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Wrestling with the text

“In this parable we are reminded that a religious approach to the text is not one in which we attempt to find out its definitive meaning, but rather where we wrestle with it and are transformed by it.” ~Peter Rollins in The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

I have just finished reading The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief by Peter Rollins. It’s one of those books that is so good and so mind-stretching that I need to read it again before I’ll be ready to write about the book as a whole. I can say for now, though, that it’s absolutely fantastic and well worth the read. Its message is also subversive enough that it’s going to take me a little more time to fully process it.

In this post, I just want to look at the one idea quoted above that really jumped out at me as I read tonight. While I have heard about the importance of wrestling with the text before, I have a deeper appreciation for the importance of this as I come to the end of this semester of studying the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

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Small kindnesses

Fiona Robyn of Writing Our Way Home has organized a blogsplash for today to share stories of small kindness and the impact they’ve had on their lives from people around the world. The blogsplash is being held in honor of Fiona’s book Small Kindnesses, which is available free on Kindle today.

Her novel is a gentle story of a widower who discovers that his late wife had kept secrets from him throughout their marriage. As he pursues the mystery of her secrets, he both gives and receives many small kindnesses that have an important impact on his life and on those around him.

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Small Kindnesses Blogsplash

Join our Small Kindnesses Blogsplash, and write about kindness.

On Tuesday the 27th of November I’m joining the Small Kindnesses Blogsplash and writing about a special small kindness someone paid me in the past. Would you like to join me?

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Soup season

Every year as the weather gets cold, I start craving comfort food in a big way. And when it’s cold, comfort food to me means hot soups and stews, particularly thick ones made with lots of vegetables and beans.

Comfort food also means lots of root vegetables, especially roasted ones. I feast on potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squashes, parsnips, carrots, rutabagas, sunchokes (a.k.a. Jerusalem artichokes), and beets. And I’m quick to throw in other vegetables while I’m roasting too: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes.

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Active hope

I recently read Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy. This is a book that I’d highly recommend to anyone who is concerned about the issues (ecological, economic, social) that are facing our world today. (Incidentally, it seems appropriate to be reviewing this on a night featuring a debate between the two main presidential candidates for this election.)

There is plenty of information available about the threats that we are facing globally today, and while the book touches on some of these issues, it is not its primary focus. It looks instead at why so few people seem to getting involved to try to make a difference. The authors propose that we tend to get stuck either in the mindset of refusing to believe that things are as bad as we hear so we should continue with business as usual or we believe that it is already too late to do anything to stop the coming crisis. Some of us (myself included) tend to waffle back and forth between these two positions. The problem is that neither one of these stories motivates us to action.

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Lovingkindness

My book club discussed Sharon Salzberg’s Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness at our meeting this month. Although Salzberg is a leading Buddhist writer in the US and a name with which I am very familiar, this is actually the first book of hers that I have read. It’s considered a classic in the field, from what I understand, so it was a great place to start.

The primary focus of the book is on the Buddhist practice of metta, which is translated into English as lovingkindness. The book covers this practice, several related practices that intertwine and grow out of a metta practice, and applies this practice to real-life situations that all of us face. It is unmistakably clear how powerful this practice can be in the way we experience the world around us and the amount of happiness that we experience.

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Celebrating time alone

“Still, in spite of all the civilization and people around me, I find it amazingly easy to reach a transcendent state of aloneness, as if the years of solitude at the cabin were so intense they laid a well-worn path of synapses and relays in my brain, providing a familiar shortcut.” ~Sean Gardner (as quoted by Lionel Fisher)

Over the summer, I had the chance to read Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude by Lionel Fisher. In this book, Fisher weaves together his own story of time spent in intense solitude with the stories of many people that he interviewed who had chosen similar periods of aloneness to explore the many aspects of solitude.

He shares the stories of a wide range of people, coming from many backgrounds and circumstances. Some chose solitude intentionally and structured their lives in ways to give them that time away. Others had periods of solitude thrust upon them through the death of a loved one or the loss of a significant relationship.  The situations defining their solitude varied widely, but each person found solitude to be a life-changing experience.

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The Wisdom Jesus

A friend of mine happened to mention Cynthia Bourgeault to me a few weeks ago during a visit over lunch.My friend was about to join a group study of Cynthia’s work at her meetinghouse, and she suggested that this might be an author that I would enjoy also. My schedule didn’t make it feasible for me to join the study group, but I did do a little more research on Cynthia’s work online after our lunch. I checked the local library and randomly picked up one of her books that happened to be available.

The book I chose was The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind — A New Perspective on Christ and His Message. I picked it up last night to scan through it and wound up reading the first half of the book until it got so late that eyes were burning and watering from exhaustion. I was up again very early this morning to finish it. This book completely blew me away. Needless to say, I’ve already ordered my own copy (along with a couple other of her books) and can’t wait to read it through again at a slower pace.

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My stroke of insight

It’s book review time again! Tonight I want to write about Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. This book has been on my “to be read” list for several years now, but I just got around to reading it a few weeks ago. It’s one of those books that I borrowed from the library but liked it so much that I turned around and bought a copy of my own.

This book is the story of a neuroanatomy researcher who has a stroke at the age of 37. It describes her experience as she was having the stroke, the story of her recovery and the challenges that entailed, and how her life is different now because of all that she learned during this process. I learned so much on so many levels during the reading of this book.

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Turning Pro

I read Steven Pressfield’s latest book, Turning Pro: Tap Your Inner Power and Create Your Life’s Work, for the first time this past weekend. I say that it’s the first time because, much like his earlier book The War of Art, this is one that I can already tell that I’ll be coming back to time and time again.

In The War of Art, Pressfield introduces the concept of Resistance as the thing that all creatives fight against when we try to focus on our work. The primary way to overcome Resistance is to turn pro (as opposed to being an amateur). While he talks a little bit about what it means to turn pro in The War of Art, there is much that is left unsaid about how to make this step from being an amateur into the ranks of being a pro.

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