Wednesday, February 16, 2011

from the book pile, 2011: Eugene Peterson, Madeleine L'Engle, Erin Bried

More books read, more books added to the pile.  More books loaned out, more books marked up.  More books swapped online.  It's  pretty much as important as breathing to me, this reading, learning, delighting in turn of phrase, intangible truth understood in new ways or for the first time.

Still working through a few Christmas gifts, but also going back to the pile that's been accumulating in my nightstand.


Practice Resurrection: A Conversation on Growing Up in Christ1.  Practice Resurrection : A Conversation on Growing Up In Christ

Author:  Eugene Peterson

Genre:  Non-fiction

Published:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (January 22, 2010)

General Impression:  I have yet to read anything from this sagacious soul that I do not love.  This gentle and good-humoured writing -- part-sermon from the book of Ephesians, part-memoir of a long obedience in the ministry, part-hang-in-there-it's-gonna-all-work-out-in-the-end pep talk to a world full of antsy ecclesial activists -- is by far my favorite Peterson title yet.  

It may have something to do with the season of life Brian and I find ourselves, committed to loving Christ's Church,  sensing a call to serve Christ's Church vocationally, while at the same time, almost daily hatching schemes to walk out the door and never look back.  Yes, this reading was timely.  I have been saved, I'm being saved, I will be saved.  In this particular season of life, Practice Resurrection was my come-to-Jesus altar call.  

Favorite Feature:  While the man who essentially re-wrote the Bible could probably have stood on his own authorial merits, Eugene Peterson generously and meaningfully inserts quotations and excerpts from writers, theologians, preachers, ancient and new.

An Excerpt

"I realized that this was my place and work in the church, to be a witness to the truth that dazzles gradually. I would be a witness to the Holy Spirit's formation of congregation out of this mixed bag of humanity that is my congregation -- broken, hobbled, crippled, sexually abused and spiritually abused, emotionally unstable, passive and passive-aggressive, neurotic men and women. Men at fifty who have failed a dozen times and know that they will never amount to anything. Women who have been ignored and scorned and abused in a marriage in which they have been faithful. People living with children and spouses deep in addictions. Lepers and blind and deaf and dumb sinners. Also fresh converts, excited to be in on this new life. Spirited young people, energetic and eager to be guided into a life of love and compassion, mission and evangelism. A few seasoned saints who know how to pray and listen and endure. And a considerable number of people who pretty much just show up. I wonder why they bother. There they are. The hot, the cold, and the lukewarm, Christians, half-Christians, almost Christians. New-agers, angry ex-Catholics, sweet new converts. I didn't choose them. I don't get to choose them."
( p. 27)


Author:  Madeleine L'Engle

Genre:  Non-fiction, memoir

Published:  HarperOne (January 1, 1984)

General Impression:  From one favorite author (Peterson) to another (L'Engle), another sure-bet read for me.  In fact, next time someone asks me one of those icebreaker questions like what famous people, living or dead, would you invite to dinner, I can't imagine a more delightful conversation than one between Madeleine L'Engle and Eugene Peterson.  (I suspect they had a few while she was alive.)

A couple of summers ago, I read the other two titles in the three-book series, Crosswicks Journals (book 1, A Circle of Quiet, book 3, The Irrational Season).  Crosswicks is the beloved and rambly Connecticut farm home where Ms. L'Engle loved her husband,  raised her children (when not living in Manhattan) and wrote her first books.  And, in this book, Crosswicks is the home where four generations eat and play and work the summer Madeleine's mother dies.  

As the author winds her way back and forth through the long years of relationship with not only her own mother, but the fabled tales of relatives long gone, we can spot more than a few of the family tree who are otherwise written as characters in some of her fiction work.  We also see again this exceptional woman's determination to find, what N.T. Wright calls, a new way to be human, as she almost literally moves heaven and earth to make her now-alien mother comfortable in her last days.

As usual, in reading a Madaleine L'Engle book, I was more than entertained.  I was also discipled.

Two Excerpts (because I can't choose just one)

"I am only beginning to realize how fragmented and  uncoordinated I am. My left hand does not know what my right hand is doing. My heart tells me to go in one direction, and my  mind another, and I do  not know which to obey. I am furious with Mother fo rnot being my mother, and I am filled with an aching tenderness. I have never known before. There are rough waters below the surface of my consciousness, and strange, submarine winds. The submerged me is more aware of wild tides and undertows than the surface. One deep calls another, because of the noise of the water floods; all the waves and the storms are gone over me. And above the surface the brazen sun shines, heat shimmers on the hills, and the long fronds of the golden willow Mother planted ten or more years ago droop in the stillness." (p. 92)

"This time out of time in the absolute familiarity of the living room is  healing and redemptive for me. Tallis uses a chalice which he designed, setting it with stones which had belonged to his mother; this is the first time he has used it. He has us all sit around the living room as we usually do for our home services when there are too many of us for the Tower. And there in the living room is, for me, the Church, an eclectic group, Congregational, Roman Catholic, Jewish, agnostic, Anglican, atheist. The dogs and the babies wander around. Jo and I sit on the little sofa which Mother bought, and where she always sat. the Additions to the Prayer Book service are from the Orthodox liturgy: stark; terrible; glorious.

The most moving moment is when everybody receives the bread and wine, each person spontaneously holding out hands. This the Church which I affirm, and the mystery by which I live." (p. 233)


Author:  Erin Bried

Genre:  Non-fiction

Published:  Ballantine Books; Original edition (December 15, 2009)

General Impression:  When I was engaged to marry my husband and working a second-shift job to pay for the wedding, my grandmother and I held a standing weekly lunch date.  Each week she and I made a different entree from her recipe file of well-loved family dinners.  This was my crash-course in home cooking.  More than the cooking tips, I've retained the memory of our time together.

In the twenty years following, I've more often adopted a survival mentality to housework and homemaking.  When I saw How To Sew A Button... it revived those memories with my Grandma, helping me to think about what I'm doing to pass along more than mere survival techniques to my children and grandchildren. 

Plus, the book was just plain fun to read.  In the world of how-to books, How to Sew a Button... deserves its very own shelf.  Author Erin Bried  interviewed ten real, authentic-down-to-their-homemade-jam-stained fingertips grandmamas from around the nation.  The fun and easy-to-read manual uncovers the lost art of making a home: shining shoes, gardening  and storing vegetables, folding crisp fitted sheets, and, yes, sewing those loose buttons. 

I'm putting this book on my shelf right next to Edith Schaeffer -- a harmonious duet of artful homemaking

Favorite Tips

How to Roast a Whole Chicken
How to Chase a Snake Out of Your Garden
How to Properly Fold a Fitted Sheet
How to Use Vinegar to Clean Almost Anything
How to Make a Centerpiece
How to Share Your Good Fortune (even when times are tight)
How to Mix the Perfect Cocktail
and, of course, How to Sew A Button (you can ask my mother the family story of me pouting through the sewing classes she paid for me to take!)

An Excerpt

"How to Mop
Step 1:  Send everyone with pitter-pattering feet packing, move any furniture that's in your way, and put on some good music. Remember, the word mop doesn't end with an e."
(p. 75)
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