Tag Archives: books

Interrupted by books — The Boss

The book “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen is lyrical and honest and beautiful and hauntingly sad and human. Obviously he is a world-class musician, songwriter, performer! He took about seven years and just wrote about his life privately and this is the result. His childhood was brutal but he is looking back with forgiveness and grace and understanding. He is interested in expressing what it is like to live as an artist, what it is like to perform, how you can love, completely and totally, performing for crowds of ten’s of thousands and yet still be intensely private as a person. The first song of his that I remember hearing is “Hungry Heart” and oddly he says that that was the song that brought girls into the club. {{grins}} His entire album of The Rising helped me cope with 9/11. So much of his music is the soundtrack of my life; our lives. It is a gift to read his own words about himself and his experience.

In reading memoir/autobiography good writing is hard to find, in my experience. This is excellent writing, even when the topic is mental health and his searingly honest and deeply personal struggles with it. It is even more amazing how he is able to share the experience of songwriting and performing and so on.

This took hours and hours to read, I’ve ignored my family a lot the last week. Also I was reading on a Kindle and note that at the very there are pictures. Easy to miss, I almost missed them.

 

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Interupted by reading

The best part of Christmas is getting books. And I got some wonderful ones this year.  I want to start with least “Christian-y” one, at least on the surface, because I’m going to challenge everyone to think about this, too. “A Year without Sugar” a memoir by Eve Schaub is really well written and really astonishing: A more or less normal family in Vermont went a year (with very few exceptions) without added sugar in their food and without artificial sweeteners either. I just happened to pick this book up at the library for no particular reason. It is really interesting: so much of our food supply is sweet. Food that doesn’t need to be sweet is sweet. Added fructose (the bad part) gains our bodies nothing. The stats on how as fructose has increased in foods, Americans mysteriously keep getting fatter and fatter…. the use of corn for sugar and the economic implications. How the poorer you are, the less access to food without sugar you have. This information was all new to me; and I may or may not have understood it all. But the stories of this family living without added sugar are truly what I loved. I’ve started reading labels. I’ve starting having sugar-free breakfasts. I’ve started trying to eat (even more) vegetables. While the Schaubs went hardcore sugar-free for a year, and I haven’t done that (yet), I’m definitely in a zone of more awareness. Inspirational! So each January as we all vow to be healthier, here’s the challenge I send out — just try to be mindful of the added sugar (honey, agave, fruit juice,  white sugar, brown sugar, HFCS, etc. etc.) that you eat. And drink more water.

Accidental Saints by Nadia Bolz-Weber is a fast, fun read and a beautiful glimpse into the life of a pastor. Nadia (I’ve read her book, I feel I know her on a first name basis) pastors a church called House of All Saints and Sinners in Denver. At the heart of the book is community; and it often isn’t the “cool kids” and you pretty much don’t get to pick — just wake up. Love the people you see. Sounds so easy….Nadia talks about churchy things and explains stuff and I wish I’d had this book when I was a baby Christian looking for the secret decoder ring translator. You guys are strange, I would think. Wash each other’s feet? Seriously? I’d wash Jesus’ feet but your feet? The year that I finally participated in that ritual, it was profound, for me maybe more so than communion. It is humbling and humiliating and nerve-wracking (did I do it right? long enough? do I look saintly? is this enough?) and there’s something about water, and something about towels, and something about how quiet everything gets deep inside me. I think Nadia would understand all that.

Carry on, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton is a freaking revelation. From laugh out loud to tears. Searingly honest about family, faith, children, parenting, the love and beauty and joy of little kids and how completely bat-shit insane they make you because they have no brains yet. I commend pages 155 – 159 as being as funny as David Sedaris. Or more. That funny. And despite (because of?) the laughter there’s so much truth in her writing. So much kindness. So much love and hope and joy and generosity and mistakes and problems and healing and love. Tears in my eyes just thinking about it. Read this book!

take this bread by Sara Miles is another spiritual memoir and oddly, while on the surface like Ms. Miles I’m an adult convert to Christianity, we really have little in common. For one thing, she is much much braver and extroverted than I am or ever will be. It was no doubt very good for me to feel completely inadequate after reading this book. I had to take a deep breath and remind myself that God works in all of us, even if we don’t know it. Ms. Miles wandered into church one day and ended up taking communion and her heart broke and her life changed. Oddly, the first time I attended church with my now in-laws, I took communion for the first time too (even though I wasn’t baptized yet so I shouldn’t have). I remember it and note it as a very important part of my spiritual journey. But communion, for me, in my experience, generally, is a prayerful moment, but not necessarily a mystical moment. Oddly, the food and lack-of-food-for-the-poor is front and center in this book as it lurked around the edges of A Year without Sugar. In fact, in telling us about one event she had as a war reporter, she was on a plane with some refugees and this boy near her ate her meal he was given like the starving person he was. At the end he is staring at the two white packets and asks what are they. She tells him it is sugar. He opens them and eats the sugar and a look of delight and amazement appears on his face. This boy had never had white sugar before….  Ms. Miles started and I’m sure continues a food pantry in her church and community, a way of bringing communion out to the world.

Finally, wearing God by Lauren F. Winner — I’m actually still reading this one. The typical metaphors for God, in the Christian vocabulary, are Lamb, Lion, King, Light, Shepherd. So Lauren (I’m sure I know her too) realizes that most of us don’t know a lamb, lion, king or shepherd. Or these images are dulled by repetition and we feel apart from God. So she went looking for other biblical images: clothing, smell, bread and vine (oh yes food again), Laboring Woman, laughter, Flame. Over and over God is reaching Godself out to us in friendship and the richer our vocabulary for God is, the more we can wake up to this friendship. Lauren says all this much much better than I just did. Her research, her bible study, her writing is perfect and enjoyable. Listen to Lauren on communion: “In the Holy Eucharist, we take a miniature sip of wine and a small bite of wafer, and we call this God’s abundance. I believe by regularly proclaiming that God’s abundance can be found in something small, we are gradually retooling our understandings of what is truly necessary for life.” There’s good food here.

 

 

Interrupted by Reading

I’ve been reading many many books — they aren’t particularly connected, but thought I would mention a few of them.

I only read “American Sniper” by Chris Kyle and Scott McEwen because my book group picked it. It haunts me. Thanks to both some of the material via my online Princeton certificate course, some of the study and workshops at the Festival Gathering of the Network of Biblical Stories, and recent events — from Ferguson to Baltimore to more global conflicts — I am coming to understand how naive I have always been, how privileged even. The cycle of violence, the cycle of retribution — it seems to lead nowhere and of course seems so much more “natural” than forgiveness and restoration. I guess that is sin, yes? This biography of Chris Kyle, a SEAL and sniper, and his experiences of training, war, and love was a jarring contrast. There’s obviously a part of me that is like “Jesus can sort this out, this is over my pay grade.” If Chris Kyle had lived longer, to be a grandfather for example, would he have changed in his hatred of the enemy? Can you be a soldier and love your enemy? And is it just me being naive? I can just not pay attention to war — maybe that is sinful. No, that is sinful. I should pray for all the soldiers, all the armed forces, and yet pray for peace. I shouldn’t turn away from either. Seriously in some ways this book broke my heart.

Now, “The Rosemary Tree” by Elizabeth Gouge was a surprising delight. First, I thought I had read all the Gouge books there were. It was just pure joy to discover this. While it has a large cast of characters, who end up interconnected and in relationship in surprising and often beautiful ways, the center character in a way is the frail retried Nanny — who can work only by prayer these days. Being a fiction narrative, of course her prayers have wonderful results. Other characters pray as well. The language, the descriptions — it is all beautiful, powerful in its own quiet way. This is prayer in a mystical way, as if one can become one with God, feel His love, His presence, perhaps as golden light or protective darkness. Perhaps we all have moments of feeling a little like this, whether we call it prayer or not? It struck me that the characters were disconnected from reading the bible (even the Vicar/father character) — being a Christian all based on feeling is not what I would recommend. Frankly sometimes you are going to be bored. Or it’s going to be hard. Or it’s going to be confusing. However this sounds as if I didn’t like this book but I loved it. The children especially were so delightful and real. And there’s a happy ending with true love all over the place! In terms of justice/restoration — God works it out. There is an evil character that will be haunting too. The character made me so angry! And it made me angry that the other characters didn’t fight her or resist or often even seem to realize what was going on….

Prayer by Timothy Keller is the “Christian” book I finished this summer. I’ve been reading it slowly for many months. I recommend it very highly. Any question you might think of concerning prayer, I bet it is in here somewhere. I really like the emphasis on connecting prayer to bible study. Between this book and some of the stuff I’ve been learning and experiencing in classes, my prayer life has both expanded and, frankly and sadly, contracted. First, on the plus side, I try not to pray for x or y now, I try to pray for relationships/wholeness. So — not “Holy father, please be with Kyle’s children and keep them safe” but more “Holy father, please be with Kyle’s children and keep them safe and help them to know you and your love, way deep in their hearts, with a peace that is your greatest gift to all of us, out of your mercy and abundance.” It isn’t that more words are good — or that that is even the best I can do — but the focus isn’t just on God like Santa giving things, but God like a father acting in relationship and protection. Or, well, maybe?  On the other hand — and this is terrible to admit — but I think I pray less often now….. I can’t quite come up with a pattern or habit of prayer. What do you all do? (It could be of course that I’m still just taking baby steps in prayer, and should be laughing at myself.)