Weekend Daybook: the evil, tragedy, memorials, and common grace edition

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

You can consider this late from last week or early for next! We’ll be gone for the next couple of weeks and I look forward to catching back up with you in September, friends!

(1) photo from this week

A common grace found in Kennebunk, Maine: The MOST delicious lobster roll I’ve ever eaten + fresh squeezed lemonade. I will never forget this meal.

A common grace found in Kennebunk, Maine: The MOST delicious lobster roll I’ve ever eaten + fresh squeezed lemonade. I will never forget this meal.


(2) helpful podcasts covering the subject of gun control

As with most other important policies, gun control is complicated. It feels hopeful we may finally move to more common sense in regulation, but we need wise governance to navigate all the complexities. These two podcasts helped me think through this issue with more knowledge and nuance.

  1. Trump Says He’s Ready For Gun Measures | via KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center

  2. Constitutional Primers: Second Amendment | via Pantsuit Politics


(3) links remembering Toni Morrison

I’ve not yet had the courage to read her work. I keep waiting for the “right moment” to engage emotionally and intellectually. In the meantime, I’m grateful especially to one of my favorite writing peers, Allison Backous Troy, for pointing toward Morrison as “a powerful witness, Toni Morrison's God Help the Child brings us into the work of reconciliation, the work of the Cross.”

  1. Toni Morrison – Remembering the Award-winning Novelist [NPR] | via Englewood Review of Books

  2. The withering witness of Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child and The rough redemption of Toni Morrison’s Home by Allison Backous Troy | via Think Christian

  3. How Toni Morrison Countered the Canon by Karen Swallow Prior | via Think Christian


(4) beautiful examples of the Church responding to evil and tragedy in Dayton and El Paso

Slowly, slowly - and, sadly, too late for many - a few voices from the American Church are more clearly demonstrating a public response that sounds like what Jarvis J. Williams and Curtis A. Woods describe in the CT piece linked below : “We believe in a Savior who redeems, a Spirit who reconciles, and a gospel that is the antithesis of white supremacy.”

  1. Context for El Paso mass shooting from Sami DiPasquale, Executive Director of Ciudad Neuva

  2. Returning to the Lord in Times of Evil and Tragedy by Fr. Peter Coelho, Church of the Cross, Austin, TX

  3. A Litany of Lament and Repentance For Our Treatment of Immigrants and Refugees | via Caminemos Juntos

  4. Jesus, Deliver Us from This Racist Evil Age by Jarvis J. Williams and Curtis A. Woods | via CT


(5) remembrances on the 5th anniversary of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson

Jemar Tisby’s piece reminded me that it was not only Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent protests in Ferguson that began to wake me up to my own racist complicity, but more specifically a question I asked an Intervarsity leader friend of mine after he returned from Urbana ‘15. I heard my own racism more clearly than ever and began to confess, repent and hope for reconciliation with my Black neighbors.

  1. Michael Brown Jr.’s Sisters Remember Their Brother on the Fifth Anniversary of His Police Shooting Death | via StoryCorps

  2. Five Years Later, Two Ferguson Protestors Reflect on the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photo that Captured their Anguish — and Connection | via StoryCorps

  3. How Ferguson widened an enormous rift between black Christians and white evangelicals by Jemar Tisby | via Washington Post

  4. I’m a Shooting Survivor. If You’re Going to Pray for Us, Here’s How. by Taylor Schumann | via CT

  5. Ferguson Mother of God: Our Lady against all Gun Violence, 2015 by Mark Dukes

Ferguson Mother of God: Our Lady against all Gun Violence, Mark Dukes   Source

Ferguson Mother of God: Our Lady against all Gun Violence, Mark Dukes

Source


(6) photos from my first week participating in #AugustBreak2019

I’m always ready by August for a little daily prompt to keep paying attention to the beauty of summer, aren’t you?

There is much to be cynical about—and it is a good answer if there has not been an incarnation. But if that has happened, if the Word did become flesh, and if there are men and women who in and through their own vocations imitate the vocation of God, then sometimes and in some places the world becomes something more like the way it ought to be.
— Steven Garber, Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good

(7) links featuring first-person narratives expanding our understanding of the Imago Dei

I hope you’ll take the time to read through this list I’ve curated. It covers an expanse of people and places, held together by the thread of society’s outliers. May reading the words translate into real-life noticing in our everyday lives.

  1. Confessing My Racism by Anna Broadway via Amy Julia Becker’s Thin Places at CT | How forgiveness could transform us all: “But insofar as we can call racism a blind spot (by which I don't in any way mean to absolve people of responsibility), Jesus taught a very different process for correction: start with your own sin.”

  2. Introducing: Mockingbird, History Lessons For Adults via Black Coffee with White Friends | "What if, all those years ago, when I asked Mrs. Jacka, “what should I be,” she’d been able to tell me, “Well, your people were the great pharaohs who were already here. They were from distant lands like Egypt and they arrived with gold spears to trade with the indigenous people who allowed them to stay and exchanged land for goods”? See a sample lesson here: Gimme shelter

  3. Christ in the Camps by Caitlin Flanagan via The Atlantic | Migrant children are suffering. Christians need to help: “But the Beatitudes come at you sideways sometimes, and that’s when you’re really in trouble. It occurred to me this morning that maybe as a Christian I’m also supposed to be meek.”

  4. My time with Jean Vanier and his mom, the grandmother of L’Arche by Ellen Rahner via America Magazine | "My time with Jean Vanier and his mom, the grandmother of L’Arche."

  5. The Fruits of Your Suffering: A Letter to My Refugee Mom by Adrienne Minh-Chau Le via On Being | "I have grown up so comfortably eating the fruits of your suffering."

  6. Going Home with Wendell Berry by Amanda Petrusich via The New Yorker | The writer and farmer on local knowledge, embracing limits, and the exploitation of rural America.

  7. The McDonald's Test by Chris Arnade via Plough | Learning to Love Back Row America


May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. 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 Engagement edition

A week 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

Our daughter Kendra got engaged! We’re so happy for her and her fiance, Jordan, and we loved celebrating with them this past week!  Many more photos and exclamation marks to come!

Our daughter Kendra got engaged! We’re so happy for her and her fiance, Jordan, and we loved celebrating with them this past week!

Many more photos and exclamation marks to come!


(2)-part article published for The Telos Collective

We live in a culture of workism where people both define themselves by their work and struggle to find its meaning and purpose. In this two-part series, I explored a missional approach to the areas of identity and vocation.

  1. In Part 1, she shares how listening to the 9-to-5 stories of her community has opened a path for blessing and connection: Why Am I Here?”: A Missional Approach to Identity and Vocation

  2. In Part 2 of her blog series on vocation and mission, Tamara Hill Murphy of Church of the Apostles shares firsthand experience that offices can double as confessionals and work-related prayers as benedictions: The Workplace: America’s New Church?


(3) sweet videos about fathers and sons

  1. Can’t get enough of this adorable father-son conversation.

  2. This son reminds his dad and the rest of us what matters most!

  3. Negative Space is an Oscar-nominated short film animation that depicts a father-and-son relationship through the art of packing a suitcase.


(4) rubrics for a Christian political imagination

  1. The Grey Area is Holy Ground by Marilyn McEntyre via Comment Magazine | "The bottom line for great compromisers: "It's not that simple."

  2. The Christian Mandate to Subvert Tribalism by Judy Wu Dominick via CT | From 2017 and more important to read than ever: "Our call to pursue nuance, a love-infused, subversive force."

  3. Against Nationalism: A Reading List for Christians via Englewood Review of Books | “How do we balance our biblical call to love, care for, and seek the welfare of our neighbors with our identity as followers of Jesus, whose reign was not of this world?”

  4. The Economics of Love by Peter Mommsen via Plough | Beyond Capitalism – and Socialism


(5) books I’m reading right now

  1. One Blood:Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love by John Perkins - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon

  2. A Place in Time: Twenty Stories of the Port William Membership by Wendell Berry - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon

  3. The Heart’s Necessities: Life in Poetry by Jane Tyson Clement with Becca Stevens - Plough | Hearts & Minds Bookstore | Amazon

  4. The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon

  5. Call the Midwife: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth - Hearts & Minds Bookstore | IndieBound | | Amazon


(6) posts from the archives

  1. 2017 - All Who Enter Here [writing at Art House America] (This is an essay I keep writing and re-writing, and it feels meaningful again this year as my Grandfather’s health steadily declines. “Year by year, we formed a kind of family liturgy, a joyful way of being together that transcended the reality of the modest little cabin and weedy pond. The liturgy expanded to jubilation… underneath Grandpa’s homemade picnic pavilion, eating Grandma’s macaroni and potato salads.”)

  2. 2014 - Orange (August is a good time for paying attention to the daily things, don't you think? Sometimes these prompts feel a little self-indulgent for me, but I think it’s a really good time to participate with #AugustBreak2019 again!)

  3. 2012 - My life as a rabbit (“People called me, emailed me and sought me out after church to share great part-time job ideas: personally assist a speaker and life trainer, copywriter for a sales company, provide childcare. All I wanted to do was to get paid for reading books all day.”)

  4. 2011 - Saying good-bye hurts like hell OR How My Husband's Personal Trainer Taught Me About Love (“When talking with people about this fact, my husband has taken to quoting a well-loved line from Christmas Vacation, " If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.")

  5. 2011 - Farewell Gifts (“We're still licking our wounds a bit, I'll admit. Still in mourning over lost dreams. Still shaking our heads at the lunacy of leaving behind these once-in-a-lifetime kind of friendships.”)

Natalie at camp.jpg

4 years ago

2015 - Natalie the fire-keeper. This will always be one of my favorites!


(7+) photos from our little celebration for Kendra & Jordan’s engagement!


May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. 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 January - June, part 1 [from the book pile 2019]

Oh goodness, how have six+ months gone by without a reading update?!? Life’s been a bit upside down lately, and I’m especially grateful for the companionship of good books. Hope you enjoy the micro reviews + publisher blurbs! Let me know if you add anything from this list to your book pile!

Sharing books from my Madeleine L’Engle collection at our reading group this spring.

Sharing books from my Madeleine L’Engle collection at our reading group this spring.

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

One other note: A couple years ago 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 horrible 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

1. Children of God: A Novel (The Sparrow Series)
By Mary Doria Russell (Fawcett Books, 1999. 438 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"The only member of the original mission to the planet Rakhat to return to Earth, Father Emilio Sandoz has barely begun to recover from his ordeal when the Society of Jesus calls upon him for help in preparing for another mission to Alpha Centauri. Despite his objections and fear, he cannot escape his past or the future.

Old friends, new discoveries and difficult questions await Emilio as he struggles for inner peace and understanding in a moral universe whose boundaries now extend beyond the solar system and whose future lies with children born in a faraway place.

Strikingly original, richly plotted, replete with memorable characters and filled with humanity and humor, Children of God is an unforgettable and uplifting novel that is a potent successor to The Sparrow and a startlingly imaginative adventure for newcomers to Mary Doria Russell’s special literary magic.”

Micro Review: The first book in this two-part series, The Sparrow, was one of the best books I read in 2014, ending up on my top 15 life-changing books since I started keeping track on this blog in 2008. I’d heard that the follow-up, Children of God, was generally good but not enjoyed quite as much by fans of The Sparrow, and I’d agree with that consensus. The first book just about wrecked me -- in mostly good ways. Since it falls in the category of Sci-Fi, I'd probably not have picked it up on my own. But some dear friends shared how much they'd loved the story of -- well, a Jesuit priest in outer space. With only a little bit of experience reading science fiction, I've quickly learned that the power of the genre -- for me -- is the way a well-told story of an imaginary land and its inhabitants can help me reframe the powerful drama of my own land and species in the most surprising, touching ways. This was the case for me reading about the brave team of space explorers hoping to give and receive love on the planet Rakhat -- for some, even the love of the Gospel of Christ. The devastating results of offering pure, but misunderstood, love mirrors all the great tragedies we know since the beginning of man. And the beginning of my very own life on Earth. Children of God split the storyline between Earth and Rakhat and I found that the Rakhat story more compelling. Emilio Sandoz lost a little bit of his shine for me as he tries to recover from trauma and re-enter regular relationships on earth. I understood the trauma, but struggled more with his romantic choices and the results of his forced participation in a Rakhat rescue. The story arc was still compelling and one of the only books I’ve read that I can authentically attribute the over-used descriptor of “spellbinding.”

I’d love to hear from you if you’ve read either of Mary Doria' Russell’s Sparrow books! How do you feel about them?

2. This Must Be the Place: A Novel
By Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf, 2016. 400 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"An irresistible love story, an unforgettable family. Best-selling author Maggie O’Farrell captures an extraordinary marriage with insight and laugh-out-loud humor in what Richard Russo calls “her breakout book.” Perfect for readers of Where’d You Go, Bernadette.

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn, and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex–film star given to pulling a gun on anyone who ventures up their driveway. Claudette was once the most glamorous and infamous woman in cinema before she staged her own disappearance and retreated to blissful seclusion in an Irish farmhouse.

But the life Daniel and Claudette have so carefully constructed is about to be disrupted by an unexpected discovery about a woman Daniel lost touch with twenty years ago. This revelation will send him off-course, far away from wife, children, and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?”

Micro Review:

I first heard about this title on a One Great Book podcast with Modern Mrs. Darcy: Volume 1, Book 8 - “if you have a place in your heart and on your shelves for inventive, emotionally resonant literary fiction, that sometimes flouts convention but does it with purpose, whose characters you might love not in spite of, but because of, their flaws, This Must Be the Place may be the next great book you’re looking for.”

This was an enjoyable read with interesting characters, easy-to-follow timeline shifts in the narrative arc, and a satisfactory plot ending. My main disappointment is that while a large portion of the book was set in Ireland, we didn’t get much of a “feel” for the place outside of a few mentions here and there. If Ireland is a setting I want to FEEL IT!


Mysteries

3. The Cruelest Month: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Volume 3)
By Louise Penny (Minotaur Books, 2011. 320 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.
It's spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil---until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?
Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.”

Micro Review: This series has been a quiet little luxury during some difficult days. I read the books kind of like I eat a bowl of popcorn - mostly light and airy with an occasional kernel of buttery goodness. It’s the kind of series I can pick up whenever I need to just read without much brain work but still appreciate the redemptive story arc.

4. A Rule Against Murder: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Volume 4)
By Louise Penny (Minotaur Books, 2011. 336 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"What happened here last night isn't allowed," said Madame Dubois.
It was such an extraordinary thing to say it stopped the ravenous Inspector Beauvoir from taking another bite of his roast beef on baguette.

"You have a rule against murder?" he asked.

"I do. When my husband and I bought the Bellechasse we made a pact....Everything that stepped foot on this land would be safe."

It is the height of summer, and Armand and Reine-Marie Gamache are celebrating their wedding anniversary at Manoir Bellechasse, an isolated, luxurious inn not far from the village of Three Pines. But they're not alone. The Finney family—rich, cultured, and respectable—has also arrived for a celebration of their own.

The beautiful Manoir Bellechasse might be surrounded by nature, but there is something unnatural looming. As the heat rises and the humidity closes in, some surprising guests turn up at the family reunion, and a terrible summer storm leaves behind a dead body. It is up to Chief Inspector Gamache to unearth secrets long buried and hatreds hidden behind polite smiles. The chase takes him to Three Pines, into the dark corners of his own life, and finally to a harrowing climax.”

Micro Review: See above.

5. The Brutal Telling: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Volume 5)
By Louise Penny (Minotaur Books, 2017. 400 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"The wise and beleaguered Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to Three Pines The Brutal Telling, the fifth book in Louise Penny's #1 New York Times bestselling series.

Chaos is coming, old son. 

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. Everybody goes to Olivier's Bistro—including a stranger whose murdered body is found on the floor. When Chief Inspector Gamache is called to investigate, he is dismayed to discover that Olivier's story is full of holes. Why are his fingerprints all over the cabin that's uncovered deep in the wilderness, with priceless antiques and the dead man's blood? And what other secrets and layers of lies are buried in the seemingly idyllic village?

Gamache follows a trail of clues and treasures—from first editions of Charlotte's Web and Jane Eyre to a spiderweb with a word mysteriously woven in it—into the woods and across the continent, before returning to Three Pines to confront the truth and the final, brutal telling.”

Micro Review: See above. I’ll add that I found the mystery angle of this story especially compelling.

6. Bury Your Dead: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel (Volume 6)
By Louise Penny (Minotaur Books, 2011. 400 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"It is Winter Carnival in Quebec City, bitterly cold and surpassingly beautiful. Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has come not to join the revels but to recover from an investigation gone hauntingly wrong. But violent death is inescapable, even in the apparent sanctuary of the Literary and Historical Society--where an obsessive historian's quest for the remains of the founder of Quebec, Samuel de Champlain, ends in murder. Could a secret buried with Champlain for nearly four hundred years be so dreadful that someone would kill to protect it?

Meanwhile, Gamache is receiving disquieting letters from the village of Three Pines, where beloved Bistro owner Olivier was recently convicted of murder. "It doesn't make sense," Olivier's partner writes every day. "He didn't do it, you know."

As past and present collide in this astonishing novel, Gamache must relive a terrible event from his own past before he can begin to bury his dead.”

Micro Review: See above. I’ll add that I loved the opportunity to get out of the quirky, but loveable Three Pines community into the rich, historical setting of Quebec. Montreal is totally on our travel bucket list! I also appreciated the way the mysteries included the current crime and a revisit to an old, somewhat unresolved crime from a previous book.


Short Stories

7. Strange Pilgrims
By Gabriel García Márquez (Convergent Books, 2016. 224 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"In Barcelona, an aging Brazilian prostitute trains her dog to weep at the grave she has chosen for herself. In Vienna, a woman parlays her gift for seeing the future into a fortunetelling position with a wealthy family. In Geneva, an ambulance driver and his wife take in the lonely, apparently dying ex-President of a Caribbean country, only to discover that his political ambition is very much intact.

In these twelve masterly stories about the lives of Latin Americans in Europe, García Márquez conveys the peculiar amalgam of melancholy, tenacity, sorrow, and aspiration that is the émigré experience.”

Micro Review: My friend Ryan loaned me this book with the invitation to try reading Gabriel García Márquez again after I gave up on his acclaimed One Hundred Years of Solitude which I gave up on pretty quickly. He was right. The short story format was a better genre to get to know the author and I waded through them like a walk on the seashore - refreshing, beautiful, and occasionally, mesmerizing. I think more than anything plot-driven, I found the author’s ability to describe settings and characters in story after story affecting me like wave after wave (twelve stories in all) of sharp but alluring prose.

As an example, I could read this character description over and over just for the hypnotic quality of the combination of words (and this is the translation!):

“She was beautiful and lithe, with soft skin the color of bread and eyes like green almonds, and she had straight black hair that reached to her shoulders, and an aura of antiquity that could just as well have been Indonesian as Andean. She was dressed with subtle taste: a lynx jacket, a raw silk blouse with very delicate flowers, natural linen trousers, and shoes with a narrow stripe the color of bougainvillea. 'This is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen,' I thought, when I saw her pass by with the stealthy stride of a lioness, while I waited in the check-in line at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris for the plane to New York. ”
- Gabriel García Márquez, Strange Pilgrims


Apostles Reads Selections

8. Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
By Madeleine L’Engle (Convergent Books, 2016. 224 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"In this classic book, Madeleine L'Engle addresses the questions, What does it mean to be a Christian artist? and What is the relationship between faith and art? Through L'Engle's beautiful and insightful essay, readers will find themselves called to what the author views as the prime tasks of an artist: to listen, to remain aware, and to respond to creation through one's own art.”

Micro Review: I re-read this book with our church’s reading group for Epiphany and loved it every bit as much the second (third?) time around. The theme of invisible being made visible in the everyday world is perfect for Epiphany when we read through the accounts of Jesus’ being revealed as God in some of the most famous Gospel encounters.

It’s the perfect book to read with friends interested in the ways art and artists tell the story of truth, goodness, and beauty in this world.

9. Hinds’ Feet On High Places: An Engaging Visual Journey
By Hannah Hurnard, Illustrated By Jill de Haan and Rachel McNaughton (Tyndale House Publishers, 2017. 160 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Journey with Much-Afraid to new heights of love, joy, and victory. For the first time, this beloved Christian allegory is a mixed-media special edition complete with charming watercolor paintings, antique tinted photography, meditative hand-lettered Scripture, journaling and doodling space, and designs to color. As you read and connect with the story of Much-Afraid and her trials, the pages of this book become a canvas on which to chronicle your own story, struggles, and personal triumphs.

Hinds' Feet on High Places, with more than 2,000,000 copies sold, is a story of endurance, persistence, and reliance on God. This book has inspired millions of people to become sure-footed in their faith even when facing the rockiest of life's terrain. The story of Much-Afraid is based on Psalm 18:33: "He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights."

The complete Hinds' Feet story is accented by 80 full-color paintings, photography, and hand-lettered Scripture.”

Micro Review: We read this beloved Christian allegory with our church’s reading group for Lent this year. I selected this beautiful mixed-media special edition complete with charming watercolor paintings, antique tinted photography, meditative hand-lettered Scripture, journaling and doodling space, and designs to color. I’ve lost track of the number of times since Easter that I’ve thought back to Much-Afraid’s challenging journey to her new identity of Grace and Glory. I’ll return to this devotional year after year.


Spirituality / Non-Fiction

10. Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace
By Christie Purifoy (Zondervan, 2019. 224 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Images of comfortable kitchens and flower-filled gardens stir something deep within us--we instinctively long for home. In a world of chaos and conflict, we want a place of comfort and peace.

In Placemaker, Christie Purifoy invites us to notice our soul's desire for beauty, our need to create and to be created again and again. As she reflects on the joys and sorrows of two decades as a placemaker and her recent years living in and restoring a Pennsylvania farmhouse, Christie shows us that we are all gardeners. No matter our vocation, we spend much of our lives tending, keeping, and caring. In each act of creation, we reflect the image of God. In each moment of making beauty, we realize that beauty is a mystery to receive.

Weaving together her family's journey with stories of botanical marvels and the histories of the flawed yet inspiring placemakers who shaped the land generations ago, Christie calls us to cultivate orchards and communities, to clap our hands along with the trees of the fields. Placemaker is a timely yet timeless reminder that the cultivation of good and beautiful places is not a retreat from the real world but a holy pursuit of a world that is more real than we know. A call to tend the soul, the land, and the places we share with one another. A reminder that we are always headed home.”

Micro Review: I was able to review Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace by Christie Purifoy for Englewood Review of Books
A Flouring Tree, A Feature Review:

Annie Dillard, in The Writing Life, encourages writers to remember Thoreau’s salient recommendation: “Circle round and round your life… Know your own bone; gnaw at it, bury it, unearth it, and gnaw it still.” If it’s possible to gnaw a bone elegantly, Christie Purifoy does just that in her newly-released second book, Placemaker: Cultivating Places of Comfort, Beauty, and Peace. Like her debut, Roots & Sky, Purifoy continues to circle round and round the subject of finding, losing, and making home.

With regard to Thoreau, a more apt metaphor Placemaker might be sitting under the shade of a tree we didn’t plant. Purifoy provides a virtual grove of shade trees gathered from the landscapes of the places she’s lived throughout her life. Not unlike Annie Dillard (or Thoreau) in her diligence to wring wonder from the natural world, Christie Purifoy offers readers glimpses of the universe’s deepest truth, goodness, and beauty from the fauna and flora we encounter in the ordinary places we make our homes.”

You can read the rest of my review describing why I loved this book and some of the trees in my own story here.

11. The Sabbath (FSG Classics)
By Abraham Joshua Heschel (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 144 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Elegant, passionate, and filled with the love of God's creation, Abraham Joshua Heschel's The Sabbath has been hailed as a classic of Jewish spirituality ever since its original publication-and has been read by thousands of people seeking meaning in modern life. In this brief yet profound meditation on the meaning of the Seventh Day, Heschel introduced the idea of an "architecture of holiness" that appears not in space but in time Judaism, he argues, is a religion of time: it finds meaning not in space and the material things that fill it but in time and the eternity that imbues it, so that "the Sabbaths are our great cathedrals."

Micro Review: This was a re-read for me in order to follow along with Englewood Review of Books’ Lenten online reading group. I facilitated one of the sessions. You can see my questions for Chapters 7-9 here.

Here’s an excerpt from my reflection following the first time I read the book (back in 2015):

Even though I'd always meant to read it because Abraham Joshua Heschel is quoted by almost every author I've ever read (usually from this book), I'll admit it was seeing an image of the cover art that finally got me to purchase the book.  The prints of wood engravings by Ilya Schor on the cover and at the beginning of each chapter provide an elegance to Heschel's graceful words about the beauty of Sabbath time to Jewish faith and life.  Heschel's words are poetic (at times, even, mythical) which I found captivating enough, but especially so when paired with his daughter's prologue to the book which explained in more day-to-day (week-to-week, rather) terms of what a Sabbath practice looked like in her father's home.

Beautiful.”


Christian Perspective / Social Issues

12. Darkness Is My Only Companion: A Christian Response to Mental Illness
By Kathryn Greene-McCreight, Foreword by Justin Welby (Brazos Press, 2015. 240 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Where is God in the suffering of a mentally ill person? What happens to the soul when the mind is ill? How are Christians to respond to mental illness? In this brave and compassionate book, theologian and priest Kathryn Greene-McCreight confronts these difficult questions raised by her own mental illness--bipolar disorder. With brutal honesty, she tackles often avoided topics such as suicide, mental hospitals, and electroconvulsive therapy. Greene-McCreight offers the reader everything from poignant and raw glimpses into the mind of a mentally ill person to practical and forthright advice for their friends, family, and clergy.

The first edition has been recognized as one of the finest books on the subject. This thoroughly revised edition incorporates updated research and adds anecdotal and pastoral commentary. It also includes a new foreword by the current Archbishop of Canterbury and a new afterword by the author.”

Micro Review: We’re walking with a loved one suffering from severe depression. Friends loaned us Kathryn Greene-McCreight’s book and I’d recommend it to everyone wanting to be a good gift to mental illness. May our tribe increase.

13. Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible
By M. Daniel Carroll R. (Brazos Press, 2013. 170 pages)

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Immigration is one of the most pressing issues on the national agenda. In this accessible book, an internationally recognized immigration expert helps readers think biblically about this divisive issue, offering accessible, nuanced, and sympathetic guidance for the church. As both a Guatemalan and an American, the author is able to empathize with both sides of the struggle and argues that each side has much to learn.

This updated and revised edition reflects changes from the past five years, responds to criticisms of the first edition, and expands sections that have raised questions for readers. It includes a foreword by Samuel Rodriguez and an afterword by Ronald Sider. This timely, clear, and compassionate resource will benefit all Christians who are thinking through the immigration issue..”

Micro Review: We had the privilege of hearing Danny Carroll speak at our diocesan convention last autumn on the biblical lens for immigration. Put this at the top of your reading and listening lists. You can see each of his three plenary talks from the weekend here. If you aren’t able to read the book right away, you can also hear the author in this series of brief videos.

The entire thread weaving through all of Scripture places priority on the foreigner and stranger. To think Christianly about immigration is actually pretty plain. Policies are complex and require good governance. The posture of anyone who lives within the Kingdom of Christ toward immigrants is straightforward. Let’s stop pretending otherwise.


Plough Book Reviews

14. Jean Vanier: Portrait of A Free Man
By Anne-Sophie Constant, Translated By Allen Page (Plough Publishing House, August 2019. 250 pages)

Amazon | Plough Publishing House | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"The life of Jean Vanier, founder of l’Arche, who changed the way the world views disability

It’s a crazy story. In August 1964 a thirty-six-year-old Canadian from a famous family – one who has already joined the navy during war at age thirteen, become an officer, earned a PhD, and taught ethics at the University of Toronto -- takes up residence in a little house he just bought in the village of Trosly, France, with two mentally disabled men he has removed from a care home. The house, which he calls l’Arche (the Ark), has neither water nor electricity. His plan? None. He is just convinced he has to do it, touched by the silent cry of these men shut up in the gloomy, violent institution where he found them. His example is contagious; within months the community has grown to over fifty.

Jean Vanier is known and loved around the world for having created L'Arche, those unique communities of people with disabilities and their volunteer caregivers in more than one hundred and fifty sites on five continents. But Vanier is also a philosopher, a spiritual master who touches believers and nonbelievers alike, a tireless messenger of peace and ecumenism, and an adventurer with life full of twists and turns. Anne-Sophie Constant's literary biography paints a rare portrait of this extraordinary man and the events and influences that shaped his destiny.

“The story of Jean Vanier is the story of a free man – a man who knew how to become himself, who knew how to free himself from restraints, opinions, and prejudices; from intellectual, religious or moral habits; from his epoch; from popular opinion. . . . Jean Vanier has transformed the lives of thousands and thousands of mentally disabled people. And he has transformed the understanding of thousands of people regarding the disabilities of their own children and of people with disabilities. Where we see only failure, disgrace, impossibility, limit, weakness, ugliness, and suffering, Jean Vanier sees beauty. And he knows how to open the eyes of others to see it..”

Micro Review: It’s a curious thing about us humans that we often delay our acquaintanceship with the work of remarkable humans until they die. For that reason, this August may be perfect timing for this new release from Plough Publishing House as the world mourns the loss of Jean Vanier, age 90, in May. For those like me who have circled around the writing and wisdom of the man who traded in a life of the political and academic elite to found L’Arche, an international federation of communities spread over 37 countries, for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist them. I find these kinds of biographies that provide background and context for the lives of those who so deeply influence the world helpful as a launch into the primary sources written by the figures themselves. I’m looking forward to reading deeply through Vanier’s writing and grateful to Anne-Sophie Constant and Plough for inviting me into the circle of those who knew the man firsthand.

More than anything I want to, in the words of the Apostle Paul, put on Jean Vanier as he put on Christ. I want to become more fully human in the process of companioning others to do the same. Thanks to this portrait of Vanier’s life I will always imagine the Kingdom of Christ like the crowd who gathered for L’Arche’s fiftieth-anniversary celebration. Here’s the description from the book’s epilogue:

“[The festival} took place on September 27 [2014]. To the surprise of the passersby, there was a gigantic parade of seven thousand people marching from the Hôtel de Ville to the Place de la République. The crowd shouted, sang, and danced in the streets as colorful balloons floated into the air. “What are you demonstrating against?” people asked. “Against nothing! We’re celebrating! Come dance and eat cake with us.”… So they danced on the Place de la République - marchers, wheelchairs, and pedestrians all mixed together.”

May each protest I offer against all that is inhuman and unlove have the air of the celebration that the Kingdom is here and now and through what Vanier described as the “sacrament of the poor” can be lived in the good company of Jesus who invites us all, like little children, into the belovedness of God.

15. At the Heart of the White Rose: Letters and Diaries of Hans and Sophie Scholl
By Hans Scholl and Sophie Scholl, Edited by Inge Jens, Translated by J. Maxwell Brownjohn (Plough Publishing House, 2017. 381 pages)

Amazon | Plough Publishing House | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"Personal letters and diaries provide an intimate view into the hearts and minds of a brother and sister who became martyrs in the anti-Nazi resistance during World War II.

Idealistic, serious, and sensible, Hans and Sophie Scholl joined the Hitler Youth with youthful and romantic enthusiasm. But as Hitler’s grip throttled Germany and Nazi atrocities mounted, Hans and Sophie emerged from their adolescence with the conviction that at all costs they must raise their voices against the murderous Nazi regime.

In May of 1942, with Germany still winning the war, an improbable little band of students at Munich University began distributing the leaflets of the White Rose. In the very city where the Nazis got their start, they demanded resistance to Germany’s war efforts and confronted their readers with what they had learned of Hitler’s “final solution”: “Here we see the most terrible crime committed against the dignity of humankind, a crime that has no counterpart in human history.”

These broadsides were secretly drafted and printed in a Munich basement by Hans Scholl, by now a young medical student and military conscript, and a handful of young co-conspirators that included his twenty-one-year-old sister Sophie. The leaflets placed the Scholls and their friends in mortal danger, and it wasn’t long before they were captured and executed.

As their letters and diaries reveal, the Scholls were not primarily motivated by political beliefs, but rather came to their convictions through personal spiritual search that eventually led them to sacrifice their lives for what they believed was right. Interwoven with commentary on the progress of Hitler’s campaign, the letters and diary entries range from veiled messages about the course of a war they wanted their country to lose, to descriptions of hikes and skiing trips and meditations on Goethe, Dostoyevsky, Rilke, and Verlaine; from entreaties to their parents for books and sweets hard to get in wartime, to deeply humbled and troubled entreaties to God for an understanding of the presence of such great evil in the world. There are alarms when Hans is taken into military custody, when their father is jailed, and when their friends are wounded on the eastern front. But throughout―even to the end, when the Scholls’ sense of peril is most oppressive―there appear in their writings spontaneous outbursts of joy and gratitude for the gifts of nature, music, poetry, and art. In the midst of evil and degradation, theirs is a celebration of the spiritual and the humane.

Illustrated with photographs of Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends and co-conspirators..”

Micro Review: I’d never heard of Hans and Sophie Scholl or the White Rose before receiving this book from Plough Publishing. In one way I’m glad to be just learning their story now against the backdrop or our current political and cultural climate. I’m beginning to understand that the one-dimensional understanding of anyone loyal to Hitler’s Germany has created massive blind spots and harmful ignorance in our belief that we’re living on the “right side of history.” May God raise up many more Hans and Sophie Scholls in our day. May we, like these young, idealists be willing as their peer in the resistance, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, allow all our wish-dreams to be shattered by Jesus.

And even then, in our zeal for Christ’s Kingdom to be on earth as it is in heaven, may we like Sophie Scholl never lose sight of the beauty of our Father’s world who wrote during her final autumn - a few months before her execution by the Nazi government ruling her beloved Germany:

“Now I’m delighting once more in the last rays of the sun and marveling at the incredible beauty of all that wasn’t created by man: the red dahlias beside the white garden gate, the tall, solemn fir trees, the tremulous, gold-draped birches whose gleaming trunks stand out against all the green and russet foliage, and the golden sunshine that intensifies the colors of each individual object, unlike the blazing summer sun, which overpowers anything else that tries to stir. It’s all so wonderfully beautiful here that I’ve no idea what kind of emotion my speechless heart should develop for it, because it’s too immature to take pure pleasure in it. It merely marvels and contents itself with wonder and enchantment - isn’t it mysterious - and frightening, too, when one doesn’t know the reason - that everything should be so beautiful in spite of the terrible things that are happening? My sheer delight in all things beautiful has been invaded by a great unknown, an inkling of the creator whom his creatures glorify with their beauty. - That’s why mane alone can be ugly, because he has the free will to disassociate himself from this song of praise. Nowadays one is often tempted to believe that he’ll drown the song with gunfire and curses and blasphemy. But it dawned on me last spring that he can’t, and I’ll try to take the winning side.”

Read this book with a side of humble curiosity and then pass it on.

16. The Gospel in Gerard Manley Hopkins: Selections from His Poems, Letters, Journals, and Spiritual Writings (The Gospel in Great Writers)
By Gerard Manley Hopkins and Margaret R. Ellsberg, Foreword by Dana Gioia (Plough Publishing House, 2017. 268 pages)

Amazon | Plough Publishing House | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

"How did a Catholic priest who died a failure become one of the world’s greatest poets? Discover in his own words the struggle for faith that gave birth to some of the best spiritual poetry of all time.

Gerard Manley Hopkins deserves his place among the greatest poets in the English language. He ranks seventh among the most frequently reprinted English-language poets, surpassed only by Shakespeare, Donne, Blake, Dickinson, Yeats, and Wordsworth.

Yet when the English Jesuit priest died of typhoid fever at age forty-four, he considered his life a failure. He never would have suspected that his poems, which would not be published for another twenty-nine years, would eventually change the course of modern poetry and influence such poets as W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, John Berryman, Geoffrey Hill, and Seamus Heaney. Like his contemporaries Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, Hopkins revolutionized poetic language.

And yet we love Hopkins not only for his literary genius but for the hard-won faith that finds expression in his verse. Who else has captured the thunderous voice of God and the grandeur of his creation on the written page as Hopkins has? Seamlessly weaving together selections from Hopkins’s poems, letters, journals, and sermons, Peggy Ellsberg lets the poet tell the story of a life-long struggle with faith that gave birth to some of the best poetry of all time. Even readers who spurn religious language will find in Hopkins a refreshing, liberating way to see God’s hand at work in the world.”

Micro Review: I re-read this insightful book for a Selah assignment this spring to study a Christian mystic. I was delighted to discover that one of my favorites, Gerard Manley Hopkins, included in a list of English mystic poets on God in nature.

Here’s my mini-review from my first read back in 2017:

I'm grateful for any opportunity I have to learn an artist through his life story. There are drawbacks, of course. Sometimes it's hard to look a hero in the proverbial eye through their letters and journal entries. It's hard to hear the doubt, insecurity, and suffering of the people who've introduced so much beauty into the world. Oh my goodness, Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems are beautiful. And his suffering was real. My favorite part of the book is still the poems, which I guess I could read in his collected works, but I've learned that I often prefer to read and study artists' work within the context of their everyday lives. 

Here's my all-time favorite Hopkins line from The Wreck of the Deutschland: "Let him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east".

Yes, let it be so.


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!

Lent begins in 2 weeks! [Lent Daybook explained]

Lent is not intended to be an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. It is meant to be the church’s springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.

Put another way, Lent is the season in which we ought to be surprised by joy. Our self-sacrifices serve no purpose unless, by laying aside this or that desire, we are able to focus on our heart’s deepest longing: unity with Christ. In him—in his suffering and death, his resurrection and triumph—we find our truest joy.
— Dorothy Sayers, Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Have you thought about participating this year?

Why Lent?

No season of the liturgical year has been more formative in my healing journey than Lent. While, my religious background trained me well in the reality of sin, death, and crucifixion, it did not provide much in the way of liturgical or devotional practices for lament, grief, and confession.

In my experience, this dissonance between teaching and practice fostered a sentimental approach to Jesus' life, death and resurrection. I was spiritual stunted in my ability to experience or to walk with others in their suffering. In this , the cross becomes a photoshopped decoration hanging in the background of a Church resistant to the invitations of the Suffering Servant who longs to save us in our suffering, and make us completely new in resurrection.  

Of course, personal and global suffering permeate every day of our lives in one way or another. We live in a broken body on a broken earth, and the Church calendar doesn't intend for us to ignore the entire spectrum of human suffering and joy based on the liturgical season. Instead, the cycle of fasting and feasting, celebration and lament provides practice, piece by piece, to form us wholly as Christians. Through each season, we meditate specific portions of Scripture year after year to learn the whole story of God and His people, and not just the portions with which we are most comfortable.  

When we celebrate the liturgical seasons, we grow not only in our knowledge of Scripture, but we learn also how to embody its life-giving truth. In the wisdom of our Church fathers and mothers - themselves informed by the collective memory of millenia of Jewish feasts and fasts initiated by the Creator - each liturgical season marks itself with daily, physical practices.  

We are not disembodied spirits just gritting our teeth until we are released from these bodies, like an unwanted overcoat, when we die. Nor are we merely defined by the physical matter that just happen to contain a spiritual being for those who care about those things. In the accounts of the Incarnated Christ we read through Advent, Christmas and Epiphany, we discover year after year a Christ, God made Man, who is not either body or spirit, but both body and spirit. During Lent, Eastertide and Pentecost, we set up camp for longer periods of time in each essential part of our being: body and spirit.  

Because my calling to Jesus lasts a lifetime, I need to think about growth in repentance over many years, not just one Lenten season. As Eugene Peterson said, we are called to practice ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ As I practice repentance—the turning of my whole self to God—it’s obvious I will need a lifetime of Lenten seasons to mature into the likeness of Christ.
— Jack King, Anglican Pastor blog

Lent is a 40 day lesson in what it means to be bodies cursed by death and decay. If you've ever received the cross-shaped ash on your forehead, you've heard the pastoral reminder of a very real, and very sad state in which we find ourselves: Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

From Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday, we follow the account of Christ as he makes His way to the Cross. In Epiphany, we encounter the light of divinity dwelling on Christ, inviting us to join Him as the light of the world. In Lent, we recognize and mourn the curse of sin and death that has separated man from God, even as we are invited to carry our cross and follow Christ on the road of suffering. We grow in humility and gratitude with the Lenten practice of remembering that once we were alienated from God and lived as people with no hope, and we seek mercy for those still living in that state.

There's so much joy to be found in humility. If you haven't ever fully entered into the practice of Lent, would you consider joining me this year? May I encourage you that this doesn't need to be (and probably shouldn't) be complicated.  

So, it needs to be said that Lent is about dying. But it also needs to be said that Lent is about asking God to bring about new life in us. We are a people who have died with the Lord Jesus Christ in the waters of Baptism and have been raised with him to newness of life. This is not a one-time occurence, but beginning there – continues through one’s life. When we fast, it is about desires and impulses dying in us, to make room for new life. When we give something up, it is to make room for something else – something better, something good, something life-giving.
— Fr. Lee Nelson, Anglican Pastor blog
Lenten wreath.jpg

 

Here are a few essential practices for a faithful Lent:

1.  Attend an Ash Wednesday service.  

2. Make a simple commitment to participate in three historical practices of the Church throughout the 40 days of Lent:

  • Fasting

  • Praying

  • Almsgiving

We have followed this pattern in a variety of ways throughout the past nine years we've been practicing Lent. While there’ve been years we've practiced a more severe fast (e.g., all sugar, alcohol, processed foods, and television), perhaps the most beneficial years are the ones we chose one or two things to give up. We've also learned to take up practices in their place. For example, you might choose to give up eating an entire meal (or day of meals), and in place, set aside extended time for prayer or meditation. You might fast from a certain technological device while taking up reading, walking, or letter-writing in its place.

The point is to make space in our lives to give up reliance on one thing in order to grow in dependence on Christ.

3. Choose a daily devotional guide. I’d be honored for you to choose my annual Lent Daybook devotional posts which you can read about in more detail below. We also enjoy a variety of other devotional books which you can read about here.  

4. We light candles, look at art, sing hymns, pray and read Scripture together. We try to do this every day, but we average more like 4 out of 7 days. My best tip for you if your family feels awkward doing this? Turn the lights off! There's nothing like sitting in the dark looking at a few flickering candles to break the ice of awkward family Bible time.

Eastertide.7.JPG

How to enjoy Lent Daybook posts: Look, Listen, Read, Pray, & Do

Each day of Lent (March 6 - April 20) I’ll publish a devotional post. The Lent Daybook posts leading up to Holy Week will include a work of art, song, daily Scripture passages, a short prayer, and a simple activity to help you practice the prayerful days of Lent. During Holy Week, I’ll publish the seventh annual series, Retrieve Lament. Each year, I ask friends to share a "mourning story" from their own life as a way to help us see Christ in the midst of suffering.

Look

Some might call this devotional practice of visual contemplation Visio Divina, or a divine looking. It’s not the actual work of art that is divine, but the Holy Spirit’s invitation to encounter Christ through nonverbal reflection. Throughout the year I collect digital images that I think will enhance the Scriptural themes of Lent. You’ll notice that some of the images evoke traditional scenes of the Passion of Christ, while others seem to have nothing to do with the traditional images of the season. The images rotate through classic and contemporary art of all media. Each week I include an image (usually a photograph) from news headlines of the year. My hope is that the Scripture passages for each day orient the visual art selection and sometimes, honestly, that’s a difficult task.

Listen

Most of the songs I share each day are worship songs and contemporary versions of old classic hymns, but each week I try to mix in a classical instrumental or choral arrangement. Lent is particularly suited to highlight the rich canon of old Spirituals and Gospel songs. Paradoxically, mainstream pop, rock, indie, and country catalogues are chock full of songs the reflect the weariness and anxiety of living in a broken world so you’ll hear some of them, too! I try to select quality recordings and include both a Spotify and YouTube version for your convenience. Since the music is chosen to enhance the visual art, my family chooses to play the music as a backdrop for contemplating the image. You might choose to do each separately. I also include a link to lyrics for each song so you can sing along if you’d like!

If you love seasonal playlists as much as I do, here’s links to all five (5!) of my Lenten playlists. Add any of the lists to your Spotify account by clicking ‘Follow.’

Lent 2019 on Spotify:

Read

Oh my goodness, I love the lectionary. I’ve always been intrigued by the interweaving of Old and New Testaments for the beauty of the literary rhythms as well as the deep satisfaction of experiencing the living, breathing word of God that looks backwards and forwards at the same time. It’s so rich. If you don’t do anything else with the posts I send each day, read the Scripture passages. I include a link for the complete lectionary passages each day and then excerpt the portions that particularly spoke to me as I was preparing the post. I use the English Standard Version most often, but if you click through the link to the Biblegateway page, you can adjust the version to your preference.

From March 6 - April 13, Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1) with only one or two of the daily Psalms.

Starting on Palm Sunday, April 14, we’ll shift away from the lectionary to focus on the litany of last words Jesus spoke from the cross; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I’ve asked seven friends to share with us from their own life experiences of grief. This is a highlight of the year for me on the blog and 2019 is our seventh year helping each other retrieve a Christlike lament for the brokenness of our lives and world.

Pray

Each week the prayers are formed around the Sunday collect (prayer said by the congregation in Sunday worship). While you could pray directly from the daily Scripture (especially the Psalms) or the hymn lyrics, I include a guided prayer for each day. Once a week, I invite you to a form of intercessory prayer termed “Prayers of the People” from the Book of Common Prayer. This allows us to set aside at least one day to remember each sphere of our world with particular prayer from your context.

Do

The spiritual practice of contemplation, at its best, moves between stillness and thoughtful action. We were made by a Creator to love Him, our neighbors, and ourselves with heart, mind, soul, and strength. I’m delighted to invite you to some simple, daily actions to demonstrate that love outwardly. Some of the activities will feel familiar to the traditional Lenten customs of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving, and some will feel new and counterintuitive. It’s all good.

A Lenten Community

When I first started this series, I was compelled to create something I’d been looking for and couldn’t find online. While I own and enjoy several printed beautiful devotional books for Lent and Eastertide, I was intrigued by the idea of a multi-media, shared experience that can be cultivated online. Since then, many new and wonderful resources release each year. It’s tempting to dabble in each one, but I encourage you to find what works best for you and to simply, prayerfully walk through each day with intentional companions. I’m honored to be included in your Lenten journey.

I’ve also known from the beginning that I wanted this to be a free offering. The ability to access a world of beauty for free on the internet literally changed my life. I want to be part of that free stream, and since I’m mostly curating the work of other people I encourage you to click through the source links to purchase their art. If you’re appreciating the posts and would like to support my work on the website, I’ve include a PayPal “tip jar” on the blog page and in the bottom of some of the Lent posts - (paypal.me/TamaraHillMurphy).

Join Us!

Conversation makes a community so please comment here on the blog or social media regularly! Let me know how you’re experiencing God’s invitation through the Lent Daybook posts or any other part of your day. I love to hear from you.

  • Instagram - I’ll be sharing the daily posts as well as occasional Stories at the blog’s Instagram account. If you’re on Instagram, you can follow me there.

  • Facebook - I’ll link the daily posts. In order to make sure you see each post, you'll need to "like" the page and click on the "Following" button and then the "On" option in the drop-down box.

  • Twitter - I’m not very active, but I do cross-link the daily posts for those of you who like to hang out there.

  • Subscribe via Email - I’m looking forward to spending the next coming weeks together. If you’d like to receive the daily posts in your email inbox, subscribe with your email below. (You don’t need to do this if you already receive posts via email.)

A Holy Lent to you and yours. Lord, have mercy on us all.


What are some traditions you keep to help you slow down and pay attention to the presence of God in the days leading up to Holy Week and Easter?  Comment below - I'm listening!

*Please note that, in an effort to be a good steward of time and resources for our family, this post includes affiliate links.  When you purchase any item you click through from these links, you'll pay the same amount, but we'll get a few pennies in our coffers.Thank you!*

Weekend Daybook: listening, resting, reading, and practicing 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

on a study and reflection retreat this week and the timing couldn't be more perfect. Also: thank you,  @roseberrytea , for the loan of your Irish Book of Common Prayer. We've been enjoying it for each of the Offices!

on a study and reflection retreat this week and the timing couldn't be more perfect. Also: thank you, @roseberrytea, for the loan of your Irish Book of Common Prayer. We've been enjoying it for each of the Offices!


(2) songs on repeat

  1. Jesus, See the Traveler, Sara & Ruby Groves

  2. The Kingdom Is Yours, Dee Wilson & Brittney Spencer (lyrics and chord chart here)

 

(3) projects I’ve been working on

  1. Spiritual practice stories on Instagram - I fully intended to write a blog series during Epiphany on spiritual practices that have been life-giving for me. It didn’t happen on the blog for a variety of time-related reasons, but I’ve been grateful for the IG platform to share what I’m learning and to hear back from you. Even if you don’t have an Instagram account, I believe you can view what I’ve shared about the practice of silence and noticing without judgement.

  2. Last weekend we facilitated a weekend intensive for those seeking inner healing for relational, emotional, or sexual wounds. I had the privilege not only of caring for a small group of women, but also speaking on the subjects , “How Jesus on the Cross Bears the Sins Committed Against Us (our wounds)” and “Becoming Secure in the Father’s Love”. I’m hoping to share a tiny portion of that teaching in an Instagram story this week. You can read a portion of my own journey toward healing in this post I wrote during Holy Week last year.

  3. I’ve been posting the lectionary readings along with art, music, prayer, and suggested practices each Sunday in Epiphany. I’ve gained a deep affection for this season in the church calendar. I love reflecting on the groundbreaking teaching of Christ as the world first got to hear him represent the Father.


(4) meaningful conversations during Black History month

  1. This account is full of beauty, truth, and goodness. Don’t miss it: Black Coffee With White Friends on IG

  2. Perhaps the most helpful resource yet to help me understand the meaning of “whiteness”: Can “White” People be Saved: Reflections on Missions and Whiteness | Willie Jennings via Fuller Studio. Explore more on the complex intersection of race, politics, and society.

  3. Sad, convicting truth told in love: To All the White Friends I Couldn’t Keep by Andre Henry

  4. In 1963, more than a dozen African American girls, including Carol Barner-Seay, Shirley Reese, Diane Bowens, and Verna Hollis, were arrested for protesting segregation in Americus, Georgia. At StoryCorps, they remember being held in a small makeshift jail for nearly two months.


(5) books I’m reading

  1. (Re) reading for Epiphany with Apostles Reads: Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith & Art by Madeleine L’Engle.

  2. I read the devastatingly beautiful The Sparrow five years ago and am finally getting to the sequel: Children of God by Mary Doria Russell.

  3. A big part of my final assignments for my spiritual director certification: The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGinn.

  4. Brian gave this to me for Christmas 2017 and I lost track of it for over a year! Glad to finally be enjoying Word by Word: A Daily Spiritual Practice by Marilyn McEntyre.

  5. A beautiful book on the essence of my work: Holy Listening: The Art of Spiritual Direction by Margaret Guenther


(6) meaningful perspectives on current events

  1. Please don’t miss this one - Gary Haugen, president and founder of International Justice Mission, speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast and demonstrates how to speak truth to power - with the U.S. president sitting two people away - to speak truth with self-differentiated, non-anxious authority. I want to memorize this speech and repeat it to myself daily.

  2. I’m done letting anger separate me from pro-life work. Simcha Fisher steps up to speak on my behalf.

  3. A Debt to Education via Plough - With four kids just finished or trying to finish degrees, this one hit home. Help us, God … “All debt forms us, but it’s important to recognize how student debt shapes our conception of ourselves and our society.”

  4. Related - The Fleecing of Millenials via NYT . (and when, oh when, will someone have the integrity of intelligence to include the economic effect of abortion in this list of things economically screwing the millenial generation?!?)

  5. On the subject of quality of life for all - Why Conservatives Should Oppose the Death Penalty via American Conservative. “The state is not God, and capital punishment is not infallible.”

  6. While the government argues budgetary earmarking for Immigration Reform, let Christians consider this: How Does the Bible Orient Us Toward Immigration? The recordings at this link include the every plenary session with Dr. Danny Carroll that Brian and I attended with clergy from our diocese this past November. If I were pope for the day, I’d make it required listening for every church in the U.S. right now.


Emmett's Baby Shower1.jpeg

6 years ago

Decorating our house in Austin for our godson Emmett’s baby shower. (Our friends Blake & Krista made this gorgeous book page wreath for the book-themed shower.)


May your weekend include some rest and some fun with friends and family. 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!