Family Foibles: May 2003

It was a tough two days. I tried to navigate around the hot, inner point of fury; lest it boil over and scald those I most love. I actually remembered to pray once or twice, and aimed for the images that floated in unbidden. Not that I wanted to go there. Not that I was able to make a blind leap of faith or muster up some form of heroic obedience.

Instead I set an inner compass-->this way is north-->and looked around my current reality trying to find the next small step I could take in that direction; without sacrificing my inner integrity, without ignoring the desires and fears that clamored within, without--most of all--engaging in massive verbal destruction.

When the storm broke, a solution emerged with astonishing swiftness. I was left feeling hollowed out and vulnerable, as if I had just given birth; grateful that we had made it through without a shipwreck; spent--as if the days' labor had been a physical thing.

Exhausted emptiness, rimmed with gratitude. Clearly nothing more was going to be accomplished this afternoon. I reached for PILGRIM'S INN by Elizabeth Goudge, a library sale hardback, that was kicking around my livingroom. Settling in the afternoon sun, I let the leisurely descriptions wash over me like a balm: wandered through gardens, by rivers, and into houses; watched characters emerge from faces drawn in careful detail.

Published in 1948, PILGRIM'S INN is set in post war England amidst a family exhausted and spent. Drawing on the healing power of domesticity Goudge brings each character's inner battle into focus, playing it out with lavish use of literature, poetry, art, scripture, and snippets from the saints. I had read this book before, a last paperback from the Servant Publishers reprinting of the trilogy sat upstairs on my shelf. But I had grown in the years' passage. I recognized more of the phrases, caught a greater depth of insight and discovered with glee a quote I had written down--and then lost again as my many notebooks multiplied. Here it is:

"Lucilla knew always, and Nadine knew in her more domesticated moments, that it was homemaking that mattered. Every home was a brick in the great wall of decent living that men erected over and over again as a bulwark against the perpetual flooding in of evil. But women made the bricks and the durableness of each civilization depended upon their quality, and it was no good weakening oneself for the brick-making by thinking too much about the flood."

When I first opened The Word Shop, Glenna from family camp gave me a stack of Goudge's books, which quickly sold to delighted customers. I didn't know at the time how hard it was to find her novels. Elizabeth Goudge has a marvelous ability to create a place--garden, wood or house--that the Lord then inhabits. In her autobiography, THE JOY OF THE SNOW, I discovered that she had grown up in the arms of the church, residing in Cathedrals where her father worked. Ah Ha!

Although mostly out of print, you can find Elizabeth Goudge's books on the Internet. (Don't confuse her with Eileen Goudge.) I'll be selling either the paperback or this lovely old hardback of PILGRIM INN. Let me know if you're interested.

Funny that I didn't reach for the John G. Lake collected sermons, which I'm also reading...all about Getting More of God and The Power of God to Heal and The Presence of God. I NEED more of God, and am invigorated Lake's dynamic faith, but sometimes fiction brings Him closer than sermons; providing an incarnate reality that encircles you in loving arms instead of theological exhortations to improve your walk.

Isn't it grand that the Bible is such a mix of narrative, poetry, prose, tidbits of wisdom, outrage, instruction...God's journal. How awful it would be if it were only a philosophical list of How-To rules for living.

We have multiple copies of Peter Gnomes' THE GOOD BOOK--Reading the Bible with Heart and Mind--floating around the store. Funny how these books trying to "rescue the Bible from the fundamentalists" scale the secular bestseller lists. Ah well, I'm all for people grappling with the Bible, from wherever they stand.

It is true that all paths lead to God. No matter where you stand you can get to God from there. You just may need to turn around.

We also have multiple cheap copies of THE PROPHETIC WHISPER, which turns out to be all about the formation of WYSIWYG--a Christian TV station in Northern CA. Currently mis-shelved in the Holy Spirit section, I shall soon move it to Biographies, or nonfiction by author, or Mission, or somewhere....

Speaking of sections, I just culled through the Money, Men and Women sections. This means there are numerous books on those topics now in the $1 sale bin.

The reason I read Bill Bryson's I'M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF, goes back several years to Family Camp. I sat with the Bishop at a round table in the dining hall, timidly asking him about a memoir I'd written. He suggested that it might be dangerous to publish it. People could get UPSET. He then mentioned Bryson's book. I dutifully wrote it down in a tiny spiral notebook I carried in my hip pocket for just such contingencies. The spiral then proceeded to get lost for several years. In the meantime, I read Bryson's A WALK IN THE WOODS, which I enjoyed immensely. One day I was cleaning out old purses and discovered the spiral. "Hey! That's the same author." When I'M A STRANGER HERE MYSELF appeared at The Word Shop, I snatched it up. I giggled, snorted and laughed aloud all the way through it. It's not a Christian book (it never received Jesus as Lord and Savior). It has nothing to do with my odd memoir about parish life. I have no idea what the Bishop was thinking. But if you want to chortle through the oddities of the American way of life, it's a great read and available here, cheap.

I also read GROWING A BUSINESS by Paul Hawken of Smith & Hawken...the Gardner's Catalogue. It was one of the few business books that I not only read all the way through, but actually enjoyed. It will also be on sale cheap at the bookstore as soon as I find it. My volunteer who has a penchant for arranging books by size and shape just house-sit for us for a whole weekend. She thought my bookshelves in three rooms needed help. The upside is I'm discovering all sorts of books I forgot I had. The downside is I can't find books that I know I have...somewhere.

What I want to read next is SPEED OF DARK, a novel from the point of view of an adult with autism. Stay tuned.

There are all too many secular books in this newsletter. What is going on?

I ordered in a batch of wonderful "Dandelion" cards by artist Lori Preusch. An unnecessary extravagance. I discovered her in one of those shops with crystals that stink of incense. Please come buy some before I send them all to you.

You many have noticed my "In the Spirit" column has been axed from the Sentinel. In it's place is a staff generated listing of spiritual/religious items. It would be sad if the multitude of interesting things the church does disappeared entirely from the pages of the newspaper again. Send stuff to [email protected].

We're going camping in Big Sur the weekend of June 28. This annual trek began in the early 80's and has been dubbed the Big Sur Camping and Crawdad Society. Usually around 40 people come. If you want to spend an idyllic weekend on the river with us, let me know.

An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy. -Spanish proverb

Alliee +