Your Labor is not in Vain

If there’s anything these six Virginian acres have taught me, it’s that nature is not tamed overnight. The work of attempting to order the disordered so often feels like a battle I’m ever fighting and ever losing.

The growth and life that spring awakens is both exciting and exhausting. We live in a culture (myself included) that values results, production, and finished products, but rarely pauses to consider the mere act of tending and keeping and maintaining as work that is not only essential, but good and worthy.

I want a garden, flower beds, chicken coops, and patios, yet here I am still pulling endless weeds, chipping away at acres of brambles, and attempting to subdue this overgrown and unruly land into something that can support growth and use and beauty.

Staked tomatoes, arbored blooms, and manicured hedges are rightly glorified, but I’m working on seeing the glory in the slow and simple work of sometimes just holding back disorder. Continually fighting my yardful of invasive flora, stabilizing eroding hills and banks, adding things to my soil that leave it healthier than how I found it, and caring about those downstream of our creek that meanders well beyond my own land.

And here’s the thing, I need to see the value of this work even if we sold this place tomorrow. Even if it takes generations beyond my own before someone finally gets to lounge on a patio out back. Even if I never get my garden and taste the fruits of my labor.

This past season of Lent was a good reminder that pulling weeds makes room for flourishing and fruit. It’s simultaneously fighting against disorder and paving the way for order. With the knowledge that the exercise of dominion has always been meant as a vehicle of salvation, wholeness, and healing. Dominion exercised for other purposes is a travesty and a perversion of itself. It will not produce fruit that lasts or nourishes.

All things will be made new. Until then, we’re called to faithfully and tirelessly labor alongside the One who will carry it to completion, knowing that when we do, we are offered sustenance, beauty, and rest along the way

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The Climax of Easter Night

Thankful for the day and these people, and for this night that is “lighter than day.”⠀

“The only real thing, especially in the child’s world, which the child accepts easily, is precisely joy. We have made our Christianity so adult, so serious, so sad, so solemn that we have almost emptied it of that joy. Yet Christ Himself said, ‘Unless you become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of God.’ To become as a child in Christ’s terms means to be capable of that spiritual joy of which an adult is almost completely incapable. To enter into that communion with things, with nature, with other people without suspicion of fear or frustration. ⠀

We often use the term ‘grace.’ But what is grace? Charisma in Greek means not only grace but also joy. ‘And I will give you the joy that no one will take away from you…’ If I stress this point so much, it is because I am sure that, if we have a message to our own people, it is that message of Easter joy which finds its climax on Easter night. ⠀

When we stand at the door of the church and the priest has said, ‘Christ Is Risen,’ then the night becomes in the terms of St. Gregory of Nyssa, ‘lighter than the day.’ This is the secret strength, the real root of Christian experience. Only within the framework of this joy can we understand everything else.”⠀

-Alexander Schmemann, from “Sanctification of Life” (1963)⠀

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Books of 2020 and a Remnant of Readers

With two moves, house renovations, house selling, and countless traveling, I kept my 2020 reading goal to a manageable twenty-four for the year. Plus, I process slowly and like to linger on them a bit. As a #rabbittrailreader I’ve possibly read triple this in words and pages and chapters, but it’s been good and needed for me to set a small goal of books to actually finish (I use the Goodreads Reading Challenge).

I was curiously observing some frantic discussions recently, centered around current political climates and fears of book bans and all manner of inevitable suppression and whatnot because of things read in a forum here or an article there. It wearied me, though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. After all, I’d probably be all #keepyourhandsoffmybooks if this truly became a problem and it’ll always be incredibly important to me that my children have access to books that are good and true and beautiful.

My husband sent this though, and I found it poignant:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.

—Neil Postman

…I tend to think it’s the latter we ought to be worrying more about these days. The information overload and conjectures on all sides, continuous stimuli for fight and flight, never-ending opinions from all, each touted as truth. No time, energy, or desire to read good books because of hours and minds too filled by current events and information-overload. We’ll either rely on everyone else for knowledge or think we already have it all.

I’m personally thinking it’s the perfect day to curl up with a cup of tea, a good book, and remind myself that I have unfettered access to the Truth that will outlast all of this.

As I set my goals for this year, what books are you eyeing for 2021?

My 2020 Books:

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The Voice of Silence

Part of the inner world of everyone is this sense of emptiness, unease, incompleteness, and I believe that this in itself is a word from God, that this is the sound that God’s voice makes in a world that has explained him away. In such a world, I suspect that maybe God speaks to us most clearly through his silence, his absence, so that we know him best through our missing him.

Frederick Buechner, Secrets in the Dark

January has been a bit wearying for me in many ways. And if I’m honest, I’ve felt God’s voice in my soul to be rather quiet lately. But I was telling my kids the other day, that one of the biggest personal evidences I have of not only God’s existence but his nearness, has been the times when he doesn’t feel so close. Those moments are so utterly and unmistakably different from when he does.

It’s hard to deeply miss someone we’ve never deeply met or experienced. ⠀

It’s those quiet, solitary moments that remind my soul to head back home.

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A Remnant of Peace and Reason

The world has been abnormal for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a peaceful and reasonable climate. If there is to be any peace or reason, we have to create it in our own hearts and homes.”

Madeleine L’Engle

This is my grandfather working on a restoration of the U.S. Capitol. He was a builder in more ways than one. Regardless of political views, race, status, religion— whether you were a Senator, homeless person, an employee, or his grandchild— he treated you with kindness and respect. He’d stand up for the wronged and do right by those in need, even if it cost him his business.

But while he not only saw the humanness of those who needed help, he never stopped seeing the ones he disagreed with as humans too. The ones who were wrong. And that’s really hard.

He passed this on to my own dad. Growing up, I watched him address every checkout clerk or service worker by name, always be employing or bringing home someone who needed to get back on their feet, then turn around and show forgiveness and decency to someone who had greatly wronged him or had literally stolen from him. He’s never been a pushover, never wavered in his beliefs, yet he’s never stopped being willing to look someone in the face he utterly disagrees with and see them as a person.

Because once we lose the ability to see the humanness of one, we will eventually lose it for all. Whether quickly or slowly, individuals will become lost in a sea of “others” (defined merely by their affiliation with things we don’t agree with). We will have become what we were fighting against.

We can fight for rightness, yet forgive. We can be heartbroken, yet humble. We can defend, yet love. We can speak truth, yet listen and ask questions. Pursuing peace can be the strongest, most effective thing we do.

This isn’t any sort of veiled political support or rejection of anything. Thankfully, I don’t think I know anyone who saw the events of this week as anything other than egregious and disgraceful (clearly, not everyone also had a Sicilian Grandmother, and let me tell you, it shows😉).

This is simply a call and personal resolve to pursue peace and reason. Consistently, and at all costs, because of what it’ll cost us if we don’t. To build up, not tear down. Thankful today for those who have modeled that for me…

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A Hymn for 2020

I realize no one has made me in charge of such things, but I’m just gonna go ahead and re-name this: “The Hymn for 2020.”

“A Hymn: A Prayer for Forgiveness and Deliverance⠀

O God of earth and altar,⠀
bow down and hear our cry,⠀
our earthly rulers falter,⠀
our people drift and die;⠀
the walls of gold entomb us,⠀
the swords of scorn divide,⠀
take not thy thunder from us,⠀
but take away our pride.⠀

From all that terror teaches,⠀
from lies of tongue and pen,⠀
from all the easy speeches⠀
that comfort cruel men,⠀
from sale and profanation⠀
of honor, and the sword,⠀
from sleep and from damnation,⠀
deliver us, good Lord!⠀

Tie in a living tether⠀
the prince and priest and thrall,⠀
bind all our lives together,⠀
smite us and save us all;⠀
in ire and exultation⠀
aflame with faith, and free,⠀
lift up a living nation, ⠀
a single sword to thee.”

-G.K. Chesterton, 1906⠀

My husband stumbled on it earlier this year in my Chesterton book of poems (because #readapoemaday) and I haven’t quite shaken it off.

**Vintage artwork shown was done by Chesterton’s pal Tolkien. One of many original illustrations that accompanied The Hobbit manuscript when he submitted it to his publisher in 1936. Check out this amazing book for more of them.

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What is Truth?

Truth. That word getting thrown around like wildfire lately. Twisted on all sides, for all purposes.

Let’s clear the smoke a bit, wipe away the mire, breath deeply, and be refreshed — because Truth is a balm, not a bomb.

Disordered and weaponized it becomes something no longer itself, spreading and infecting all it touches (1 Cor. 5:6-8), but sought after like the costly pearl and the oft-forgotten treasure it is, kept intact, not an atom in the cosmos is immune to its ability to enliven and heal (Matt. 13:31-33).

  • Truth is not facts, something to be voted on, a thing one can censor or own (John 14:6).
  • Truth is walked in, not won; clung to, not fought for. It is freely offered, freely given, and then lived. It’ll look more like worship than war (John 4:23-24; 2 John 1:4).
  • Truth is not something we speak so others will listen to us, it’s something we “become of” so we may hear the voice of Christ (John 18:37).⠀
  • Truth is not something to win arguments or prove points with, it’s something that gives life and sets people free (John 8:32).⠀
  • Truth overflows from its source, reflects its source, glorifies its source, leads back to its source (John 16:13).⠀
  • Truth is for every class, color, creed, and party (Acts 10:35).⠀
  • Truth is something Love rejoices in, not something Anger throws (1 Cor. 13:6; Eph. 4:15).
  • Truth is something we “belong to.” A belonging that can be identified in ourselves and others because it’s woven with right actions and hearts at rest in their Maker’s presence (1 John 3:18-19). Anyone can say something that is true, but severed from its roots, it will wither, die.⠀
  • Truth inaccurately handled or wrongly offered (“the wrangling of words”) is birthed of this world. It becomes useless babble, leading its hearers to ruin rather than life, spreading like cancer. To present truth rightly is a solemn charge, to do so rightly is a holy and pleasing offering to God (2 Tim. 2:15).
  • Truth is not a political platform or the possession of any man-made institution or denomination, it’s the living God. The foundation of his Church who is commissioned to carry his unity, truth, goodness, and beauty to every inch of our world (1 Tim. 3:15).⠀
  • Jesus flipped tables only because he embodied Truth. He flipped what was hindering people from that Truth, then stuck around to heal, feed, and lead them there (Mark 11).
  • The world, like Pilate, is asking: “What is truth?” (John 18:38). They are fearful, weary, angry, and hopeless. But we’ve been handed the reason we need never fear. We’ve been offered unmitigated rest and given the Spirit of peace. We have lasting hope because we know Truth, and only by embodying that truth, through the work of the Spirit, will we be offering anyone anything worth taking—something that can feed, heal, change, and last.⠀
  • So while the world argues about current events, let us be people who walk and live the narrow, yet beautiful way of Truth.
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On Covenants and the Common Good: Toward a Renewed Politics

[Originally posted Here at Mere O]

Only a few paragraphs into Genesis and the age-old tensions between the individual and society are already beginning to emerge. The story begins with one Individual formed in the image of God, with individual dignity and worth. Yet it is not good for man to be alone and the first community is formed. By the hand of God someone once singular was made plural, then joined right back together again by a covenant and a command to remain one and yet multiply. This beautiful, albeit enigmatic tension was born, then asked to birth more. And in one bite followed by another, individual choices were made that led not only to individual and immediate consequences, but societal and far-reaching ones. The very tension woven by its Maker, seemingly unraveling beyond repair. Yet it remained. Wrought with enmity, but commanded to carry on.

Society grew, and its birthing pains only increased. The tensions that began in marriage carried on through family then tribes then nations then humanity.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in “Individual and Collective Responsibility,” draws our attention to the Flood, brought about by the violence and anarchy that occurs when society is sacrificed on the altar of the individual, and the Tower of Babel disaster, brought about by the tyranny and oppression that occurs when individuals are sacrificed on the altar of society. He claims that “The Flood tells us what happens to civilisation when individuals rule and there is no collective. Babel tells us what happens when the collective rules and individuals are sacrificed to it.”

We seem destined to repeat this disastrous pendulum swing, ad infinitum, until God steps in. Out of the post-Babel wreckage of disunity and disarray, he calls upon an individual, Abram, to form a new community that revolved neither around the individual nor the collective, but what Sacks describes as “a new form of social order that would give equal honour to the individual and the collective, personal responsibility and the common good.”

And a covenant was “cut”—the Brit Bein Habetarim, or “ Covenant of Parts.” And Abram, like Adam, fell into a deep sleep as God walked through that which had been separated. Abram, like Adam, was told to multiply, yet this time God himself would take care of the math. Abram and Sarai stepped out of the darkness in faith, trading barren wombs and severed flesh for offspring like the stars, an everlasting land of promise, and the opportunity to share their blessings with all of humanity—the future restoration of the unity destroyed at Babel. God was throwing us a literal life-line: Give up your individual and collective toiling and striving that keeps breaking you, join my covenant, and Iwill accomplish great things through you, and for you. I will save you from yourselves.

This shows us how covenants can transform both the singular individual and the collective society. It can provide both with common values, purpose, identity, stability, and shared strength through shared sacrifice. They’re held together not by self-interest or force, but fidelity and faith.

As the Israelites passed from slavery through the waters of the Red Sea into a covenant of freedom through fidelity, so the believer passes from death through the waters of baptism into a covenant of life through faith. A covenant with the Trinity itself, culminating on the day of Pentecost when the curse of Babel was dissolved and rather than “one lip” united for evil there could now be one lip (one “pure lip” as prophesied by Zephaniah) united for good through the covenantal sign of the Spirit. Abraham’s far off promise of unity is now offered to the entire world.

A Covenantal God

Christianity must be understood covenantally because that’s how God has chosen to relate to humankind. Biblical scholar Thomas Schreiner defines a covenant as “a chosen relationship in which two parties make binding promises to each other.” Over and again, we see covenants as a means of God demonstrating who he is, binding himself to his people and creation, providing a means of flourishing, limiting and hedging in destruction, and forging paths of reconciliation between humanity and himself. Herman Bavinck reminds us that “God is the God of the covenant;” it’s what joins us through the infinite distance to God, not as a master and a slave but in comunion and friendship—it’s “the essence of true religion.”

Covenants Distorted and Broken

But we like to take what is covenantal and make it hierarchical. We reduce it to its lowest common denominator; to a contract riddled with loopholes giving us an out. But a covenant is freely chosen, not forced; relational, not contractual. By its very nature, it counteracts hierarchy, power grabs, hoarding, oppression, discrimination, and abuse. It fights fear.

In Os Guinness’s upcoming book, The Magna Carta of Humanity, he describes a covenant as, “promise keeping and trust writ large and made lasting. It is the trust that underlies all healthy families and all good relationships now expanded to become the foundation of an entire society, and even a nation. A covenant is a commitment that makes life worth living and enables life to be lived well. It is a word of honor given at a point in time that binds together past, present, and future, making possible lasting love, enduring freedom, flourishing lives, and a healthy community.”

When our world, our communities, our news feeds, our families, and our thoughts fill with fear, like frightened animals we fight and fly. We forget we are more than animals. We forget we have souls that can be eternally covenanted with the One whose words spoke us into being and whose very breath made us more than dust. Because dirt plus the breath of God, is a life intrinsically and individually valuable because it was breathed upon and imprinted with his very image—the face we cannot see. Imprinted in unique ways with the potential to be. To become an individual reflection of him, breathlessly magnified and intensified when covenanted together. The God who values and makes valuable, created us so that our worth is as an individual but our purpose is through a community.

The Greek root of “Devil” is derived from “dia-balein”: to throw apart, to scatter. Satan hates unity because he knows those beautiful reflections of God joined together in one voice and one accord would destroy him. He could never gaze upon the face of a unified Church, filled with the Spirit of God, and survive. It will end him.

Unity is the breath of the Church. We suffocate without it. Its necessity mirrors not just the glory, but the necessity of the Trinity. God is Unum, Bonum, Verum, Pulchrum—Unity, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty—and so must his Church be.

Covenants Absent, Forgotten, and Unseen

Reinhold Niebuhr argues that humans tend to lack the rationality and moral imagination to extend empathy beyond a certain point. So when we see fear, anger, death, destruction, and unmet needs further from us than our screens or our circles, we resort to tribalism and we throw platitudes. Well, “Jesus is the answer” we say. Maybe if others behaved better or worked harder or made better choices, we say. Vote differently, we say. Yet, here we are, nursing and feeding our babies, caring for our parents, fighting for our marriages, working our vocations, advocating for our child’s IEP or education, tending our gardens, or listening to a friend bare her soul. Why? Because whether we realize it or not, we are covenanted to those things and that leads us to action. We care about what we are bound to. Niebuhr suggests some form of “social coercion” to bridge the chasm between our circles and others, rather, I believe covenanting—freely offered—is the only way to effectively and lastingly graft the two.

We forget what Walter Brueggemann describes as our first tastes of “covenanting,” as infants experiencing the omnipotence of an other (in this case, mother) slowly developing a sense of self and learning the act of “othering” which requires the ability to both assert and surrender. We don’t see how our marriages, our deep friendships, our children, even our gardens, all providentially give us glimpses of what a covenantal relationship ought to look like. That far off promise whispered to Abram on that clear night, as brilliant as the stars, yet as touchable as his wife and his baby boy and the dirt beneath his feet.

We must look to our existing covenants to remember what covenant-keeping means and looks like. How the life of our marriage is dependent on the life of its entities. Unable to live if one dies. Unable to flourish against the atrophy of the other. How our children cannot grow to discover who they were created to be if we don’t feed them, and learn their struggles and gifts, and put them to bed, and keep them from dying.

Covenants Misunderstood

Covenants build bonds that run deeper than politics, denominations, race, or even kinship. They are the blueprints handed to us by our Creator and modeled by the Trinity. In fact, if our lines and points neatly match up with the outlines of any group or person who did not make us, we’re likely being unfaithful to the most important Covenant of all, and party to a dying contract that will never bring life and flourishing to our story or this world.

Here’s the thing that should strip us of excuses—we don’t even have to agree with what someone believes or does to covenant with them. It’s not unequally yoking, it’s not being of the world, it’s reflecting the God who was willing to covenant with us. It’s why Jesus loved his enemies, broke bread with sinners, and forgave those who killed him. It’s why we’ve been given so much and are told to give it away freely. It’s why every Christian should be able to say to each and every person before us: I see you, I care for you, I love you, I will hold what I’ve been given with an open hand so youdon’t have to be so fearful, because I have the best reason of all to never fear.

We worry it may bolster a political party not our own, Christians we don’t think are theologically sound, a cause we don’t want to advance. It seems messy and uncomfortable. It felt threatening to the world Jesus was born into as well. It didn’t mesh with how they pictured God’s kingdom being built. “Follow me,” he assured them. In doing so, we are led along the way that often looks like weakness and feels like a death of sorts, but it’s the strongest, most life-producing thing we could do. It’s not sitting still and it’s not conquering. It’s both surrendering and asserting. Covenanting with those around us allows them to taste and see the source of holiness, peace, justice, mercy, and love.

The Call of the Church

Where covenants are absent, fear is present; but where covenants are made and kept, faith and trust can grow.

We are tribal creatures. Tribalism kills, but it also protects. What if we were part of a tribe that anyone could find a home in? Be fed in, seen, protected, valued, and loved in? A tribe bound together by a covenant with the very One who created us each and sees us as who we could be both individually and collectively? We can be and it’s called the Church. And if our churches don’t look like that and we don’t look like that, we are not living by the Spirit and covenanting in the image of God. We must lament and repent.

Why We Lament

We lament because not one of us has kept our covenants perfectly—not our covenant that grafts us onto Life, our covenant that binds us to the Church, our covenant to serve and preserve the land, and especially not our covenants that connect us to others providing the conduits for that Life to spread and draw them to its source.

We lament because we have not cared for the whole body of the Church. We have forgotten that if one part suffers, every part suffers .

We lament because we have cared about property more than people and we’ve reduced people to property. We are unwilling to look others in the face or through our screens and see the unique fingerprints of God upon them.

We lament because we have not yet gone to the ends of the earth, bringing the source of life and flourishing to every corner. Carrying his breath to the dying. Bringing the temple to them.

We lament because we have broken our covenant to bless humanity through us, to be a city on a hill, the salt of the world, a light in the darkness. We have not lived out the very words God whispered to Abram on that starry night.

We lament because we respond to the weeping and gnashing of those broken by our broken or non-existent covenants, with “Go and be well fed.” “Choose peace” we say. “Choose life” we say. We offer words that cost us nothing; doing nothing to feed them, pursue peace, or help them imagine how to live and not feel so powerless. Nothing that would lead them to the well of peace, provision, and strength.

We lament because we make excuses to not do what’s right. We say justice and mercy are replacing the gospel, forgetting they’re intrinsically intertwined. That if justice and mercy aren’t pouring out, it’s not truly the gospel. If justice and mercy are built upon anything less, they will fail. One cannot live, while the other dies.

We lament because we’ve reduced the gospel to a few bullet points on how to get to heaven when we die, forgetting that it’s actually about a new way to live here—the offer of a covenant that grafts us to Life and severs us from Death.

How the Church Can Change the World

God’s kingdom was inaugurated with a covenant and it’s the act of covenanting that will build it and bring it. Here and now. There’s no other way. Jesus didn’t embrace death so he could dole out life, like individual stimulus handouts, enabling us to survive alone and build our own tiny little “saved” kingdoms. He chose to surrender to Death, going where it had no choice but to look upon his face—knowing it could never survive. Knowing we could never survive, much less flourish, if Death lived.

With not an “I do” but rather a barren soul that accepts his “I have done”—one breath, one body, one flesh—and our contract with Death is shattered. A new creation and a new covenant arise from the dust, and once again the breath of the Spirit gives us life. Life that Death no longer has claim to. This covenant finally resolves the tension between the individual and community. We are forever bound to something greater and bigger than ourselves that will finally allow us to become who we were created to be.

It seems these days more than ever, that the world is falling apart. And it is. But every cry and every failure of the world is a calling and a requirement for the Church to show them a better way. We are being given an opportunity to individually and corporately lament, repent, and seek the Spirit of the living God to do a work in us and through us, walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The Church, of whom every believer is bound to and part of, is called upon to change the world. Not because wecan, but because we are covenanted with and filled by the only one who is able. Because the God who made creation good, can and will redeem it, restore it, and make it good again, and he longs to begin his work through us.

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A Rambling Reader, and ‘What We’re Reading’

I’ve posted before about being a rabbit-trail-reader. You know, where one book leads to another and then another, a conversation leads to four new topics, a chapter leads to twelve new thoughts, a quote or foreword leads to another author, a book review leads to another addition, then repeat, ad infinitum. Though rabbit trails, imply going around in circles leading nowhere, so perhaps a “rambling reader” is more appropriate? I mean, I get to all sorts of places, but the expediency of arriving to the last page in a timely manner is certainly hindered! Every so often though, I try to take a good look at my random, seemingly disconnected stack, and think over how they got there (often providentially) and where they’ve taken me so far…

The Sun Also Rises, began a few months ago, because my husband, Kevin, loves Hemingway. Hemingway provides him with a nostalgic juxtaposition of prior hopelessness to our current hope. I started it at the beginning of winter during a hard season where I was struggling to grasp the closeness and personal love of God. Let’s just say, Hemingway may not be the best read during a winter depression, so it was temporarily shelved until warmer days.

Studying the galaxy with my kids around the same time, led me to Carl Sagan’s, Pale Blue Dot (it has one of my very favorite quotes I’ll have to do a whole post about one of these days). I’m telling you, one of the best ways to grasp the vastness of God is to read a brilliant atheist describe how unfathomably tiny we are in relation to the cosmos. It’s fascinating.

The next step, I figured, in filling the gap between a vast God and our tiny selves, is a study of the Holy Spirit. Forgotten God, by Francis Chan, is a great, quick read to start with, though not quite the depth I needed, which then led to a few weightier books on the topic. I already had Meredith Kline’s, Images of the Spirit on my shelf, so I dove in while awaiting a few more that are on the way. Any other recommendations on this topic?

A Room Called Remember, has been on my shelf forever, and so beautifully says things we need to hear. I pulled it out at the perfect time, because I’d be hard pressed to think of anyone better than Frederick Buechner to describe the hope that Hemingway and Sagan overlooked

A perfectly-timed, sunny trip in the middle of December resulted in a few more additions, including the raw, but beautiful, A Grief Observed. It may seem like an odd vacation read, but Kevin and I usually read Shelden Vanauken’s,  A Severe Mercy (our favorite book) on vacations together, and this seemed like a logical sequel in many ways. L’Engle did the foreword, which led me to, Circle of Quiet, and we quickly devoured her ramblings on writing, creativity, and ontological selves. So good. Andrew Peterson’s, Adorning the Dark, is a great complement to these topics as he discusses creativity and callings in a dark world (I’m only a few chapters in).

My 8th grader is reading my copy of Annie Dillard’s, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, for school, so I snagged, Teaching a Stone to Talk, for fifty-cents at a library sale, to fill the Dillard void in my stack until he’s done. I always try to have some poetry going, so I invested in Mary Oliver’s, Devotions, collection, because the way she humbly observes the stark beauty of creation reminds me of Dillard.

Last Call for Liberty, was from last year’s stack, but Os Guinness is working on somewhat of a sequel, and he shared the introduction with us spurring many discussions on freedom, liberty, and it’s relation to the Exodus of Israel, and I had to re-visit it. Os recommended Stefan Zweig’s, Messages from a Lost World. A Jewish writer who fled Germany during the rise of Hitler, and his chapter on, “The Secret of Artsitic Creation,” complements L’Engle in an interesting way. An atheist attempting to navigate the ugliness of war and the depressing future of humanity with the beauty of artistic creation is fascinating. I had just begun Reinhold Niebuhr’s book, The Children of Light an the Children of Darkness, based on a Trinity Forum recommendation (founded by Os in 1991), and only a few pages in, it already added to our discussions on democracy and freedom within the framework of order. This same idea was likewise wonderfully alluded to in L’Engle’s discussion of art (“we are a generation which is crying loudly to tear down all structure in order to find freedom, and discovering, when order is demolished, that instead of freedom we have death”).

Don’t you love when so many unrelated books you’re reading, by people of all different faiths and backgrounds and centuries, mirror such similar ideas? Truth transcends time and space.

The rest were our read-alouds. Kevin has been reading, Swallowdale, to our oldest who has already read all of Arthur Ransome’s, Swallows and Amazons series, but they’ve always enjoyed slowly re-reading them together. I don’t know why I had put off, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as a read-aloud for so long, but the girls and I read a large, beautifully illustrated (though unabridged) copy snagged from the same library sale, and they absolutely loved it. We’re in the middle of, A Little Princess, now and they are equally engaged. There’s just something about the way Frances Hodgson Burnett, gives them characters who so innocently exhibit goodness amongst badness, that provides them with an attainable, simple, and tangible “good vs evil” in a hard and dark world; in ways even the youngest can comfortably grasp and yearn for (her, Little Lord Fauntleroy, has long been a family favorite for this very reason).

Any other additions you’d recommend adding to our current rambling stack?

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