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...

Weekend Daybook: thanking God for the artists and pastors edition

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

 Twin Brooks Park, Trumbull, CT

Twin Brooks Park, Trumbull, CT


(1) new post in the Work Stories series

  1. Work Stories: Jason Harrod's what-shall-I-cry-out calling (Whether you are a songwriter or a spreadsheet-maker, I hope you’ll be encouraged by Jason’s wise and life-giving insight into the rewards and challenges of our daily work.)


(2) family members doing exciting things online

  1. Classroom Calling blog by Alex Murphy (Our son is beginning his third year teaching and has been collaborating with a colleague to share reflections on their first years in the classroom. They’re writing to try to figure out “Teaching As a Way of Life” together, and they’re asking big questions about the nature of teaching with humor and humility. I’m a bit biased but find these two posts a great place to start: Love or the Lack Of It & I Don't Even Know Why I Became A Teacher (Anyone with Me?).

  2. Merry Little Christmas Project by Kaley Ehret (My sister’s been blogging for years about finding creative ways to save money at www.ChaChingonaShoestring.com and her most recent project is inspiring thousands of others on a quest to Do Christmas Well via her online community www.TheMerryLittleChristmasProject.com and through her course A Stress Free Christmas. Follow her. She knows the way.)


(3) new musical releases that made me say “wow”

You might enjoy my Pinterest board: Listen / Listening / Have Listened.

  1. Divorce by Moda Spira

  2. Bigger Than Your Box by Joy Ike

  3. A Star Is Born soundtrack


(4) posts in memory of Eugene Peterson

  1. Eugene Peterson Has Completed His Long Obedience via Christianity Today

“His family released a statement on his final, joyful days earthside.

“During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven,” they stated. “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.

“Among his final words were, ‘Let’s go.’ And his joy: my, oh my; the man remained joyful right up to his blessed end, smiling frequently. In such moments it’s best for all mortal flesh to keep silence. But if you have to say something say this: ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’”

Some of our dearest friends and mentors were directly influenced in relationship with Eugene Peterson. Here’s a few of their reflection this week:

2. Phaedra Taylor (Beautiful imagery + beautiful words.)

3. Dr. David Taylor (Set aside time to watch the video interviews linked at the end of this post.)

4. Rev. Cliff Warner (On the words Peterson spoke at Cliff’s ordination service.)


(5) of many times I’ve written about the life lessons we’ve learned from EHP + our IG live conversation in honor of him this week

  1. Sometimes we have to change jobs in order to maintain our vocation.”

  2. Lucky

  3. Waiting For Our Next Step

  4. Review of The Pastor: A Memoir

  5. Transforming Culture Symposium: The Pastor


(6) photos from our work + dinner date in New Haven this beautiful autumn week


9 years ago

A favorite photo of my friend Margaret and me enjoying the company of our recital musicians, Scott & Kim LaGraff, at Art Show on Main. (Union Center Christian Church, Endicott, NY.)


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 June - September 2018

I had a great reading summer. Hope you enjoy the micro reviews + publisher blurbs! Let me know if you add anything from this list to your book pile!

 We visited Yale's  Text and Textiles exhibit  at the Beinecke Library in July. This piece intrigued me (from an Austin artist!).

We visited Yale's Text and Textiles exhibit at the Beinecke Library in July. This piece intrigued me (from an Austin artist!).

You can see my 2017 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

21. Behold the Dreamers: A Novel
By Imbolo Mbue (Random House, 2016. 382 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice."

Micro Review: Mbue balances plot movement with occasional contemplative reflection at just the right pace for my taste. It also ticked the box of characters I can sympathize with while simultaneously honoring their complexity and choices that are outside of my ability to imagine. I was also drawn to imagining the experience of the very wealthy and the very marginalized as the recession hit Wall Street. Mbue wrote characters who carry both good and horrible qualities - no pure villains, no pure heroes - and all worthy of attention and care. This is a good novel and I highly recommend. (I also loved that the author and I shared the same insight of young immigrant dreamers through the lens of a familiar Old Testament account.)

22. Everything I Never Told You
By Celeste Ng (Penguin Press, 2014. 292 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

" 'Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.' So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another."

Micro Review: I wish I could remember who recommended all my summer novels to me, but I've got it narrowed down to either Byron at Hearts & Minds Booksellers or Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Either way, it was an excellent recommendation. The pace of plot and character reflection was a good fit for my taste, and I enjoyed the 1970s setting. I felt disheartened by repeated decisions the parents made to require their children to operate out of pre-determined roles they had set for them. I know well this temptation and it grieved me to watch it play out to such disastrous results. I was grateful for the small touches of redemption at the close of the story. Lord, help us all.

23. Little Fires Everywhere: A Novel

By Celeste Ng (Penguin Press, 2017. 217 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides.  Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. 

Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster."

Micro Review: Another excellent story with characters that I cared about. This novel felt more mystery-driven than family-dynamic driven as Ng's previous novel. I enjoyed watching the story unfold and understanding the motivations for the crisis that plays out. There were a few plot twists that surprised me,  as well. A good read!

24. A Fatal Grace: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

By Louise Penny (Minotaur Books, 2011. 320 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Welcome to winter in Three Pines, a picturesque village in Quebec, where the villagers are preparing for a traditional country Christmas, and someone is preparing for murder.
No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. 

When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Quebec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he's dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. Who could have been insane enough to try such a macabre method of murder—or brilliant enough to succeed?

With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. But other dangers are becoming clear to Gamache. As a bitter wind blows into the village, something even more chilling is coming for Gamache himself."

Micro Review: Still loving this series (even though I inadvertently read out of order). Also: still wishing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation turns this into a televised series with a perfectly-casted Inspector Gamache.)

25. Olive Kitteridge

By Elizabeth Strout (Random House, 2008. 320 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge.

At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama–desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love. 

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student who has lost the will to live: Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse. 

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires."

Micro Review: Elizabeth Strout’s skill in writing characters and setting kept me reading even through plots emphasizing despair. I’m glad I kept reading because by the end of the episodic novel (sometimes feeling more like a series of short stories, but always including in some part the titular character), I grew to love Olive Kitteridge. As much as she broke my heart, I wanted her to continue embracing life. Throughout the whole book, I kept hearing Thoreau’s (ironically, written from another New England town), “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation”. The repeated themes of marriage, parenting, family systems, midlife, and community all circle the themes I’ve devoted my life to learning and supporting and I so much wanted to reach into these quietly desperate lives and say “Stop hiding! There’s help!” Signs of good writing even if I left the book kind of like I leave a sad dream.


Memoir

26. An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us
By James Carroll (Mariner Books, 1997. 304 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"An American Requiem is the story of one man's coming of age. But more than that, it is a coming to terms with the conflicts that disrupted many families, inflicting personal wounds that were also social, political, and religious. Carroll grew up in a Catholic family that seemed blessed. His father had abandoned his own dream of becoming a priest to rise through the ranks of Hoover's FBI and then become one of the most powerful men in the Pentagon, the founder of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Young Jim lived the privileged life of a general's son, dating the daughter of a vice president and meeting the pope, all in the shadow of nuclear war, waiting for the red telephone to ring in his parents' house. He worshiped his father until Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights movement, turmoil in the Catholic Church, and then Vietnam combined to outweigh the bond between father and son. These were issues on which they would never agree. Only after Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer and husband with children of his own did he come to understand fully the struggles his father had faced. In this work of nonfiction, the best-selling novelist draws on the skills he honed with nine much-admired novels to tell the story he was, literally, born to tell. An American Requiem is a benediction on his father's life, his family's struggles, and the legacies of an entire generation."

Micro Review: As much as I try to limit my intake of the memoir genre, when I read a good one I always come back to the truth that it's my favorite. I am captivated not only by a story well told but also by the work a good memoirist does to connect the dots between all the influencers in their context: generations of family members, religious and educational backgrounds, word events and socio-economic factors. I'm fascinated to watch not only the facts of one person's life play out by also by their work in interpreting meaning. James Carroll has a good and hard story. I kept reading sections out loud to Brian. Much of the story felt especially timely, in the light of daily reports of conflict and scandal in both the political and religious spheres. I appreciate the way Carroll made meaning, grieved loss, and sought reconciliation with his ideals and his reality. Two thumbs way up.

27. Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes
By Elizabeth Bard (Back Bay Books, 2016. 384 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Ten years ago, New Yorker Elizabeth Bard followed a handsome Frenchman up a spiral staircase to a love nest in the heart of Paris. Now, with a baby on the way, Elizabeth takes another leap of faith with her husband when they move to Provence and open an artisanal ice cream shop. Filled with enticing recipes such as stuffed zucchini flowers, fig tart, and honey-and-thyme ice cream, PICNIC IN PROVENCE is the story of everything that happens after the happily ever after. With wit, humor, and a scoop of wild strawberry sorbet, Bard reminds us that life-in and out of the kitchen-is a rendezvous with the unexpected.

Micro Review: Easy, enjoyable read! As much I liked the author and her community, I really read this book for the vicarious pleasure of food descriptions. Sentences like the introduction to a recipe for Stuffed Tomatoes and Zucchini (ala, Légumes d’Été Farçis in Provence) for example” “This dish instantly transports me back to Jean’s garden - big, bright beefsteak tomatoes and croquet-ball-size round zucchini stuffed and baked to sagging perfection. Lovely for a casual dinner in the garden.” Reading this kind of book is my little voyeuristic vice to compensate for what I don’t actually attain in my own kitchen!

28. Travels with Charley: In Search of America
By John Steinbeck (Penguin Books, 1980. 288 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"An intimate journey across America, as told by one of its most beloved writers
 
To hear the speech of the real America, to smell the grass and the trees, to see the colors and the light—these were John Steinbeck's goals as he set out, at the age of fifty-eight, to rediscover the country he had been writing about for so many years.

With Charley, his French poodle, Steinbeck drives the interstates and the country roads, dines with truckers, encounters bears at Yellowstone and old friends in San Francisco. Along the way he reflects on the American character, racial hostility, the particular form of American loneliness he finds almost everywhere, and  the unexpected kindness of strangers."

Micro Review: A bit uneven with some chapters reading like a quintessential man-on-a-journey book and then a few places just a bit rambly and somewhat forced. Still, a sweet read and Charley is a dear.


History / Non-Fiction

29. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration
By Isabel Wilkerson (Random House, 2010. 640 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life. From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
 
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic."

Micro Review: WOW. The work Isabel Wilkerson has done for us to understand not only the epic scale of the unrecognized great immigration in our nation’s history but also the nuance represented in the stories of individual lives is worthy of our collective, national gratitude. This is a history we need to know and understand at every level of our social infrastructure so that we can both honor the good and jettison the evil in our history. Read this book.

30. Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth

By A. O. Scott (Penguin Books, 2017. 304 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"The New York Times film critic shows why we need criticism now more than ever

Few could explain, let alone seek out, a career in criticism. Yet what A.O. Scott shows in Better Living Through Criticism is that we are, in fact, all critics: because critical thinking informs almost every aspect of artistic creation, of civil action, of interpersonal life. With penetrating insight and warm humor, Scott shows that while individual critics--himself included--can make mistakes and find flaws where they shouldn't, criticism as a discipline is one of the noblest, most creative, and urgent activities of modern existence.

Using his own film criticism as a starting point--everything from his infamous dismissal of the international blockbuster The Avengersto his intense affection for Pixar's animated Ratatouille--Scott expands outward, easily guiding readers through the complexities of Rilke and Shelley, the origins of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, the power of Marina Abramovich and 'Ode on a Grecian Urn.' Drawing on the long tradition of criticism from Aristotle to Susan Sontag, Scott shows that real criticism was and always will be the breath of fresh air that allows true creativity to thrive. "The time for criticism is always now," Scott explains, "because the imperative to think clearly, to insist on the necessary balance of reason and passion, never goes away.""

Micro Review: I’ve seen mixed reviews for this book but for this autodidactic student of the arts, I’m indebted to the work of critics to train me in discernment. I really enjoyed this book.

A favorite quotation:

“The origin of criticism lies in an innocent, heartfelt kind of question, one that is far from simple and that carries enormous risk: Did you feel that? Was it good for you? Tell the truth.” 
― A.O. Scott, Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think about Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth


Poetry

31. The Last Shift: Poems

By Philip Levine (Knopf, 2016. 96 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

“The final collection of new poems from one of our finest and most beloved poets. 

The poems in this wonderful collection touch all of the events and places that meant the most to Philip Levine. There are lyrical poems about his family and childhood, the magic of nighttime and the power of dreaming; tough poems about the heavy shift work at Detroit's auto plants, the Nazis, and bosses of all kinds; telling poems about his heroes--jazz players, artists, and working people of every description, even children. Other poems celebrate places and things he loved: the gifts of winter, dawn, a wall in Naples, an English hilltop, Andalusia. And he makes peace with Detroit: "Slow learner that I am, it took me one night/to discover that rain in New York City/is just like rain in Detroit. It gets you wet." It is a peace that comes to full fruition in a moving goodbye to his home town in the final poem in the collection, "The Last Shift."

Micro Review: I wish I could remember where I heard this poet mentioned. His name was new to me, so it’s a bit ironic that I’m starting with his last book of poems, published posthumously after his death in 2015, to explore his work. I might make this a habit. There’s something crystallized in a writer’s words when they know they are reaching the end. There’s an essentialism that makes me take notice and wonder about my own. With much of his life spent working in Detroit factories, Philip Levine is often described as the poet of the working man. This slim collection of poems made the perfect companion to my own recent reflection on the nature of calling in one’s work.

Here’s a few favorite stanzas from “Office Hours” (p. 16):

Midnight on Grand River, and the car barns

are quiet, the last truck left hours ago.

The watchman dreams through his rounds.

If you entered the office now you’d find

all the old upright Smith Coronas sheathed

in their gowns, the pencils tucked in drawers,

the fountain pens dreaming of the epics

they’ll never write, the paper clips

holding together reports on nothing at all.

32. Take, Eat, Remember, and Believe

By Brett Alan Dewing (Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017. 88 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

In this volume of poetry, Dewing explores liturgy, both common and cosmic, domestic and demonic. Words are actions. Nothing is spiritually neutral. How do we reconcile these truths in our lives?

Micro Review: Brett is a friend of mine and he is a fine poet and playwright. I’m a fan of Brett’s balance of liturgical themes, Scriptural phrases, and everyday references. This is a good collection. I recommend reading out loud for full enjoyment of cadence and language.

Here’s a favorite from the collection, “A Mary Heart”:

Your children are of vocal stock

One thing that they can do is talk

And fill their face with laughter lines

That overlap and intertwine

But I was born to stand apart

And ponder these within my heart

To wander in the yard and see

To dream, to get to know a tree

And so amid the word-filled air

You may not have known that I was there

But sight may be a thing we shared

And you indeed may not have cared

That I was somber, staid, and terse

And slow of tongue and filled with verse

You may have known something at least

About a heart that holds its peace

But in the end you had not choice

When sickness took away your voice

And I would sit beside your bed

And not regret the words not said

While all around were laughter peals

While words were whittled, wheels in wheels

But in that raucous holy place

A Martha practiced Mary grace

Within, your deep would call to deep

And you would blink and drift to sleep

And I would note the cherished depth

Of holy secrets that you kept.


Apostles Reads Selections

33. Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good

By Amy L. Sherman (IVP Books, 2011. 271 pages)

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"Imagine the scenarios:

  • a CEO successfully negotiates a corporate merger, avoiding hundreds of layoffs in the process

  • an artist completes a mosaic for public display at a bank, showcasing neighborhood heroes

  • a contractor creates a work-release program in cooperation with a local prison, growing the business and seeing countless former inmates turn their lives around

  • a high-school principal graduates 20 percent more students than the previous year, and the school's average scores go up by a similar percentage

Now imagine a parade in the streets for each event. That's the vision of Proverbs 11:10, in which the tsaddiqim--the people who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for his purposes--pursue their vocation with an eye to the greater good. Amy Sherman, director of the Center on Faith in Communities and scholar of vocational stewardship, uses the tsaddiqim as a springboard to explore how, through our faith-formed calling, we announce the kingdom of God to our everyday world. But cultural trends toward privatism and materialism threaten to dis-integrate our faith and our work. And the church, in ways large and small, has itself capitulated to those trends, while simultaneously elevating the "special calling" of professional ministry and neglecting the vocational formation of laypeople. In the process, we have, in ways large and small, subverted our kingdom mandate. God is on the move, and he calls each of us, from our various halls of power and privilege, to follow him. Here is your chance, keeping this kingdom calling in view, to steward your faith and work toward righteousness. In so doing, you will bless the world, and as you flourish, the world will celebrate."

Micro Review: We read this in our church’s reading group for the liturgical season of Pentecost. During Pentecost, we celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit to equip each one of us to live out the gospel. One key way we get to do this is through our work, and this book helps us explore the intersection of faith and work. It’s a theologically-sound treatise on the goodness of work with inspiring examples of the ways Christians are working for the common good of their communities and workplaces. One glaring omission (as is the case for so much that’s written on the subject of faith and work) is the kingdom work in “blue collar” jobs. We need to continue more robust research and conversation on all forms of labor!

If for nothing else, read this book for the preview passages in which the author skillfully and eloquently integrates her research and premise with Tim Keller’s teaching that the “righteous” (Hebrew tsaddiqim) is the just, the people who follow God’s heart and ways and who see everything they have as gifts from God to be stewarded for his purposes. Sherman beautifully calls us to the Scriptural vision of a “rejoiced city” where the two, closely related features of the consummated kingdom: justice and shalom. I love that I am called to work in this kingdom!


Prayer / Spirituality / Spiritual Direction / Bible Study

34. The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God Through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence

By Henri Nouwen (Ballantine Books, 2003. 112 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Since it was first published more than twenty years ago, The Way of the Heart has helped millions of men and women cast off the anger and greed that trouble the world–and find love, compassion, and peace in the heart of God.

Inspired by the ancient teachings of St. Anthony and the Desert Fathers, The Way of the Heart clears before us a spiritual path consisting of three stepping-stones: Solitude (learning not to be alone but to be alone with God); Silence (the discipline by which the inner fire of God is tended and kept alive); and Prayer (standing in the presence of God with the mind in the heart).

Distinguished theologian Henri Nouwen brilliantly illuminates each of these disciplines. In reflections that are beautifully clear and practical, as uplifting on the fourth reading as on the first, he helps us separate the wheat from the chaff in our spiritual lives–and reconnects us with what truly matters.

Within this one small book lies the most relevant and inspiring challenge that we shall ever face: to surrender the compulsive noise of the world for the way of the heart that leads us to God." 

Here's a favorite quotation:

"In the context of our verbose culture it is significant to hear the Desert Fathers discouraging us from using too many words: 'Abba Macarius was asked 'How should one pray?' The old man said, 'There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hand and say, 'Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.' And if the conflict grows fiercer say: 'Lord, help.' He knows very well what we need and shows us his mercy." (p. 80)

35. Spiritual Direction: Beyond the Beginnings

By Janet K. Ruffing, R.S.M. (Paulist Press, 2000. 183 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Explores issues that arise in the advanced stages of spiritual direction from both a practical and theoretical perspective.”

Micro Review: I’m behind in reading for my certification work. I found this book uneven in its helpfulness to me, but the parts that were helpful were excellent and uniquely helpful to me particularly on the subject of making space for people’s experiences of God that differ from my own.

 Here's a favorite quotation:

"I find it is helpful (in my personal prayer and as a suggestion for directees) to pray for the desire to forgive or to pray for the desire to let go of the anger. The basic principle is emotional congruence. We uncover and express our honest desires. If we can want to release anger, for instance, we have become open to a possibility in grace that is not yet ours. Eventually, we can choose to release the anger. wE can only pray from our actual feelings, coming to prayer from that honest fundamental desire which leaves us open to an unpredictable outcome. Praying with this kind of emotional congruency gives great freedom. We can pray out of our anger, our weariness, our discouragement, our fear, our loss, our joy, and so on. We express those feelings to their conclusion or until we’re tired of them. When we’re finished, we wait for a response. Gradually, we discover changes in us." (p. 20)

36. The Stories We Live: Finding God’s Calling All around Us

By Kathleen A. Cahalan (Eerdman’s, 2017. 150 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"‘Christian vocation,’ says Kathleen Cahalan, ‘is about connecting our stories with God's story.’ In The Stories We Live Cahalan rejuvenates and transforms vocation from a static concept to a living, dynamic reality.

Incorporating biblical texts, her own experience, and the personal stories of others, Cahalan discusses how each of us is called byGod, to follow, as we are, from grief, for service, in suffering, through others, within God. Readers of this book will discover an exciting new vocabulary of vocation and find a fresh vision for God's calling in their lives.”

Micro Review: A slim but substantive read on the subject of what it means to know our calling in life. The author used individual stories skillfully to illustrate the wide scope this subject requires. I highly recommend.

Here's a favorite quotation:

"The work that you do is inherently good when it aligns with God’s purposes, when your work is a service given for the common good. You may experience a deep resonance between who you are and what you are able to do. Your competence and excellence in your work is a sign of God’s work in you." (p. 73)


Previews

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37. When Spring Comes to the DMZ

By Uk-Bae Lee (Plough Publishing House, 2019. 40 pages)

Coming March 2019

"Korea’s demilitarized zone has become an amazing accidental nature preserve that gives hope for a brighter future for a divided land.

This unique picture book invites young readers into the natural beauty of the DMZ, where salmon, spotted seals, and mountain goats freely follow the seasons and raise their families in this 2.5-mile-wide, 150-mile-long corridor where no human may tread. But the vivid seasonal flora and fauna are framed by ever-present rusty razor wire, warning signs, and locked gates—and regularly interrupted by military exercises that continue decades after a 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War established the DMZ.

Creator Uk-Bae Lee’s lively paintings juxtapose these realities, planting in children the dream of a peaceful world without war and barriers, where separated families meet again and live together happily in harmony with their environment. Lee shows the DMZ through the eyes of a grandfather who returns each year to look out over his beloved former lands, waiting for the day when he can return. In a surprise foldout panorama at the end of the book the grandfather, tired of waiting, dreams of taking his grandson by the hand, flinging back the locked gates, and walking again on the land he loves to find his long-lost friends.

When Spring Comes to the DMZ helps introduce children to the unfinished history of the Korean Peninsula playing out on the nightly news, and may well spark discussions about other walls, from Texas to Gaza.”

Micro Review: My parents and siblings lived and worked in Seoul for several years. I was not able to visit but through their experience have become more aware of the fractured Korean Peninsula. My sister-in-law’s own family has lived in that split, and the memory of it is a painful part of her family’s history. This book, When Spring Comes to the DMZ, is a simple but stunning opportunity to notice the way grace and beauty insist on interjecting even the most pervasive schisms of our world. I recommend this beautifully-told story to all ages.

 


Go to my reading lists page to see my reading lists from 2017 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: the welcoming each other 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

October.Seaside Park1.JPG

After a difficult weekend that knocked me out emotionally for a couple of days, I felt deeply restored by my walk along the Long Island Sound in Seaside Park, Bridgeport. This park is two blocks from our apartment, but sometimes I get going in life and stop paying attention to this space. If some time goes by without me mentioning the park or sharing a photo here, you have my permission to bug me about it!


(2) new posts in the Work Stories series

  1. Work Stories: Christie Purifoy's placemaker calling (What a joy to share my online home with Christie this week, and lots of you have told me you’re grateful, too.)

  2. An unexpected cost of our calling (Continuing to reflect on the winding pathways Brian and I have taken to get to a place better than we ever expected that cost us more than we ever imagined.)


(3) links about the beauty of gathering around a table (in honor of Christie Purifoy’s encouragement to us as placemakers)

You also might enjoy my Pinterest board: Liturgy of Life

  1. Why Do We Feast? by Sarah Hauser via The Rabbit Room (Anyone who quotes Robert Farrar Capon while suggesting feasting is a spiritual practice gets my full attention!)

  2. Learning To Cook, And Why It Matters by Andi Ashworth via Comment (An older post that never gets old because when Andi Ashworth speaks, I want to listen.)

  3. How To Start A Cookbook Club by Tara Austen Weaver via Serious Eats (Filing this idea away!)


(4) excellent insights into parenting

You also might enjoy my Pinterest board: Liturgy of Life

  1. 10 Dangerous Things for Kids and One True Danger, A Quiz by Rachel Pieh Jones via A Life Overseas (This topic represents some deep concerns Brian and I have about current parenting expectations, and there’s no better instructor than those who’ve broken their kids out of our national bubble.)

  2. An Encouraging Word for Mothers of Small Children by Anne Kennedy via Preventing Grace (You know, in case mothers of small children might need encouragement.)

  3. When Your Kids Won’t Bow to Your Idols by Jennifer Phillips (Another post I’ve held on to awhile and so in line with much of what I hoped to share in the parenting series I wrote a few years ago. This is excellent and worth re-reading often.)

  4. Families, Discipleship, and the Church by Rev. Dr. Emily McGowin via Churches For the Sake of Others (Parents, you and your children need the Church. I promise.)


(5) personal responses to the Judge Kavanaugh confirmation

Some day I will say more. Kyrie eleison.


(6) informative and restorative links since the Kavanaugh hearings

  1. When Justice Fails by Peter J. Leithart via First Things (“We can shatter the idols that bind and blind us, and turn to God in prayer. That may seem a priss-pious response to what R. R. Reno has called a “political knife-fight,” but prayer is in the arsenal of spiritual weapons, one of the church’s primary ways of pursuing justice.”

  2. The Kavanaugh Hearings Have Demonstrated How Desperately America Needs Restorative Justice by Lara Bazelon via Slate (We’ve been holding a conversation about what it means to navigate life on a middle road. Restorative justice is a great example of middle road thinking.)

  3. Canticle of the Turning by Rory Cooney as recorded by Katherine Moore (A friend shared this song with me on social media in response to my tears. It’s a favorite song, but I tend remember it only during Advent. This is a lovely recording at the perfect time.)

  4. Discerning the tune: Two new poems for our times by Malcolm Guite (Another friend texted these poems to Brian and me this week. It was a rough week, and these were good, beautiful, and true words. God bless Malcolm Guite.)

  5. Daily Prayer for October 12 via Plough (I was grateful for the timing of this prayer prompt. May I encourage you to print this prayer based on Matthew 6:12 and say it out loud from time to time? I’ll be doing the same.)

  6. Into Your Hands: Retrieve Lament (Still rehearsing the power of confession, forgiveness, and redemption that I’ve learned through my own experience with sexual wounding and shame.)


(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2017 - My top 14 favorite art & faith books (I want to keep reading this over and over again!)

  2. 2016 - You Are Here to Kneel [sharing at Art House America] (Might not have been the most restful part of our trip to Ireland, but there’s no memory I hope to remember more!)

  3. 2015 - Autumn Daybook with Pumpkins [look.listen.make.do.] (Autumn brings out all the nostalgia.)

  4. 2015 - {pretty, happy, funny, real} in a briefly quiet season (Still amazed at this timeline.)

  5. 2014 - 7 melancholy blurbs (Sometimes it’s the smaller, bittersweet memories worth recording.)

  6. 2013 - The meaning of your name [tiny stories] (Gah! My niece!)

  7. 2011 - Top 10 When Company’s Coming (A guest post from my Mom that will never get old!)

7 years ago

Marble Falls, TX


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!