Robinson, Marilynne, Lila. Picador Pub. NY. 2014. I rarely read novels but a dear friend handed me this one and because I treasure her wisdom I brought it home to read. It was so different than anything I had encountered it kept me wondering from page to page, just like the woman/child Lila. At first I was reminded of another friend who took home a dog from the shelter that had been abused and his efforts to convince the dog it was safe and loved. He never quite accomplished that goal. The early painful experiences would not let the dog relax into his love. But as I finished the book and thought more deeply about it another image came to me. The story put in words what we all go through in life as we cycle through experiences that consciously or unconsciously affect our choices. In having Lila’s story told in this unique fashion we almost experience her in a lucid dreaming state. Not having read anything else by Robinson I was not influenced by the information that might have changed the way I responded to this creative work. I might now have to pick up some of her earlier books.
Ilia Delio has given us the gift of bringing the thoughts of Teilhard de Chardin into the 21st century. Over 40 years ago I encountered this man’s genius that helped me bridge the chasm between science and religion. Unfortunately back then his ahead of the times thinking was not appreciated but I sensed a truth in his mysticism that kept pulling me forward when others seemed stalled. Now, at last, he is being noticed and appreciated by many. We are catching up to his vision both in science and religion. Delio plunges into the thoughts of others and attempts to move the “ball forward” with their help. It gives me great joy to find companions in this journey. If you want to experience a visual trip into this rich vein of creativity take the time to explore the film strip educational tool offered on this site called Survival. I have used this teaching tool for all these 40+ years. You will be rewarded.
Richard Rohr continues to harvest gold from his life experiences and graciously shares them with others in his books. In these days of angst and anger, to settle down into the naked now of any given day, this wisdom can bring us forward into a sort of peace that the world cannot give. This is a timeless work of love.
Denis Edwards wrote a book back in 1991 that began the effort to bring together the current information on so many fronts. Religion, spirituality, science, eschatology,and the search for meaning in an age that is rapidly expanding just as is the universe itself. This invites the reader to open their minds to possibilities undreamed of before, and at the same time taking us into areas that threaten our footing in ‘accepted’ ways of being in the world.
Many many years ago in an effort to make Teilhard de Chardin’s Phenomenon of Man accessible this film strip was created called Survival. I have used this teaching tool for over 40 years and it makes it easy to introduce the work of this great man to those looking for a God big enough to worship. I invite you to taste and see how marvelous God’s process of creation is.
Alice Hoffman has written a spell binding novel called The Dovekeepers which is built upon the terrible times around 70 CE. The temple has been destroyed, and the people have scattered. Some take refuge in the fortress that King Harold had built and were trying to survive the genocidal advances of the Roman army that wanted to totally destroy any holdouts that might cause them trouble. Narrated by some women and their experience of the life and times we get a glimpse from the female perspective that is lacking in our historical documents. Hoffnam has done her homework and is able to put flesh on the bones of this pivotal time in history. I listened to it on the CD version. It is very well done.
Getting the context of an author is especially important when studying the bible. Archaeologist Robert Cargill of the Univ. of Iowa has given his life to studying and teaching this context for those of us who come to the bible for inspiration. I will be coming back often to ponder this work as I also teach and write. Learning more about the struggles and customs of the people who composed and then saved these works can help us move more profitably into these timeless works of love. Written in 2016 and published by Harper/Collins.
Recently, I read a review of this book and got on the list to borrow it from our library. This book gave its author Paul Kalanithi a way to share his life and death while also letting us in on his search for meaning. Out of the entire book I think this paragraph spoke most powerfully to me. “Before operating on a patient’s brain, I realized, I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end. The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another’s cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight.” Page 98. I think this says it all and I hope it invites you to share his story as I have and be as blessed by it as I am.
Jenkins, Philip. The Many Faces of Christ. Basic Books. NY. 2015. What a read! As one who has a life long interest in the Bible and how it came to be; this book really opens up wide vistas on how the different peoples, in different times and places, made sense out of their experiences of God-ness. The sub-title “The thousand-year story of the survival and influence of the lost gsospels” is a very good summary of its contents. This scholarly, well referenced work will cause me to ponder in new and deeper ways.
Levine, Amy-Jill. Short Stories by Jesus. Harper Collins. NY. 2014. This is yet another book by Rabbi Levine that causes us to ponder and reassess what we thought we knew. By positioning ourselves in the crowds that listened to Jesus we see from their angle and come away challenged to think again. We people of the “second testament” will profit much from our “first testament” brothers and sisters. It will open us to new insights and new appreciation for the challenges of the parables. It will also make us aware of how we unwittingly sometimes perpetuate anti-Jewish stereotypes. This is a profitable read.
In these quiet winter days I reread a book of meditations by Henri Nouwen titled Here and Now. Any time spent with this gifted spiritual guide is sure to delight. I remember a chaplain convention where he was our plenary speaker. He had his friend Adam seated on stage with him. This will always affect the way that I encounter his writings. He put skin on his witness just as he says Jesus did that for God for us. It is a small but mighty book to read and reread.
This novel, Escape from Ephesus, written in 1991 by Lance Webb, attempts in story form to give us a readers experience of the trials and tribulations of our faith as shared by Onesimus (means useful). It is indeed useful as it hews closely to what we know from those days and years of the beginnings of our faith. Long before we had our gospels and structures, many gave their lives rather than settle for the futility of life without hope and love. You could read many other scholarly books, such as “And Man Created God” and get the facts/details of this same time period, but this novel catches you as surely as any lure of a great fisher could.
In her book, Fresh Bread, Sr. Joyce Rupp takes you through the year with scriptures recommended for daily reflection. Each month has a theme that can awaken a quiet time of meditation and is designed for those whose lives are busy but need a method to integrate their experiences with their faith. Written in 1985, but timeless in content, I recommend this to those wanting to bring a focus to their days.
Radical Hospitality, invites you into the heart of reality. In many ways, by way of reflection gained from deep listening and the sharing of stories, the authors Homan & Collins have created a book that deserves “a deep read”. They rediscover the ancient art of welcoming the stranger as a bearer of gifts, not a source of danger. It will awaken you to a new way of being in the world.
If you only have time for one book this year please consider Richard Rohr’s newest book Immortal Diamond. This is a work that is so approachable you will find yourself saying “yes, yes” on almost every page. As the back cover says “This book is the ripe ftuit of a life couragously and honestly lived. Such profound wisdom conveyed with such elegant simplicity!” It will also make a wonder filled gift for some special in your life.
Gerald G. May has pondered the mystery of The Dark Night of the Soul leaning on John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Using his skills as a gifted phychiatrist he explores the connection between darkness and spiritual growth. This is a well grounded look at this profound question.
Once again, Sr. Joan Chittister, give us a gift in The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully. This is a book for many audiences. If you want to understand what the elders in your life are standing under – this book is for you. If you are entering into that period called the “golden years” it is a treasure chest of insights. This is the fruit of a life fully reflected on and now cherished.
If you are interested in the interface between Christianity and Buddhism in the dialogue between science and religion, this may be the book for you. Mind in the Balance examines the history of meditation in both these traditions of belief. B. Alan Wallace explores the subject of mind, intelligence, spirit and reason. His insights from modern science helps to engage those who feel that they are “spiritual” but not “religious”.
This book is a dialogue between Christoph Quarch and Willigis Jager. In a question and answer format they explore the timeless reality of experiencing the transcendent in human life. This dialogue will be useful for all those who say that they are spiritual but not religious. It will also help you live in the NOW with a new appreciation of each moment as containing the presence of God in your life.
If you ever have that “something missing” feeling, and a longing for what that missing reality might be, you will profit from reading The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality by Fr. Ronald Rolheiser. The simple and straightforward language of this book invites a cup of something and a quiet corner to appreciate its great gifts.
The Ethiopian Tattoo Shop by Edward Hays Stories supposedly told by a tattoo artist to distract the client from the discomfort of the process of getting a tattoo. These parables have meanings for those on a spiritual quest.