Four of us prayed weekly in the lower room--a huge crowd in the annals of our Easter to Pentecost prayer time. Healing and direction for ourselves, our families and friends. Healing and direction for our country, our churches, our communities. "Why are we always praying for healing and direction?" I blurted out mid-prayer one afternoon.
"Because we are broken and lost," Stephanie answered.
Ten minutes of gathering and settling, a half-hour of concentrated prayer and afterwards we sometimes lingered for several hours discussing the knotty issues that plague our lives, our churches and communities. The gift of fellowship was a surprise grace; each of us holding such different perspectives, yet finding ourselves held gently together in an atmosphere of light and love.
"Why are we stopping at Pentecost?" Nick asked week after week.
Because a different kind of prayer is waiting in the wings for this summer.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was my best read all month. Neither well organized or comprehensive, the book nonetheless gives a delightful look into a man, a time, and the early tenor of our country. I already used part of the book for a Toastmaster's bit: Benjamin founded a very similar type of group that met weekly for nearly 40 years. LIFE RULES at 1:30 on the first Friday of the month is going to get another selection: Ben's extensive plan for personal development. (It obviously worked for him!) I already sold the little 1948 paperback, but a variety of new editions are available for $10 and up. Also, Ben and Me by Robert Lawson is a good children's introduction to this astonishing man. $7
POETRY: I read every poem in Sinners Welcome by Mary Karr. Admittedly after the first four, I jumped to the back of the book to read her essay on poetry and prayer. Then I diligently read one or two poems a day until I got to the finish line. Generally I don't advise finishing a book you're not enjoying. Life isn't an English class. There's too much good stuff out there to waste time on what's not connecting. But I keep trying to develop a taste in poetry. Trying unsuccessfully, I might add. Yeah, there were a couple great lines. At least one or two moments of resonance. But on the whole I kept wondering why it needed to get so dark to see the light. $22 new; or you can have this copy for $12.
I did order another copy of Finding What You Didn't Lose by John Fox. I sold this inner workbook on exploring truth and creativity through poem-making before I'd finished it. Why is writing poetry more fun than reading it?
"For what is a poem but a hazardous attempt at self-understanding: it is the deepest part of autobiography." -Robert Penn Warren
NOVELS: The only novel I read all month was Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult. Sunnie, our resident romance writer said it was better than most of our $1 romance books. We priced it up to a whole $3. A well written portrayal of an abusive relationship, it's a psychological drama played out on the marital stage. High romance and rocky realism held in tension--one of those stay up til 2:00 am books.
At the Toastmasters' Spring Conference, Judge Sharon Chatman received the Communication and Leadership Award for founding Building Peaceful Families, an organization dedicated to helping families develop and maintain violence free homes. Included are programs honoring Grandmothers raising children, Top Dads awards, a Fatherhood Conference that targets men on probation or parole, and educational programs for teachers, childcare providers and religious leaders. Isn't it nice to know smart people are at work doing good things for our communities? See www.buildingpeacefulfamilies.org
I finally have Hell's Abyss Heaven's Grace in hand. This new book by one-time local preacher, Lawrence Hart, is a look at war and Christian spirituality. I've only just started, but the premise seems to be that war and peace are manifestations of our inner realities. The "just war" theory is held up against the historical record of Christians who have chosen nonviolence to resist oppression. The back cover claims there are real possibilities for peace when we bear well our weapons of truth, courage, and faith. $14.95 new.
"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it." --Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)
The American Essays of Henry James begin with this droll comment: "Mr. Hawthorn is having a posthumous productivity almost as active as that of his lifetime." I had similar feelings after Henri Nouwen died and the market was flooded with "new books" by him. Mother Teresa is now writing many more books in death than in life. I've just received Experiencing Jesus with Mother Teresa, a remake of Praying with Mother Teresa by Jean Maalouf. $10 new. This one begins with highlights of Mother Teresa's life and then has 17 chapters designed for meditating on different themes. Each chapter includes quotes from scripture, quotes from Mother Teresa, an anecdote from her life, and a bunch of meditative questions. It's too much info for me and the style of hagiography (from which we get the term "hag?") is too gaggingly good for my taste. However the book is Jesus centered and I like the idea of doing a period of meditation in company with various saints. There's a 40 Days with St. John of the Cross on our devotionals shelf I've been eyeing...
Meanwhile, I'm plotting our summer class:
Give yourself a swatch of time to write, draw, paint, think. Words Made Flesh is for people who want to open creative doors and embark on a spiritual adventure. Practice and experiment in a supportive atmosphere. We will gather weekly around bits of John's Gospel, spend some time working alone and then share the our work. Two three-week sessions June 13 - 27 and July 25 - August 8. Tuesdays from 12:30 to 2:00. The class is limited to 12 participants so let me know if you are interested. $20
"For me, writing is exploration; and most of the time, I'm surprised where the journey takes me."--Jack Dann
APPEARANCES: My stories are taking me nowhere in June. No appearances. No gigs. Go to our website and check-out the Stories for Worship link on the home page. You will find seven lovely story choices that could enliven your meeting, retreat, worship service... Quick, invite me someplace before totally I dis-appear. www.companyofsaints.com
"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" --Lewis Carroll, mathematician and writer (1832-1898)
Maybe I'll read a novel instead.
PS Big Sur Camping and Crawdad Society is the weekend after the 4th of July. Come frolic in the river, eat som'mores, sing with sticky lips round the campfire, tromp through the gorge and/or chase the sun/shade through the trees with book and chair. Email me for more info.