A book is like a key that fits into the tumbler of the soul. The two parts have to match in order for each to unlock. Then - click - a world opens.
As March comes to a close, I am looking back over the books I read this month. These are books I held in my hands, fingering the covers, flipping pages and making my marks. I love hearing what book my friends and colleagues have read and a bit of what they liked. That is what I have done for you. Life is too short to waste on a dull read.
I really am looking for the books that click into the tumbler of my soul be that key through deepening my faith, good story or hearty laughter.
My list this month might be brief, but but don't be fooled by its brevity. These pages to be savored. I have filled them full of my signature swiggly lines, stars and crescent smiles. I am already trying out their content in my real life.
I have had this gem on my reading list since last year. Why, oh why did I wait so long?
I recently prayed with a group of leaders over a big decision. I had already started to pray quietly in my own life, but now we were gathering as a team. The night before we met to pray and listen for God's quiet voice together, I read these two lines from Adam's book,
"God is an extravagant listener."
"We do not listen alone".
Those two small lines shaped my prayers the next night. Listening is part of our prayer, maybe the bigger part, so I practiced being more comfortable with the silences woven between the words. I knew our gathering was significant because as McHugh points out we listen in community for the benefit of community.
We were listening on behalf of children and desperately needed to hear how to love their little broken hearts well. We were straining to hear as we do when someone whispers, when we adore their face and their words, when we truly want to hear.
"Why would God speak so softly in a world that so often needs a blaring wake-up call? I have to conclude that God's speech patterns indicate how important he considers our listening. . . A whispered, message assumes that the listener is in proximity to the speaker."
Our God is near. I keep forgetting.
First of all, the title. Then the tagline: How I Disconnected from the Internet and Reconnected with the God Who Made the Clouds. Sigh. Then the cover. You will want to feel it. Then, Esther's lyrical way with words and her vulnerable heart. She does know how to make a difficult time sing off the page.
Esther went on a 365 day sabbatical from the Internet and all social media and found so many valuable things in the silence that followed.
I don't want to give it all away, but there is much about forgiveness and authenticity in her life, her marriage, her identity and her return to her real and rooted Christian faith.
I love the answers she found when bumping smack into feelings she'd rather run from. She found ways other rather than turning to screens, follows, likes or her online presence.
"There is an answer to every cry. When I feel dead, I plant something. When I feel forgotten, I create something. When I feel unforgiven, I pick up the guitar. . . Seem days my whole brain gets wet in the dew of the resurrection."
Esther goes a little bit Little House on the Prairie which has its own charm. In unplugging, she faces down her own grief and regrets in her mama-history. Of course, you don't have to go completely offline to try a few of her invaluable lessons.
"When I feel forgotten, I create something" rings true for me. I have taken a few art classes since the new year and have certainly felt remembered, in a way found. Making something makes your skin tingle and your smile appear out of nowhere.
We are reading this as a church during Lent and discussing it on Thursday nights which happens to be the day Mike and I have chosen for fasting this year. There is something about reading a book in community and giving its words air to breath among you that is deepening the reading. And I am coming to these words hungry which I am finding is a hard and good idea.
Swoboda suggests that the three days at the close of Lent, the Crucifixion on Good Friday, the silence and uncertainty on Holy Saturday and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday, are all part of our Christian faith. And maybe we spend most of our lives on that middle day, Saturday. Each of us may have our preferred day to take as the whole, but do we know how to handle the whole weekend as God gave it? Do we know how heavy, mysterious, unknown, surprising and dangerous our God really is?
" . . . faith appears like the dead surface of a frozen river. What I wat to say is that below the dead-looking surface is a living river too - a glorious dark. What appears as dead is really alive, alive like the wind."
On Saturday, the tomb was quiet and dark and revealed little to no hope to those outside the stone who had believed so hard in Jesus as Messiah. This book makes me wonder what else happened on Holy Saturday? This book made me ask a lot more questions.
I think his message throughout the book might be summed up by this line,
" . . . seek to know God on God's own terms. Easygoing is the way to know God on our terms; its another story to seek to know God on God's terms."
It is a perfect read on the way to Easter, but worth it any time of year.
I love a good story about how anyone finds their faith or finds it again when they haven't even been looking for a good long while. This is such a story.
Add to that the words of a poet, the rhythms of the Liturgy and the embrace of a monastery, and I am instantly there.
Add to all of that beauty, her layer of being a married woman while visiting a monastery. She shares her view of moving back and forth between the monastery and her marriage and seeing it all as one Big Love Story.
It has been called a strange and beautiful book and I found it to be so.
There is one chapter that seemed especially unusual and way too long for me. Other than that chapter (I think you'll know which one), I found Norris'story an invitation to steep yourself in God's word, long stretches of silence and the writing life while still loving your family well and deep, the ingredients for a good and true life.
All throughout her writing, she inspires me to fill up with the poetry of Emily Dickinson, so expect to find a little Emily on my upcoming list.
I found Kathleen through another book of hers, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris
You will like having these beauties on your bookshelf and in your heart.
*This is a curated list with affiliate links so you can click right through the blue to read reviews and fill your bookshelves, making us both happy.