by our Christ Church friends and neighbors who helped provide beds, vehicles, and even entire houses, we were able to let the Wedding feasting last a whole week (sort of like the old Jewish customs, maybe?))

  4. 2011 - Dismantling the Family Enterprise (Ten of us cousins snarled up together at every church meeting, every family celebration, every summer picnic.  Some might have seen the perfect opportunity for legendary whiffle ball tournaments, starry-night manhunt sessions.  Not I.  I saw the ideal set-up for creative productions.)

  5. 2010 - I Surrender (A painting that changed my life and helped me forgive.)

  6. 2009 - Making Moments {Disciplines for the Inner Life series} (In my past I would have shot straight toward the Grand Plan to Cheer Up this Friend. I just happen to be out of grand plans when it comes to relationships. So I stood and gazed and nodded. We prayed together. And, like a small thought, a small idea, during the final sentence of prayer it occurred to me. "We're going to Subway. Do you want to join us?" )

  7. 2009 - Solitude {Disciplines for the Inner Life Series} (For, perhaps the first time in my life, I began to understand that God's rescue at noon and at night might possibly look like me laying in my bathrobe, propped up on pillows, kept company by a box of tissues and my journal. It was not pretty like an extreme close-up of a pink, tear-stained face at the end of a movie, but I'm quite certain that if I could have seen into the spiritual realm that afternoon I might have been able to see a ten thousand demons fallen by my side and a thousand at my right hand. I had made it through the day.)

6 years ago

Visiting home and enjoying time with my sister and pre-born niece, Ellie.


May your weekend include some time at home and some time with friends that welcome your tears as well as your laughter. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

What I Read October - December 2018

With the increased reading for my spiritual direction certification, my time for other types of reading is more limited. Still I managed to get through a few titles to finish up 2018. Hope you enjoy the micro reviews + publisher blurbs! Let me know if you add anything from this list to your book pile!

October work date with Brian at  Book Trader Cafe  in New Haven

October work date with Brian at Book Trader Cafe in New Haven

You can see my 2018 reading list here. | You can see all my reading lists since 2006 here.

One other note: Last year I began using Amazon affiliate links as a way to bring in some pocket change from the books I share on the blog. I was challenged by an independent bookseller to reconsider this strategy as Amazon has a poor reputation in its dealings with authors and other members of the book industry. I want to champion local business and humane working relationships and so I've included an IndieBound link that will direct you to purchase any of the following books from an independent bookseller near you. I've also included the order link for one of my new favorite booksellers, Hearts and Minds Books.  Using the link I've provided you can order any book through heartsandmindsbooks.com, a full service, independent bookstore and receive prompt and personal service. They even offer the option to receive the order with an invoice and a return envelope so you can send them a check! Brian and I've been delighted with the generous attention we've received from owners Byron and Beth Borger. We feel like we've made new friends! (I also highly recommend subscribing to Byron's passionately instructive and prolific Booknotes posts.)


Novels

37. Virgil Wander
By Leif Enger (Grove House, 2018. 352 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"The first novel in ten years from award-winning, million-copy bestselling author Leif Enger, Virgil Wander is an enchanting and timeless all-American story that follows the inhabitants of a small Midwestern town in their quest to revive its flagging heart.

Midwestern movie house owner Virgil Wander is “cruising along at medium altitude” when his car flies off the road into icy Lake Superior. Virgil survives but his language and memory are altered and he emerges into a world no longer familiar to him. Awakening in this new life, Virgil begins to piece together his personal history and the lore of his broken town, with the help of a cast of affable and curious locals―from Rune, a twinkling, pipe-smoking, kite-flying stranger investigating the mystery of his disappeared son; to Nadine, the reserved, enchanting wife of the vanished man, to Tom, a journalist and Virgil’s oldest friend; and various members of the Pea family who must confront tragedies of their own. Into this community returns a shimmering prodigal son who may hold the key to reviving their town.

With intelligent humor and captivating whimsy, Leif Enger conjures a remarkable portrait of a region and its residents, who, for reasons of choice or circumstance, never made it out of their defunct industrial district. Carried aloft by quotidian pleasures including movies, fishing, necking in parked cars, playing baseball and falling in love, Virgil Wander is a swift, full journey into the heart and heartache of an often overlooked American Upper Midwest by a “formidably gifted” (Chicago Tribune) master storyteller."

Micro Review:

After a decade of no new work, I was eager to read anything Leif Enger’s written. I was delighted that it was this book. I’m not sure anything will ever match my love for Enger’s Peace Like A River, but Virgil Wander delivered a cast of characters I enjoyed meeting in a setting I loved. A few times I got caught imagining everyone as if they were the cast of The Majestic (starring Jim Carrey) because there are a couple of uncanny similarities in the plot. By the end of the story, though, I was fully living the kite-flying, beachcombing life on the shore of Lake Superior.


Apostles Reads Selections

38. The Complete Stories (FSG Classics)
By Flannery O’Connor (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First edition, 1971. 576 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“The publication of this extraordinary volume firmly established Flannery O'Connor's monumental contribution to American fiction. There are thirty-one stories here in all, including twelve that do not appear in the only two story collections O'Connor put together in her short lifetime--Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find.

O'Connor published her first story, "The Geranium," in 1946, while she was working on her master's degree at the University of Iowa. Arranged chronologically, this collection shows that her last story, "Judgement Day"--sent to her publisher shortly before her death―is a brilliantly rewritten and transfigured version of "The Geranium." Taken together, these stories reveal a lively, penetrating talent that has given us some of the most powerful and disturbing fiction of the twentieth century. Also included is an introduction by O'Connor's longtime editor and friend, Robert Giroux.

Micro Review:

My loyalty to Ms. O’Connor has faltered a few times in the current revelations of white supremacy stubbornly cloistered in the Church. After assigning our church’s reading group read this title for Ordinary Time, Brian and I started re-reading the stories out loud to each other. The impact of hearing our own voices repeating the “N” word which takes up so much word count in Flannery O’Connor’s short stories felt something like hearing myself shout “Crucify Him!” in the public recitation of the Passion accounts during Holy Week each year. In that light, we found value in placing ourselves in the role of the shameless racism of so many of O’Connor’s characters. After all, “we and our fathers have sinned” and there’s a backwards kind of kindness in the relentless monstrosity of these characters and stories. After reading her work yet again, I still see the brilliance in her refusal to paint even a single sentence with sentimentality and pray for eyes to see within my own self the seeds of self-righteous monstrosity steering the truest so many antagonists written in her stories.

39. A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens, Narrated by Tim Curry (Released, 2010. 3 hours, 31 minutes)

Amazon Audible | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“This version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, masterfully narrated by Tim Curry, was available for a limited time last year, and now it's back. This one-of-a-kind performance puts a unique spin on a treasured classic, and served as the inspiration for the exciting new line of Audible Signature Classics, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with Elijah Wood, and Heart of Darkness with Kenneth Branagh. Tim Curry performs this timeless holiday story in a deliciously dark tone, returning it to its Dickensian roots with a vivid imagining of Victorian London and just the right touch of outrageous fun.

A Christmas Carol has constantly been in print since its original publication in 1849, and has been adapted for stage, television, film, and opera. It has often been credited with returning the jovial and festive atmosphere to the holiday season in Britain and North America, following the somber period that emerged during the Industrial Revolution.

The story opens on a bleak and cold Christmas Eve as Ebenezer Scrooge is closing up his office for the day. As the story progresses and Christmas morning approaches, Scrooge encounters the unforgettable characters that make this story a classic: Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and, of course, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.”

Micro Review:

This was the Advent and Christmastide selection for Apostles Reads.

I have a book confession. I have never read a single one of Dickens' novels, including the classic-of-all-Christmas classics, A Christmas Carol. What better time to repent of my reading transgressions than the start of our third year reading together?

Further confession: Even though I've never read the actual book, I own several copies. I also watch several versions of the various film every December (while I'm on a confession roll, Kermit the Frog is my favorite Bob Cractchit!)

Brian and I “read” this title via audiobook on our drive to celebrate Christmas in Texas with our kids. We loved Tim Curry as our narrator! Highly recommend reading, listening, and watching this story as long as we live with Christmases Yet To Come.


Essays & Non-Fiction

40. Writings From The New Yorker, 1927 - 1976
By E. B. White (Harper Perennial; Reissue edition, 2006. 256 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“A delightful, witty, spirited collection of short pieces and essays by the inimitable E. B. White.”

Micro Review: E. B. White is one of my all-time favorites for both Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan. I love his voice in his non-fiction as well. This collection of essays covers an unforgettable era in America’s history and while Mr. White often chooses a slight rose-colored hue in his perspective on the world, the overall affect of decades of his column is one of goodness and beauty. 

 

41. The Writing Life
By Ellen Gilchrist (University Press of Mississippi, 2005. 226 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“Celebrated author Ellen Gilchrist has played many roles-writer and speaker, wife and lover, mother and grandmother. But she never tackled the role of teacher.

Offered the opportunity to teach creative writing at the University of Arkansas, she took up the challenge and ventured into unknown territory. In the process of teaching more than two hundred students since her first class in 2000, she has found inspiration in their lives and ambitions and in the challenge of conveying to them the lessons she has learned from living and writing.

The Writing Life brings together fifty essays and vignettes centered on the transforming magic of literature and the teaching and writing of it. A portion of the collection discusses the delicate balance between an artistic life and family commitments, especially the daily pressures and frequent compromises faced by a young mother. Gilchrist next focuses on the process of writing itself with essays ranging from "How I Wrote a Book of Short Stories in Three Months" to "Why Is Rewriting so Hard?"

Several essays discuss her appreciation of other writers, from Shakespeare to Larry McMurtry, and the lessons she learned from them. Eudora Welty made an indelible impact on Gilchrist's work. When Gilchrist takes on the task of teaching, her essays reveal an enriched understanding of the role writing plays in any life devoted to the craft. Humorous and insightful, she assesses her own abilities as an instructor and confronts the challenge of inspiring students to attain the discipline and courage to pursue the sullen art. Some of these pieces have been previously published in magazines, but most are unpublished and all appear here in book form for the first time.”

Micro Review: Simple, enjoyable essays on the life of a woman and a writer. I especially appreciated Ms. Gilchrist’s insights to what it means to look back on her life as a someone who was and still is both a mother and a writer.


Poetry

42. Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year
By Malcolm Guite (Canterbury Press Norwich, 2012. 108 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“Poetry has always been a central element of Christian spirituality and is increasingly used in worship, in pastoral services and guided meditation. In Sounding the Seasons, Cambridge poet, priest and singer-songwriter Malcolm Guite transforms seventy lectionary readings into lucid, inspiring poems, for use in regular worship, seasonal services, meditative reading or on retreat.

Already widely recognised, Malcolm's writing has been acclaimed by Rowan Williams and Luci Shaw, two leading contemporary religious poets. Seven Advent poems from this collection will appear in the next edition of Penguin's (US) Best Spiritual Writing edited by Philip Zaleski, alongside the work of writers such as Seamus Heaney and Annie Dillard.

A section of practical help and advice for using poetry creatively and effectively in worship is also included.

Micro Review: I refer to Malcolm Guite’s sonnets as closely as I do to any other theologian I read and was delighted to introduce his work to our church’s reading group last year. In the collection Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, Guite turns 70 lectionary readings into beautiful, poignant spiritual reflections. We read through this book as a companion to all our reading during 2018, reading several aloud each time we gathered. As a bonus, we grew in our understanding and appreciation for the sonnet as a classic poetic form.


Prayer / Spirituality / Spiritual Direction / Bible Study

43. Go In Peace: The Art of Hearing Confessions
By Julia Gatta & Martin L. Smith (Morehouse Publishing, 2012. 144 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“Although the sacramental Rite of Reconciliation is included in many Anglican prayer books, nothing has been written expressly Anglicans since the 1980s that focuses on the pastoral skills required for this ministry.  This book combines and passes on the teaching, coaching, skill development, and accumulated pastoral wisdom that has not been widely accessible or well integrated into clergy training.

Realistic transcripts and "verbatims" of sample confessions and counseling sessions involving a wide range of people makes this a unique ministry resource for most seminaries and theological colleges, plus clergy in general-including Lutheran pastors who use the rite of "Individual Confession and Absolution" in the Lutheran Book of Worship.”

Micro Review: I read Go In Peace as part of my spiritual direction certification requirements. It will end up being in the top five of my favorites from the course. While various denominations practice giving and receiving confession in community in a variety of ways, Gatta and Smith provide theological insight and encouragement for all of us to embrace this means of grace for wholeness and intimacy with God, each other, and ourselves. If you care about participating in a healthy church, I recommend this book.

44. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation
By Parker J. Palmer (Jossey-Bass, 1999. 128 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“With wisdom, compassion, and gentle humor, Parker J. Palmer invites us to listen to the inner teacher and follow its leadings toward a sense of meaning and purpose. Telling stories from his own life and the lives of others who have made a difference, he shares insights gained from darkness and depression as well as fulfillment and joy, illuminating a pathway toward vocation for all who seek the true calling of their lives.”

Micro Review: I’d heard so often from people who enjoyed this book and finally read it during my Ordinary Time blog series, Work Stories. I inhaled the brief, but profound book. I need to buy my own copy since I’d borrowed the one I read from the library and couldn’t underline or bookmark anything. Highly recomend.

 

45. The Good and Beautiful Community: Following the Spirit, Extending Grace, Demonstrating Love (Apprentice Series)
By James Bryan Smith (IVP Books, 2010. 240 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“In this third book in the Apprentice Series, James Bryan Smith helps us know how to live in relationship with others as apprentices of Jesus. "Apprentices of Jesus are not part-time do-gooders," he writes. "They live in continuous contact with the kingdom of God, and are constantly men and women in whom Christ dwells. They do not sometimes tell the truth, sometimes live sacrificially or sometimes forgive. There are myriad opportunities for us to impact the world in which we live." Yet many times we've gotten it wrong, tending to emphasize personal faith over social justice or vice versa. In these pages Jim Smith shows us how to bring spiritual formation and community engagement together, and then once again offers spiritual practices that root new, true narratives about God and the world in our souls. His insight and humility as a fellow learner with us will lead us to live in authentic ways as a good and beautiful community of Christ-followers, shining the light of the Spirit into every relationship.”

Micro Review: Our small group at church finished this, the third and final title in James Bryan Smith’s Apprentice series. I’m still impressed not only with the author's substantive, but accessible, theological insight, but also with his gracious tone and impeccable recommendations for spiritual practices to make each theological truth about what it means to live in church community root itself deeply in our hearts. Highly recommend - especially for group reading!

46. Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony In A Complex World
By Richard J. Foster (HarperOne, 2005. 272 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“A revised and updated edition of the manifesto that shows how simplicity is not merely having less stress and more leisure but an essential spiritual discipline for the health of our soul.”

Micro Review: I borrowed this book from my friend Walter (hope he doesn’t mind I’ve had it so long!). During this cultural conversation about minimalism, I recommend reading Foster’s classic word on the subject guide your theology and practices.

 

47. The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self
By M. Robert Mulholland Jr. (IVP Books, 2016. 188 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“As you journey deeper in the Christian pilgrimage, you come to realize that the Christian life is more than merely replicating particular spiritual disciplines or practices. You begin to understand that at the core of Christian faith is the transformation of your very identity. M. Robert Mulholland Jr. exposes the false selves that you may be tempted to hide behind and helps you to instead discover the true self that comes from being hidden with Christ in God. If the goal of the Christian journey is Christlikeness, then you must reckon with the unhealthy ways that you root your sense of being in things other than God. Along the way, you will discover a growing sense of intimacy and abandonment to God. Not only will you encounter the joy of discovering your own self, you will also find a greater love for others and compassion for the world. The expanded edition includes a study guide for individual reflection or group discussion.”

Micro Review: Of the dozens of titles I’ve been assigned to read for my spiritual direction certification, The Deeper Journey is my favorite by a large margin. Those of you who know us, know that Brian and I have relentlessly pursued freedom and healing to live from our truest selves - that part of us imagined and designed by our Creator God. We’ve learned from many good teachers on the subject, but Mulholland seems to synthesize the essence of the theology of our human identity redeemed by Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. He writes with depth but not dryness, hope for all but not patronizing of the reader’s experience, and truth but not theological imprecision. Read this book.

48. The Solace of Fierce Landscapes: Exploring Desert and Mountain Spirituality
By Belden C. Lane (Oxford University Press, 2007. 296 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“In the tradition of Kathleen Norris, Terry Tempest Williams, and Thomas Merton, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes explores the impulse that has drawn seekers into the wilderness for centuries and offers eloquent testimony to the healing power of mountain silence and desert indifference.

Interweaving a memoir of his mother's long struggle with Alzheimer's and cancer, meditations on his own wilderness experience, and illuminating commentary on the Christian via negativa--a mystical tradition that seeks God in the silence beyond language--Lane rejects the easy affirmations of pop spirituality for the harsher but more profound truths that wilderness can teach us. "There is an unaccountable solace that fierce landscapes offer to the soul. They heal, as well as mirror, the brokeness we find within." It is this apparent paradox that lies at the heart of this remarkable book: that inhuman landscapes should be the source of spiritual comfort. Lane shows that the very indifference of the wilderness can release us from the demands of the endlessly anxious ego, teach us to ignore the inessential in our own lives, and enable us to transcend the "false self" that is ever-obsessed with managing impressions. Drawing upon the wisdom of St. John of the Cross, Meister Eckhardt, Simone Weil, Edward Abbey, and many other Christian and non-Christian writers, Lane also demonstrates how those of us cut off from the wilderness might "make some desert" in our lives.

Written with vivid intelligence, narrative ease, and a gracefulness that is itself a comfort, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes gives us not only a description but a "performance" of an ancient and increasingly relevant spiritual tradition”

Micro Review: In The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, author Belden C. Lane creates a physical setting of desert for the spiritual work that takes place when we seek a holy detachment from all of the distractions created by external circumstances of our everyday life. Lane repeatedly warns against the temptation to romanticize the monastic work done in silence and solitude. Referring to the desert as a “geography of abandonment”, sets the stage as the place “where one confronts one’s inevitable loss of control, the inadequacy of language, the spectre of one’s own demise.” Lane posits that only in the poverty that comes with an exchange of self-determination for a holy indifference can the seeker can find the “naked intent” of prayer. In that prayer, we know our truest desire only as we release it to the control of a God we may or may not be able to see or hear. The end result of this kind of surrender, according to Lane, is the prized fruit of love. I especially enjoyed this book since the author weaves throughout his experience visiting the Monastery of Christ in the Desert which Brian and I visited during our road trip to New Mexico back in our own desert season of 2015.


Christmas Reading

49. A Child’s Christmas In Wales
By Dylan Thomas (48 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“This nostalgic recollection of Christmas past by celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas evokes the beauty and tradition of the season at every turn: the warmth of a family gathering; the loveliness of a mistletoe-decked home; the predictability of cats by the fire; the mischief and fun of children left to their own devices; and the sheer delight of gifts--be they Useful or Useless. 

Readers will cherish this beautiful hardcover edition of the classic A Child's Christmas in Wales complete with gold-foil stars, a debossed, glossy front picture, and sparkling snowflakes. Once inside, readers are rewarded with stunning, midnight-blue endpapers sprinkled with a flurry of more snowflakes. This book is a must-have gift for the season. 

Brilliantly illustrated by Caldecott medalist Trina Schart Hyman with a combination of more than 40 full-color and sepia-toned images, this beautiful edition of Thomas's beloved classic will enchant readers of all ages, year after year.”

Micro Review: Always and forever a must-read for me at Christmastime. If you visit me during Christmas, I’ll probably force you to listen to me read it out loud. Be warned.

50. The Thirteen Days of Christmas
By Jenny Overton (48 pages)

Amazon | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“This is the heart-warming story of how three of the Kitson children help the wealthy merchant woo their older sister Annaple with a different gift for each of the twelve days of Christmas - with hilarious results! But as the house groans at the seams with partridges, calling birds, swans,maids-a-milking, etc., will Annaple really succumb to the romance of it all, or will she just want the house returned to its normal, tidy state!”

Micro Review: A sweet, if silly, tale of the imagined origins of that now ubiquitous carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Suspend disbelief and enjoy the zealous courtship of the “true love” for a rather distracted, disinterested young woman. The best treat for the reader is the glimpse into 16th-century (?) England Christmas traditions, carols, and village life.


Previews

51. Mandela and the General
By John Carlin, Illustrated by Oriol Malet (Plough Publishing, 2018. 112 pages)

Amazon | Plough Publishing | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid hero and first leader of the new South Africa, is an international symbol of the power of a popular movement to fight structural racism. But that nonviolent struggle for equality and justice very nearly spiraled into an all-out race war that would have only ended in “the peace of graveyards.”

As the first post-apartheid elections approach in 1994, with blacks poised to take power, white South Africans fear reprisal. White nationalist militias claiming 50,000 well-armed former soldiers stand ready to fight to the death to save their white homeland. They need someone who can lead and unite them. That man was former general Constand Viljoen.

Mandela knows that he can’t avert a bloodbath on his own. He will have to count on his arch-enemy. Throughout those historic months, the two men meet in secret. Can they trust each other? Can they keep their followers and radical fringe elements from acts of violence? The mettle of these two men will determine the future of a nation.

The drama of this contest and the history that pivoted on it comes vividly to life in visual form. Veteran British journalist John Carlin teams up with Catalan artist Oriol Malet to create a historically and artistically rich graphic novel with obvious relevance to today’s polarized politics.”

Micro Review: A graphic novel may be the best format for me to dive into this story that I would otherwise know nothing. Yes, I’m generally aware of Mandela’s legacy and the evils of apartheid, but this story fleshes out in a fuller dimension a few of the historical figures and their opposing movements. Take a chance on the illustrated format and read this book. Then pass it along. We need these stories, and I’m so grateful to Plough Publishing for getting them into our hands.


Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2018 and previous years.

Here's my Goodreads page. Let's be friends!

Linking up with another good reading resource: Modern Mrs. Darcy's monthly Quick Lit post.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!  

What are you reading these days? 

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p.s. This post includes affiliate links in this post because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend Daybook: I've got plenty to be thankful for edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week

Thanksgiving Day, 2018

Thanksgiving Day, 2018

Can you even believe these are our people? We weren’t in Austin for Thanksgiving, but a giant part of my heart was there. How can I calculate the value of friends who become family and gather my brood as if they were their own? That’s exactly what our daughter-in-law Rebekah’s parents, Bernie & Jodi, did for our kids. Not only did they feed my children on Thanksgiving but Jodi took some dang good photographs as a bonus!


(2) new blog posts from this week

  1. Glad Thanksgiving (I’m so grateful for you all! You can see all Thanksgiving posts from previous years here.)

  2. Savior King (A post for Christ the King Sunday. You can see all the previous years’ posts for celebrating this final Sunday of Ordinary Time here.)


(3) updates for my internet homes

  1. I’ve added a Tip Jar to my blog page. Would you consider helping to support my work here? Picture the little jar at your favorite coffee shop and that I’m adding a sweet froth to your favorite beverage each time we meet here. Every little bit is appreciated!

  2. A linktree for @a_sacramental_life on Instagram: Finally! Here’s an easier way to specific links through the blog’s Instagram page.

  3. Advent Daybook 2018 subscription: You may have noticed a little pop-up box when you visit the blog. If you don’t receive blog posts via email already, Advent is a great time to start!


(4) photos from my spiritual direction residency in North Carolina

In mid-November I attended my second-to-last residency for my spiritual direction certification. We met at the lovely St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in North Carolina. I only managed to get photos of one of my walks through the woods (which included a prayer labryinth and chapel). My friend Amy got a few of actual people so I’ve borrowed from her one of a few of us on our last morning together.

Only one more residency to go before we graduate. All the normal bittersweet feelings seem to be queuing up for that time. I’m forever grateful for this call that rose up like a road to meet me.

Spiritual Direction is a "one-to-one" ministry of coming alongside others to help them pay attention, become curious, and move toward the ongoing invitations of God to experience freedom, and enjoy life to the fullest as beloved sons and daughters in the Kingdom. The Selah Certificate Program is a two-year, cohort-based, low-residency course that’s preparing me to offer trained spiritual direction vocationally and ministerially among our local church as well as those the Holy Spirit connects with me from around the world. You can find out more or contact me with any questions on my Spiritual Direction page.


(5) photos from our Thanksgiving


(6) links to get ready for Advent

If you've ever considered following the ancient rhythms of the  liturgical calendar, there's no better time to start than at the Church's New Year: Advent. Even if your church follows the civic calendar more prominently than the liturgical, you can follow along with your brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe from the quiet spaces of your own home. You could create -- figuratively or, even, literally -- a family altar. This does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive.  Simple tangible acts will impress themselves upon your hearts and minds for a lifetime: a book or two filled with rich images and time-tested writings, mealtime prayers, a candle or two.

  1. Advent home page

  2. How We Prepare For Advent (Join us?)

  3. A Few Simple Ways to Decorate for Advent

  4. Our 10 Favorite Advent Devotional Books (for all ages)

Two links from the Homely Hours that I recommend especially if you have little ones living in your house.

  1. Keeping Advent: Some Daily Practices

  2. Advent Plans

Advent.18.jpg

(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2017 - 7 Celebratory Quick Takes (Last year, when we said good-bye to a dear lady, welcomed our kids to Connecticut, visited family for Thanksgiving, and celebrated our anniversary with a professional photo shoot - all within about 10 days time!)

  2. 2015 - Why We Give New Names to Our Kids on Their 21st Birthdays

  3. 2014 - Monotonous Monogamy (In which my grandparents - who celebrated their 72nd wedding anniversary last month! - share some marriage advice.)

  4. 2011 - Our Weekly Mary Poppins Day (One of my best mom ideas ever! Moving by the seat of my pants during that short season of homeschooling a middle & high-schooler.)

  5. 2011 - Happy Advent Eve! (When we were still new at living out the church calendarAll sorts of Advent posts through the years at this link.)

  6. 2009 - I Wanna Marry You All Over Again (We celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary last week! You can read some of my wedding anniversary reflections at this link.)

  7. 2009 - Advent #2 (This post includes one of my all-time favorite poems, that manages to be true for Advent and pretty much any old day of the year.)

Marriage Unrehearsed title card.3.jpg

28 years ago

November 24, 1990

November.Anniversary4.jpg

May your weekend include some time at home and some time with friends that welcome your tears as well as your laughter. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend Daybook: Thanksgiving & Advent edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from the month

I’ve been busy preparing for a  Spiritual Direction  residency and haven’t taken any photos this week! Here’s a photo I took earlier this month during a quiet retreat at my Spiritual Director’s cottage in Virginia. This story never, ever gets old.

I’ve been busy preparing for a Spiritual Direction residency and haven’t taken any photos this week! Here’s a photo I took earlier this month during a quiet retreat at my Spiritual Director’s cottage in Virginia. This story never, ever gets old.


(2) new posts in the Work Stories series

  1. Work Stories 2018 wrap-up! (I’d love to hear your stories, too. I hope you’ve been able to hear the stories, prayers, and songs from each week as a blessing and affirmation that your work matters.)

  2. Nancy Nordenson’s two kinds of work (This is the final guest post for the 2018 Work Stories series, and I’m delighted that Nancy gets to be our final word for this year. No matter where you find yourself on the spectrum of doing the work you’ve always wanted to do or just doing the work you’ve found, may you receive encouragement and hope in her words.)


(3) updates for my internet homes

  1. I’ve added a Tip Jar to my blog page. Would you consider helping to support my work here? Picture the little jar at your favorite coffee shop and that I’m adding a sweet froth to your favorite beverage each time we meet here. Every little bit is appreciated!

  2. A linktree for @a_sacramental_life on Instagram: Finally! Here’s an easier way to specific links through the blog’s Instagram page.

  3. Advent Daybook 2018 subscription: You may have noticed a little pop-up box when you visit the blog. If you don’t receive blog posts via email already, Advent is a great time to start!


(4) links to get ready for Advent

If you've ever considered following the ancient rhythms of the  liturgical calendar, there's no better time to start than at the Church's New Year: Advent. Even if your church follows the civic calendar more prominently than the liturgical, you can follow along with your brothers and sisters in Christ across the globe from the quiet spaces of your own home. You could create -- figuratively or, even, literally -- a family altar. This does not have to be elaborate, time-consuming, or expensive.  Simple tangible acts will impress themselves upon your hearts and minds for a lifetime: a book or two filled with rich images and time-tested writings, mealtime prayers, a candle or two.

  1. Advent home page

  2. How We Prepare For Advent (Join us?)

  3. A Few Simple Ways to Decorate for Advent

  4. Our 10 Favorite Advent Devotional Books (for all ages)


(5) resources to celebrate Thanksgiving

You might enjoy my Pinterest boards: Autumn Holidays & Occasions and Thanksgiving

  1. Thanksgiving Day Prayers & A Family Liturgy of Thanksgiving via Anglican Pastor

  2. For those of us formed by the Lord’s Supper, here’s a way to consider Thanksgiving through a sacramental lens: At the Table via The Work of the People

  3. Host international students for Thanksgiving through Bridges International! For local friends, watch Chris & Kelly Rowley’s invitation here: Thanksgiving Hosting and sign up here: University of Bridgeport Sign-Up

  4. Resources to honor the perspective of American Indians:

    American Indian Perspectives on Thanksgiving via National Museum of the American Indian

    The Thanksgiving Myth via Native Circle

    Erica Littlewolf of Mennonite Central Committee talks with Hannah Heinzekehr of The Mennononite about Thanksgiving myths, the Doctrine of Discovery and ways to engage this holiday

    Deconstructing Myths of the First Thanksgiving via Oyate

  5. Scroll through a collection of my Thanksgiving posts , and don’t miss last year’s Conversation Starters For A Harmonious Family Feast plus two playlists: Thanksgiving & Autumn Worship 2018 !


(6) November photos of loft-living in Bridgeport, CT


(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2017 - 5 Things I Learned In October (An "examen" sorts for what I learned the previous month - both the weighty lessons and the daily hilarities. Still dreaming about #3!)

  2. 2015 - This Is Why I Broke A Promise To Myself On Facebook (the first of several times) & When Jesus Said ‘Love Your Neighbors’ Did He Mean Muslims, Too? (I meant this question sincerely!)

  3. 2014 - 5 Favorite Quotations On Writing: Kenyon, L'Engle, King, O'Connor, Berry (I need to read #4 every day.)

  4. 2013 - Why We Send Our Kids To A [Broken] Public School (Chapter 8 in the Parenting Unrehearsed series.)

  5. 2011 - Mostly Grateful (When I was just starting to figure out my life plan had been shot to heck.)

  6. 2011 - Austin, Nice to Meet You: Holiday Weekend Edition (I need to find those boots and reenact this weekend stat.)

  7. 2008 - Confession (Really, my mother was the worst offender.)

5 years ago

When my sisters flew to Austin so we could make soup together in my kitchen.


May your weekend include some time at home and some time with friends that welcome your tears as well as your laughter. Peace...

p.s. This post may contain affiliate links because I'm trying to be a good steward, and when you buy something through one of these links you don't pay more money, but in some magical twist of capitalism we get a little pocket change. Thanks!

Weekend Daybook: the voting, hiking, praying edition

Seven days of collecting what I've been up to lately: places, people, books, podcasts, music, links & more for your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from the week

kept this candle burning as a prayer reminder throughout this week.

kept this candle burning as a prayer reminder throughout this week.


(2) photo essays about everyday work stories in America

I’ve so enjoyed hosting the Work Stories blog series this fall. At the same time, with only one week left in the series, I’m aware how lacking in socioeconomic and racial diversity the stories represent. I offer the following two excellent photo essays (one journalistic and one artistic) as a supplement. Enjoy!

  1. 24 HOURS IN AMERICA: Documenting moments across the country, large and small, quiet and indelible. via NY Times

  2. NightShift: Photos by Florian Mueller via Faith is Torment (I find these fascinating and can’t help picture them as an icon for the nativity. Anyone else see that?)


(3) new posts in the Work Stories series

  1. Walter Wittwer’s learning-from-the-least calling (I love how Walter reminds us that we’re all called and we’re also all on the spectrum of need. May we look around our places of work and be encouraged through Walter’s story for God’s mercy to flow through us.)

  2. Krista Vossler’s hiddenness calling (Krista’s words remind us of the kingdom paradox that only as we embrace our hiddenness in Christ do we have eyes to rightly see the unseen realities in our relationship with God, others, and our own wild and precious lives.)

  3. The call that rose up like a road to meet me (More personal reflections about our journey of work, calling, and vocation. “Like the way people describe love at first sight, I knew immediately this invitation was just right for me.”)


Related: the IG Live video conversation brian and I had about our attempt to be Via Media voters. You can  watch it here.

Related: the IG Live video conversation brian and I had about our attempt to be Via Media voters. You can watch it here.

(4) recent & brief articles following election day

  1. Your Catholic 2018 midterm roundup: health care, wages, abortion and more by Michael J. O’Loughlinvia America Magazine (“While the waviness of Tuesday’s midterm election continues to be debated, Sister Simone Campbell called the day “a tremendous success,” at least when it came to the dozen U.S. House races targeted by the “Nuns on the Bus” national tour that ended earlier this month outside President Trump’s Florida home.”)

  2. After the midterms, can the new Congress work together? Here’s where they could start. via America Magazine (“Several legislative opportunities stand out as ripe for bipartisan action.” May it be so!)

  3. Have Evangelicals Had Enough Yet? via Jesus Creed (“With these latest reminders of how much hate is waiting in our nation to ignite into murder, have we had enough demagoguery yet, or do we want more?” Written before the mid-term election, and worth asking all the more.)

  4. The Demise of the Moderate Republican by George Packer via The New Yorker (“Ryan Costello, a centrist wonk, ran for Congress to solve problems—but his colleagues fell in line with Trump’s parade of resentment.” As a person with a penchant for centrists, I found this interesting and also discouraging.)


(5) photos from this week’s walk in the woods

Mountain Laurel Open Space in Fairfield, CT


IG Screenshot from a lecture we attended last weekend from Dr. Danny Carroll (see resources below).

IG Screenshot from a lecture we attended last weekend from Dr. Danny Carroll (see resources below).

(6) recommended links as you pray for the “migrant caravan”

  1. Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas - Hispanic Immigration: (We had the privilege of hearing Danny Carroll speak at our diocesan convention last weekend on the biblical lens for immigration. I’m looking forward to sharing the video from those sessions. In the meantime this is an excellent resource.)

  2. Sarah Quezada’s interview with Matthew Soerens of World Relief about the migrant caravan traveling toward the U.S. (Sarah is quickly becoming my go-to source for down-to-earth, factual, biblically-informed, and gracious information about immigration and refugee issues. I especially recommend her to you if you have children at home that you're trying to educate about the current crisis.)

  3. Humanitarian groups at U.S.-Mexico border prepare for the migrant caravan by J.D. Long-García via American Magazine (“While it may be more than a month away, humanitarian groups on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are already preparing for the possible arrival of the migrant caravan from Central America.”)

  4. The ‘crisis’ of the migrant caravan is one of misperception Antonio De Loera-Brust via America Magazine (“The 3,500 or so unarmed men, women and children seeking asylum in a country of 350 million represents as much a threat to the United States of America as a glass of water is to the ocean.”)

  5. 12 Children’s Books About Refugees (Picture Books) via What Do We Do All Day (“My hope is that these books help you open an honest dialogue with your children about the plight and experiences of refugee children and families around the world. Teach your kids to be the change.” I suspect these would be beneficial for readers of all ages.)

  6. Children of the Caravan via Reuters (I’ve heard people say that journalists exploit children for political agendas. Children are exploited constantly and from every direction, it’s true, but this is definitely not that. I pray that journalism like this fits is more like Jesus pulling a child to his knee in order to help his followers get the Gospel “Whoever welcomes one of these, welcomes Me”.)


(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2013 - God and Sisters Are Not To Be Ignored (For Kaley on her November 5 birthday!)

  2. 2011 - Enlarged in the Waiting (“We live from grace to grace in this life.  The space in between is the waiting and it always feels like we're not going to make it.”)

  3. 2011 - My One Parenting Strategy That Actually Worked (And Alex wrote about it in his college application!)

ADVENT IS COMING! ADVENT IS COMING! Which is to say WAITING IS COMING on December 2! (That doesn’t quite roll of the tongue, but is a pretty good description of life, don’t you think?)

  1. 2016 - How We Prepare For Advent (Join us?)

  2. 2016 - A Few Simple Ways to Decorate for Advent

  3. 2017 - Our 10 Favorite Advent Devotional Books (for all ages)

2 years ago

A Veteran’s Day ramble with Brian & Leo on the Pequonnock River Trail in Trumbull, CT.


May your weekend include some time at home and some time with friends that welcome your tears as well as your laughter. Peace...