In the Garden March 2012

Reading Sue Miller's well written novel, THE DISTINGUISHED GUEST, I traipse past a line about Americans always needing to invent themselves. The line didn't stop me; it wasn't a delicious quote. Maybe the word was "re-invent themselves." I'm not going to sift through the story about an elderly, semi-famous woman's last weeks with her son's family, just to find the quote.

Nonetheless, the comment emerged later when I scanned the day's facebook posts. Reading the multitude of 'can-do' quotes that various friends continually post, I thought about the pressure, the burden, that arrives with the "create your own reality" belief system. It is akin to a complaint that I often hear about the "word/faith" segment of Christendom. Detractors say that the healing emphasis falls off the table when a sick person is perceived as not receiving God's healing because they don't have enough faith. It is reminiscent of Job's friends, who think his difficulties are because of his sin against God.

Positive thinking is not the sum-total of the creative force. It is only one part of a multifaceted jewel. I'm a great fan of positive thinking and I'm fond of the word/faith perspective. However, a while back when I was reading HOW PEOPLE GROW by Cloud and Townsend, and RENOVATION OF THE HEART by Dallas Willard, I suddenly remembered that God made the garden and put us in it -- not the other way around. We didn't create the garden and stick God in it.

Focusing on the difference between tending my part of the garden and creating it, I felt a heavy burden shift. I am not responsible for creating all things. God is bigger than my little sphere. Perhaps I'll make myself a glass of ice tea and go enjoy the sunshine.

"...the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man." --Rabbi Heschel

Leslie sent me FLUNKING SAINTHOOD, saying that it is a book I could have written. This is the sort of comment I find depressing; it reminds me of all the books I haven't written. Note that I am egocentric enough to assume she is talking about writing style, not about my failing sainthood.

Author Jana Riess has written nine books (sigh). For FLUNKING SAINTHOOD, she decided to try one spiritual discipline each month and write about it. The result is wry, humorous tromp through such things as fasting, meditating, reading, resting, simplicity, thanksgiving, hospitality, praise, and giving. It reminds me of the summer a group of us read Richard Foster's CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE. In fact, given Jana's continual complaints in FLUNKING SAINTHOOD about the loneliness in doing these disciplines alone, I suggest that a group effort would be a significantly better approach. (Although you might not get a book written that way.)

Speaking of group studies, I have three or four copies of Yancy's JESUS I NEVER KNEW, for $4 each. Any little group out there looking for a good book to read together should come snatch them up.

"A novel is a long piece of prose with something wrong with it." --Neil Gaiman

Lynn has foisted three, count 'em three books on me in the last week. I'd already read, WRITING AS A WAY OF HEALING by Louise DeSalvo, but it was good enough that I'm thinking about a second scan. She gave it to me because we're leading an Illuminated Journaling class for some Teen Challenge ladies in Watsonville. I think I gave the book to her at some point in the past.

Lynn also offered up THE GOODNESS OF ORDINARY PEOPLE by Faith Middleton who hosts a public radio show and is sharing a bunch of heartwarming stories from those who call into her show. The other book, GOD'S GUEST LIST is also rife with stories, this time about people who have influenced romance writer Debbie Macomber's life. In revenge, I put LISTENING IS AN ACT OF LOVE: a Celebration of American Life from the Story Corps Project into Lynn's cubby. This is a terrific book that Steven gave me a couple of years ago. (Are you getting dizzy with this passing around of books?) LISTENING IS AN ACT OF LOVE has been sitting on the biography shelf these many moons, waiting to be adopted.

Which reminds me: The Literary Party in April will be Memoirs, Biographies and Autobiographies. I don't think they are going to be half price this time. Our prices are cheap enough already. OK, here's a deal: you can have one or two at half-price if you read 'em for the Literary Party and either come or write me a lovely email. The Literary Party is the third Friday of the month at 1:30.

"Library: A place where the dead lie." -Elbert Hubbard

The book that has blessed me the most this month is THE WAY TO PENTECOST by Samuel Chadwick. It has ripped to shreds the little talk I was going to give on Creating Community at the First Baptist Church next week. (Have you ever seen a sign that said, "Second Baptist Church?") Actually, they've changed their name. It is now Santa Cruz Community Church. I have some small hope that in the long run, the Holy Spirit will paste my talk back together in a new and living way. I just hope he pulls that particular miracle off BEFORE I stand up there and open my mouth.

"A closed mouth gathers no feet." Guidepost reader Ronna Cook

I won't tell you that you can get a Kindle edition of THE WAY TO PENTECOST for $2.99. How would you pass it around?

Meanwhile I foolishly told someone on the phone yesterday that they could bring us 8 boxes of books. EIGHT! Please come by and grab a handful.

Alliee +