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!

Weekend Daybook: lots of reading and some television recommendations thrown in

Until Advent (minus some vacation weeks this summer) I’ll share some of the things helping me to worship God, love people, and enjoy beauty each week for you to peruse during your weekend downtime.

(1) photo from this week

our little patch of springtime

our little patch of springtime


(2) more meaningful resources on the meaning of the Feast of the Ascension

  1. Ascensiontide Novena , What Are the Rogation Days? and Rogation Prayer Bunting via The Homely Hours (I’m so grateful to learn how to intentionally and devotionally prepare for Pentecost! I also printed out that bunting and there’s no small children in my home.)

  2. Saint Augustine’s Homily on the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord via Beliefnet (So profound in so few words.)


(3) new blog posts this week!

  1. Sixth Sunday in Eastertide: Going Away / Coming Down (I’m enthralled with “Sky Ladder”, Cai Guo Qiang’s pyrotechnic installation art. Video included on the blog post.)

  2. Practice Resurrection with Amanda McGill (Southwest Ohio) (Make sure you take a moment to listen to Amanda reading us the poem in the video at the top of the post, and please don’t miss the adorable poetry buffs who show up at the end!)

  3. Ascension Day! (I hope the collection I’ve curated for us this week will be meaningful for you, as well. You can see previous years' Ascension Day meditations here. )



(5) insights into the intersection of literacy and strong towns

  1. Librarians Are Trying to Encourage Children to Read—by Bringing Books Straight to the Laundromat by David Beard via Mother Jones (Several initiatives across the country are turning laundromats into libraries to front-load literacy.)

  2. The Secret Life of Libraries By Eric Klineberg via Slate (The children, readers, learners, neighbors, and karaoke singers who use one local library every day.)

  3. How a Local Bookstore Can Make Your Town Richer—In More Than One Way by Kea Wilson via Strong Towns

  4. 16 Incredible Libraries From Around the World by Jessica Miley via Interesting Engineering (These wonderful libraries both new and old might distract you from your reading. We’ve visited #14 several times!)

  5. Community and creativity in mundane retail spaces via Austin Kleon (In The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community, Ray Oldenburg praises “third places” where people can just get together and hang out as essential to healthy public life.)


(6) links inspiring us embrace the intersection of spring and summer!

  1. Bookish Spring Weekends: 10 Things To Do If You’re Feeling Bored via A Little Blue Book (Not sure how many of us have the luxury of boredom, but here’s a handy list just in case!)

  2. Liturgies for Springtime via Every Moment Holy (My friend texted me this week that she was praying for me while she planting flower seeds. Beautiful, right? )

  3. It’s BACK! Project Summer: Frugal Fun Guide plus your own FREE Printable Summer Planner via Cha-Ching on a Shoestring (Huge list of free and cheap stuff to do with your kids this summer from my brilliant sister!)

  4. 2019 Summer Reading Guide via Modern Mrs. Darcy (Any of you a Modern Mrs. Darcy groupie? I’m hoping to read at least 1 title from each cateogry this summer!)

  5. 10 Fiction Classics for Summer Reading! via Englewood Review of Books (Some of my favorites are included in this list. I’m adding #8 to my TBR for this summer.)

  6. How to Do Kids’ Discipleship in the Woods by Kelli B. Trujillo via CT Women (Creation care does more than conservation. It cultivates faith formation, says A Rocha.)


(7) blog posts from this week in the archives

  1. 2016 - Alex is a college grad! (A fun update during our Season of Fortunate Events).

  2. 2016 - We’re moving: A stream-of-consciousness reflection (It's these moments when God's love makes us appropriately small so that His presence can loom large that I most believe in His goodness + my Friends playlist!)

  3. 2013 - We are the Pentecost-ed (Before this epiphany I mostly felt a low-grade anger that God letting people die during Eastertide was wrecking my liturgical mojo.)

  4. 2013 - This one’s for you [Ryan] (I love you, Ryan Anthony Hill.  Happy Birthday, brother and friend.)

  5. 2012 - You don’t have to be a worship leader to worship God in a mall parking lot (Meditating the practice of everyday worship in honor of my aunt and because I lived in Austin at the time of this writing and was learning that sometimes dependent prayer is the only tool I had left to find decent parking.)

  6. 2011 - A new way to be human guest post: Forgiveness (I collect stories of radical forgiveness and this one from my friend is a good one.)

  7. 2009 - Confession: Part 1 and Part 2 (Disciplines of the Inner Life series)

  8. 2008 - Pick your own metaphor (How many times have we moved during the month of May?!?)

Alex grad.Brian.jpg

3 years ago

Father and son at Alex’s graduation from Rice University, Houston.


May your weekend include plenty of space to practice resurrection. Hallelujah! Christ is risen, friends!

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

What I Read October - December 2018

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

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

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

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

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


Novels

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

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

Micro Review:

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


Apostles Reads Selections

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

Micro Review:

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

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

Amazon Audible | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

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

Micro Review:

This was the Advent and Christmastide selection for Apostles Reads.

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

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

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


Essays & Non-Fiction

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

 

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

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

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

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


Poetry

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

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

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


Prayer / Spirituality / Spiritual Direction / Bible Study

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

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

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

 

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

Amazon | IndieBound | Hearts & Minds Booksellers

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Christmas Reading

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Previews

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

What are you reading these days? 

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

7 Literary Books Our Church Read together in 2018 {Apostles Reads}

Our book discussion for Robert Farrar Capon’s  Supper of the Lamb  included a potluck feast of his recipes.

Our book discussion for Robert Farrar Capon’s Supper of the Lamb included a potluck feast of his recipes.

In 2016, when I read the wonderful Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help Our Neighborhoods and Churches Flourish by C. Christopher Smith, I was at the same time preparing to move to a new state and minister within a new church family. Brian and I felt strongly that our role as the new Rector and wife needed to be first as guests in a place that, while new to us, was a community where, within and without Church of the Apostles, Christ's kingdom was alive and active. We wanted to enter with an appropriate curiosity to the stories of life, love, and loss in southwest Connecticut. At the same time, we knew we'd need to cultivate conversations that would help us find kindred spirits. It's this sort of solution that Reading for the Common Good helped me imagine. While reading and discussing a wide range of excellent books wasn't the only way I began to build relationships in Fairfield County, it certainly was one of the most delightful.

My husband gets a lot of credit for trusting my idea (as he's done so many times in the last 28 years). From the broad idea for churches to read good books together generated in Reading for the Common Good, I customized the details to fit our needs and context. For one thing, we've added a liturgical slant - reading one book per liturgical season informed by the broad themes of each season. Our very first book to read together for Advent 2016, we read Shusaku Endo's Silence (which prompted a somewhat unintentional group initiation!) and then swung to the verbose and jubilant essays and poems of G. K. Chesterton for Christmastide. That's a kind of intellectual athleticism (and maybe gracious response to the new Rector's wife) only the most open-minded readers embrace.

Another bonus has been getting to know each other better. On more than one occasion I've been astonished to hear the bits and pieces of life stories that intersect with our book themes - like the lovely woman who mentioned in a sort of "oh by the way" comment during last Lent’s discussion of MLK's Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? that she'd worked for the LBJ administration and witnessed first-hand the Poor People's March on Washington the same year as the assassination of Dr. King; another shared privately that she'd protested with the pacifist priest Daniel Berrigan. I'll admit to a bit of jaw-dropping since both of those scenarios are a long way from the conservative church circles in an area that includes some of the nation's top-earning zip codes

I'm happy to look back on our second year reading together and see that the Apostles Reads group has been up to the challenge. From the true and devastating accounts of one lawyer’s campaign to free the wrongfully imprisoned in Just Mercy to the bittersweet fictional tale of a lonely college rad roaming the streets of Chicago with a basketball and a fantastical pet dog in Chicago to the relentlessly shocking characters in Flannery O’Connor’s deep South and more, this little reading community has responded to each title with grace, humility, empathy, and intellectual curiosity. I’m honored to be among them.

In case you’re curious, here’s the general guidelines we follow in selecting the book titles:

  • Many of our titles will be selected from what's widely understood as classic books or authors, whether that's in a technical or colloquial sense.

  • Many of our titles will be selected from books and authors that have been awarded for their literary merit within the larger publishing arena.

  • While we love new books and encourage each other to be aware of good books that have been newly released, for the sake of growing in our understanding of the context in which we live, worship, and work we'll veer toward older, established works rather than newer releases.

  • All of our books will acknowledge the reality of common grace, most will carry implicit theological themes, a couple will be based on explicit theological themes.

  • We value all genres of literature and will work toward including a noticeable variety of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short story, biography, and essays each year.

  • We value reading outside of our tradition as a form of hospitality toward people, places, and customs different than our own experience.

  • We value literacy for all ages and will, once or twice a year, read something that is suitable for all ages.

I thought you might enjoy seeing the titles we chose and a few notes from our discussions. I'd also love to hear any suggestions you have for our future reading.

Reader’s theatre during our family discussion of  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Reader’s theatre during our family discussion of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever


All year - Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year by Malcolm Guite

I was excited to introduce our group to the work of one my favorite contemporary, liturgical poets, Malcolm Guite. In the collection Sounding the Seasons: Seventy Sonnets for the Christian Year, he turns 70 lectionary readings into beautiful, poignant spiritual reflections. We read through this book as a companion to all our reading during 2018, reading several aloud each time we gathered. As a bonus, we grew in our understanding and appreciation for the sonnet as a classic poetic form.

 

Advent & Christmastide - The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

For Advent and Christmastide, I chose a timeless favorite from my family: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. To judge the book by the cover only, one might think this title is for children alone. Don’t let this little 128-page treasure fool you. Like any well-told story, the story of a congregation making space for "the worst kids in the world" to join their annual Christmas pageant is powerful in its child-like simplicity. And such is the kingdom of Heaven, yes?

Our get-together was delightful. We ranged from preschooler to senior citizen, and pulled off our own little improv/reader’s theater of one of the scenes as well as some pretty great rounds of Pictionary using key words and phrases from Malcolm Guite’s sonnets. As always, the kids’ literary comprehension blew us away.

This is the rare kind of book that both adults and children find both hilarious and heartwarming. Recommended reading for everyone, every year!

 

Epiphany - Chicago: A Novel by Brian Doyle

I read this novel for the first time in 2017 after hearing that the Catholic author had died a premature death to brain cancer. For some reason, I hadn't heard of him before then and spent the next several months trying to rectify that error. The novel Chicago is sweet, imaginative, funny, and full of grace. During Epiphany we celebrate the Christ who came to live and work among us, or as in Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, “moved into the neighborhood”.

Also, I'm going to tell you right now: Edward is one of my favorite book characters of all time, and he's encouraged me to like our dog Leo a lot more than I actually do.

 

Lent - Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

We prayerfully began our next book Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson during Lent. I first began hearing about this book a couple of years ago, and gave it to my daughter-in-law who was, at the time, studying criminal psychology and recidivism at her university. On her recommendation, I added the book to my to-read list but it was the encouragement of one of our group members that finally got me to begin reading this difficult subject.

After we read Dr. King's book together our first Lent (2017), Walter Wittwer handed me a book and said, "You should read this." He'd handed me his own underlined copy of Just Mercy, and because I respect his advice and am grateful for his experience ministering within the prison system, I finally started reading.  I was grateful to be able to read the difficult, but beautiful stories along with a community of friends.

 

Eastertide -The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon

The Supper of the Lamb: A Culinary Reflection by Robert Farrar Capon may be my all-time favorite food-related book. Certainly, it's my favorite food/theology book, as should be any reflection that turns chopping an ordinary onion into an act of worship. 

During the Great Fifty Days of Eastertide, we celebrate all the foretastes of the eternal kingdom that grace our lives right now. Nothing points us more to the jubilee of that day than the act of feasting and no one argues more passionately for that act than Capon. We enjoyed the discussion around a potluck feast of our own with recipes made from the book. Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!

 

Pentecost - Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman

Brian selected Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good by Amy L. Sherman. 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. 

 

Ordinary Time - The Complete Stories by Flannery O’Connor

It took me two years to have the courage to assign Flannery O'Connor - which is a pretty big statement since we started our group with the novel Silence! It helped that a few of our group mentioned having already read some of O’Connor’s work and that they were looking forward to reading more.

I first read O'Connor's fiction after seeing her name mentioned over and over again by artists and theologians whose work I admired. I was not prepared for what I read, but I knew I wanted to better understand the perspective on faith that colors Flannery O'Connor's short stories with equal parts biting wit, naked observation of the depravity of humans, and tiny - sometimes minuscule - glimpses of a divine grace.

To be honest, I didn't really start appreciating her work until I read some of her non-fiction. I needed to understand a bit more about her own life to better understand what colored her fictional imagination. For this reason, I kept our reading selection somewhat open. I recommended the anthology of her short stories, The Complete Stories , so that group members could pick and choose the titles that most catch their attention. I also recommended The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor or Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose for those who wanted to supplement the short stories with some of O’Connor’s non-fiction.

Here's a brief review I shared after reading The Habit of Being that unpacks a bit more the tension of paradigm shifting I experienced from Flannery O'Connor's writing. 

Our Autumn read

Our Autumn read

Here's the list of books we've read so far this liturgical year, and the ones we're (tentatively) planning to read for 2019.

Advent and Christmastide- A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Epiphany - Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle

Lent - Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard (or this delightful children’s illustrated version!)

Eastertide - The Weight of Glory by C. S. Lewis

Pentecost - One Blood: Parting Words to the Church on Race and Love by John Perkins

Ordinary Time (summer) - a Dostoyevsky title to be determined

Ordinary Time (autumn) - Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn

Advent - Joshua: A Parable for Today by Joseph F. Girzone

Christmastide: “Journey of the Magi” by T. S. Eliot


Any suggestions? Also, if you could invite your church to join you in reading one book for this year (with the above criteria), what would YOU choose?

p.s. This post contains 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!