Saturday, March 29, 2014

Five Favorites: Books I Read in March + great online finds this week

Before sharing the book list:

No Lights | Andrew Nemr and Max ZT

A few weekends back I attend my fifth-annual retreat for Ministers to Artists at Laity Lodge. (read about previous years here).  I've been trying to describe to friends ever since the featured artists:  one of the world's premiere tap dancers and one of the world's premiere hammered dulcimer players, together.  Thankfully, the team at Laity Lodge captured some of the magic.

Five Favorites: my 2014 reading list

-- 1 --

6  This Is The Story Of A Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett(Harper Collins, 2013. 306 pages) 

I've said it before: I'm in love with the essay as an art form.  With the exception of Flannery O'Connor's letters, give me any author -- Ann Patchett, say -- known for work in various genres and I'll, inevitably get to know them first in their essays.   So while I've never read any of  Ann Patchett's novels, I heard about the newly-released compilation of her published essays and snatched the book up at my library.  Then I read every word.  Of all the stories she tells about her childhood, marriage(s), and friendships, it's her words about being a writer that stand out more than any other.  "The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir about Writing and Life" included paragraphs like this jewel:
"When I can't think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It's not that I want to kill it, but it's the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page. Just to make sure the job is done I stick it into place with a pin. Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing -- all the color, the light and movement -- is gone."

-- 2 --

7  Sober Mercies: How Love Caught Up With a Christian Drunk by Heather Kopp: (Jericho Books, 2013. 224 pages) 

My friend Andrea introduced me to this writer, often sharing posts from Heather Kopp's insightful blog: Sober Boots.  I was glad to discover Ms. Kopp's memoir had been released and it was available from my library!  I read through in one evening.  The best benefit of reading a good story of redemption told in the framework of a memoir is that I recognize the truth of the Gospel again.  In Heather Kopp's vulnerable telling of acknowledging her alcoholism and maybe even more than that, the pain underneath that sought to be numbed, I gave thanks for redemption.  

-- 3 --

8  Beyond Smells & Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy by Mark Galli(Paraclete Press, 2008. 132 pages)

Our associate priest recommended this book to me for friends and family asking about my confirmation in the Anglican church.  In my previous life directing a worship and arts ministry without much direction to go by I've read several good books commending the practices of the historical church.  I'd add this book to the list.  Mark Galli writes in accessible, winsome language with an occasional poetic insight.  I'm looking forward to sharing this book. (go to my Book Pile page for a list of other books that guided me into a deeper desire to connect in worship with our Church family throughout history)

* Read my On Becoming Anglican page for more book titles I'd pass around if you were to ask me the question "What'd you do that for?"*

-- 4 --

9  Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster(IVP Books, 2011. 165 pages)

A lovely little book encouraging readers into the practice of undistracted prayer. This takes work!  I'm hoping to be a better practitioner after this read. 

-- 5 --

10  The Diary of a Country Priest: A Novel by Georges Bernanos (Macmillan Co., 1937. 298 pages)

My friend Katie handed me this book while we were on retreat together the day of my birthday -- after I'd only mentioned in passing that I'd seen the title in Laity Lodge's library and that I'd been searching libraries for years for this title!  She handed it to me without ceremony, but I cried all the same.  Now I'm reading a few pages most nights before Brian and I fall asleep.  I don't think he'll be a country priest, probably, but we're grateful for the dreams we're collecting during this little compline ritual.

Here's the Amazon blurb:
In this classic Catholic novel, Bernanos movingly recounts the life of a young French country priest who grows to understand his provincial parish while learning spiritual humility himself. Awarded the Grand Prix for Literature by the Academie Francaise, The Diary of a Country Priest was adapted into an acclaimed film by Robert Bresson. "A book of the utmost sensitiveness and is a work of deep, subtle and singularly encompassing art." — New York Times Book Review 

*Go to my Book Pile page to see my reading lists from previous years.*

Other good words online this week

  • Artists as Stewards of  Physical Reality: a photographic record at Diary of an Arts Pastor: More about the retreat - "If you have ever wanted to hang with kindred spirits, who love the arts, who love artists, who love thinking deeply about the arts, and who love to share good food and plenty of laughter, then you should consider May, where Jeremy Begbie and company will be exploring the relationship between art, artists, and the reception of artwork, on the one hand, and the emotions, on the other. Stay tuned."
  • Flannery O'Connor [in honor of her birthday] at Razing the Bar:  "She could, from a distance, look a bit like a misanthrope, but she deeply loved humanity, even if she couldn’t always stand individual human beings. She was a devout Roman Catholic in the middle of the southern Bible Belt. She died far too young, at only 39, and she was always thinking about eternity. But here is where the contradictions ended: she was a moral compass. She pointed True North. Always."
  • You Have Never Talked to a Mere Mortal at Yet Untold: "Christ stepped down and lifted the veil, and I was able to see, if only for a moment, myself and my neighbor as we truly are." I met Erin Humphries at the same Laity Lodge retreat and spent an entire delicious meal getting to know her and her fiance'.  It was one of the best decisions of my weekend.  I'm glad for the opportunity to get to know her better through her art.


A book-filled weekend for us all, dear ones.

For more Five Favorites, visit Moxie Wife!

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