Musings: November 2018

In just a few days, we’ll begin the season of Advent. Even if you don’t observe much else on the liturgical calendar, it’s hard to avoid the on-ramp to Christmas. Instead of counting shopping days and check marks on my do-list, my practice has been to think of Advent as a time of preparation for the celebration of Jesus’s birth. There’s no magic formula for this. When my sons were all young and enthusiastic (and boisterous!), we did a daily project:  baking together, crafting an ornament, visiting a nursing home, or even bailing out of the homeschool schedule early and reading big stacks of Christmas books. We’ve looked at Old Testament prophecies and thought about the message of the angel, the response of the shepherds, and the visitation of the mysterious magi. Advent puts time on our side for more in depth teaching than can ever happen in a quick read through of Luke 2 on Christmas eve.

One component of Advent that seems to get lost in the tinsel is the recognition that Jesus had a very somber and serious reason for showing up all pink and newborn in that Bethlehem manger. He would grow up to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows, to be wounded and bruised so that we could know healing and peace.  From time to time all of us feel the dissonance of Christmas joy alongside regular old December stress, and to varying degrees our own experiences have confirmed that Simeon’s prophecy of a heart-piercing sword is not the only evidence that the Incarnation started out tinged with blood.

David Bannon is a grieving father who knows the bitter taste of disappointment–with life, and with himself. He was convicted of felony charges in 2006, and, then, in January of 2015 his twenty-six year old daughter died of a fentanyl-laced heroin overdose.  He found his way back into a true and heartfelt celebration of Christmas by embracing the grief as well as the solace expressed in Christian art. The result is Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations, a collection of twenty-five meditations based on paintings that become devotional in nature as they “convey truth rather than arguing for it.” (xi)

Leaning into the joy as well as the sorrow during Advent prepares the heart for a celebration of Christ’s birth that is rooted in hope. Since “grief can ruin or mature us,” (11) there is wisdom in bringing it out into the open to do its work, and Bannon employs a palette of Scripture references, quotations from great literature, and images of masterpieces from a collection of flawed, troubled, and wildly talented artists in his creation of twenty-five meditations to carry the pause of communion through the season of Advent.

Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations, is a guide for those who, perhaps, would not appreciate a more traditional approach to Advent, but who would find companionship in the healing knowledge that they do not suffer alone.

November News

My feet are still firmly planted in the season of Thanksgiving. Ten Morins gathered around the table this year, and I was so caught up in the joy of it that I took nary a picture.

 

 

The kitchen renovation has been front and center here on the hill this month. We tore the old kitchen away down to the shiny insulation and even removed the wall adjoining the bathroom (Don’t ask!). We have installed new windows, new cabinets, and new flooring, and I’m still in shock, but am making a valiant attempt at returning to some semblance of normalcy before we add a Christmas tree to the chaos soup that has become our living space.

 

 

This is high school musical season here in mid-coast Maine, and my youngest son was bringing down the house as Donkey in Shrek the Musical. It’s a hectic season with seven performances, but coordinating concessions for sale during intermission has given this homeschooling mum a way to serve the community while getting to know other parents and also the students my own kids hang out with when they are involved in public school activities. We’ve got a faithful band of area businesses and parents who donate goodies and bottled water, and we do a booming business to raise money for the program.

November Reading and Writing

The women in my Sunday school class have finished reading Cynthia Heald’s Becoming a Woman of Grace (Bible Studies: Becoming a Woman)and we’re moving on to a study of, perhaps, the most misunderstood book of the Old Testament, the book of Judges. I can’t begin to say how much I’m looking forward to this!

 

 

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Here at Living Our Days, I’ve shared three books in the month of November, and you’re invited to check out my reviews, especially if you’re looking for gift ideas for the readers in your life:

All the Colors We Will See by Patrice Gopo
It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee
I’d Rather Be Reading by Anne Bogel

 

 

It was very satisfying to team up with Desiring God again this month with a post I wrote from the ongoing experience of being a mother-in-law in training. Then, when Jeanne Takenaka invited me to write about gratitude for her blog, I felt right at home with the topic–not because I’ve mastered it by any means, but because it’s something I am committed to writing about until I begin to get a handle on it. Gratitude is a matter of obedience, and it is a choice we have to make, by faith.

I was especially thankful in November for the opportunity to take a blogging break so that I could be more fully present for family and for all the Thanksgiving activity. It was a good week, and well-timed.

I’m giving thanks for you, trusting that your season of Thanksgiving has filled you up with joy and an abiding gratitude for all that God has given — and for the Giver Himself as He presides over the many gatherings still to come in this season of celebrations.

 

Many thanks to Paraclete Press for providing a copy of Wounded in Spirit to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

For those who have been missing the What I’m Into community, you’ll be thrilled to learn that Shannan (of shannanenjoyslife.com) is carrying the torch forward! Click here for a link to the November gathering!

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations or any of the resources mentioned in this post, simply click on the title (or the image) within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you make a purchase a tiny percentage helps support the work I do here at no extra cost to you.

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Reading as a Way of Life

I never leave the house without a book . . . BUT one busy Wednesday when an unexpected medical appointment pushed an already derailed schedule even further off track, I jumped into the driver’s seat of our car, headed down the bumpy hill of our driveway, and only then realized the horrible truth. In my rush, I had not even thought to grab my book on the way out the door. Time was already in short supply, so there was no turning back. My fate was sealed, so I faced the daunting prospect of a waiting room chair and magazine roulette with as much courage as I could muster.

If you are not a bookish individual, well. . . you’re probably thinking that I have bigger problems than an over-booked Wednesday. However, if you ARE of a book-ish persuasion, then I feel certain that you have just commiserated with me throughout this first paragraph, because you know. When reading is a way of life, there’s always a book somewhere. Packing for vacation becomes a delightful process of choosing the right number, size, and selection of books to fit the space and the time available. Finishing the book of the moment always leads to the joyous question of, “What Should I Read Next?” Anne Bogel has come alongside book lovers with a podcast that seeks to answer that important question, and now there is a book, a collection of essays, uniquely crafted for the bibliophile’s journey through life, coming from a guide who is also a fellow traveler.

I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life is the conversation you long to have over tea with a fellow book nerd. It’s the 150-page embodiment of the classic C.S. Lewis friendship filter question: “What? You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”  True to her claim that she “doesn’t get bossy,” Anne poses a number of the great questions of the reading life, shares her own conclusions in a conversational style, and leaves readers free to live their way into their own conclusions as they experience the delights and persevere through the dilemmas of the reading life:

To Find or to Be Found?

While Anne makes reading recommendations to guests on her podcast, she is also a firm believer that “books move in mysterious ways” (29) and may come looking for you at just the right time. Of course, it is also true that for the sincere book lover, planning one’s reading is a huge part of the fun, and suggestions from friends and catalogs and book reviews make this kind of planning possible.  Recommendations from one adult to another should never be delivered as assignments, and Anne warns against the word “should–a dangerous word, a warning sign that we’re crossing an important boundary and veering into book bossiness.”

What’s your opinion? Do you like to find your books or do you prefer to be found by them?

Library or Bookshelves?

The minimalist in me loves my local library. I can read, enjoy, and return without making a dent in the precious space on my bookcases. Some books, however, just have to become part of the collection, and Anne offers suggestions for organizing those book shelves that range from suggested methods (by color? by Dewey Decimal? by Trivial Pursuit Category?) to thoughts on the expendability of dust jackets. Before I started reviewing books for publishers, at least 75% of my reading material came from the library. Now, I read fewer than a dozen library books per year, which makes me a little sad.

Are you a borrower or a buyer?

Do You Read the Extra Stuff?

Anne recalls the season in which she began reading the author’s acknowledgements, discovering whom they thank, in what order, and what they divulge about their writing process. To me this is all a gold mine! In addition, I keep an extra book mark in the footnotes so I can easily turn back and refer to them as they appear in the text. (They are a great source for future reading!)

Do you skip over the introduction, author’s acknowledgement, and footnotes to a book or are they part of the reading experience for you? 

To Re-read or Not to Re-read?

One fall in the early 90’s a friend recommended Wallace Stegner’s Crossing to Safety, and it became my go-to read every autumn for years afterward. I picked it up again this fall for a ruminative re-read after a gap of at least ten years and found that the aging process has only heightened my appreciation of the book. Bogel, too, has “found that a good book not only holds up to repeated visits, but improves each time we return to it. Thousands of years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, ‘No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.'” Because we change, a re-read is hardly ever a static experience.

Do you feel as if there are too many great books in the world to bother re-reading or do you re-visit old books like old friends?

Are You a Book Person?

I’d Rather Be Reading piggybacks on a rich Madeleine L’Engle quote:

“The great thing about getting older is you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”   

Your present day reading life has been shaped by all the readers you have ever been. This is good news because it means that somehow, in this season of reading lots of Christian non-fiction, my impressions are being enriched by my depressing-Russian-novel-phase, my obsession with Luci Shaw’s poetry, and the year I read nothing but Tolkien.

If you regularly find yourself getting hooked on a story line, if you think about the characters in a book long after you’ve reached the last page (maybe even mentally continuing the story or wondering what those characters are up to), or if you feel as if you know a favorite author well enough to have decided that they could be your friend should you happen to meet them–or that you would be terrified of them–you are probably a book person. For you, reading is more than a hobby or a pastime or a means to an end. Reading is a way of life.

Many thanks to Baker Books for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.

Loving the reading life,

Michele Morin

I  am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you should decide to purchase I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life,simply click on the title here or within the text, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

If you enjoy reading Living Our Days, subscribe to get regular content delivered to your inbox. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging communities on a regular basis. They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week. I hope that you will take a moment to enjoy reading the work of some of these fine writers and thinkers.